Missouri echoes the nation's religious views

Sunday, April 1, 2012 | 4:52 p.m. CDT; updated 9:08 a.m. CDT, Monday, May 7, 2012

COLUMBIA — One of the goals of the American Next project is to explore Missouri as a way to get a glimpse of young people's lives not just here — but across the nation. That means doing some baseline reporting to see how Missouri compares, or differs, from the national norm in a number of areas — religion among them.

I grew up in southwest Missouri, and was always very aware that I was living in the Bible Belt. So it surprised me to learn that, far from being distinct, Missouri is actually a pretty good representation of the country as far as religion goes.

According to a study done by the Pew Research Center in 2008, 43 percent of Missourians attend a religious service at least once a week. That's just slightly above the national rate of 39 percent.

Missouri also has the same percentage of people unaffiliated with any religious group as the nation as a whole — 16 percent.

The one area where Missouri is slightly above average is the number of evangelical Christians. There are 11 percent more evangelical Christians in Missouri than on average nationally. (So we can still lay claim to the belt.)

I've already had one person I interviewed say her dream was to follow God's will. It will be fascinating to see what role faith has in other Missourians' future hopes, dreams and goals.

This story is part of the American Next, a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times.

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