Numbers don't lie
June 24, 2014

Christianity is the biggest religion in every U.S. state — but you already knew that. The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies digs a little deeper, reporting which Christian denomination is the largest, and how many adherents each religion has, in each U.S. county.

The most recent U.S. Religion Census was actually released two years ago, based on 2010 data — there has been a religion census conducted every decade since 1980 in the same year as the U.S. census — but the 2010 ASARB maps recently resurfaced in the map-crazy dataphilic media. Here is the big look at which Christian sect is the biggest in your area:

Catholicism (purple) dominates much of the map, except for the South, where the Southern Baptists (red) hold sway. Mormonism (gray) is big in the Mountain West, and Lutherans (orange) and Methodists (green) have sizable pockets in the Midwest and Northeast. Probably more interesting is the ASARB's depiction of which non-Christian religion is the biggest in each state:

According to the map, Buddhism (yellow) is (relatively) big out West, Islam (light blue) is bigger than you might think in the Midwest and South, Judaism (pink) has its stronghold in the Northeast and pockets of the Midwest, Hinduism (dark orange) is surprisingly prevalent in Arizona and Delaware, and South Carolina has a vibrant Baha'i community (green). "Let's acknowledge at the outset that it doesn't take very much to be the second-largest religion in South Carolina," Baha'i historian Louis E. Venters tells NPR.

Hillary Kaell, a specialist in North American Christianity at Montreal's Concordia University, hits the same cautionary note: "These numbers, although they look impressive when laid out in the map, represent a very tiny fraction of the population in any of the states listed." Still, interesting. Peter Weber

This just in
7:22 a.m. ET

A suicide bomber struck the Imam Ali mosque in al-Qadeeh, in Saudi Arabia's eastern Qatif province, during Friday prayer services. Witnesses tell Reuters that 30 people were killed in the blast. The official Saudi news agency has confirmed an attack at a mosque, but hasn't provided details. Photos posted to Twitter show bodies covered with rugs and blankets amid rubble inside the Shiite mosque.

Saudi Arabia is about 15 percent Shiite, and most of them live in the eastern part of the Sunni kingdom. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. BBC News tries to make sense of the attack in the video below. —Peter Weber

I spy
7:20 a.m. ET

That startling claim surfaced in interviews CNN conducted with two North Korean defectors, including Kang Myong Do, who said that in the 1980s, his job was to send North Korean spies around the world, a practice that still exists today. Kang says there are likely hundreds of agents working for North Korea in the U.S. at any one time, most of them Korean-Americans.

How do Kim's agents recruit Korean-Americans to help North Korea?

"There are three different tactics they use," he said. "First is to give them free visas to North Korea, second, to give them access to do business and make money there, and third, they use women to entice them. This tactic has been widely used since the '80s." [CNN]

The entire CNN report is worth a read and watch — it's full of fascinating nuggets on North Korean spycraft. But there's one important asterisk: "CNN is unable to independently verify [these] claims, as North Korea is one of the world's most secretive countries." Ben Frumin

Noted
6:24 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Friday or next week, the Obama administration will formally unveil new clean-water regulations aimed at giving the federal government greater authority to curb pollution in lakes, rivers, wetlands, and groundwater, The New York Times reports. The rule, known as Waters of the U.S., isn't a surprise: The Environmental Protection Agency proposed it a year ago, and has spent months holding public meetings, reading public comments, and finalizing the language.

"Water is the lifeblood of healthy people and healthy economies," EPA chief Gina McCarthy wrote in an April blog post. "We have a duty to protect it. That's why EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are finalizing a Clean Water Rule later this spring to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction."

The federal government had broad authority to regulate the nation's waters under the 1972 Clean Water Act, but Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 created confusion over smaller waterways. The new rule would cover about 60 percent of U.S. waters, The Times reports. Farm and some business groups oppose the rule, and Republicans are trying to stop it through legislation — the House has already passed a bill blocking the rule, and Senate Republicans are working on their own measures. Peter Weber

Gay marriage
5:22 a.m. ET
Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

It's not clear if Friday's referendum to allow same-sex marriage in traditionally Catholic Ireland will pass, but the fact that it might signals a pretty rapid turnaround for a country that only decriminalized homosexuality in 1993. If the Irish approve the gay-marriage proposal, the Republic of Ireland will be the first country to do so by popular vote. The polls suggest the measure has a good chance of passing, though it's unclear if conservative sections of rural Ireland will turn out in large numbers to defeat the referendum.

The Catholic bishops of Ireland are opposed to the measure, but some parish priests publicly support it, as do some conservative political parties. "In many ways, Ireland hasn't changed because the Irish people have always been tolerant, decent, and compassionate," Sen. David Norris, 70, told The New York Times. "But you've still got to say that it's extraordinary to have once been considered a criminal and now I might be able to marry — if anyone would have me, that is!"

In majority protestant Northern Ireland, the government has voted down three recent proposals to join the rest of the United Kingdom in allowing same-sex marriage. Peter Weber

Fondue really is good date food
4:57 a.m. ET

If you shut off the TV or switched from CBS after David Letterman's final sign-off Wednesday night, you missed Late Late Show host James Corden's car trip with Justin Bieber. Don't worry, they posted it to YouTube. It's billed as "carpool karaoke" — which, not to quibble too much, is wrong both because the music has the original vocal tracks and only one of the dudes is going to work (Corden) — but the singing to the radio is the least interesting part, anyway.

The reasons to watch are Justin Bieber's impressive Rubik's Cube skills and the conversation — specifically, Bieber's reaction when Corden laid out a fairly elaborate fantasy involving a woman, a bed, some Bieber tunes, and a cutout of Bieber's silhouette on the bathroom door. Lesser pop stars might have jumped out of the car; Bieber agreed to swap clothes. You can watch below. —Peter Weber

Bin laden Library
4:28 a.m. ET
Salah Malkawi/Getty Images

Among the trove of documents and book titles newly declassified and released from the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011 was a letter bin Laden wrote to one of his wives in Iran around December 2010. In the three-page letter he discusses routine domestic issues, like his wife's dental work, and says he was thinking about leaving for another hideout.

"I have been living for years in the company of some of the brothers from the area, and they are getting exhausted — security wise — from me staying with them and what results from that," he wrote. "Sadly, I came to realize that they have reached a level of exhaustion that they are shutting down, and they asked to leave us all." He had been with the hosts for so long, he added, "I think that I have to leave them," though it would take a few months "to arrange another place where you, Hamza, and his wife can join us."

As The New York Times notes, "it is impossible to know how any change in location by bin Laden might have altered the ability of American intelligence agencies to accurately track him to his secret compound." If he had escaped before the May raid, he might still be alive.

Watch this
2:57 a.m. ET

Whether or not you're a Deadhead, you'll want to check out Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann's madcap and highly entertaining story that he told on Conan about the time the Dead played a Hugh Hefner TV show on CBS, Playboy After Dark. As the band was setting up, Kreutzmann told Conan O'Brien, he started to hear crazy things from the TV crew, about cameras out of focus and mics not on. After looking around, "I had this strange suspicion," he said, and he finally figured out that famed LSD maker Owsley Stanley had dosed the 150-cup crew coffee pot. The entire crew was tripping on acid. "It wasn't illegal in 1967," Kreutzmann said when Conan suggested that must be some kind of crime.

Kreutzmann, who has a new memoir out, also discussed how Jerry Garcia came up with the name for The Grateful Dead, how everybody hated it, and geeked out on Dungeons & Dragons with Patton Oswald. Watch below. —Peter Weber

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