Religions of the American Nations
Colin Woodard’s book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, is currently generating a lot of buzz. This is, in good part, thanks to an article that appeared in Tufts Magazine in which Woodard describes his work. Like David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America before it, Woodard’s book argues that the long standing cultural and political divisions in America stem from the various regions’ respective inheritance from the British and other European settlers (particularly the French, the Germans, the Dutch, and the Spanish) that founded these regions. I have outlined much of these books’ arguments here in my blog in my series of posts on the topic, noting that these differences stem from the genetic differences in the descendants of these initial settlers (suffused with the genes of subsequent immigrants, particularly in the old North). In particular, see these key posts:
- A Tentative Ranking of the Clannishness of the “Founding Fathers” – discusses the behavioral traits of the colonial settlers in terms of HBD Chick’s hypothesis
- Flags of the American Nations – Describes the American nations as they exist today and their respective histories
- Maps of the American Nations – More on the geographic origin and distribution of the American nations and presents a series of maps and other evidence that shows their importance today
- Germania’s Seed? – Examines the regional origin of German-Americans and asks whether their specific regions of origin within Germany impacts German-American ways today
This is the latest version of Colin Woodard’s map showing the rough delineations of the modern American Nations. One of my own maps overlays upon this one regional voting habits, in this case the results of the 2012 presidential election:
In this post, I will present a few more maps signifying the American nations, in this case, in the form of their religious beliefs (from here):
This is the Episcopals, the modern derivatives of the Anglican Church. This group is perhaps the most divorced from its origins of the representative church of the Cavaliers of the lowland South (the Tidewater and the Deep South). It remains quite alive in the Tidewater area, however.
These are the Baptists and Pentacostals, who have become the church of choice of the Tidewater, of the Deep South, and especially of Greater Appalachia. Indeed, Baptism links these three nations into their current alliance as the Dixie bloc.
Here are various German sects (Mennonites and Amish), mostly confined to the Midlands:
And here are the Lutherans, the religion primarily of the Scandinavian-Americans (and some Germans), who occupy the far northwest reaches of Yankeedom and the Midlands:
This is a map of the religious identification of the House Representatives from each congressional distinct. Certain patterns are evident: Presbyterians are largely confined to Greater Appalachia; Anglicans are most represented in the Tidewater/Deep South; the Midlands show a mix owing to its multicultural history. El Norte is dominated by Catholics. Today, Yankeedom has come to be dominated by Catholics thanks to the strong presence of Italians and Irish there (and the French in the northern sections).
Of course, a special group, today unique to the Far West, are the Mormons:
The Mormons are Puritans that, like their antecedents in England, went through a religious revival and became a type of rebel/outcast group. And like their Puritan ancestors, they migrated west and set up a stronghold across the Far West, particularly in their state of Utah – just as their Puritan ancestors did in New England.
Indeed, a certain penchant for reformation/radical revival is a tradition in Yankeedom, as we see from a region of western New York State that’s been named the “burned-over district”. This is the region which spawned Mormonism, among other variously successful religious and other movements.
Finally, this map of overall religiosity:
This is a map of the percent of the people in each state who claim no religious affiliation. As we see, today, northern New England proper is the least religious area of the country, followed by its daughter areas across the Left Coast.
Religion is a reflection of political, social, and cultural mentality and identity. This is because the primary purpose of religion is to establish group cohesion. New sects often rally around religious causes because it’s a powerful way of identifying one’s group and symbolizing one’s commitment to the group. We saw that with the groups that founded America, particularly the Puritans and the Quakers, and we see that with many of the subsequent movements that have come up across the country over the years. A group’s religious beliefs shed great insight into the (inherited) psychology of its adherents, and this is part of the reason that individual believers are drawn to their faith. Today, religion serves as one of the many markers of the American Nations.