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Bible Belt

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The extent of the Bible Belt. On the bright side though, you may assume that there are small gray holes in the places where Atlanta, Dallas, Nashville, Charlotte, Austin, Jacksonville, Raleigh, and Houston are. And as is the case in most other areas of the country, or even the world, these cities are where the vast majority of the people live.

The Bible Belt is the part of the United States where fundamentalist Protestant (particularly Baptist) Christianity is more prevalent than in the rest of the US. Anybody who isn't a Real True Christian™ (see No True Scotsman) may find themselves unwelcome at best, told by their fundamentalist neighbors that they will burn in Hell. Those who are particularly unlucky will indeed find themselves in Hell — that is, Hell on Earth, risking physical attack against themselves or even their children.[1] This happens especially in the smaller towns and villages. It even affects the way they vote.[2] Gay people are probably most at risk. Youngsters who tell their parents that they are gay risk being disowned or even attacked physically.[3]

While the Bible Belt is often considered synonymous with the American South,[note 1] many people will consider themselves from the Bible Belt if their particular town or family followed a Bible Belt-style existence. Also, "Bible Belt" can also be extended to refer to high prevalence of Christianity in regions outside the United States. For instance, in Sweden, there is a Bible Belt between Jönköping and Gothenburg, while Southern Norway is referred to as the Bible Belt in Norway. Oddly enough, in colonial America and the early United States, New England was the unquestioned Bible Belt; starting in the 1840s, immigration from Ireland and Italy brought along Catholicism, which dulled the Protestant and Puritanical influence over the region.


Many different places try to claim to be the "buckle of the Bible Belt," usually intended to mean the most fundamentalist part. Tennessee, Oklahoma, southern Ohio, northwestern Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle are often considered contenders. While not contiguous with the rest of the Bible Belt, the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado is often held to be an exclave of the Bible Belt due to the preponderance of conservative Protestant megachurches and activist groups in the city — something that regularly makes the rest of Colorado (which is profoundly liberal/libertarian-leaning) uneasy.

The original "buckle" was Dayton, Tennessee. H.L. Mencken coined the term when he visited the town to report on the Scopes trial. Nowadays, Oklahoma and north-central Texas are typically considered the core of the region by researchers on the subject.[4]

While Utah, southern Idaho, and Arizona also have a large number of fundamentalist Christians, the Christianity in that part of the country is of the Mormon variety more often than not, and so they and the denizens of the "proper" Bible Belt view each other as God-forsaken heretics. This region of the country is known as the Mormon Corridor, or the Jell-O Belt (a Mormon stereotype is that they love the gelatin snack food Jell-O).

The opposite is the "Unchurched Belt", which goes across Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska (as well as British Columbia) and was known for having the lowest rates of religious attendance. In more recent years, however, New England may have surpassed the Unchurched Belt in this regard.

The rest of the world[edit]

Up to the 1990s, people in other countries could say, “It’s sad. Religious people in some parts of the United States are crazy. It’s nothing to do with us and we can’t do anything about it.” Not so today, in the modern world of the Internet where information is easy to find and practically accessible to all.

  • The bad side: Today, United States fundies from the Bible Belt and from the rest of the United States are active on the Internet. Fundamentalists in other countries are vulnerable to infection with American fundamentalist ideas, along with some more liberal Christians. English speaking countries are especially vulnerable, since English is the only language most American fundamentalists are "fluent" in.
  • The good side: Today, rational people from the whole English-speaking world can contact people in the Bible Belt and can denounce their illogical thinking or reach out to those harmed by the bigots in the Bible Belt. Many Bible Belt fundamentalists are too brainwashed to hear the message, but, hopefully, some will listen. At the same time, individuals in the Bible Belt (as well as other closed societies) can be exposed to ideas they would never encounter in their community.
  • The completely flip side: Also, today, Americans can see that other countries[note 2] have their own issues with religious extremists, despite their efforts to conceal it. (We're looking at YOU, Canada.)[note 3]

Additionally, some European countries such as the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden have their own Bible Belts – see the Wikipedia articles on Bible Belt (Netherlands),Wikipedia Bible Belt (Norway),Wikipedia and Bible Belt (Sweden).Wikipedia

Alternate definition[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about Jesusland.

Take a belt. A good, stout leather belt is best. Inscribe upon it some appropriate Bible verses, such as:

  • "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." (Proverbs 13:24)
  • "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." (Proverbs 19:18)
  • "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." (Proverbs 22:15)
  • "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." (Proverbs 23:13-14)
  • "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." (Proverbs 29:15)
  • "The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?" (Hebrews 12:6-7)
  • "And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." (1 Kings 12:13-14)
  • "And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables" (John 2:15)

This Bible Belt is best used in conjunction with a good old fashioned woodshed. See also: To Train Up a Child.

Dirty little secrets[edit]

Many Bible Belters will brag about their God-fearin', small-town values, though since they are disproportionately affected by poverty, they suffer from the negative consequences of poverty. Politicians also promote bad policy in the name of religion that affects the quality of the education, which, in turn, also has negative consequences[note 4] (see promotion of abstinence-only education). As another website critical of religious extremism puts it, the Bible Belt:

…is an area with the highest divorce, murder, STD/HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, infant mortality, and obesity rates in the nation. As a region, the Bible Belt has the poorest health care systems and the lowest rates of high school graduation.[5]

The Poverty Belt[edit]

US states ranked by poverty, with the poorest being colored in red

With the exceptions of Virginia and Kansas, the Bible Belt is the poorest region of the country. Much of this is due to the historical legacy that slavery had over this region, as well as the refusal to modernize anywhere with the exception of again, Virginia. Two areas in particular stand out: the Appalachian region of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky and the Mississippi river delta. A UN report on these regions has stated that there are "third world conditions" in these areas.[6] Ultimately, the only areas in America that are poorer than those two are various Native American reservations, most notably Pine Ridge in South Dakota.

The Poor Health Belt[edit]

Mississippi: the buckle barely fastening on the obesity belt.

Many Bible Belters have poor diets largely from systemic issues tied to poverty including poor quality healthcare, income inequality, and the propagation of food deserts;Wikipedia food deserts are concentrated largely in the Bible Belt. The result is to be expected: This area of the U.S. has the highest obesity rate in the country.[7] Or, as a doctor conducting a mobile free clinic in New Orleans put it, "What used to be called the Bible belt — the Southern states — is now called the stroke belt, the HIV belt, the hypertension belt. We have a high rate of hypertension, probably the highest rates in the world."[8]

The South Pacific Islands (other than Papua New Guinea), which are often considered the "world's Bible belt" because of their high evangelical Protestant membership, happen to have the highest obesity rate in the world as well, though there are factors unique to the South Pacific Islands, including the people living there having a bigger natural frame. As with the Bible Belt, low income and poor access drives these people to eat less healthy, where fishermen reportedly sell their catches to buy more substantial canned tuna and a bottle of soda is cheaper than a bottle of water.[9] Additionally, in the wake of urban development, these people also have adapted to a lifestyle change where outside busy-work is replaced with sedentary offices.

US death rates for lung cancer

Some of the highest rates of smoking-related deaths are found in the Bible Belt. This is at least partly due to tobacco being grown here and the influence of the tobacco industry on local politics.[10]

The Divorce Belt[edit]

The Bible Belt leads the nation in divorce,[11] as you might expect among people who go on and on about the "sanctity of marriage". Meanwhile, those liberal heathens in New England tend to have the lowest divorce rates.[note 5]

The Swinger Belt[edit]

You would think that fundy parents would have realized by now that enforcing sexual repression on their kids just makes them hornier. Maybe that explains why the Bible Belt is one of the nation's hotbeds for swingers (**cough cough Florida**).[12]

Belt of Four Deadly Sins and only One Heavenly Virtue[edit]

Geographers from Kansas once tried to plot the seven deadly sins on a map. All combined, it turns out that people are the most sinful in Washington, the south-east coast, and the Bible Belt. Meanwhile, those in the Midwest and Rust Belt are the least sinful. People from the Bible Belt tend to be more charitable, given that it has less income inequality than the rest of the United States outside of the Midwest, but they are more envious, wrathful, and lustful than the rest of the United States, due to the higher amount of crime and sexually transmitted disease per capita. Due to how sinful they were, they ended up being one of the regions in the United States with the highest amount of pride.[13]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. Residents of California say it's the Southeast, we are not one of them! Wait, are we?
  2. Or at least Americans can see that there are other countries.
  3. Why us? We're not responsible for what Alberta does.
  4. Fill people's heads with stupid ideas and they're bound to make stupid decisions.
  5. The liberal tendency to see women as people who are actually worthy of respect and consideration (rather than merely "penis homes" and baby factories) probably has something to do with this.


  1. William W. Zellner. Deep In The Bible Belt — One Atheist Professor's Experience.
  2. Mark Mardell. Candidates need saving in Bible Belt. BBC News. 2012 January 21.
  3. Bernadette C. Barton. Young and Gay in the Bible Belt: 'My Mom Came at Me With a Butcher Knife!' Alternet. 2009 April 14.
  4. The Bible Belt in a Changing South, Stanley D. Brunn et al., University of North Carolina Press
  5. Stop The Religious
  6. Junior Walters, Southern poverty gets the United Nations' attention, Facing South 11 Jul. 2018
  7. Bible Belt Needs a Bigger Belt: 9 of 10 Obese States in South. Ethics Daily. 2011 July 11.
  8. Transcript for "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" for Wednesday, September 1st, 2010. MSNBC. 2010 September 1.
  9. Senthilingam, M. (May 1, 2015). "How paradise became the fattest place in the world". CNN. Accessed June 27, 2021.
  10. Smoking Kills More Southerners, Study Finds (Oct 24 2016, 2:30 pm ET) NBC Nerws.
  11. Pam Belluck. To Avoid Divorce, Move to Massachusetts. New York Times. 2004 November 14.
  12. Forrest Wilder. He Who Casts the First Stone. Texas Observer. 2010 February 24.
  13. American Vice: Mapping the 7 Deadly Sins by Wired Staff, August, 24, 2009, Wired