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June 30th, 2010
08:58 AM ET

More Americans say they attend church, mosque, synagogue

Church attendance crept up slightly in the United States this year, according to new Gallup research - but not everyone is buying the findings.

Slightly more than 43 percent of Americans told Gallup they attend church, synagogue or mosque weekly or almost every week, up from just under 43 percent in 2009, and about 42 percent in 2008.

The results are within the poll's margin of error, but still "statistically significant," Gallup said in announcing the results Monday.

A top expert on religion in America dismissed the numbers out of hand, but said there may be something to the trend.

"Those numbers are just wrong," Trinity College Professor Mark Silk said Tuesday.

He puts the percentage of Americans who actually attend weekly services somewhere in the mid-20s, pointing out that people tend to exaggerate when pollsters ask if they do something regarded as "good."

"The problem with (the) Gallup (poll) is that self-reported behavior that is good, you tend to overestimate your behavior. When people are asked how often they vote, they tend to be, let's say, optimistic," he said, pointing out that there are good independent measures of both voting and religious attendance.

But he also noted that a completely unrelated study found that Americans say they are spending more time on "spiritual and religious activities."

The Department of Labor's annual survey of how Americans spend their time reported last week that Americans said they engaged in spiritual activity for about nine minutes a day in 2009, up from 8.4 minutes in 2008.

That's a more reliable finding, Silk said, because people tend more honest when asked to account for their time than when they are asked about a specific "good activity."

Trinity College's American Religious Identification Survey found last year that the number of Americans calling themselves Christian had dropped to three out of four, while more than ever before were saying they had no

religion.

Silk said this week's Gallup findings don't necessarily contradict the Trinity survey.

"ARIS numbers don't necessarily tell you anything about changes in behavior," he said, only about how people define their identity.

Gallup polled more than 300,000 people in 2008 and 2009, and 117,156 people for the 2010 survey, giving a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point each year, it said.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Faith • Houses of worship

soundoff (270 Responses)
  1. elgeevz

    It seems to me that anyone who believes that a first-century Jew walked on water is capable of believing anything that they want to believe. In my opinion, people capable of doing that are both dishonest and dangerous. Essentially every time I have been ripped-off or stabbed in the back, the deed has been done by self-righteous, psalm-singing Baptists.

    June 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • Randy

      Then unfortunately you have not met a true Christian, and I hope you do someday, although they do seem rare.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  2. Cannibal

    I'm just thrilled that this country is finally experiencing an awakening from the nightmare that is organized religion. It has been a long time coming and is a VERY welcome change. Keep up the good work Americans and we can be proud of ourselves once again.

    June 30, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  3. NDGirl

    I don't understand why people constantly fight when the subject of religion is brought up....If somebody believes in God and goes to church, then let them!! If somebody doesn't want to believe in God or go to church, then they don't have to!! It's nobody's place to tell somebody else what they should believe in.

    June 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • Ituri

      It isn't a persons beliefs that cause the conflict. Its a persons beliefs that intrude on reality otherwiise, such as those religious zealots that refuse science that is inconvenient to their belief, then take that refusal into attempted legislation to enforce that beliefs standards on school kids. They argue against scientific progress that they hardly understand, or refuse to understand, then they expect people to lay back and let them alone, even when they actively try to interfere with other people learning about that science.

      Religious belief is not exempt from social shaming, should it attempt to impact that society. I'm reminded every weekend when they come knocking on my door, inviting me into their cult and mocking my refusals and scientific comments, that they ARE indeed trying to impact it.

      Simple reality is... if you don't want to be made fun of for what you believe, don't believe stupid things.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
    • ybs

      "It's nobody's place to tell somebody else what they should believe in."

      Right! The real problem is why "In god we trust..." or "So, help me god..."?

      This is why religions are nothing but the subjugation of self AND others! Any justifications/arguments otherwise are one big pile of dung!

      So, how much dung is there in ND (of course, as a joke)? 🙂

      June 30, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
    • George

      Ituri, I have brought about a scientific viewpoint. If you do not wish to discuss then I would never "impose" my beliefs on someone else – I will gladly discuss the topic because our ORIGINS is the most fascinating and worthwhile topic available

      June 30, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
    • Ituri

      George, so far you have yet to respond to my comments concerning your "scientific viewpoint," which is nothing short of 101 denial. Still waiting.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
    • George

      Ituri, what are your points? I am not reading any questions or things that you would like me to clarify. I read that you say " do not believe in stupid things" – what about my 4 earlier points is scientifically unsound?

      June 30, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • Ituri

      George, my response to your 4 points is up there for all to see. As is your lack of response.

      Btw, telling people they "hate God" or that they argue against your point "because they don't want to believe in God" is nothing more than self-serving assumptions you yourself make. If someone knows the science, this has nothing to do with belief or disbelief in your preferred fantasy. Also, one cannot "hate" something that does not exist. Address people directly, because diversions like this won't help your case.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Randy

      @Ituri, can't find your 4 points, either they were tagged and removed or I'm just overlooking them.

      However, I am taking a bit of pleasure in hearing you get mad at Christians for not wanting to trust or pay attention to science, and in the next breath you are telling us that our God does not exist, what is going through our minds?

      Just saying your argument against Christians beliefs are containing the same determination and feelings about Christians feelings towards -some- science.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
    • Ituri

      Randy, my comment on those 4 points is still up. So are you "George" using many names?

      And now you have to make a personal assumption about me, that I'm "mad" somehow. Silly, at best. You somehow ascribing "anger" to a type format is hardly going to help you. I also didn't say "God does not exist." I said that people cannot hate something that doesn't exist. IE, if someone does not believe your god exists, they cannot be "mad" with it or "hate" it. This isn't complicated.

      And you're exactly right thats its "some" science the religious don't like. They're allowed to cherry pick their own holy text, so why shouldn't they be allowed to do the same to science? Because scientific ideas are not up to your opinionated choice. Science is the study of natural process, and that natural process is not something you can "believe" away when it is inconvenient to your personal beliefs.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
    • Randy

      No, not George. We are all pretty anonymous here, so not sure why he would need to use multiple names.

      OK, I have to admin, "mad" was too strong a word. Worked up? Heated debate? You are simply coming across as though you believe Christians are stupid, while we Christians believe that – admittedly – some science is stupid.

      There's that word again – some.

      No, a real Christian cannot take "some" of the bible, what pleases them, and ignore the rest. Then you don't have a true Christian. Again admittedly, most do.

      The some science I would chose to not believe is the THEORY of the Big Bang, while other science I would chose to not disagree with, is say...osmosis? However, while I would say I don't disagree with the science that discovered osmosis, I would not agree that it evolved into what it is.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
  4. S

    Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship with a living God, Jesus Christ. If you choose to worship the Sun, or a Buddha statue made of stone, that is your choice. As a Christian I don't advocate that Christianity is the true religion, because it is not a religion, but God is the True and Only living God. That you believe it or not, it does not change the truth, He was, He is and He forever will be God.

    June 30, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
    • Ituri

      Someone obviously doesn't realize that Christianity is not exempt from simple definitions simply because those definitions are inconvenient to ones opinion.

      Christianity is a religion. Own up to reality. Every other religion claims its not a religion, but a "personal relationship with X." Doesn't change what it is. "That you believe this or not does not change the truth." Take your own advice.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • Bob

      Ituri, to expand on your point. What someone believes does not make it true either. It's a flawed way of looking at it. Christianity has this nasty concept "personal truth" and holds it up as something valid. It's not. In the mind of a madman, murder being necessary and acceptable is a "personal truth". Does it make it valid? Just because you believe something really, really, really hard doesn't make it true. It makes you a knob.

      July 6, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  5. Nick

    I'm not worried about more or less people going to structured church. What I am more concerned about is the number of religous zealots living among us willing to trample the rights of others in the name of "God".

    June 30, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  6. tnt in kc

    People are attending church services because there is a need to fill. People are hurting and scared and church provides them with faith and hope and a ray of light in times of sorrow and despair. What baffles me are those who feel prayer/religion is a waste of time. How can that be said? Prayer calms me and leaves me with a feeling to keep going thru the rough times. I am not saying each of my prayers are answered. Of course, I don't pray to win the lottery or find millions of dollars. But if it does nothing else but give me hope and calmness, then how is it bad? Maybe prayer is not working for "those" because you don't believe. Prayer is a waste of time to those who lack faith (the substance of all things hoped for). In a time when the world seem so chaotic and upside down, people tend to fall back on basic religion to see them through.

    June 30, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
    • Bob

      How is it bad in terms of what a person gets? Good question. I personally think it's healthy mentally for people to face their problems instead of believing in fairy tales. I'm not saying this to be offensive, but as a reality of the situation. If the Christians are right, Muslims are coping with problems by using fairy tales (and vice versa). Psychologically speaking, it's never good to mask problems with fantasy.

      July 6, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
  7. George

    Gary, the bible uses the word yom for day and it could refer and has been interpreted as an arbitrary length of time. I would recommend you read a book by Gerald Schroeder who is a MIT physicists who explains some of these concepts in depth. The order of creation spelled out in the bible agrees with our scientific evidence – for sure the days and the 7 days do not and I do not believe it was created in 7 earth bound days. But we have learned through science that time is relative as well – so from the vantage point of an observer sitting at the center of the big bang you can actually subdivide the time into 6 earth bound days. Not trying to prove that point here but just trying to prove that the book of Genesis does harmonize with scientifec evidence more than any other ancient religion (Zeus's thunderbolt, etc).
    If God does not exist, then you have to believe we came from nothing. Before time existed, God existed – there is no need to know who made God because there always was a God. We can not say that bout the universe – the universe was created at a finite time in the past (10-20billion years ago).

    June 30, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Eric G

      "God existed – there is no need to know who made God because there always was a God." Here is the difference between believers and people of reason........
      Believers take whatever knowledge is available to them, take it to the edge of their understanding, and then insert god to explain what they don't understand so that they have the whole picture.
      Science makes no claims of having a complete picture. Science is able to prove what it knows so far.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
    • Gary

      George I agee. my dad is a Geologist p.h.d. 81 devout christian beilieves earth is old. understands Pangia,plate techtonics,mid oceanic ridges,fossil fuels,fossils ect. He isnt intmidated by science. As an agnostic not atheist I just dont need a book to adv me to not kill,steal,cheat on my wife ect. George many Christians dont believe earth is any older than 10k years. I had an uncle tell me that Satan put dinasour bones in dirt to confuse kids about God. I star into the sky and see eternity I realize there is no begining or end to space or time. God being eternal makes sense to me and made sense to Albert Einstein,and Darwin too. If God appeared before I would be happy I might fear him and hope he is kind to me. I dont think I would worship him sincerly though.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • George

      Eric, you misquoted me entirely (first of all and obvious to all who read). I love science and have a deep background in science, but when you reach the limits of your understanding are you just saying that I do not believe in God because there is not proof? What more proof do you need than the world around you? How does an electron magically "know" to jump energy levels and emit a photon when excited? we observe this but what "mind" is in an electron to tell it what to do?
      God is not going to appear to all of humanity and say "believe in me" – because, there would be no reason to have faith at that point – we could all see God and know there was a God. God desires us to have faith – there are those that will and those that will not. If you do not have faith in God then your faith must be in the complete random model of how the universe came to be that atheists ascribe to.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
    • verify

      George: "...God desires us to have faith...". How do you know this? And please don't quote the bible.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
    • ybs

      You (more precisely, your arguments) are full of crock! 🙂

      "God desires us to have faith"... Buddhists don't give a fak! If you believe that god exists, keep that thought to yourself! Likewise with folks that enjoy reading (believe in) horoscopes. There is no need to pontificate about the unknown.

      How do religious sheep feel with this statement, "My god told me to tell yours that beating off is good! Hence, you & your god should obey the word of my god! If you don't beat off, my god is false. Otherwise, my god is the only true one!"? This should give a taste of how non-religious believer (Buddhists included) feels when they get stuffed down their throats with pontification about the unknown.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
    • salmo8318

      The more that scientists examine the planet Earth and its life, the more they realize that it is indeed superbly designed. Scientific American marvels: “As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming.” And Science News admitted: “It seems as if such particular and precise conditions could hardly have arisen at random.”

      Was it undirected chance that placed the earth at just the right distance from the sun, its source of energy in the form of light and heat? Was it mere chance that caused the earth to move around the sun at just the right speed, to rotate on its axis every 24 hours, and to have just the correct angle of tilt? Was it chance that provided the earth with a protective, life-sustaining atmosphere having just the right mixture of gases? Was it chance that gave the earth the water and soil needed to grow food? Was it chance that provided so many delicious and colorful fruits, vegetables and other foods? Was it chance that caused so much beauty to exist in the sky, the mountains, the streams and lakes, the flowers, plants and trees, and in so many other delightful living things?

      Many have concluded that all of this could hardly be due to undirected chance. Instead, they see the unmistakable stamp of thoughtful, intelligent, deliberate design everywhere. Recognizing that, they feel it is only right that the beneficiaries “fear God and give him glory” because he is “the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.”—Revelation 14:7

      June 30, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
    • ybs

      Salmo, "fear God and give him glory”

      Keep that fear & kissing up to yourself! There is no use pontificating about the unknown! 🙂

      June 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
    • George

      Verify, do you wish to dicuss this with an open mind or do you plan on hurling inflamatory statements? I do not wish to "impose" my beliefs on you. I do, however, feel this is a worthwhile discussion and that the Judeo-Christian beliefs are sound from a scientific and historical point of view. I belief this world view gives us the best answers to all of life's hard questions. If you do not have any answers then why are you chiding those who offer them?

      June 30, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
    • Ituri

      Salmo8318, self serving assumptions and misinterpretations. Men just LOVE the idea that the universe developed FOR them, rather than we developed within it like everything else. The universe does not have a "sense of knowing" anything, it developed naturally, and we developed naturally within it. OF COURSE we seem to fit here well. You expect natural process to build us so that our existance is less fitting to the environment? Every animal develops to "fit" its ecosystem. We are not exempt of this natural process. Also, to be blunt, natural process is the OPPOSITE of random. Living things are actually bound to happen over time, as I already said. The "chance" of life compounded by time makes it an eventuality, not random.

      Stars everywhere are a source of energy, these fuel development all over the universe. Every orbiting planet in the universe is effected by its sun(s). We are, as I said, no different here. There is no ""just the right speed, to rotate on its axis, every 24 hours," etc. We developed WITHIN these standards. Not the other way around. We could have developed at other speeds and rotations, and EVERY planet in every universe follows a predictable pattern of axis rotation. The number of hours spans the limits, from a day to hundreds of years. 24 hours is difficult for you to imagine? And thats not even constant, we're GAINING time, you realize? (Thats why Star Trek had 26 hour long days, fun fact.)

      You can go on making all the assumptions you like, but "flowers" existing does not prove any religious story you might parrot. You have no argument beyond "its not true!" That, and not understanding the basic science of solar development.

      And if you knew the history of Revelations, you'd know it was written in code against the Roman Empire, specific to its time, so that the authors wouldn't be hunted down like dogs. Hardly helping your case.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
    • George

      ybs, you can not simply make a blanket statement like your arguments are full of crock and not back them up – you have proved nothing other than you do not like my statements and not that they are wrong. If you hate God or do not want to believe in God for whatever reason then that does not mean that my points are invalid.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • George

      ok Ituri – this is the thread you meant earlier – I will respond shortly

      June 30, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • George

      Ituri, these finely tuned constants are not bound to happen if given enough time. You are not up to speed at all. the proton/electron mass, the force of gravity, the weak and strong nuclear forces did not evolve – they happened within 3 seconds after the big bang – science can not model back to within 3 seconds of the big bang.
      and yes, the universe can not come from nothing – mass or energy can not be creatd but can be converted into each other.
      There are so many finely tuned events – what about the small amount of matter versus antimatter that happned in the big bang of which we are all made of? Instead of hating God you should study the wonder of God's work

      June 30, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
    • Ituri

      George, you cannot ignore what is proven to be by simply claiming "its not true" or shouting "you're wrong." You haven't contested ONE point I made, and with good reason... because you can't. Do you even realize that gravity changes at all times, in response to mass and external forces? Did you know there is a place in Canada where gravity is stronger than on the rest of the planet?

      Btw, science not being able to model past the big bang does not negate anything we can model. This universe had to exist before it could be measured. What existed before cannot be measured, but it certainly wasn't "nothing" as you claimed. Something existed before, and an "I don't know" is not an excuse to insert your mythical religious fantasy of choice. Its more than probable (much more than gods existing) that aa different universe existed prior to ours. All the mass and energy existed, and the Big Bang was a conversion of space-time, not a creation of matter.

      You can rant on about "hating God," but the simple fact remains that one cannot "hate" something thaat does not exist. Nor is using such a childish comment going to help your lack of scientific understanding.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • salmo8318

      @Ituri: Would you please point out what "assumptions" you're referring to? I quoted from scientific journals and the questions are intended to promote reasoning... not to assume nor presume anything. No I do not claim to be an expert on "understanding the basic science of solar development" nor of anything having to do with science for that matter; but I am an ever-learning student of it... like I am of the Bible.

      From the infinitely large to the infinitesimally small, from galactic clusters to atoms, the universe is characterized by superb organization. Discover magazine stated: “We perceived the order in surprise, and our cosmologists and physicists continue to find new and astonishing aspects of the order. . . . We used to say it was a miracle, and we still permit ourselves to refer to the whole universe as a marvel.” This orderly structure is acknowledged even in the word commonly used in astronomy to describe the universe—“cosmos.” It is defined in one dictionary as “an orderly harmonious systematic universe.”

      Former astronaut John Glenn noted “the orderliness of the whole universe about us,” and that the galaxies were “all traveling in prescribed orbits in relation to one another.” He therefore asked: “Could this have just happened? Was it an accident that a bunch of flotsam and jetsam suddenly started making these orbits of its own accord?” He concluded: “I can’t believe that. . . . Some Power put all this into orbit and keeps it there.”

      Indeed, the universe is so precisely organized that man can use the heavenly bodies as the basis for his timekeeping. But any well-designed timepiece obviously is the product of an orderly mind that has the ability to design. An orderly mind that designs can be possessed only by an intelligent person. Then what about the far more complex design and dependability that exists throughout the universe? Would this not also betoken a designer, a maker, a mind—intelligence? And do you have any reason to believe that intelligence can exist apart from personality?

      We cannot get around it: Superb organization requires a superb organizer. Nothing in our experience indicates that anything organized happens by chance, by accident. Rather, our entire experience in life shows that everything organized must have an organizer. Every machine, computer, building, yes, even pencil and paper, had a maker, an organizer. Logically, the far more complex and awesome organization in the universe must have had an organizer too.

      June 30, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
    • cody

      why do people think that god wants us to believe in him or needs us to and will reward us for doing so. So god created the whole universe just for us, like we are so special- give me a break. If god is real he is a scientist and we are the experiment.

      The only advantage of religion in the world today is for morality. Religion was used as a way to control people in the past it was necessary to keep humans under control. now a days it is not only unnecessary but it does more harm than good. the world is evolving and the time for religion is over. i think if anything turns people against each other it is religion itself. why is it that there are thousands of religions out there and none of them have ever been proved? i love when people say they "know" that god is real – no u don't know a damn thing. you really put that much trust in some old book that has been rewritten a thousand times and retranslated and reinterpreted, i find that be outrageous.. im just rambling but i had to say something

      July 5, 2010 at 1:09 am |
    • Bob

      Gary, the problem here is that the stories in the bible are often claimed to be "metaphors" once they're shown not to be accurate. The determination of what is and isn't a metaphor is determined by people who ascribe to the faith usually. How are they not biased? How do we validate and ensure their assessment is true?

      July 5, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  8. Gary

    George if earth is only life abundant planet in universe...still no proof God exists. your physics dosnt explain who made God who made all matter. George one thing for sure earth is billions of years old. unlike your bible quran and other religious texts claim it is.

    June 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • BobRoss

      Gary, an uncreated, omnipotent being (God) is necessary in order to avoid an infinite regress. Theories such as the multiverse and oscillating universe may attempt to explain the fine-tuning of our universe, but they do nothing to explain the origins of time and matter.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
    • Bob

      BobRoss, God does not prevent an infinite regress. Because God would have to come into existence as well. And if you're going to say God always existed, why can't you say that the universe never existed?

      July 6, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
  9. Emmitt Langley

    One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker. (Voltaire)

    The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of God stands forever. (Isaiah)

    Voltaire died in 1788, yet the Bible continues to be the all-time best seller.

    When are you guys going to stop planning for the demise of God. Seriously. The idea of seeking the Deity isn't going anywhere. To be human is to be obsessed with God. Ironically atheists prove that more than any other group.

    June 30, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
    • Gary

      Volter had great insight about religion....I like william Blakes poems better though

      June 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
    • George

      When the atheists explain 1. how something came from nothing (the entire universe ... and not this quantum fluctuation jedi trick) 2. How there are at least 100 and many claim 10X that amount of finely tuned constants in physics that enable our world to function 3. All of the parms that had to come together to enable the right sequence of events for life on earth to happen 4. if the universe is teeming with life then why have our radio signals that have been going out for 100 years not being returrned? surely withing 50 light years there is another hospitable planet based on the "odds debate"

      June 30, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • Leo

      Yes, sadly, humans continue to be as gullible as they were hundreds of years ago.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • Gary

      To be human is to be obesses with God. ....So True Emmit ..Just ask the hijackers on 911,David Koresh,Jim Bakker ,Osama bin ladin , Jimmy Swaggert and all the rest of the humans obessed with God.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • Ituri

      George, "atheists" say nothing about the origin of the universe. SCIENTISTS have found that nothing "comes from nothing," and the universe is the same. Developmental concepts about the universe never begin with "first there was nothing." The only story that says that is the BIBLICAL one, where some random god snaps his fingers and things suddenly exist.

      Those "finely tuned" elements are time-compounding, btw. They are not "random," they are in fact BOUND to happen after so much time. You know, as in after so many billion years? Its no different than evolution for a simple creature, which gains complexity over time, so does the universe. Also, this "right sequence for life" is absurd. Life is MESSY, and chaos is often necessary for future development to occur, including life itself. There is very little "order" that is some magical perfect sequence, it is simply this complexity gained by time. Life is no different in this.

      Further, you obviously have no idea how HUGE the universe is. 50 years of radio signals is NOTHING in contrast to the size of the universe. The simple numbers given to you by the Drake Equation (look it up...) tell us that life likely exists by the 10's of thousands at any point in time in our galaxy alone, but that the simple space between those lifetimes, and the fact that civilizations (even sentient ones) only last a few thousand years (10-50 thousand years in general), means that its highly likely we will NEVER encounter actual other sentient life forms elsewhere in space, because they will either be at the wrong point of development (miss our signals) or they will already be extinct.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • salmo8318

      With regards to how awesome our universe is: FOR thousands of years, people have marveled at the starry heavens. On a clear night, the beautiful stars hang like shining jewels against the darkness of space. A moonlit night bathes the earth with a beauty all its own. Those who think about what they see often wonder: ‘Just what is out there in space? How is it organized? Can we find out how it all got started?’ Answers to these questions would no doubt help determine more accurately why the earth with its human and other life came to be, and what the future may hold.

      Many centuries ago, it was thought that the universe was made up of the few thousand stars that could be seen with the unaided eye. But now, with powerful instruments that scan the heavens, scientists know that there is much, much more. In fact, what has been observed is far more awesome than anyone had ever imagined. The human mind is staggered by the immensity and complexity of it all. As National Geographic magazine commented, what man is now learning about the universe has “left him stunned.”

      June 30, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
    • George

      Ituri, these finely tuned constants are not bound to happen if given enough time. You are not up to speed at all. the proton/electron mass, the force of gravity, the weak and strong nuclear forces did not evolve – they happened within 3 seconds after the big bang – science can not model back to within 3 seconds of the big bang.
      and yes, the universe can not come from nothing – mass or energy can not be creatd but can be converted into each other.
      There are so many finely tuned events – what about the small amount of matter versus antimatter that happned in the big bang of which we are all made of? Instead of hating God you should study the wonder of God's work

      June 30, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
    • Toby

      I think what non-supernaturalists prove by denouncing the idea of a god or divine creator is that many people are waking up to the fact that religion is not only NOT true, it is actually divisive and dangerous to the continuation of civilization. I guess I would ask if the faithful truly believe that there is a god or divine creator out there, why not leave the non-believers (including the innocent minds of young children) alone and just be happy with their delusional BS?

      June 30, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
    • jmb2fly

      emmitt,

      Well said!

      July 3, 2010 at 12:22 am |
    • Bob

      I have a question for you. You're walking down the street having never been a part of any religion. You want to know God. On the left, there is "The Church of Saints" and on the right, there is the " The Saints Church". Both have different dogmas and both rely on faith to uphold their claims. By what method do you determine who is correct?

      July 5, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • Bob

      We're not planning the demise of God. To be honest, I don't think anyone can rationally argue that God does or does not exist. The problem is when people mistake God for the Bible. You do not worship the bible. However, some people think that the bible IS God. So when mistakes are found they immediately reject them. For example these people reject evolution, fossils, sedimentary layers, red shift, carbon dating, etc. I refer to them as crackpots.

      July 6, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  10. Rob

    SAYING they go to church in a poll is different than actually going, and believing....for most, its just a social gathering, or social status/stigma....they go so others can percieve them as good church going types...yet crime rates are no different between people that go to church vs people that don't...in fact, many of the worst crimes are committed by those that claim to be devoutly christian...

    June 30, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • TJ

      Nice "fact". Would you like to quote some actual studies on that or are you referring to the inquisition and the crusades? I've worked with LA county jail and I go to Church every Sunday and I can tell you it is not the same population...not even close... Nice try on your "facts".

      June 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • Bob

      Actually TJ, people without faith (Ie, Atheists) commit less crime. It's true. When comparing the number of atheists in jail to those who are not, is about 0.25%. That means a quarter of a percent or 1 in 400. However, when you look at a percentage of Christians it's 7%, or 7 in 100. This sort of blows the concept "you can't be good without God" out of the water doesn't it?

      July 6, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  11. jonw2112

    WOW what is wrong with you all religion is not real and just a brainwashing/moneymaking scheme. I would really hope for better from the people in the USA,, This is shamefull

    June 30, 2010 at 11:50 am |
    • Larry

      Shameful? or Truthful?

      July 1, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  12. Gary

    Weak minded people abuse religion ,alcohol and ,drugs. I have enjoyed alcohol since age 16 and drugs in 80s. quit demonizing them. this artical is about religion and addiction to religion. weak minded people ruin all great things earth has to offer...

    June 30, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  13. ChoCho

    I think more folks are going to church now because times have gotten crazier and crazier...they need something to help put their minds at ease...

    June 30, 2010 at 11:15 am |
    • Michael Wong

      When reality is distressing, people tend to turn to religion to make them feel better.

      That sounds nice, until you realize that you could say the exact same thing about alcohol and drugs.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:19 am |
    • bethradd

      Micheal Wong, bravo sir...bravo. could have said it better myself.

      June 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  14. professorekks

    it sounds more like this article is saying that people dont know how to send out surveys, and people argue with their findings.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • Sarah

      Out of all these comments yours was the only one that actually made any sense.

      June 30, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  15. Melissa

    In response to the poster below, most of the time people cannot pick themselves up by their own moral bootstraps, especially when the monsters of drugs, alcohol and suicide are staring them down. Religion doesn't make you weak, it gives you the strength to carry on.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:33 am |
    • Gary

      Melissa , mind over matter ...If religion keeps people from abusing drugs alcohol or completing suicide more power to them. I enjoy alcohol but only beer and on the weekends. I believe in building strength in yourself and confidence. It works for me anyhow.

      June 30, 2010 at 10:50 am |
    • Rob

      I find it extremely distrubing that so many people have to discover morality in some book

      June 30, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • George

      So Rob – your morality evolved? is that what you are saying – we should expect morality from evolutoin?

      June 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • ybs

      "Religion doesn't make you weak, it gives you the strength to carry on."

      Right, horoscopes serves the same purpose! But we don't have to deal with "In horoscope we trust..." "So help me horoscopes" crap!

      June 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
    • Grant

      As with any man-made notion, morality developed with the times. Religion just happens to be a convenient vessel for teaching morality, however I don't believe it to be the source.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
    • Curtis

      The thing is, Melissa, religion is a means to escape reality just as much as drugs and alcohol are. I've noticed a lot of former addicts tend to turn into very devout Christians, and it's easy to see why once you understand religion is just another 'drug'.

      July 1, 2010 at 5:47 am |
  16. Gary

    God anwers all prayers...unfortunatly the answer is usually NO!

    June 30, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • jonw2112

      Thanks Rob, Thanks for adding !

      June 30, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      God knows better than we as to what our needs are. Stop asking for what is not good for you!

      June 30, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
    • Nick

      Have you tried reverse psychology??? Try asking God for cancer or ebola.....

      June 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • missadr

      In my lifetime, I have prayed for 5 things: 1) the wisdom to see the right path 2) the courage to do what I should, 3) the focus to use my skills with precision, 4) the will to never give up, and 5) the strength to forgive. God has never said No. Not once.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
    • saved10965

      The answer is no depends on if it lines up with the word of God, and if you true believe in your heart. If you are not a believer, then there is not point in even asking....

      July 4, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
  17. Rick McDaniel

    As people loose faith in themselves, they turn in desperation, to religion, which simply does nothing but make them feel better, why diminishing their determination to get beyond their current problems, instead relying on "faith" to help them, which simply will not work.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:19 am |
    • Rob

      You mean my prayers won't stop the oil?

      June 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      People put too much faith in themselves–foolish pride....

      June 30, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
    • Grant

      Arguably, people put too much faith in religion as well. Foolish...ness?

      June 30, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • Faithful

      You are right, some use religion for what it can give them, but the Christian faith shouldn't be about making ourselves feel better, it should be about glorifying and worshiping God.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
    • missadr

      Silly man. It's impossible to have faith in something that doesn't work. That's like sitting in a chair you know is broken.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  18. Reality

    Religion always gets important in tough economic times as people go to pray that they win the lottery or that grandpa dies and leaves them millions of dollars. Unfortunately, as with all prayer, it is simply "whistling in the wind".

    June 30, 2010 at 10:05 am |
    • George

      If prayer is hopeless, how do you explain the countless medical miracles where all that was left was prayer and prayer worked? Just because you pray for something on demand does not mean it will be answered – there are a slew of bible versus supporting this – just like people making fun of LA for praying for the BP Oil spill – how have we been righteous as a nation to deserve a prayer to be answered? that does not mean that prayers are not answered

      June 30, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
    • ybs

      Some people are confused and they want others to think they are logical! 😦

      Unless you have not traveled much, medical miracles happen everywhere, regardless of culture, non/religion, non-/prayer, etc.

      All ties between religion & miracles are as miraculous as horoscopes' crystal ball! They both give followers hopes!

      June 30, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
    • Snyper

      "If prayer is hopeless, how do you explain the countless medical miracles where all that was left was prayer and prayer worked?"

      Ah yes the bullcrap power of prayer!!
      If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. [Matthew 21:21]
      If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. [John 14:14]
      Ask, and it will be given you. [Matthew 7:7]
      Nothing will be impossible to you. [Matthew 17:20]
      Believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. [Mark 11:24]

      MAYBE GEORGE YOU COULD EXPLAIN THIS TO A CHILD AMPUTEE ???????

      June 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
    • George

      such hatred – yes the Judeo Christian world view can explain child amputees. It is a very sad state of affairs – I myself was born with affliction that I had a hard time overcoming. Nothing in life is fair – how can a good God create such a horrible world? I know all of the arguments. The plain truth is that we were born with a spirit and free will , and for whatever wisdom, we pay the sins of that free will and we also pay the sins of our fathers. This is supported biblically. This is a long theological discussion but to say that God does not love you because of some affliction in your life is not the truth

      June 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • George

      Medical miracles happen everywhere? So you are agreeing that they are miracles? Your personal prayers might have not been answered, and hence your mean spiritied beliefs, because you are not in a relationship with God. If you chose not to believe then that is your choice but do not chide others who do believe and whose prayers have been answered

      June 30, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
    • Mike

      @ George – You're missing the point. No amputee has ever succeeded in praying their limb back into existence. EVER. How come prayer only seems to work sometimes, and it only works for things that would be possible without divine intervention? And how come people sometimes recover from seemingly fatal medical afflictions even if they don't pray? And how come the survival rate is the same for sick people who are prayed for and sick people who are not prayed for? All of these questions have perfectly simple answers for atheists. But it is completely absurd to assert that there is a God answering our prayers in light of these (and other) discrepancies.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
    • missadr

      You again? Mr. Reality, you are one sad person. I wonder if you have so little regard for religion, why do you spend so much time commenting on religious blogs? Prayer is hopeless? I think the one without hope is you. I feel sorry for you now.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • God is a gap-toothed rhinoceros-monkey

      If God has a plan for everyone, what is the point of prayer? Do you suggest that he selectively chooses to adjust certiain people's life plan based on a timely prayer?

      June 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  19. vel

    One thing about these polls that always amuses me is that I have heard Christian after Christian" claim they are the only "TrueChristians" and many of them will insist that one can't tell who is a Christian and who is not by their church attendence. If even Christians can't agree, and I suspect that also holds true for Jews and Muslims, etc, why should anyone assume that any of them are correct in their claims of some divien being controlling the universe.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:53 am |
    • Gary

      Correct vel, there are around 4 billion people on earth and there for around 4 billion religions too.

      June 30, 2010 at 9:56 am |
    • CatholicMom

      From the various boards on this CNN site it appears that ‘religion’ is something Christians/atheists/agnostics/anti-Catholics are saying ‘they don’t need’. Their ‘religion’ has evolved into a ‘me and God’ relationship without ‘religion’, or a ‘me, me’ situation. Once they have left the Catholic Church or perhaps have just started looking at all the ecclesial communities, most which profess they are ‘Christian’, people have to say to themselves, ‘How can I find the true religion out of all those thousands that profess to be the 'true Christian Church’ and decide to ‘go it alone’.
      This is a man made mess. So if they think if they can eliminate religion then they don’t have to think about it anymore—until some time down that wide path their conscience may start to bother them and they will continue their search and hopefully, one day, find the Truth.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • Emmitt Langley

      So...based on your lovely theory we must conclude that because evolutionists have disagreements about the exact nature of evolution (punctuated equilibria v gradual change, for example), that means evolution isn't true?

      Seriously, atheists need to take a course in intro logic. Your premises don't lead logically to your conclusion.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
    • George

      God Bless you Emmitt – well said

      June 30, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
    • ybs

      Talking about premises... Religions are the subjugation of self AND others! No more; no less! Without it, religions can't exist.

      One can always debate its pros & cons but philosophically, religions are one big pile of dung!

      June 30, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Mike

      @ Emmitt – Your God/evolution analogy is so flawed, I just hope the atheists leave some room in that logic class for you.

      Evolutionary biologists don't claim absolute certainty on their position in a scientific disagreement. They don't claim that they arrived at their conclusions by way of guidance from the infallible Holy Spirit of Evolution, who is perfect (but for some reason can't seem to get his story straight among his followers). They don't base their research on the 2,000 year old writings of ancient desert tribes. And when biologists do disagree, they resolve their disputes with evidence derived from experimentation, rather than with violence.

      June 30, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
    • sheetiron

      If people really want to know what a "true" Christian is, why dont they just look in the Bible? But for some reason, no one ever thinks to do that.

      June 30, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
    • bethradd

      sheetiron, the reason people don't look to the bible to see what a "true" Christian is (at least the smart ones) is because the bible is open to interpretation. if it wasn't, would there be so many different religions based on one text that believed that only they were right about how they interpreted what they read?

      June 30, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
    • Kate

      Not to mention that there is about a thousand different versions of ~the~ bible.

      July 2, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
  20. Gary

    As an agnostic I think religion can be a healthy thing for many folks. I think most people who attend a religious church find some comfort which can create good karma for the rest of society.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:32 am |
    • Bob

      Someone doesn't know what he is. Do you believe in God? Yes or no. If yes, you're [Christian/Muslim/Jewish/whatever]. If no, then you're an atheist. Being "agnostic" is not an in-between. You either believe in God or you don't.

      Being agnostic is an adjective, because being agnostic means that you don't know *about* something. It is about the *nature* of God, not about the *existence* of God. The ontological aspect is covered by (a)theism, not agnosticism. Everything should be agnostic (you can't know the nature of something outside of nature, obviously), so it's actually a meaningless term. You're likely atheist but too afraid to admit it.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • Grant

      Bob, mostly well said, although I would like to point out the possibility of believing in God without affiliating with a religion. Faith and religion don't always have to go together.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
    • Ration_al

      Or, you could be agnostic because you are not close minded. I would certainly say that there is absolutely no evidence of a god, certainly not of one that listens to your individual prayers and intervenes in the world.

      I sure hope there is not a god of the bible. He is a vengeful jerk upon which no decent moral system should be gleaned.

      I am an athiest, but I am open to any evidence – doubtful as I am that any will ever exist – that there is a god. I just think it is incredibly unlikely.

      June 30, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
    • Russ

      I guess this means more people believe that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree....

      June 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • Daniel

      Gary, what are you talking about? It does not make any sense.
      Look deeply into your soul and find a back way to your/our FATHER. HE is just about to come back to us. Would you like to see HIM being not ready for that?

      June 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • Richard

      @ Bob

      Spot on. I am getting sick of hearing people that say they are "agnostic" when they don't even know what the word means.

      June 30, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
    • Daniel

      All of you I want to encourage to read VASSULA RYDEN "True life in God" books. There is evidence of God in those books.
      All of us is an evidence that Somebody has created us. I and you, we are evidence of God.

      June 30, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
    • saopaco

      @ Russ

      I have never heard Judeo-Christianity summed up quite as succinctly as your post.

      ow.

      June 30, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
    • Mike

      Daniel, your saying that we are evidence of God is just proof that you are too simple minded to come to any other conclusion for how we came to be. And Bob, you're arguing semantics, but know perfectly well what he meant, and so does everyone else. A person has EVERY right to say that they don't know whether God exists or not. It's a shame there aren't more people honest enough to say that. It's also a shame that there are too many people demanding that things be black or white when there are plenty of shades of gray between the two extremes.

      June 30, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
    • jesus

      What "good" can be served by wasting time worshipping an invisible-guy-in-the-sky. If people were convinced that this trip on Earth was the ONLY trip they would be taking, maybe they'd plan their lives differently. They'd seek out justice and fairness TODAY and not pray for it to happen after they die.

      June 30, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
    • Toby

      Perhaps, but you are claiming that it's fine to believe in something as long as it makes a person feel good and happy-isn't this self deception?

      "I think religion can be a healthy thing for many folks."
      Would this include the people who died at the hands of Islamic martyrs on September 11th? Would this "healthy thing" include lying to young children and telling them that they are born diseased, defective, and in need of salvation by human sacrifice? I think you need to seriously investigate the explicit claims, practices, and beliefs of the faithful before you can simply claim them to be "healthy" things.

      June 30, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
    • Lawrence

      Faith and Religion go together. Faith is believing in something when common sense tell you something else. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding that tangible evidence. Religion is belief and worship of God. Faith is knowing God is there for me.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:25 am |
    • Robb

      @Bob and Richard
      You don't seem familiar with the term agnostic. Agnostic means you do not know. Your post makes it seem like you are someone trying to force his view on others. Isn't tolerance what Scientists sought from religous powers in the dark ages? Isn't the lack thereof what was claimed to be wrongful persecution? Why would an intelligent person fault someone for saying I do not know? Seems petty, and far from enlightened to me. Allow people to form thier own opinions, and please familiarize yourself with the definition of the word agnostic, because you are incorrect and all one needs to do is look it up if they are confused.

      July 1, 2010 at 6:31 am |
    • SomeoneElse

      If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:16 am |
    • Robert

      Bob...Webster's dictionary defines agnostic as: "A person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable." Why is that concept so hard for you to grasp?

      July 1, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
    • dofhacc

      So, ah, Bob, read your very first sentence. "Someone doesn't know what he is." Wouldn't that be exactly what a agnostic would be?

      I also hold myself to be an agnostic. I see no proof of God, but that doesn't mean such a being can't exist. I don't "Believe" one way or the other. I require more than just blind hope based on old stories to form my opinion. It is indeed possible to not be one or the other. The "Middle" is something that so many people refuse to allow for. To bad, because most of us are in the "Middle." You trying to push me one way or the other simply irritates and diminishes others.

      July 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
    • Kate

      dofhacc here's how it works. Agnostic means without knowledge of god/s. A is latin for without, Gnostic is latin for knowledge of god. Atheist means without belief in god/s. A means without, theism means belief in god/s.

      Agnosticism is about knowledge of gods. An agnostic says that there is no way to have knowledge of a god/s. Atheism is about belief in god/s. An atheist doesn't believe in god/s. A hard atheist says there is no god, a soft atheist simply doesn't believe. You can be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist. Got it now?

      Soft atheism is what people usually mean when they say agnostic.

      July 2, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • Rick Ryan

      That's funny because there aren't enough churches in the United States to hold all the people that claim to attend

      July 3, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
    • jim

      Robb, thank you for putting these two presumptuous, pseudo-intellectual little turds (Bob and Richard) in their place.

      July 4, 2010 at 10:25 am |
    • midwestmatt

      I, too, am an agnostic but with strong atheistic tendencies.

      I believe that faith and hope are incredibly important. I know that many people derive both from the church and I'm glad they have a place and way to hold onto both. Without hope, all is lost.

      I begrudge no one their faith just as long as they do not begrudge my perceived lack of it. Not attending church or belonging to an organized religion does not mean you cannot have faith. I just happen to believe in the power of people before I do a god or God.

      July 4, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
    • Nursehope

      Well said. Organized religons use the "scare the beegeebus" out of their followers (fear of loss of heaven and eternal damnation) and IF they find comfort in that, so be it. As a scientist, I find comfort in reality. Whatever gives you inner strength is personal choice. I salute yours.

      July 4, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
    • W00K

      God is nature.

      July 5, 2010 at 11:36 am |
    • Cthulance

      Robb wrote, "Agnostic means you do not know."

      Which has nothing to do with what you believe. People often perform this verbal sleight of hand in order to appear non-committal and somehow 'above' the issue: "Do you believe in god?" "I don't know. I'm an agnostic." That's not an answer to the question. It's pretending to sit on an imaginary fence that somehow falls between belief and unbelief when there is no such location.

      July 5, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
    • Micky

      @ Rick Ryan – I was just thinking, where do all these people go to church? The streets are nearly empty in my town every Sunday morning.

      July 5, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
    • CarminaB

      I can understand your point, but it is naive. You will be surprised at the nonsense that some (not all) of the churches promote. And that does not bring good actions into motion, it divides, and it spreads deceptive, non-rational, even racist ideas.

      July 13, 2010 at 2:08 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.