Co-winners of the 1994 Ig®<br> Nobel Mathematics Prize details

Co-Winners of the 1994 Ig® Nobel Mathematics Prize

The 1994 Mathematics Prize was awarded to:.

The Southern Baptist Church of Alabama, mathematical measurers of morality, for their county-by-county estimate of how many Alabama citizens will go to Hell if they don't repent.

Here is some additional information about the questions:
(1) How Many Alabama Residents are Going to Hell?
(2) Are You Going to Hell?

Photo: A portion of the earliest newspaper account, in the Birmingham News, about this mathematical achievement.

How Many Alabama Residents are Going to Hell?
-- a County by County Estimate

(Based on 1990 data. Note the original Birmingham News article which presented this data contained a typographical error, wrongly indicating that the data were from a different year.)

Autauga 47.4
Baldwin 56.3
Barbour 48.0
Blount 48.3
Bullock 36.1
Butler 30.0
Calhoun 41.2
Chambers 43.4
Cherokee 46.0
Chilton 40.0
Choctaw 35.4
Clarke 35.1
Clay 30.4
Cleburne 37.0
Coffee 39.5
Colbert 41.3
Conecuh 31.6
Coosa 47.9
Covington 36.5
Crenshaw 30.9
Cullman 38.2
Dale 55.1
Dallas 47.0
DeKalb 45.8
Elmore 45.7
Escambia 45.8
Etowah 34.7
Fayette 41.5
Franklin 53.8
Geneva 38.6
Greene 34.8
Hale 39.4
Henry 35.6
Houston 39.6
Jackson 55.0
Jefferson 42.8
Lauderdale 49.2
Lawrence 52.0
Lee 53.4
Limestone 55.5
Lowndes 38.8
Macon 47.3
Madison 55.2
Marengo 23.1
Marion 48.7
Marshall 48.2
Mobile 50.1
Monroe 36.5
Montgomery 44.9
Morgan 44.4
Perry 33.2
Pickens 35.6
Pike 46.6
Randolph 46.0
Russell 47.2
Shelby 63.5
St. Clair 51.6
Sumter 42.9
Talladega 43.9
Tallapoosa 41.5
Tuscaloosa 51.6
Walker 47.0
Washington 34.3
Wilcox 42.8
Winston 44.6

Are You Going to Hell?

If you want to know your chance of going to hell, here's how to find out.

If you live in Alabama, simply see the section "How Many Alabama Residents are Going to Hell?" (above).

If you live anywhere else in the United States, here's how to crack the Southern Baptist Church's secret mathematical code, and calculate your chances of going to hell.

If you live in a country other than the United States, see the section "Countries Other than the United States" (below).

How to Calculate

To crack the code exactly takes a small amount of mathematical skill, but anyone who has a little patience and is adept with computer spreadsheets can come very close.

FIRST, choose a handful of Alabama counties.

SECOND, for each of those counties, look up (in the chart above) the Southern Baptist Church's estimate of how many residents there were unsaved in 1990.

THIRD, for each of those counties, get the 1990 list of how many county residents were adherents to the each religious denomination. You can obtain this list from the Glenmary Research Center ( or from the American Religion Data Archive (

FINALLY, Using whatever method you prefer (simultaneous equations, or a computer spreadsheet, or good old seat-of-the-pants rough estimation) figure out the Unsaved-Souls Percentage (USP) for each denomination. When you've got the correct percentages, then this equation will add up properly:

((Episcopalians' USP) * (number of Episcopalians))
+ ((Catholics' USP) * (number of Catholics))
+ ((Jews' USP) * (number of Jews))
+ ((Muslims' USP) * (number of Muslims))
+ ...
+ ((Agnostics' USP) * (number of Agnostics))
+ ((Atheists' USP) * (number of atheists))
= Total number of unsaved souls
estimated by the Southern Baptist Church

Once you've cracked the secret formula, you can look up the religious breakdown of any county in the United States and apply the formula to see how many people there will go to Hell.

Countries Other than the United States

You can also do this for any other country or region. Just obtain the religious breakdown for citizens of that country or region (the web site is a good first place to look for this). Then apply the formula to it.
Bon chance!

Note for Teachers

This is an interesting and instructive exercise for any school mathematics class.

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