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Old 06-11-2009, 10:02 AM   #21
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This got me thinking. Bible belt is defined by evangelical protestant denominations, particularly baptist. Wikipedia (per Bank5's link) agrees, definiting it as follows: "Bible Belt is an informal term for an area of the United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism is a dominant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is extremely high."

This makes sense. Sort of you know it when you see it. I live in the bible belt. A common form of small talk when you meet someone is "Oh, which church do you go to?". This may rank higher on the list of polite questions to ask above "What do you do?" in some social circles (not mine though).
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:07 AM   #22
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I can ASSURE you, South Carolina is the HEART of the Bible Belt..........
I think SC is one of the devil horn's of the bible belt and Mississippi is the actual heart.
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:26 AM   #23
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Fuego, the Pentecostal's will be showing up at your door with some snakes very soon to dissuade you from discussing the devil's horns and SC in the same sentence.
Agreed, though, that wherever the Bible Belt is, SC better be smack dab in the middle of it.
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:31 AM   #24
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You're in the Bible Belt if your kid's sumer camp features services by snake-handlers.

Ha
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:42 AM   #25
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Fuego, the Pentecostal's will be showing up at your door with some snakes very soon to dissuade you from discussing the devil's horns and SC in the same sentence.
My cousin was seriously into the snake handling for a while. Another relative still is apparently... I knew that was big in the Appalachian area, but is it big in the remainder of SC and Charleston specifically?
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Old 06-11-2009, 11:11 AM   #26
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SC is definitely in the Bible Belt, but I think the cultures of Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach, and even (to a much lesser extent) Charleston boots the state out of bragging rights as the heart of the belt. For my money, AL and MS can best lay claim to the title, based on the near total infusion of the church into daily social, cultural, and even economic activities.

One strong indicator of the Bible Belt is the number of religiously-themed billboards one encounters, and the tone of the messages. Humorous/subtle= maybe not the Bible Belt. Hellfire/repentance=Bible Belt.
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Old 06-11-2009, 11:19 AM   #27
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Seattle seems to be the "Bible Sansabelt" heart, or maybe Portland. Not a heck of a lot of churces in downtown Seattle or Portland.
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Old 06-11-2009, 11:38 AM   #28
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Sam, I'm going to try to let that lumping in of Charleston with for-gawds-sakes Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head to go right by me. Seriously, them's fighting words.

Charleston does not have snake handling, FYI. But my family is from the mid-state, and certainly there are plenty of bible belters up that way.

Charleston is called the "Holy City" for the wide range and number of churches in our historic city (quite a contrast to the tacky tacky tacky elements of Myrtle Beach and the carnival atmosphere, or the Yankee transplant insta-plantation feel of Hilton Head). The French Hugenots made a massive impact on the city in it's early days, and since then many more denominations have joined them here.

Okay, being as how we stay in the running as the most polite city in the US, I'll not offer any more contrasts to the "Cancun circa 1970" aspects of Myrtle Beach or the "isolationist New England transplant village" ideas that Hilton Head was constructed with. Ugh. Double Ugh.

Sam, I'll forgive you if you come see us in Charleston and apologize for saying those cities and culture in the same breath.


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SC is definitely in the Bible Belt, but I think the cultures of Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach, and even (to a much lesser extent) Charleston boots the state out of bragging rights as the heart of the belt. For my money, AL and MS can best lay claim to the title, based on the near total infusion of the church into daily social, cultural, and even economic activities.

One strong indicator of the Bible Belt is the number of religiously-themed billboards one encounters, and the tone of the messages. Humorous/subtle= maybe not the Bible Belt. Hellfire/repentance=Bible Belt.
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Old 06-11-2009, 11:44 AM   #29
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Holding up my Bible pants...
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Old 06-11-2009, 11:50 AM   #30
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This map makes more sense to me. If you take this map, subtract Louisiana (at least the southern part)* and add the Carolinas, that would be my perception of the Bible Belt.

*South Louisiana just doesn't qualify in my opinion. There are probably more drive-through Daiquiri shops in the New Orleans area than churches. Catholicism is very strong here, but more in a social sense - - how many really go to mass every Sunday? Not so many IMO.
You're right on according to the map on the Wikipedia page - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi.../BibleBelt.png

-----------------------

I think one big difference in the Bible Belt is that church is much bigger part of life. In the Northeast people are more likely to go to mass for an hour on Sunday and be done for the week. In the Bible Belt church goers attend a lot more Church group activities throughout the week. Some things don't even involve religion...things like playing sports in the church.

IMO, there seems to be more variation between the churches in the South. Most are traditional (what you would expect) but others are very contemporary, something I never experienced in the Northeast.
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Old 06-11-2009, 12:10 PM   #31
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Okay, being as how we stay in the running as the most polite city in the US . . .
And it is definitely that.

An oft-told perhaps apocryphal story: During the oppressive occupation of Charleston after the War of Northern Aggression, many Union soldiers were stationed in the city, a great affront to the dignity of proud Charlestonians. One day a southern belle was descending the steps of her home on Rainbow Row and slipped on the wet marble. A Union soldier was there and caught her as she fell. Gathering herself together, the miss looked at him and said in her sweetest drawl "Thank you, Yankee. I hope there's a cool spot in hell for you."
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Old 06-11-2009, 12:12 PM   #32
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Seattle seems to be the "Bible Sansabelt" heart, or maybe Portland. Not a heck of a lot of churces in downtown Seattle or Portland.
Certainly doesn't surprise me knowing that area.
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Old 06-11-2009, 12:29 PM   #33
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Good thing there were not Tazers back then.

My idea of religion in Charleston is a starter of She Crab Soup and Palmetto Ale Battered Vidalia Onion Rings, and a slice of Sage Crusted Meatloaf.

Followed my a Mud Pie.

Or,
a heaping helping (mess) of Grits and Shrimp.

Religion at it's finest.


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And it is definitely that.

An t-told perhaps apocryphal story: During the oppressive occupation of Charleston after the War of Northern Aggression, many Union soldiers were stationed in the city, a great affront to the dignity of proud Charlestonians. One day a southern belle was descending the steps of her home on Rainbow Row and slipped on the wet marble. A Union soldier was there and caught her as she fell. Gathering herself together, the miss looked at him and said in her sweetest drawl "Thank you, Yankee. I hope there's a cool spot in hell for you."
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Old 06-11-2009, 01:11 PM   #34
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You're right on according to the map on the Wikipedia page - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi.../BibleBelt.png
It's probably the sweltering heat and humidity in those areas that makes the concept of hell very powerful and persuasive. Hell = a hot sunny August day with no iced tea and no fan or shade tree.
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Old 06-11-2009, 04:02 PM   #35
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Some of you are getting closer to what the Bible Belt is and was.

Consider the immediate aftermath of the War Between the States and the period of Reconstruction for a moment. To understand what life was like in the former Confederate States of America, think Germany after World War II - devastation of most of the infrastructure, occupation by hostile soldiers, all government functions taken over by the occupation forces, foreigners (Northerners) taking economic advantages and the difficulty that most people had in meeting the basic needs of shelter and food.

Religion provided comfort to people whose lives had been demolished. It was about the only thing left that couldn't be destroyed or stolen. The Third Great Awakening, which was a Protestant event predominant in the South, had a strong influence on social and political activism. The Bible Belt was being formed.

During the Spanish American War and there was a general sense of reunification between former enemies. Veterans from the opposing sides, who had been celebrating their valor independently for years, began to have joint reunions. Colors that had been seized during the war were returned to former enemies and the two populations in general came together as a result of facing a common enemy of the nation.

But the generations that followed as the veterans died off became increasingly resentful of a continued economic dominance by Northern businessmen and a perception of Northern cultural disdain for the South. The White South began to coalesce their dislike of things Northern by creating a romanticized version of all things Southern - and that meant the Confederacy and religion. The two were joined at the hip and a formal ritualized version of the two became important elements of White Southern culture.

There was a good side to all of the religious fervor and Lost Cause reminiscing, but it also came with a much bigger bad side like Jim Crow laws, and the resurgence of the Klan that was very violent and practiced religious oppression.

The South, had prior to this, been pretty tolerant and liberal in the area of religious freedom. That mostly meant tolerating Christians with different ideas (snake handlers for example), but it included Jews who had strong communities in places like Atlanta.

Religion became a very dominant feature of public life - prayers began all public functions including government functions from the start of the day for the state legislature and public schools.

Everybody pretty much at least confessed to being a Christian of the Protestant variety, which means that sola scriptura was the name of the game.

By the time H. L. Mencken started covering the Scopes trial, which was at least partly a battle between Protestants of the Modernist sort and those of the Fundamentalist type, the "Read your Bible Every Day" kind of Christianity was thoroughly ingrained throughout the region. In fact, a side issue at Scopes' trial was the removal of a sign from the courthouse wall that said "Read Your Bible".

Mencken, that gleeful misanthrope who hated religion and thought all Southerners were "sub-human", coined or popularized the phrase "The Bible Belt" while he was writing about the Scopes Trial. It was obviously not meant as a compliment.

So, as originally used, the phrase meant that part of the former Confederacy (and some parts of some bordering states) in which the population was predominantly of one or the other Protestant faiths, and in which the presence of that religion's tenets were pervasive in public life.

In the historically correct meaning of the phrase "Bible Belt", all those good Mormons in Utah are not living in the Bible Belt, nor are the Roman Catholics in South Texas. They are not Christians of the sola scriptura brand, did not undergo the social and political changes brought on by the Third Great Awakening; and a geographic grouping of them does not constitute the Bible Belt any more than would a grouping of Muslims, Jews or Pastafarians.

The Scopes' trial was the height of the dispute between modernists and fundamentalists. There were major rifts within and between the major groupings of Protestantism, with the issue of evolution being one of the major tests between liberal and conservative, doctrinally appropriate and heretical. As a result of that dispute, and the verdict of the Scopes trial, the fundamentalist sola scriptura kind of religion became even more pervasive in the laws and culture in the South. Fundamentalists, and Southerners in general, were on the defensive and started pressing their legislatures for laws similar to the Burton Act.

In the late 1960s is when a lot of the quasi-official state religion of fundamentalist Christianity in the South was killed off by court rulings. It died a hard death, but it did die. That pervasive nature of a specific kind of religion in all things public, to include all things governmental especially, is gone.

The court rulings coincided (maybe even spurred?) the Fourth Great Awakening which again affected the Protestants. The Southern Baptist, the bastion of conservative Fundamentalist Christian churches, became politically powerful while the more liberal branches like Methodist and Episcopalians lost members and influence. At the same time, the SBC began growing outside of the South. As they grew nationally, so did the focus of their political and social activism.

Now, there are still plenty of religious people of the sola scriptura sort in the South. But they are also cropping up in many other parts of the country, so much that the Southern Baptists now call themselves the North American Baptists. And the Baptists question how much of the perceived (and proclaimed) religious fervor in the South is genuine adherence and how much is just a cultural lingering.
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What are we to make of this? Well, a closer look at the question Gallup asked reveals the limits of the data. The people Gallup interviewed were asked: "Is religion an important part of your daily life?" There was no definition of "religion" offered, and certainly no test of doctrinal understanding or commitment. The responses from the Bible Belt surely include those generated by cultural Christianity. In the South, being "raised right" includes knowing how you are supposed to respond to a question like that posed by Gallup.
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Old 06-11-2009, 05:01 PM   #36
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Not a heck of a lot of churces in downtown Seattle or Portland.
Right. You have to go to Antelope, OR, to find an active congregation (Shree Rashneesh).

[I know, they are long gone and he is dead. But that is religion in Oregon.]
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Old 06-11-2009, 08:12 PM   #37
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Leo, I was more or less playing around here, but I want to thank you for a very scholarly and erudite post that makes perfect sense. Not many folks can accurately depict what the South was like during reconstruction, but you nailed it, and the accompanying religious fervor that developed.

Thank you for the long-forgotten (if ever known) history lesson. You are spot on with this story. Wow!
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Old 06-11-2009, 08:29 PM   #38
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Please don't take offence, but back when I travelled throughout the US courtesy of mega-corp, I always thought that the 'Bible-Belt' started at the 49th parallel. Anything south was Bible-Belt.
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Old 06-11-2009, 09:12 PM   #39
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The Southern predilection to religious fundamentalism is probably best described in this monumental work.

Albion's Seed - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Great reading and a must for understanding the Southern cultural beginnings.
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Old 06-12-2009, 05:59 AM   #40
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This makes sense. Sort of you know it when you see it. I live in the bible belt. A common form of small talk when you meet someone is "Oh, which church do you go to?". This may rank higher on the list of polite questions to ask above "What do you do?" in some social circles (not mine though).
Yep, this happenned to me when I first moved here: "Have you found a church home yet?" Followed by an invitiation to their church.


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I think SC is one of the devil horn's of the bible belt and Mississippi is the actual heart.
Yep, I would agree that I am in the heart of the bible belt here.
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