In cafes, coffee shops, and museums, I consistently overheard people speaking ardently about their faith. And if they weren't talking about it, then they wore clothing or jewelry that proclaimed it (for example, a t-shirt that read "Invincible in Jesus").
Perhaps I've limited my exposure, but I rarely encounter such public expressions of faith on the West Coast or New England.
The Southern tendency to incorporate religion into everyday life brought back a memory from my visit to Tibet in the mid-1990s. Ordinary Tibetan people, at least at that time, would spin prayer wheels while walking down the streets, prostrate themselves publicly in front of the Jokhang Temple, and recite mantras while engaging in commerce.
In short, religion in Tibet was as public as religion in the South.
In Tibet, I was deeply affected by this public devotion but I didn't have a similar response in the South.
I'd like to think that the Tibetan Buddhists were practicing, while Southern Christians were "merely" engaging in belief.
But the distinction between practice and belief actually doesn't seem very clear. Such parsing doesn't really clarify anything - it only reveals my attachment to opposites-thinking.
So I don't have a tidy conclusion for this post - only ongoing puzzlement about my experience.