Utah trails Bible Belt states in religious commitment

Utah, where most surveys show just more than two-thirds of the residents are Latter-day Saints, is the 12th most religious state in the United States. Utah takes a back seat to 11 Southern states, most in the Bible Belt.

According to a new analysis released by the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life, the most religious states are Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia and Kentucky. The rankings were based on a question about how important religion was in people's lives taken during a 2007 Religious Landscape Survey. States where religion is least important are New Hampshire, Vermont, Alaska and Massachusetts. Not surprising, Northeastern states had some of the lowest measures in four categories of religious commitment.

Utah did rank much higher in worship attendance -- about 56 percent of Utahns surveyed said they attend church at least once a week. Only Mississippi had a higher percentage of people who attend church at least once a week, at 60 percent. In terms of frequency of prayer and belief in God, Utah ranked 10th in both categories.

Caution should be used in trying to use the data to classify Mormons -- Utah does have members of other faiths. Most significant in what demographers have reported is Utah's Catholic population, which is about 5-6 percent of the Beehive State's population.

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