Folks in the Green Mountain State like their economy syrupy sweet.

The rural, thickly forested New England state produces 39 percent of the United States’ maple syrup.

The state’s 626,000 residents are less sweet on religion: Vermont ranks as the nation’s most secular state, according to a 2012 Gallup poll.

Just 23 percent of Vermonters characterize themselves as “very religious,” while 58 percent say they are “nonreligious.”

“As soon as you say church, people here don’t want anything to do with it,” said Gabriel Nelson, a deacon for the Springfield Church of Christ in the state’s southeast corner. “They just have this impression that Christians are these Bible-thumping crazy people.”

In one of the bluest of the blue states, believers with a theologically conservative understanding of the Bible’s teachings face a challenge converting friends and neighbors.

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