More than half of Louisiana's residents are likely to attend their place of worship in a typical week, according to a recent report by George Gallup, Jr.'s Princeton Religion Research Center.
In a survey, 56 percent in Louisiana said they had gone to church or synagogue in the past seven days, the highest rate in the nation and much higher than the U.S. average of 41 percent. The state of Washington had the lowest percentage of worshipers at 29 percent.
Dan Krutz, executive director of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference in Baton Rouge, an organization that works with 14 denominations representing about 2 million members, believes the strong influence of Roman Catholicism in southern Louisiana is the main reason for the higher weekly church attendance.
"The other major denomination is Southern Baptist," Krutz says. "They also stress not only attending every Sun day morning, but every Sun day night. It's a strong moral imperative."
Rodger M. Payne, associate professor of philosophy and religion at Louisiana State University, believes the churchgoing rate could be rooted in a "good-natured competition" between Catholics and Protestants.
"Louisiana, as with other parts of the so-called Deep South, does have that long-standing cultural tradition that going to church on Sunday is the thing to do," Payne says.
New Orleans, Louisiana's largest city, reflects the most powerful Catholic influence. All Saints Day is a public holiday, and many who line streets for Mardi Gras parades also attend penitential Ash Wednesday services the next morning.
Krutz, though, does not believe the attendance has made a huge impact in private morality, public morality, or concern for peace and justice.
"We are a state that has riverboat casinos in just about every river that will hold one," Krutz says. "We rely upon gambling heavily to fill our state coffers."
But Krutz is optimistic about the future of cross-denominational cooperation, citing recent meetings between Catholic and Southern Baptist seminarians in New Orleans.
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