Press "Enter" to skip to content

South Dakota Average for Weekly Church Attendance; NY and CA Close!

An eager reader checks on the churchiness of our fine state and finds South Dakotans don’t go to church much more often than Minnesotans… or Californians.

Church Attendance by State—Gallup 2014
(click for full survey results)

Weekly church attendance in South Dakota is average, just like in the rest of the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic states. Our snowbirds appear to have brought Florida’s average down from the surrounding South but perhaps have boosted the Desert Southwest above the lower-than-average Sunday attendance in rest of the West.

State Weekly Nearly weekly/ monthly Seldom/ never
Nebraska 35 24 40
North Dakota 32 29 37
Iowa 32 23 44
South Dakota 31 25 43
Minnesota 31 23 45
Wyoming 28 18 52
Montana 27 17 55

There are 16 states where a majority “seldom” or “never” go to church, including California and New York, where that figure is 51%. But 28% of Californians and 27% of New Yorkers go to church weekly, not much different from the percentage in South Dakota and Minnesota.

Related Reading: Gallup finds that 53% of Americans are satisfied with the influence of organized religion, down from 69% back in the nervous days of 2002. By a margin of nearly three to one, the dissatisfied think religion has too much influence, not too little, on American life.


  1. mike from iowa 2015-03-05

    Now compare this map with the one I sent you showing which states had more people housed in prisons than housed in universities and I think you will find an amazing similarity that causes one to believe church attendance causes crime.

  2. Bill Fleming 2015-03-05

    I posted this a while back on an old Madville thread but I’ll repost it here, because I think it’s relevant to the data you are showing.

    Jared Diamond’s most recent book “The World Until Yesterday” has a fascinating discussion on the social functions of religion throughout history, and how they interface with scientific thought.

    He lists religion’s social functions as:

    1. Supernatural explanation of things
    2. Defusing anxiety through ritual
    3. Providing comfort about pain and death
    4. Standardized social organization
    5. Preaching political obedience
    6. Moral code of behavior toward strangers
    7. Justification of wars

    After a discussion about how science offers alternative functions to most (but not all) of these religious social functions and details which of the above functions are in decline (as illustrated by your data here, Cory) he goes on to making a little prophecy of his own.

    Here’s how he ends the chapter:

    “Even if science’s answer to the search for meaning is true and if religious meaning is an illusion, many people will continue not to like science’s answers.
    If on the other hand much of the world remains mired in poverty or if (worse yet) the world’s economy and living standards deteriorate, then all functions of religion, perhaps even supernatural explanation may undergo a resurgence. My children’s generation will experience answers to these questions.”

  3. larry kurtz 2015-03-05

    Pat Powers is antithetical to everything Fleming just posted.

  4. mike from iowa 2015-03-05

    I got it for you,Cory. Good thing I have Tiny URL,the original was 748 characters.

    States with more prison beds than university beds.

  5. Craig 2015-03-05

    Perhaps even more interesting is when you see the trendlines for attendance and in some cases even a belief in a specific religion. If you break it down to age groups you quickly realize that as baby boomers age and start passing on, there won’t be many people left in the pews.

    I’ve been to a couple of churches where I was one of only two or three people without grey hair, and as those people die off there won’t be sufficient resources to support many of those churches. I have no doubt we will be hearing of a crisis in the next 20-30 years, but I tend to believe it is a promising sign.

    Clearly people are more apt to think critically these days, and with the total sum of human knowledge accessible to us via the devices we use to call our friends or take pictures of our cats, it is a trend I don’t anticipate changing. Needless to say if religions were rated like stocks, I’m fairly sure most of them would be rated “sell” right about now.

  6. mike from iowa 2015-03-05

    christianity as practiced by today’s wingnuts is pewier than ever. They,themselves are killing religion.

  7. Steve Hickey 2015-03-05

    Mike from Iowa, give it a rest. Your bitterness toward Christianity has fully clouded your judgment. To suggest that church attendance causes crime is just the epitome of foolishness; like doctor visits make you sick. Where Christianity flourishes, people in the world are free, women are valued and there is generosity and hope. No one has changed the world for better more than the historical Jesus. Not all his followers do so well representing him in the world but the fact remains, how he lived and what he said has changed more lives than any other living person and resulted in more good globally.

  8. mike from iowa 2015-03-05

    Touched a nerve did I,Congressman?

  9. bearcreekbat 2015-03-05

    I was chatting with a recently retired businessman/IT specialist from Rapid City last week and I asked how he liked retirement and how he spent his time. He said he spends a great deal of his time helping to maintain his mainline Protestant church located downtown. When I asked him if many young people attended he said no and that he had seen the numbers continually dwindle from year to year.

    I was a bit surprised when he told me that currently the average age of the parishioners attending his church was about 75.

  10. mike from iowa 2015-03-05

    Rev-I am not bitter about religion. Au contraire. It and you provide an endless supply of one-liners and anecdotes to keep the entire world in good humour for like,forever. If I’m for anything at all it would be humour. So long as I don’t need to pay royalties for the privilege.

  11. Jenny 2015-03-05

    Is there a correlation between church going so-called Christians and pornography because porn addiction rates are higher in the South and there are reputable stats to prove this. This is kind of funny really, that the red states have more pornographic addiction.

  12. bearcreekbat 2015-03-05

    Some folks might take exception to the suggestion that: “Where Christianity flourishes, people in the world are free, women are valued and there is generosity and hope.”

    Take for example the victims of the “Christian militias, known as anti-balaka. . .” who reportedly “attacked [and] . . . “decapitated” a crippled Muslim father “and killed 12 members of his family, among them a baby girl.”

    And on January, 14, 2014, “anti-balaka militias again attacked Muslim civilians in Boyali, this time targeting people who were trying to flee to safety. Six members of a single Muslim family, the Yamsas, were killed, all of them women and children.”

    And lest we think America is immune, consider our very own Christian “Army of God” that treats the following convicted murderers and advocates of murder in the name of Christianity as American heroes: Scott Roeder; Paul Jennings Hill; Eric Rudoplh; Shelley Shannon; John Brockhoeft and Rev Michael Bray.

    And don’t forget our wonderful Christian friends in Kansas:

    To paraphrase my late grandfather perhaps the best explanation is that “There are Christians and there are Christians.” We are fortunate that not all of our Christians follow the above paths, and that all of the world’s Muslims don’t engage in terrorism.

  13. Craig 2015-03-05

    No one has changed the world for better more than the historical Jesus.

    Seems you’re forgetting about Santa Clause…. ’cause that guy has done some amazing things.

  14. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-03-05

    Hickey said, “Where Christianity flourishes, people in the world are free, women are valued and there is generosity and hope.”

    I understand your sentiments Hickey, but your statement is a little too broad. There is a wide spread in Christianity’s practices and theology, music, gender practices, etc.

    We can’t ignore the fact that most of those who try to limit women’s rights, behavior, and role in society, claim the support of the Bible. I think everyone here knows that there are people who call themselves Christians and might describe themselves as “Bible believing”, who behave in ways that are detrimental to specific individuals and groups as well. There are the Prosperity Gospel types like the Osteen’s who teach their flocks to pray for their own wealth. They don’t fit your statement at all.

    I’m thinking about how you can qualify that sentence to be more accurate. What comes to mind is adding the word “Liberal” before “Christianity” is more accurate. How would you correct your language to be more effective?

    Hickey said, “No one has changed the world for better more than the historical Jesus.”

    I think that is probably true, however, Ghandi gave Jesus a very good run for his money. How many billions of people in India continue to benefit from Ghandi’s work? I’m thinking about the corruption of Jesus’ work, and all the pain and damage that caused. Can the same be said for Ghandi? I’d have to think about that.

    I guess my overall point is that issuing a hyperbolic absolutist statement regarding Christianity does more harm than good.

  15. leslie 2015-03-06

    11:03 (mfi) seems just as supportable as 11:30 (hickey)

    science, as much as republicans hate the word, is shaping the world so fast religion will never keep up, imo.

    the hubble space telescope, everything since the moon landing, and the availability of information, have exploded understanding as much as the manhattan project.

    “the beatles are still more popular than jesus despite the fact that kanye west doesn’t know who paul is.” art alley

  16. Jana 2015-03-06

    Wanted to post this on the old blog as a follow up to Anne Beal’s comment on the Hot off the Press post titled “CPAC Spokesmodel Tells Gov’t to Stay out of Her Body and Health Choices”

    Guess what Anne Beal, South Dakota is way up there on the list for unplanned pregnancies…right along with the other “Red State Bible Belters”

    Take your hypocritical, phony and false moral highground elsewhere.

  17. Rhiana Hyat 2015-03-14

    I do not think Christ-like people committed these atrocities. The fact that the Anti-balaka fighters are spreading anti-Muslim messages and terror does not mean that Christ has insinuated,suggested or mandated them to kill people, let alone Muslims. The Anti-balaka are perverting it for their purposes. Sadly, many horrible things have been done in the name of Christ. When I have become saturated with the darkness of the news, I often read the Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis to remind myself that evil will never completely be eradicated.

Comments are closed.