West of the Rocky Mountains is the place to reach unchurched people, according to a recent study on religious activity. The research found that fewer than one-fourth of residents in some sections of Colorado, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and Montana belong to any religious group. The unaffiliated outnumber the affiliated at least three to one in most Western states, with the exception of Utah, New Mexico, and parts of surrounding states, where Mormons are predominant.

At a press conference, sociologist of religion William McKinney from Hartford Seminary in Connecticut called the report “the closest thing we have to a census of American religious church groupings.” The research, compiled by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies and financed by the Lilly Endowment, was based on figures from the 1990 U.S. Census and from data supplied by Jewish and Christian groups.

The study also found there were substantial areas in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Florida where less than half the population claims church membership. Meanwhile, areas having the highest religious affiliation are the southeastern states and middle America, reaching from Texas and Louisiana upwards to North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

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