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Monday, October 21, 2013

Vermont: The Least Religious State

As you may know, Vermonters are excruciatingly slow at change, distrustful of strangers, full of dry wit and fiercely protective of their families and land.  The more remote their location, the more this will ring true.  And, this is certainly true when it comes to their religious beliefs.  While researching material for this entry, I found some interesting statistics:

Did you know....

...that Vermont is the least religious state in the US with only 19% claiming to be "very religious". 

.....that Vermont is second only to Wyoming, for having the slowest growth rate in the country at only 0.02%, ranking it 49th.

.....In 1990 11.4% of state residents described themselves as "nonreligious" and 1.2% said they were agnostic. 

.......Often referred to as one of the "whitest states in the nation," Vermont has "not attracted large scale immigration. Hence, major world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism' hardly even exist in this state.

Let's start from the beginning and move forward: 

Jacque Cartier
Jacques Cartier (Roman Catholic) is thought to be the first to have explored our state as early as 1535.  It was during that time that  the Abenaki Indians battled the Iroquois for this land.  

Samuel de Champlain
In 1609,  Samuel de Champlain (Roman Catholic) coined our state's name "Verts Monts" [Green Mountains, Fr].  Several decades later, France claimed Vermont as part of New France, and erected Fort Sainte Anne on Isle La Motte in 1666 as part of their fortification of Lake Champlain. This was the first European settlement in Vermont and the site of the first Roman Catholic mass (church service).

It is said that during the Colonial Times (roughly 1607 - 1793), Vermont's largest religious affiliation was Congregationalism. In 1776, 63% of affiliated church members in Vermont were Congregationalists.  It is believed that approximately 9% of people belonged to a specific church, and this was due largely in part of the populations remote settlements.

"Today Congregationalists (as the United Church of Christ) are third largest religious body in the state. Over 4% of the population are claimed by the UCC as members, and the same percentage name Congregationalism or the UCC as their religious preference. Even today, the Congregationalists have more churches than any other denomination (religious body) in the state. 

The largest single religious body in Vermont today is the Catholic Church. In 1990 the Catholic Church reported that 25% of Vermont residents were members, but the Kosmin self-identification survey indicated that over 35% consider themselves Catholic. The 10% difference indicates a significant number of state residents who are nominal Catholics not affiliated with a parish. 

The United Methodist Church is the second largest church, with about 5% of the population.

The fourth largest church is the Episcopal Church, followed by the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. ("Northern Baptists") and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Taken as a whole, Christianity is clearly the largest religion in the state, claimed as the preferred religion by 83% of state residents. -wiki

Slowly emerging from the depths is the Wicca or Neopagan (Druidism) movement.  I think it would be safe to say that the older generation is especially skeptical and wary of these religions because of there association with terms such as "Witch-craft", or "Dark/Black Magic [Magick]".

Wiccan "Wheel of the Year"

Perhaps, even with introducing the definition of what Wicca is, it would still be considered a dark art, and this is truly unfortunate. Neopaganism and Wicca are what is known as "Earth Based" religion, and absolutely do not worship Satan or the Devil.  This negative stereotype is mostly due to television shows and movies, for to understand any earth-based religion, one must consider that it is the worship of all aspects of nature, often to include both gods and goddesses, and to consider nature as whole source of the universal consciousness.  

Ignorance and fear surrounding these religions feed the frenzy of negativity.   I would suggest that anyone who is fearful of Wicca, to do their homework, and educate themselves properly about every day practice, the wheel of the year, what a pentacle means, and the Sabbats, and so on.  You may also learn that, for many, Christianity is an integral part of earth-based worship!  In Vermont, and certainly New England, you will begin to discover just how many people practice solitary Wicca often right in your back yard!

"Earth religions are formulated to allow one to utilize the knowledge of preserving the Earth."  

Here are a few Vermont resources, if you'd like to discover more:

Merchants online:


Shops around the state:  (Please feel free to add to list in the comments ~ this was all I could find online)

Bellows Falls:  The Upward Spiral 

Brattleboro:  Black Bear Trading Post

Burlington:  Blue Heron Imports

                   October Tea Room

                   Spirit Dancer

Milton:  Moonlight Gift Shoppe

Randolph:  Mugwort and Malachite 

St Albans:  Moonshadows Gifts for the Spirit

Wilmington:  Heaven and Earth

"An it harm none, do what ye will."

"There is no divine judgement.

It is up to each individual to decide what is ethical.

Each individual is responsible for his or her actions.

Nature and all life should be honored.

There is no one correct path or religion, only that which fits best for each individual.

Moral doings are done for their own sake and not for a reward."