This is an archived article that was published on in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

How did Mississippi beat Utah as the most religious state in America? I thought we had that locked up.

It's true. In a recent Gallup "State of the States" poll, Utah came in second on a list of the nation's most religious states. What happened to us?

Admittedly, the margin is thin. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed in Mississippi consider themselves "very religious," compared with 57 percent of Utahns.

Exactly how Mississippi accomplished this religious coup without its legislature being dominated by a single faith, school seminary programs or smothering liquor laws is anybody's guess.

But we have to face the truth. When it comes to all the things that religion typically stands against, Utah actually does come up short compared with Mississippi. I don't know how that could possibly be, but the facts cannot be denied.

I logged onto to compare other possible Mississippi vs. Utah religion stats. It's interesting to see just how they beat us.

For example, you can buy alcohol in each of Utah's 29 counties. You have to jump through some annoying hoops, but the point is you can get it. Conversely, nearly half of Mississippi's 82 counties are dry.

Despite Utah's large Mormon population, we're not really sticking to the Word of Wisdom as well as we might. Mississippi ranks 49th in the number of Starbucks per state. Utah is 25th.

If overall pudginess is a religious factor — as some seem to think it is with Mormons — we come up short again. Mississippi is the most obese state in the union, while Utah comes in at a mere No. 42.

According to one gay and lesbian travel website, Salt Lake City ranks No. 5 on a list of most underrated gay-friendly cities in America. Conversely, Mississippi doesn't even show up on a Google search using the words "gay friendly."

The Advocate, a gay and lesbian news website, ranked Utah's Pride Parade as one of the best in the country. Last year's parade in Salt Lake City had more entries than the Days of '47 Parade, making it the largest parade in the state. Try that in Jackson, Miss.

Mormons' frugal nature is sometimes cited as the reason wages in Utah are so low relative to the national average.

If such thriftiness is a virtue, Mississippi wins again. It leads the nation in percentage of its population living below the poverty line. Utah is somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Mississippi leads Utah in percentage of women who never married (27 percent). We lag behind with a measly 23 percent. This is hardly fair because Mississippi doesn't have to factor in polygamy.

And how are we going to support and defend the Constitution with guns when we're only ranked No. 31 in the nation for per-capita deaths by firearms while Mississippi is No. 6?

Finally, Mississippi ranked ninth when it comes to alligator attacks. Utah doesn't even show up on the list.

I have no idea what that has to do with religion. I just liked it.

We can do better than this, people, but maybe we should just leave well enough alone.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or