The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Monday, February 16, 2009

Religion in Alabama

The following column was written by Mark Durm, a professor of psychology at Athens State University. The column appeared in The Decatur Daily on Saturday, Feb 14, 2009. (Be warned, you can't read the articles online unless you are a paid subscriber.)

The poll referred to in the column is here. There you can compare the religiosity of all the states.

This interested me because I am so tired of hearing the New England States being criticised for their liberal views and the South, particularly Alabama, being praised for its Southern Baptist values. For all of our religion here in Alabama, what has it gotten us? Never mind our rankings in public education, our drop out rates, our regressive taxes, our rates of disease related to over consumption and smoking. Let's just look at the following:

Just how religious is Alabama?

Mark Durm

I read with interest the article that appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The
Decatur Daily, “How Religious Are You? Gallup Poll confirms it – Alabama is
highly religious and Vermont is not – but why?” This story reminds me of a
statement by Francis Bacon, “Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be

I argue that if one judges a state’s religiosity by its behavior (its
“walk,” not its “talk”), then Vermont is much more religious than Alabama.

Please understand I am as Southern as one can get; I was born and
raised in the South, and I have attended schools in four different southern
states. We in the South, however, do not walk our religion as well as we
talk it. I offer the following as food for critical thought, not

Let’s compare Alabama to Vermont because that was the case in the
previous article. This comparison will be done by the rate of certain
behaviors per 100,000 population in both states, according to the 17th edition
of “State Rankings,” a reference book published by Morgan Quitno.

An individual is more than twice as likely to get murdered in Alabama
as compared to Vermont. Our state ranks 18th while Vermont ranks

Moreover, a woman is more apt to be raped in Alabama than in
Vermont. Alabama ranks 18th in this category while the New England
state comes in at 41.

Alarmingly, an individual is 11 times more apt to be robbed in Alabama
than in Vermont, and concerning aggravated assault, one is three times more
likely to be assaulted in Alabama.

The property crime rate is almost double in Alabama when compared to
Vermont. Likewise, an individual is almost twice as likely to be
burglarized in our Southern state.

On other personal issues, an Alabamian is three times more likely to
file personal bankruptcy than is a Vermonter. If one is religious,
shouldn't he pay what he owes his fellow man?

The divorce rate is higher in Alabama then the state up North.
Alabama ranks fourth in the nation on divorce while Vermont ranks 21st. If
a person is religious, should not he or she be less apt to divorce?

Moreover, more babies are born to unmarried women in Alabama than
Vermont. Alabama is above the national average on this issue; Vermont is
below it.

Concerning AIDS, living in Alabama poses a threat of getting this
dreaded disease seven times higher than living in Vermont.

Therefore, someone living in Alabama is more apt to be murdered, raped,
assaulted, robbed, have a child out of wedlock, file bankruptcy, be divorced and
get AIDS than if living in Vermont.

So just how religious is Alabama?

But, then, recalling Bacon’s words, maybe Alabama prefers to believe
what Alabama prefers to be true.


Anonymous said...

No one will want to read what I post and believe it but I would assure you that it is true. The REASON that Alabama is ahead in each of those catagories has NOTHING to do with the 'religious' make up of our state, but rather the 'racial' make up of our state. Before you all start calling me a racist, I suggest you look at statistics.

Also, Joe, I think you often confuse being religious with being Christian. There are many who darken the doors of churches each and every week, but that doesn NOT make them Christian.

This article that Mark Durm wrote has a very judgmental theme to it. I'm sure you posted it b/c you agree with it. But turn the tables...had this article been written by a Christian, making comments about those who are not, you would be SCREAMING how "judgmental" Christians can be.

But the truth is the truth. The majority of murders, rapes, robberies, and babies born to unwed mothers happens in the black population which is MUCH MUCH higher in Alabama than in Vermont.

Go ahead. Call me racist, but it is FACT.

Joe said...

I can predict the future! I knew you would blame the problems in our society on blacks. Funny though, just an observation, blacks seem to be as religious as whites, so the point of the column is proved.

Now, are you sure that Mark Durm is not a Christian, as you imply? You are a terrific Judge. I hope God hires you to help him out.

"There are many who darken the doors of churches each and every week, but that doesn NOT make them Christian." I agree 100%.

And what is even more telling is that even if what you claim is true, most white Christians don't give a damn as long as it not's happening to their daughters and don't lift a finger to change things to better the lot of the blacks.

Just more FACTS.

Anonymous said...

Having spent time in both Maine and New Hampshire, I can truly say that I felt generally safer there than I sometimes do in Birmingham and Bessemer. The people that I met in Maine and came to call friends are different. Anyone not born there is "From Away", even if they have lived there for 50 years. But the Mainers I know are good and decent folks, who work hard and look after their neighbors.

When looking at the poll methodology I found this interesting. ""Gallup uses the responses to a straightforward question that asks: "Is religion an important part of your daily life?" The rankings are based on the percentage of each state's adult (18 and older) population that answers in the affirmative.""

As Mark Durm points out in his column "someone living in Alabama is more apt to be murdered, raped, assaulted, robbed, have a child out of wedlock, file bankruptcy, be divorced and get AIDS than if living in Vermont".
It occured to me that perhaps Alabama ranks so much higher than Vermont in religiosity not because we are more religious, but due to the fact that we Alabamians spend a higher percentage of our day praying that God will keep us safe from these dangers. Just a thought...

Joe said...

Then, Tom, is that evidence that prayers for safety do not work? Or are the victims of the dangers just not praying enough?

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what it means in the context of our social ills. My comment about prayers to keep us safe was a sarcastic attempt to point out hypocrisy. The keep me safe and those other people can fend for themselves mentality.

I just found it interesting food for thought that we in the South perceive ourselves as more religious than other regions. Maybe it is due to conditioning. More likely it is as another commenter pointed out, we confuse church affiliation with religiosity. We grew up in "The Church" so we are religious. Never mind the fact that we only show up for Easter and Christmas. Then there is the social aspect. Don’t even get me started about the Mega-Contemporary-Country Club Churches. Many times when we meet someone in the South, one of the fist questions is "what church do y'all attend".

It is also interesting to note that the poll did not specifically mention Christianity as a criterion for considering one's self religious. I know many good people who consider themselves religious who are not Christians. Although that distinction may have been lost on Randy.

Anonymous said...

So what if blacks commit a high proportion of crimes? Is race destiny? WHY do blacks commit a lot of crimes. You pointing out statistics is not why people would call you racist. But I have little doubt (call me prejudiced ;-p) that your stated reasons for why this is true and what actions and attitudes to have about it are what would lead to the judgement of racism.
Either way, this was about the relationship of religion and crime, if there is one. Blacks and whites in Alabama both tend to be religious.

Anonymous said...

Randy is right on the money. While I don't think it is totally their FAULT, most blacks in Alabama have brought up in very low income, broken homes. Again, no excuse, but I tend to agree with Randy that the statistics showing the difference in crime rates between Alabama and Vermont are indeed more reflective of race than religion.

Anonymous said...

I guess it is no coincidence that the population of Alabama is 7 times Vermont. 623,000 to Alabama's 4,500,000. But the staggering difference in racial population has a lot to do with the crime here. Blacks make up 26% of Alabama (I know it seems much more), while blacks are less than 1% of Vermont's population. I think we should arrange for some of our poor, unhappy blacks to relocate to Vermont where milk and honey flow and crime is low. Then let's see how that works for the people of Vermont. Another question I have is if the south/slavery were so hard on blacks, why are so many living here?

Joe said...

There is a difference between "broken homes" and "single parent homes," but I think I know what you mean.

But I will stand by what I said earlier, "most white Christians don't give a damn as long as it not's happening to their daughters and don't lift a finger to change things to better the lot of the blacks."

If they did, things would be different.

Anonymous, they live here for the same reason gays live here, in spite of the dismal records of equality. We were born here, we love our state, and we see opportunity here.

Anonymous said...

So, then, your conclusion is that it is WHITE's fault that BLACKS are in the situation that they are in? (...White's don't lift a finger to change things to better the lot of blacks.)

How about this Joe, BLACKS lift their own finger...get their own job.....keep their own families together.....get off of government programs....and make life better for themselves. It is not up to the white people to bring blacks along. This is America. We now have a black president, for heavens sake. Slavery is over. Anybody can be whatever they want to be.

Joe said...

To some extent, yes, I think it is white's fault that blacks are in the situation they are in. In my lifetime, blacks were denied jobs, education, the right to vote and more, because of the policies set forth by whites. Some of those policies and the hardships they created are difficult to overcome, so the effects linger.

But instead of saying it is blacks' responsibility to correct all the ills, why not say "let's all work together to correct" the problems.

That is my conclusion. I learned it from the teachings of Jesus.

Oh, and about keeping their families together...the divorce rate (numbers of divorce compared to numbers of marriages) is higher for white females in Alabama than for black females, so it seems they are doing a better job than the whites.

Anonymous said...

Joe I love it that you replied to my comment but did not post it. Amazing.

Joe said...

My mistake. It's posted now.

Anonymous said...

The reason black women divorce rates are lower is because their marriage rates are lower. Much lower. Most black do not marry. They just have a baby or two here and there and (the men)leave them for the government to support. The cycle of poverty continues. That is not the fault of whites.

I cannot compare being gay which is NOT a choice, to committing crime which IS a choice. Most robberies are not to get money for food/shelter/help their kids, but for drugs or just because they can do it. Thug mentality.

Anonymous said...

"The reason black women divorce rates are lower is because their marriage rates are lower."

Their marriage rate is indeed lower but the divorce rate is not based upon the total number of people divorced but rather the percentage of married people that end up divorced.

Joe said...

That is why I used rates compared to "married" women. Here are the figures.
Of all marriages in 2007, 21.6% of the women were black and 76.7% of the women were white.

Of the divorces in 2007, 20.7% were to black women, 79.2% weere to white women.

That information came from

Oh Brother understands.

27% of the women in Alabama in 2007 were black, and 71% white, so yes, a lesser percent of blacks get married, but they are more likely to stay married.

Anonymous said...

Blacks are NO LONGER denied jobs, education, the right to vote. Heck, they can even be mayor of some of the largest cities, governors of some of the largest states, or even President. They can own businesses, run sports franchises, and if you are black, you are almost GUARANTEED an interview at a major college to be the football coach. Not only are their more opportunities, some of those opportunities are now FORCED on business owners.

Blacks have absolutely no more excuses, yet they still commit the majority of the crimes, inundate the welfare system, and cry 'foul' if one of the "family" appears to be mistreated.

I am like YOU Joe, really I am. We should all be viewed as Americans. You can't help being black or white. Skin color should not be used to disqualify someone, nor should it be used to guarantee anyone anything. Those days are over. At least they should be.

Joe said...

While what you say about opportunity is correct, there are still underlying problems that keep some Americans, black or white, from achieving their potential. Those are the things we should be working together to correct. Poverty is one. I am not an expert on poverty, but I have friends that are.

Let's take a child born into poverty.

c.b. seems to believe that nothing should be done to help. He says it isn't white's fault. But it certainly isn't he child's fault. So what if "we" work together to help that child through after school mentoring programs that teach life skills and social skills that the child might not be learning at home, but which might help him or her to get that job and manage their life to move ahead.

Because poverty disproportionately affects blacks, the recipients of the program might be mostly blacks. People like c.b. would then scream that we are favoring blacks, when in reality, we are fighting poverty.

Such a program as I described has been proposed for Bessemer, by a private group. Let's hope it materializes.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you are saying.

However, I maintain that the results of the comparison between Alabama and Vermont have MUCH more to do with the racial make up rather than religion.

Joe said...

I would say it has to do more with socioeconomic status than race.

Joe said...

See, all you doubters. Barack Obama said he would bring people together, and he's only been in office a month. But Rev. Bill said "I am like YOU Joe, really I am. We should all be viewed as Americans", and "I agree with what you are saying."

So, while we may differ on ceertain issues, we can find ways to work together on problems. I really think we could.