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15 Politics and Religion 15.1 LEADIN G DENOMINATION S The las t fe w map s i n thi s atla s dea l wit h religio n an d politics , tw o ver y importan t aspect s of American society that are also useful backgroun d for some of the other maps. In turn, some of the other maps are background for understanding how people vote. The association between religion an d politic s i s a big topi c i n th e 1990s . It i s paradoxical tha t i n a country tha t ha s been built on the separatio n o f church an d state , one cannot understand the political pattern s without understanding the religious patterns, and sometimes vice versa. Religious conviction s and strong political expressions of them exist about many of the topics presented in the maps: abortion, teenag e pregnancy , birt h rate , AIDS , crime rates , an d perhap s man y more . Because of the emphasis on the separation of church and state, the census does not collect information o n religion . Th e ma p is based o n dat a in Churches and Church Membership in the United States 1990, the result of a voluntary decennial effort to collect and publish religious data by state and county. The map is generalized from the large and detailed map of the United States b y count y tha t accompanie s tha t volume . In the second part of the twentieth century, membership has declined in most of the structured mainstream Protestant churches, those with centralized church administration an d a governing hierarchy. These include Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, an d the United Church of Christ. Meanwhile the Southern Baptists, the Mormons, and the many groups variously described as fundamentalist, born-again, or Pentecostal have been growing. The Roman Catholics have los t activ e member s i n man y citie s an d areas , but continu e t o gai n adherent s throug h the flow o f Hispanic immigrants; they remain the most numerous grou p in the country. Nondenominational Christia n churche s ar e rapidl y increasing . With these changes taking place, can a broad regional grouping still be discerned? In 1990 the traditional religious regions associated with migration and with ancestry and ethnic groups were stil l apparent , thoug h wit h som e change s i n outlin e ove r th e years . Th e mos t notabl e changes of the past few decades were the expansion of the Mormon region from its solid Utah core int o surroundin g states , the solidificatio n o f a very larg e Souther n Baptis t region , an d the fact that formerly larg e and solid Catholic regions were somewhat frayed aroun d the edges. The map shows five regions where a single denomination is a major factor in regional identity— Catholics i n th e Northeas t an d Southwest , Souther n Baptist s i n th e South , Lutheran s i n th e northern Midwes t an d Plains , an d Mormon s (adherent s o f th e Churc h o f Latter-Da y Saints ) in the Utah-centered region. In addition, separating these regions is a transition zone in which the numerous denominations mix and mingle. In this zone no single denomination is generally dominant ove r a large area , althoug h the y ma y b e dominant i n individual countie s o r cities. All the major regions on the map, as well as the many sub-regions that cannot be depicted at this scale, are associated with past patterns of migration and ethnicity. In the northern Catholic region, early Irish and German immigrants were later joined by Italians, Poles, French Canadians, and others. In the southwestern Catholic region, the character was first set by very early Spanish settlers an d continue s t o be reinforced b y larg e numbers o f Mexica n immigrant s today . The Lutheran regio n derive s it s characte r fro m nineteenth-centur y immigratio n o f German s an d Scandinavians. Catholics are also numerous in this region, as many German immigrants wer e Catholic. I n th e South , earl y whit e immigratio n wa s primaril y o f th e Britis h nationalities — Scots, Irish, Scotch-Irish , an d English. Th e...


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