Religious Demographics in My County

I was reading the comments on one of Noel’s blog posts. Violet mentioned that around Easter and Christmas the doorbell might be rung by people proselytizing as many as four times in a day. More than a few people were shocked to hear it. Although that is at an extreme, I find that my own experience regarding aggressive preaching is often at odds with those of other people living in the U.S. I knew that the region in which I lived was not one of the most religious parts of the country, but when I looked it up on the internet, a map at the county level showed that much of the region is more religious than I thought. However, the map was small enough and I couldn’t see my own county, New York, on it very well.

So, I looked at a few other maps, including some that showed the most common religious group and another that showed the second most common. They were Catholicism and Judaism, which went a long way to explain why I didn’t encounter much proselytizing. Although Catholics, like all Christians, feel an obligation to “spread the word,” they don’t tend to be as aggressive about it as some Protestants. Of course, as we all know, Jews do essentially none.

So, I got curious and thought I might dig down a little deeper. I found a source that had the religious affiliations for the residents of New York City, broken down by borough. For those of you who don’t know, New York City has within it five counties. The counties correspond to the boroughs. Manhattan is New York County, Brooklyn is Kings and Staten Island is Richmond. Queens and the Bronx have the same name for both the county and the borough. I found some figures and I made up a graph because I like seeing things visually.A bubble graph showing religious affliliation in ManhattanThe source is PRRI, Public Religion Research Institute. I don’t know how accurate it is, but the numbers didn’t leave me in shock. The biggest surprise was that there appear to be so few Buddhists. At thirty percent, the largest group was the “unaffiliated.” I know that many of us are curious how many people are non-believers and it would have been nice to see this group broken down. I think you can see from the relatives sizes of the bubbles, it doesn’t feel in the least bit odd to be a non-believer in Manhattan. The source also broke down Catholicism by race. I marked it, but in the end I didn’t label it. It had the group I’m calling Protestant in separate groups, “Mainline Protestant, Black Protestant, Hispanic Protestant and Other Non-White Protestant.” I won’t even begin to get into how weird that all is. Is “other non-white” redundant? Why not just “other,” or “other race?” What about blacks who go to a “mainline” church? Also, there were several groups in the survey who weren’t numerous enough to make it to the chart, including “White Evangelical.”

Now you all know why my experience with religious people is so different than that of others who are U.S. citizens.

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5 comments
  1. I think it’s also due to a regional culture. I live in an upstate county, and most of the people around here qualify as “religious,” in that they’re regular attendees at one of the churches in town. I don’t get proselytized, outside of the odd Jehovah’s Witness once or twice a year, and no one asks any candidate about what church they go to. On the other hand, friends who have moved down South have told me that it’s almost the first question they’re asked, and candidates will volunteer their church affiliation before talking about anything else.

  2. Violet said:

    This is so interesting, and I’ve been doing some research on my own area. It turns out Minnesota is the 8th most religious state in America…I’m actually surprised it’s not higher. People seem to think the South is the most religious, and while it is, the midwest is also. I can’t find a map that shows my particular city, but I suspect I live in one of the most religious cities in the state.

    If I had to gander a reason why we’re so religious, I think it’s because we have a world famous hospital here and most of the residents work in the medical field, or in careers that support the medical field. When you work in a hospital and see a lot of death, religion makes it a bit easier to get through the emotions of it. I did not know a single atheist employee in our 2000+ bed hospital. I deconverted several years after I stopped working as a nurse.

    I did delete my blog fojap…my family discovered it and it was not a good situation, so I took it down. 😦

    • Violet said:

      Forgot to mention: the huge hospital I worked for was catholic, and a good number of nuns work there.

  3. This is very interesting.
    I think all my neighbours are religious. One strange thing is you hardly hear of evangelists moving door to door but you can find them in buses and street corners

  4. Off hand I am unaware of any of any religious affiliations of my immediate neighbours to my left or right.

    I am friendly with a few and on speaking terms with quite a number of them and the subject of religion has never been raised.
    I do know that some further up the street are Muslim so I presume they go to Mosque.
    But there don’t seem to be any ”churchy” (christian) types close by.

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