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The approximate extent of the Bible Belt, indicated in red
Bible Belt is an informal term for an area of the United Statesmarker in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism is a dominant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is extremely high.

Much of the Bible Belt consists of the southern United States. During the colonial period (1607–1776), the South was a stronghold of the Anglican church. Its transition into a stronghold of non-Anglican Protestantism occurred gradually over the next century, as a series of religious revival movements, many associated with the Baptist denomination, gained great popularity in the region.

The region is usually contrasted with mainstream Protestants and Catholics of the northeast, the religiously diverse Midwest and Great Lakes, the Mormon Corridor in Utahmarker and southern Idahomarker, and the relatively secular western United States. The percentage of non-religious people is the highest in the northwestern state of Washingtonmarker at 25%, compared to the Bible Belt state of Alabamamarker, where it is 6%. Also Mississippimarker has the highest number of Baptists at 55%.

The earliest known usage of the term "Bible Belt" was by American journalist and social commentator H.L. Mencken, who in 1924 wrote in the Chicago Daily Tribune: "The old game, I suspect, is beginning to play out in the Bible Belt."


Although there are formal definitions for the region's exact boundaries, it is generally considered to cover much of the area stretching from Texasmarker in the southwest, north to most of Missourimarker, northeast to Virginiamarker, and southeast to northern Floridamarker.

Tweedie (1978) defines the Bible Belt in terms of the audience for religious television. He finds two belts, one more eastern that stretches from central Floridamarker through Alabamamarker, Tennesseemarker, Kentuckymarker, Georgiamarker, Northmarker and South Carolinamarker, and into Virginiamarker, and another that is more western, moving from central Texas to the Dakotas, but concentrated in Texasmarker, Arkansasmarker, Louisianamarker, Oklahomamarker, Missourimarker, Kansasmarker, and Mississippimarker. The Bible belt predominantly includes those areas that were slave states before the American Civil War.

Notably absent from this belt are the areas of:

In terms of demographics, the belt can accurately be described as extending westward to include most of west Texas and eastern New Mexicomarker, and perhaps even farther into areas of southern New Mexico settled by Texans. Additionally, the southern parts of Nebraskamarker, Illinoismarker, Indianamarker, and Ohiomarker are sometimes included.


Several locations are occasionally referred to as the "Buckle of the Bible Belt":

There are also several locations outside the Bible Belt that are centers of evangelical Christian activity, many of them are often called "exclaves of the Bible Belt".  They include Prescott, Arizonamarker; Colorado Springs, Coloradomarker; Grand Rapids, Michiganmarker; Wheaton, Illinoismarker; Lancaster, Pennsylvaniamarker; and parts of Southern California, particularly Orange Countymarker.

Political and cultural context

The term Bible Belt is used informally by journalists and by its detractors., who suggest that the predominance of religion in these areas backward.

In 1950, President Harry Truman told Catholic leaders he wanted to send an ambassador to the Vatican. Truman said the leading Democrats in Congress approved, but they warned him, "it would defeat Democratic Senators and Congressmen in the Bible Belt."

In presidential elections, the Bible Belt states of Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas have voted for the Republican candidate in all elections since 1980. Virginia and North Carolina did not vote Democratic since 1980 until they went for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. Prior to the 1960s the majority of these states generally voted for the Democratic candidate after the formation of the modern Democratic party.

Outside the United States

In Australia, the term usually refers to tracts within individual cities, for example the north-western suburbs of Sydney focusing on Baulkham Hillsmarker and the north-eastern suburbs of Adelaide focusing on Paradisemarker, Modburymarker and Golden Grove, though there is also a section of south-eastern Queenslandmarker comprising the towns of Laidleymarker, Gatton and Toowoombamarker which is referred to as the Bible Belt.

In Canadamarker, the term is also sometimes used to describe several disparate regions which have a higher than average level of church attendance. These include the majority of rural southern Alberta and Saskatchewanmarker, parts of southern Manitobamarker, the rural and more traditional parts of the Fraser Valley of British Columbiamarker, the Annapolis Valleymarker of Nova Scotiamarker and the Saint John River Valleymarker of New Brunswickmarker.

In Chinamarker, Nanjing Citymarker is regarded as the area with the country's highest number of Christians since 1949. Amity Publishing House, a Christian publisher, is based in this city.

In Denmarkmarker, the area of northwestern Jutland is often mentioned as a Bible Belt. The region has a large number of members of the Lutheran movement called "Indre Mission" (English: "Inner Mission").

In Finlandmarker, the rural areas of Ostrobothniamarker and Southern Ostrobothniamarker are sometimes considered a Bible Belt.

In Indiamarker, the north eastern states of Nagalandmarker, Mizorammarker, Meghalayamarker and the hill districts of Manipurmarker form a continuous Bible Belt. Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya are India's only Christian dominated states. In fact in Nagaland, Christians constitute 90.02% (2001 census) of the population, with 80% professing the Baptist faith and thereby earning the sobriquet of The most Baptist state in the worldmarker. The Bible belt has emerged as one of the major areas of the world that sends out missionaries, particularly to South Asia and South East Asia.

In the Netherlandsmarker, De Bijbelgordel stretches from the provinces of Zeelandmarker to Overijssel. Immigrants from this area to the U.S. formed the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

In New Zealandmarker, Mount Roskill, Aucklandmarker, contains the highest number of churches per capita in the country, and is the home of several Christian political candidates.

In Northern Irelandmarker, the region centered on the northern part of County Antrim is often referred to as Northern Ireland's Bible Belt. This is because the area is heavily Protestant with a large evangelical community. The MP for this constituency is Ian Paisley, a Free Presbyterian Reverend well known for his theological fundamentalism. The town of Ballymenamarker, is the largest town in the constituency, is often referred to as the "buckle" of the Bible Belt.

In Norwaymarker, the Bible Belt covers the south-western coast from Agder to Møre og Romsdalmarker. In these areas the conservative branch of the Church of Norway has a stronghold and the members usually associate themselves to Indremisjonen (Inner Mission). There are also numerous Pentecostals and members of the Free Churches, but these movements are also strongly represented in the rest of the country. The Bible Belt in Norway often reflects the support for the Christian Democratic Party or the Christian Unity Party.

In Swedenmarker, there is a Bible Belt covering the area between the cities of Jönköpingmarker and Gothenburgmarker, with a particular high concentration of non-conformists (Protestant congregations not affiliated with the Church of Sweden), especially Pentecostals and Congregationalists - and strong support for the Christian Democrats.

See also


  1. Fred R. Shapiro (ed.). Yale Book of Quotations. Yale University Press (2006). ISBN 978-0-300-10798-2.
  4. Ceci Connolly, Texas Teaches Abstinence, With Mixed Grades, The Washington Post, Jan 21, 2003
  5. Amanda Smith, Hostage of Fortune (2001) p. 604
  6. United States presidential election, 1980 - Encyclopedia, History, Geography and Biography
  7. United States presidential election, 1828 - Encyclopedia, History, Geography and Biography
  8. Bible Belt wants to tighten a grip on power - Election 2004 -
  10. Concerned Women for America - China: Will It Become a Christian Nation?
  11. FINNQUEER | Civil Union Law Demonstration in Front of Finnish Parliament, September 27, 2001
  12. The Soul Hunters of Central Asia - Christianity Today magazine -
  13. New Zealand - Mt Roskill
  14. Slugger O'Toole
  15. see Eva M. Hamberg and Thorleif Pettersson, "The Religious Market: Denominational Competition and Religious Participation in Contemporary Sweden," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Sep., 1994), pp. 205+

Further reading

  • Randall Balmer; Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism Baylor University Press, 2004  
  • Denman, Stan. "Political Playing for the Soul of the American South: Theater and the Maintenance of Cultural Hegemony in the American Bible Belt" Southern Quarterly (2004) v. 42, Spring, 64-72.
  • Heatwole, C.A.  "The Bible Belt; a problem of regional definition" Journal of Geography (1978) 77; 50-5
  • Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt (Knopf, 1997)
  •  Samuel S. Hill, Charles H. Lippy, and Charles Reagan Wilson, eds. Encyclopedia Of Religion In The South (2005)
  • Charles H. Lippy, ed. "Religion in South Carolina" (1993)
  • George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925 (1980).
  • Jeffrey P. Moran; "The Scopes Trial and Southern Fundamentalism in Black and White: Race, Region, and Religion" Journal of Southern History. Volume: 70. Issue: 1. 2004. pp 95+.
  • Chris C. Park; Sacred Worlds: An Introduction to Geography and Religion Routledge, 1994
  • Randy J. Sparks. Religion in Mississippi University Press of Mississippi for the Mississippi Historical Society, . 2001. ISBN 1-57806-361-2.
  • William A. Stacey and Anson Shupe; "Religious Values and Religiosity in the Textbook Adoption Controversy in Texas, 1981" Review of Religious Research, Vol. 25, 1984
  • Turner, Elizabeth Hayes; Women, Culture and Community: Religion and Reform in Galveston 1880-1920, 1997.
  • Tweedie, S.W. (1978) Viewing the Bible Belt. Journal of Popular Culture 11; 865-76
  • John Mellencamp, "Jack and Diane" (1982): "Let the bible belt, come and save my soul."
  • Nikki Sudden, Waiting On Egypt/The Bible Belt CD
  • Travis Tritt, "Bible Belt" (1991): "Till you're gonna have to answer, To your heart in the Bible belt."

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