Argument: Tebow actually now in more religious yet less Christian city

Since Tim Tebow was traded from the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets, a number of commentators have suggested that Tebow was headed for the secular or even “heathen” city. However, some statistics suggest that the New York City region is more religious than the national as a whole though it is less conservative Protestant:

While New York has a reputation for godlessness, both city and state actually have higher rates of membership in organized religion than the country as a whole. In 2000, the proportion of state residents who belonged to some religious body was 76 percent — compared with 61 percent in the United States as a whole — according to an analysis by Queens College sociologist Andrew Beveridge. Even higher numbers specifically for the tristate region put it in the top 9 percent of urban areas in terms of religiosity, ahead of Salt Lake City and Little Rock.

Still, those who raised their eyebrows about Tebow’s arrival had a point. While New York is very religious, it isn’t religious in Tebow’s way: conservative Protestant. The state has proportionally far more Jews and Catholics than the rest of the country. The percentage of Muslims is only 2 percent — but that’s double the figure in America at large. In contrast, while the national proportion of conservative Protestants is 28 percent, the state population is 5 percent.

So it may not be Tebow’s being religious that raises eyebrows. Rather, it could be conservative Protestantism’s tendency to involve public proclamation. New Yorkers believe just as much, but they are less likely to talk about it openly.

It will be fascinating to see what happens. While the New York City region may be familiar with religion, it is a different mix of religions compared to other places.

The measure of belonging to a religious body could be telling – is this less about religious beliefs and practices and more about the social activity of being a member of a religious congregation or institution? If so, I wonder if this is tied to education levels. Several recent studies suggest that attending church is more common among those with higher levels of education. Other studies suggest that religion is not uncommon or unknown among professors and scientists.

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