This Sunday is Easter. If you live in Mississippi, you're probably going to church. If you're Mormon, you're most likely to know what the holiday represents. If you're evangelical, you're most likely to think you'll live to see the next resurrection.
Michael Gerson's opinion piece in yesterday's Washington Post pointed us to Pew Research's extensive set of data about American attitudes toward religion. We took a look at the most recent data relevant to this weekend's celebrations to paint a portrait of American religious belief. Prepare to have your stereotypes upheld.
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Most likely to regularly attend religious services
Pew's 2009 report looking at state-by-state religiosity indicates that, true to the name, the Bible Belt is home to the most regular church-goers. But the second-highest rates of attendance occur out west, in Utah. America doesn't go to church as much as you might think. Only six states see more than 50 percent of residents go weekly. The states you might expect to trail on this measure do: New Hampshire, California, and New York. But there's a surprise at the very bottom of the list. Alaska has the least regular attendance of any state.
Of course, this Sunday is Easter. So add about 10 percent to all of these figures.
Young people are the least likely to belong to a church
People over the age of 65 are 23 percent more likely to be affiliated with a religion than people under the age of 30. This is the crux of Gerson's argument: that partisanship in the United States is increasingly reflecting the religious divide. That generational difference is evident in religion, in the gay marriage fight, in electoral politics.
Mormons know more about Christianity than anyone
A 2010 survey asked people to answer 32 questions about religion and to provide their religious affiliation. Of the twelve questions on Christianity — things like "Where was Jesus born?" — Mormons got, on average, 7.9 questions right. Evangelicals did second best — and atheists got the bronze.
Almost half of American Christians think Christ will return by 2050
To be precise, 47.5 percent think that Christ definitely or probably will return to Earth in the next 40 years. (If you don't understand what this means, ask a Mormon, evangelical, or atheist.) Those who believe he definitely will return outnumber those who believe he definitely won't by 3-to-1.
Pew broke those responses down by demographic.
Evangelicals are most likely to assume he'll return; those unaffiliated with a religion, least. The sentiment is most prevalent in the South and among those without a college education.
The takeaway, then: If you go to church in Biloxi this weekend, be prepared for a crowd of older people that wants to talk about the Second Coming. If you're 18 years old and live in Anchorage, going to church is about as rebellious as it gets.