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which us city has the most churches per capita?
January 13, 2010 7:03 AM   Subscribe

i would like to ask the following question at a trivia night i run: Oddly enough, this US city, known for its nightlife, has the highest number of churches per capita of any major US city? las vegas is the correct answer according to its wikipedia page, but i have other conflicting info too....i have found memphis and wheaton, il are correc.t can anyone help and confirm which city is in fact correct, or how i can reword the qeustion to keep the answer vegas? also, if there is a site where i can find the actual number of churches that would be helpful too. thanks in advance for the help! -matt
posted by matt755811 to Religion & Philosophy (15 answers total)
 
As a trivia geek, I would never use Wikipedia as a source. If you have an answer with information this conflicting, you should probably either abandon it or come at it from a completely different angle.
posted by Madamina at 7:04 AM on January 13, 2010


Are you willing to "keep the answer vegas" by looking up all three cities populations and number of houses of worship in the same statistical sources and performing the per capita calculation yourself? I presume the three answers you have so far are all from different sources. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the source for your Vegas answer is using a generous definition of "churches" (to include, for example, drive-thru wedding chapels) to juice the stats, but for trivia purposes I think that's probably fair game as your question phrasing hints at that kind of thing.
posted by onshi at 7:07 AM on January 13, 2010


working pastors per capita? Or are the dudes at the wedding chapels justices of the peace?
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:16 AM on January 13, 2010


The "correct" answer will also depend on which statistic you choose (or can find): houses of worship (i.e. inclusive of non-Christian religions) or just "churches".
posted by onshi at 7:18 AM on January 13, 2010


Well if you keep the question worded as-is, I highly doubt anyone will have Wheaton, IL spring to mind as a city "known for its nightlife".
posted by ejazen at 7:19 AM on January 13, 2010


The question also includes the weasel words "major US city". Wheaton certainly isn't a major US city. Memphis is, though.
posted by inturnaround at 7:21 AM on January 13, 2010


"Chapels" per capita would be harder to debate, though also a dead giveaway that you mean Vegas.
posted by xueexueg at 7:24 AM on January 13, 2010


The better phrasing might be 'What nightlife-and-lust-fueled major American city also boasts one of the highest numbers of churches, per capita?'
posted by pupdog at 7:47 AM on January 13, 2010


"Oddly enough, this western US city.."
posted by royalsong at 7:48 AM on January 13, 2010


This 1997 article argues that the claim is an urban legend, possibly promoted by the city itself to counter the seedier side of its image. It cites Memphis as having far more churches per capita, although it doesn't provide a definitive answer on what the leading city in the country is.

As a trivia night host myself, I don't think I'd use this question.
posted by EarBucket at 8:31 AM on January 13, 2010


Just FYI, I've heard this claim for a number of Canadian cities as well. I generally consider it to be apocryphal whenever I hear it now as it comes up so often with absolutely no sources or data to actually back it up.

I also have the same reaction to the claim of most donut shops per capita.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 8:35 AM on January 13, 2010


Now this might be helpful--it's raw data from a 2000 survey. According to it, Provo, Utah leads the pack, with one church for every 370 residents. Less amusing than the Las Vegas answer, certainly, but Vegas has only one church for every 2,500.
posted by EarBucket at 8:40 AM on January 13, 2010


For really major cities, it looks like (no surprise) Salt Lake City is your best bet, with one church per 625 residents.
posted by EarBucket at 8:53 AM on January 13, 2010


If you want to "keep the answer Vegas," your best bet might be to make it a multiple choice question ("Which of the following cities has the most churches per capita: ..."), using Vegas and three or four other cities with fewer churches per capita, based on the data EarBucket linked. This also avoids the problem of potential arguments about what constitutes a "major" city. (And you probably can't use "city" unqualified, since technically, in the US, the distinction between town and city is in the form of government, not size. There's probably some city of 80 people somewhere which has one church. Meanwhile, I live in a town of over 65,000 people.)

Slightly related: I've seen claims for at least a dozen different US cities as having the most restaurants per capita in the country. I did a bit of research at one point trying to determine which one really had the most, but was unable to find a free source listing the number of restaurants in various cities. I did find a report for purchase which had the information, but I wasn't interested enough to pay what they were asking for the report.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:20 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always have a "put these things in order" question each week, where you're given four things (countries, movies, celebrities) and asked to put them in order by a certain criteria (population density, domestic box office, age). That might be a really good format for this question.
posted by EarBucket at 11:10 AM on January 13, 2010


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