"American voters increasingly split along religious lines"

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Mon Dec 15 22:48:14 PST 2003

On 12/14/03 2:58 PM, "Russell Turpin" <deafbox at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Is the sagebrush region more or less religious
> than average?

Possibly a little less than average overall, but it depends on the
sub-region and how you figure the math.  You have to realize that most of
the people who live in the sagebrush region are not natives, but come from
places like Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.  My ranch in Nevada is remote
(an hour from the interstate on dirt roads and a long way from anything
urban), and yet the closest fulltime rancher is a GenX guy from Cupertino in
Silicon Valley.  Even a lot of the people who live in the remote parts and
small towns are not as native as they appear.  And the truly domestic
population in that region doesn't seem to be very religious either.

The most religious sub-region of sagebrush country is the band across the
Canadian border, including eastern Washington, Idaho, and western Montana.
But they have such a crazy and diverse mix of religions even in small towns
up there that it is very much a live and let live because even neighbors are
at odds on matters of religion.  Even though I would say that religion is as
important to people in that part of the sagebrush region as it is in the
South or Appalachia, I've never felt marginalized for not being religious
(unlike in the South) because religion is understood to be a strictly
personal choice and they treat it in a pretty libertarian fashion.  They are
pretty religious, but you won't be treated any differently if you aren't.  I
have friends who are militant atheists who enjoy the people up in those
parts immensely.

The rest of sagebrush country is not particularly religious at all, no more
than Silicon Valley.  There is no creepiness to living in most of it (and
I've lived in several parts of it in my life), because as far as I could
ever tell, most of the people don't go to church nor do they have a religion
that I ever knew about.  The exception being in the band along the Canadian
border, which is where I grew up, and even those folks are very palatable.
I've also lived in the South and the Mid-Atlantic regions, and THOSE places
are uncomfortably religious for me.

I've lived in most parts of the US at one time or another, and the areas
that were the most "religious" in the usual sense were the South,
Mid-Atlantic, and the entire "midwest" east of the Great Plains (e.g greater
Appalachia).  The "ultra-liberal" regions also have their own "religion"
thing going, though it normally isn't identified as such even though it has
all the symptoms.  In all these regions there was obvious social
marginalization if you weren't part of whatever the local religion was.

Everything west of the Great Plains inclusive (excluding the South) is
either not very religious, or sufficiently libertarian about it that it
doesn't really matter.  Same with New England.

To sum up sagebrush culture succinctly, it is a fusion of socially liberal
sensibilities brought from California and bred with the fiercely independent
and libertarian attitude native to the mountain west.  The net result is a
culture that doesn't have much of a real religious tendency in most regions
and has a strongly libertarian attitude toward politics and government.  I
still maintain that of all the places I've lived, the one with a culture
that appealed to me most was the culture of northern Nevada, a mere 4 hours
east of Silicon Valley.  The closest thing to a classically libertarian
culture we have in the US in my opinion.

J. Andrew Rogers (andrew at ceruleansystems.com)

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