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The Carolina-Virginia of Religion

I promise this will be my last blog entry on maps of religion in the US for a while... but bear with me.

A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog entry in which I looked at a map showing the distribution of popular names for soft drinks throughout the US. Here's the main map (blues are "pop", reds are "coke", yellows are "soda"):

Generic Names for Soft Drinks

What I found most interesting was that, though popular names tended to be fairly uniform throughout the country, in one region -- from northern South Carolina through to North Carolina and Virginia -- name preferences were highly variable:

Soft Drink Names in Carolina and Virginia

Going back to my previous entry showing the distribution of the leading church bodies throughout the US, as with names for soft drinks, church adherence tends to be reasonably uniform within geographical areas. However, if we zoom in on Indiana and Ohio, we see something very similar to the phenomenon of soft drink names in the Carolina-Virginia corridor (light blue is Catholic, green is Methodist, yellow is Christian, red is Baptist, gold is Lutheran, pink is Mennonite):

US Religion: Indiana and Ohio

What causes this phenomenon, whether in religion, soft drink names, or anything else? When most of the country is uniform in its preferences, what causes a particular region to be so highly variable?

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