Tennessee is the fifth most religious state in the country, according to polling data from Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life.

In the analysis, released late last month, 72 percent of respondents said religion is very important in their lives.

"The church -- of all denominations (and faiths) -- plays a very important role in life here," said Rabbi William Tepper of Mizpah Congregation.

The Volunteer State is ranked behind Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana in the top five. In New Hampshire and Vermont, listed together because of sample size, only 36 percent of respondents -- lowest on the list and half those of Tennessee -- said religion is very important in their lives.

The results mirrored those from a 2008 Gallup Poll, released in 2009, which listed Tennessee as the fourth most religious state. In that poll, 79 percent of respondents said religion was an important part of their daily life.

In the Pew Research Center analysis, Tennessee also was listed sixth in worship attendance, sixth in frequency of prayer and fourth in belief in God.

Dr. Nathaniel Carter, pastor of Greater Faith Temple Missionary Baptist Church, Gary Jared, pastor of Stuart Heights Baptist Church, and Rabbi Tepper all said, in spite of the statistics, they had seen wide evidence of faith.

"I talk to people across the country," Dr. Carter. "I've preached in practically all the states. I don't see much of a difference."

Mr. Jared said he was raised in Detroit by Christian parents, and attending church was "pretty much our life." Yet, he said, there weren't as many churches in the Detroit area as in the South.

Rabbi Tepper said in activity, devotion, energy and commitment to faith, Mizpah is on par with every other Jewish community in his experience.

No matter where you are in the world or what region of the country you're in, "when you find yourself in the Jewish community, there is pride, there is value, there is that reassurance that I am part of a Jewish community," he said. "I am part of the larger community, too."

In the category of worship attendance, 52 percent of Tennesseans say they attend a religious service at least once a week. That puts the state behind Mississippi, Utah, South Carolina, Louisiana and Alabama.

Alaska, where only 22 percent of residents attend a service once a week, is on the bottom of the list.


Results of poll by Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life:

* Importance of religion (considered very important in their lives): Alabama, 2nd; Tennessee, 5th; Georgia, 9th.

* Worship attendance (attend a service at least once a week): Alabama, 5th; Tennessee, 6th; Georgia, 14th.

* Frequency of prayer (pray at least once a day): Alabama, 3rd; Tennessee, 6th; Georgia, 8th.

* Belief in God (with absolute certainty): Alabama, 3rd; Tennessee, 4th; Georgia, 8th.

Even if they don't attend a service, 70 percent of state residents say they pray at least once a day. Ahead of the state in frequency of prayer are Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Kentucky. At the bottom is Maine, where only 40 percent of respondents said they had daily prayer.

Dr. Carter said his members take their prayer seriously.

Throughout the week, he said, individuals and groups come to the 10th Street church without prompting to pray.

Tennessee ranked highest in belief in God. Of all respondents, 84 percent said they believed "with absolute certainty." Ahead of the state are Mississippi, South Carolina and Alabama. Least certain of the deity is New Hampshire/Vermont.