These Are The 10 Least Religious Cities In North Carolina

We used science and data to determine which cities in North Carolina don’t care about God.

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North Carolina is the 9th most religious state in the nation, according to a 2014 Gallup Poll. That’s not surprising, since 9 of the top 10 are in the south. Utah was the only outlier.

Exactly 50% of the residents of North Carolina are estimated to be religious. But we wanted to know – where are the least religious places in the Tar Heel State?

It’s easy to figure out. Just find out which areas say they don’t have a religion, and measure the number of churches per city.

Plus, we thought – why not add in a couple of stereotypes? Since hard core religious members of the south stay strict about no alcohol, and divorce is considered ‘taboo’ in religious circles, we used those criteria as well.

After analyzing all cities with a decent amount of people in them, we came up with this list as The Least Religious Cities in North Carolina:

  1. Jacksonville
  2. Piney Green
  3. Half Moon
  4. Raeford
  5. Rockfish
  6. Moyock
  7. Swansboro
  8. Surf City
  9. North Topsail
  10. Silver City

What ungodly criteria did we use?

First, we had to use the latest Religious Congregations & Membership Study (which gets it from the Association of Religion Data Archives) to determine the counties with the lowest number of religious residents and least number of churches:

  • Least number of religious residents
  • Least number of churches per capita

Then, we had to took the cities from the three lowest counties and ran city-by-city data on those cities, using this criteria:

  • Highest number of bars
  • Highest divorce rates

Note: For the sake of getting reliable numbers, we counted places within a city’s border, as well as within a short driving distance.


1. Jacksonville

Google Maps.

Population: 69,393
County: 2nd least religious
Bars per capita: 5th
Divorce rate: 7th

Jacksonville is the by far the largest city to make this list, meaning we can make a case that it’s the least religious city in the state of North Carolina. Here’s why:

Onslow County is the 2nd least religious in the state when you look at the data. 71% of its residents don’t have a religion. Additionally, Onslow County has the 2nd fewest churches per capita in the state.

Within Onslow County, Jacksonville has a ton of bars. If the divorce rate was higher than 7.2%, Jacksonville would have ‘won’ this study by even more than it did.

Onslow County goes from Jacksonville inland a bit and huge a majority of the cast from Surf City to Emerald Isle.

2. Piney Green

Google Maps.

Population: 13,975
County: 2nd least religious
Divorce rate: 2nd highest

Another Onslow County city, Piney Green is also very unreligious, when compared to the rest of the state of North Carolina.

Within Onslow County, there are no bars in Piney Green proper. However the divorce rate was one of the highest of the least religious cities we measured. At 11%, it’s just about as high as we saw in running the numbers.

3. Half Moon

Google Maps

Population: 8,374
County: 2nd least religious
Divorce rate: 10.8%

Remember, Onslow County is the least religious county in the state.

Half Moon is another Onslow County city, right next door to Jacksonville. Again, there are no bars in Half Moon proper, but when 1 in 10 people is divorced, it’s a sign that religion isn’t at the centerpoint of the residents lives.

4. Raeford

Google Maps.

Population: 4,643
County: Least religious
Bars per capita: 5th
Divorce rate: 9.8%

Raeford is the seat in Hoke County, which is, by far, the least religious county in North Carolina. Located right outside of Fayetteville, the residents in Hoke County follow religion at a staggeringly low 23%, which is by far the least number of church goers in the state.

Plus, Hoke County has the 4th lowest number of churches in the state.

Raeford has a few bars in its city limits, and 10% of its residents are divorced.

5. Rockfish

Google Maps

Population: 3,455
County: 2nd least religious
Divorce rate: 9.6%

Rockfish is right next door to Raeford, and is also in Hoke County, the least religious county in North Carolina. There are no bars here, and nearly 1 in 10 residents are divorced.

While there are a few churches in the Rockfish area, none have Rockfish addresses.

6. Moyock

Google Maps

Population: 3,432
County: 3rd least religious
Bars per capita: 5th
Divorce rate: 9%

Moyock is in Currituck County, which is the 3rd least religious county in North Carolina. 7 in 10 people who live in this small county near the Virginia state line don’t attend church. In fact, there are only 35 churches in this entire county.

Moyock’s residents divorce at a higher rate than most of the state, and they have a bar in town.

Curritick County extends along the far northern coast of North Carolina, practically to Kitty Hawk, and inland to the Virginia border.

7. Swansboro

Google Maps

Population: 2,637
County: 2nd least religious
Bars per capita: 2nd
Divorce rate: 7%

Swansboro is in Onslow County, right along the coast. Here, there are very few religious identifiers and practically more bars than churches. The divorce rate is just about on par with the national average at 7%.

8. Surf City

Google Maps

Population: 2,259
County: 2nd least religious
Bars per capita: 1st
Divorce rate: 8%

Surf City is right along the coast in Onslow County, where there are a huge number of bars, and an above average divorce rate.

Considering that more than 70% of Onslow County residents identify as being non-religious, and the sheer number of beach/summer/vacation homes in the area, Surf City ranking on this list isn’t surprising.

9. North Topsail

Google Maps

Population: 1,151
County: 2nd least religious
Bars per capita: 2nd
Divorce rate: 8%

Like Surf City, North Topsail is a touristy place without much of a religious presence with a couple bars and hardly any churches in the area. There are only 158 churches in the entire county of Onslow.

10. Silver City

Google Maps

Population: 1,052
County: 2nd least religious
Divorce rate: 11.7%

Silver City has the highest divorce rate of any city on this list. 100 of the city’s 1,000 residents is divorced, and 700 of them claim they don’t go to church.

There You Have It

If you’re measuring the locations in North Carolina where there are a low number of people who attend church, where there are few churches to begin with, and where most people don’t follow religious practices, this is an accurate list.

We also wrote about the 10 most redneck cities in North Carolina if you didn’t read it yet. Click here to read that one.

Desktop users: Here’s a list of the least religious counties in North Carolina, along with the number of churches each has:

City Churches Rank
Hoke County 52 1
Onslow County 158 2
Currituck County 35 3
Brunswick County 152 4
Harnett County 180 5
Johnston County 259 6
Stokes County 81 7
Franklin County 90 8
Durham County 306 9
Davidson County 251 10
Camden County 19 11
Person County 59 12
Pitt County 248 13
Randolph County 269 14
Northampton County 45 15
Orange County 160 16
Granville County 86 17
Pender County 99 18
Wake County 712 19
Dare County 63 20
Warren County 43 21
Hertford County 49 22
Alamance County 239 23
New Hanover County 225 24
Union County 241 25
Caswell County 53 26
Cumberland County 440 27
Watauga County 94 27
Graham County 19 29
Nash County 167 30
Greene County 52 31
Guilford County 683 32
Mecklenburg County 847 33
Carteret County 121 34
Henderson County 154 35
Duplin County 147 36
Wilson County 164 37
Chatham County 128 38
Rowan County 253 39
Wayne County 267 40
Rockingham County 203 41
Scotland County 85 42
Edgecombe County 129 43
Craven County 185 44
Pasquotank County 79 45
Bertie County 52 46
Forsyth County 437 47
Iredell County 263 48
Buncombe County 382 49
Yancey County 49 50
Cabarrus County 282 51
Hyde County 27 52
Swain County 42 53
McDowell County 107 54
Robeson County 316 55
Moore County 170 55
Alleghany County 33 57
Davie County 85 58
Jones County 36 59
Transylvania County 65 60
Perquimans County 40 61
Jackson County 100 62
Halifax County 133 63
Cherokee County 75 64
Catawba County 281 64
Chowan County 35 66
Vance County 107 67
Alexander County 69 68
Caldwell County 153 69
Tyrrell County 21 70
Gaston County 393 71
Lee County 126 72
Lincoln County 160 73
Avery County 64 74
Wilkes County 146 75
Surry County 178 76
Ashe County 90 77
Pamlico County 56 78
Burke County 202 79
Polk County 58 80
Montgomery County 99 81
Martin County 80 82
Gates County 36 83
Cleveland County 237 84
Yadkin County 96 85
Lenoir County 183 86
Anson County 100 86
Stanly County 150 88
Washington County 56 89
Bladen County 120 90
Haywood County 146 91
Sampson County 207 92
Beaufort County 167 93
Columbus County 179 94
Richmond County 167 95
Rutherford County 194 96
Macon County 107 97
Madison County 83 98
Mitchell County 61 99
Clay County 45 100

About Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson earned his masters in Business Administration from the Drucker School At Claremont Graduate University. He has written for 39 publications across the country and ran the media relations department at Movoto, a real estate portal based in San Francisco. He has been featured in over 500 publications as an expert in real estate and as an authority on real estate trends.

Nick's the creator of the HomeSnacks YouTube channel that now has over 260,000 subscribers and is an excellent source to learn about different parts of the country.