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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. sheetiron

    yep... religion really is dying in America.

    June 30, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
  2. tim

    I work directly with many different religions as a fund raising consultant and I would say this poll is full of it. I would say that 25+% of respondents are liars. Anyone who actually goes to church sees that they are almost empty on a weekly basis, especially Catholic Churches and Synagogues. Attendance at services is down across every religious denomination which makes it very hard to believe

    June 30, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  3. missadr

    I think more folks go to Church now because they see so many have no foundation. They don't want to lose theirs.

    June 30, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  4. Reality

    Why visits to churches et al and prayers to god will never work (assming there is one),

    One more time, from one of the great, contemporary theolgians, Father Edward Schillebeeckx:

    "Christians must give up a perverse, unhealthy and inhuman doctrine of predestination without in so doing making God the great scapegoat of history" .

    "Nothing is determined in advance: in nature there is chance and determinism; in the world of human activity there is possibility of free choices.

    Therefore the historical future is not known even to God; otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings. For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women." Church: The Human Story of God, Crossroad, 1993, p.91 (softcover).

    Father Schillebeeckx made these comments to answer the Dutch Christians who wondered why their prayers did not stop the devastating North Sea storms that killed many and destroyed some of the famous Dutch dikes. Note the similarities between this and the Katrina disaster caused because people for some reason like to live in areas that are below sea level and then have the audacity to want the rest of us to pay for their stupidity.

    June 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  5. Mr Mr

    It is hard to take someone seriously when they can't spell, or type. And do so in all caps. Also, are you really trying to prove/disprove the existence of god on a CNN message board. HA!

    June 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  6. BLACK FREEDOM FIGHTER

    GOD MEANS SUPREME BEING. SUPREME MEANS THE MOST HIGH. AND BEING MEANS TO EXIST. SO IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE IS SOME MYSTERY GOD THAT LIVES IN THE CLOUDS THAT YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN IN YOUR LIFE AND NIETHER HAS ANYONE ELSE, THEN SUBCONCIOUSLY YOU UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS NO SUPREME BEING OTHER THAN MAN. WHICH MEANS MAN IS GOD. THE TRUE AND LIVING. BUT THE BLACK MAN BEING THE ORIGINAL MAN ON THE PLANET EARTH IS THE TRUE AND LIVING GOD. THEY SAY GOD IS THE ORIGINATOR. WILL HISOTRY AND ANTHROPOLOGY PROVES THAT THE BLACK MAN WAS THE FIRST ON THE PLANET EARTH. THEY SAY GOD CREATED ALL MEN. WELL HISTORY PROVES THAT ALL MEN ON THE PLANET EARTH DERIVED FROM THE BLACK MAN. EVEN CAUCASION YAKUB DEVIL. THEY SAY THAT GOD GAVE US LAND TO LIVE ON AND FRUIT FOR FOOD. WELL HISTORY ALSO SHOWS THAT THE BLACK MAN WAS THE FIRST WITH THRIVING CIVILIZATIONS AND THEY CULTIVATED THE LAND AND LIVED OFF OF IT. I CAN GO ON AND ON TILL I RUN OUT OF SPACE. THOSE WITH BLIND FAITH REFUSE TO BELIEVE THE TRUTH. THERE IS ONLY ONE TRUTH. KNOWLEDGE IS TRUTH AND TRUTH IS POWER. THERES POWER IN MY WORDS. NOTHING BUT BLIND FAITH AND UNCERTAINTY AND UNSURENESS IN YOURS. PEACE

    June 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • bostonjim

      Well, there may be power in your words, but there sure isn't spelling, grammar or punctuation in them. Also, friends don't let friends use Caps Lock!

      June 30, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
    • George

      ok I see where you are coming from now

      June 30, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
    • ebecerra

      the origanal man was indeed a black man, so many people are afraid to admit that. I thank u for your post. Peace

      July 1, 2010 at 2:58 am |
  7. Mr Mr

    I can believe those numbers are way off.
    For example: Ask my wife and she'll tell anyone she attends regularly.. However, I know she has only been once or twice in the past 6 months.

    June 30, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  8. BLACK FREEDOM FIGHTER

    FOOLISHNESS. FOR PEOPLE TO CONTINUE TO BELIEVE IN A MYSTERY GOD IN THIS DAY OF AGE. IT JUST SHOWS THE LACK OF UNDERSTANDING THE MASSES OF PEOPLE HAVE AND THAT LACK OF UNDERSTANDING COMES FROM A LACK OF KNOWLEDGE WHICH CONTINUES THEM ON A PATH OF BLIND FAITH. FAITH IS BELIEVING IN WHAT IS UNSEEN. BELIEVING AND KNOWING ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. HOW MANY OF YOU BELIEVE GOD IS IN THE SKY OPPOSE TO KNOWING IT???? NONE OF YOU. BUT YOUR "FAITH" WON'T ALLOW YOU TO HAVE FREEDOM (FREE DOME/ FREE MIND) TO THINK FOR YOURSELF AND QUESTION THAT WHICH YOU CHOOSE TO FOLLOW. THERE IS NO MYSTERY GOD. GOD IS THE TRUE AND LIVING. GOD IS THE SUPREME BEING. GOD IS THE ORIGINAL MAN. NOT A MYTH IN THE SKY WATCHING UR EVERY MOVE. PLEASE!

    June 30, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
    • George

      You are wrong, have you read the bible as much as you have read Dawkins? Have you read Schroeder as much as you have read Darwin? You need to gather all the facts

      June 30, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
  9. salmo8318

    The awesome size of the universe: In recent centuries astronomers who scanned the heavens with early telescopes noticed some fuzzy, cloudlike formations. They assumed that these were nearby clouds of gases. But in the 1920’s, as larger, more powerful telescopes came into use, these “gases” were found to be something far more immense and significant: galaxies. A galaxy is "a vast group of stars, gas and other material rotating around a central nucleus". Galaxies have been called island universes, for each one of them is in itself like a universe. For example, consider the galaxy we live in, which is called the Milky Way. Our solar system, that is the sun and the earth and other planets with their moons, is part of this galaxy. But it is only a very tiny part, for our Milky Way galaxy contains over 100 billion stars! Some scientists estimate at least 200 to 400 billion. And one science editor even stated: “There could be as many as five to ten trillion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.”

    The diameter of our galaxy spans so vast a distance that if you could travel as fast as the speed of light (186,282 miles a second) it would take you 100,000 years to cross it! How many miles is that? Well, since light travels about six trillion (6,000,000,000,000) miles in a year, multiply that by 100,000 and you have the answer: our Milky Way galaxy is about 600 quadrillion (600,000,000,000,000,000) miles in diameter! The average distance between stars within the galaxy is said to be about six light-years, or about 36 trillion miles. It is almost impossible for the human mind to comprehend such size and distance. And yet, our galaxy is just the beginning of what is in outer space! There is something even more staggering. It is this: So many galaxies have now been detected that it has been said they “are as common as blades of grass in a meadow.” About ten billion galaxies are in the observable universe! But there are many more beyond the range of today’s telescopes. Some astronomers estimate that there are 100 billion galaxies in the universe! And each galaxy may contain hundreds of billions of stars!

    June 30, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • George

      book of isaiah stretch out the stars was written 700 years before Christ.

      June 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
    • salmo8318

      Yes, my point exactly... the conclusion expressed by one Bible writer who said regarding the physical heavens: “Raise your eyes high up and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name.” That “One” is identified as “the Creator of the heavens and the Grand One stretching them out.”—Isaiah 40:26; 42:5

      June 30, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  10. rabb

    I've noticed that at least the people who have some religeon, have hope,and seem to be nice!The otheres who believe in nothing higher powere wise then themselves seem to keep their glass half emty...not half full!I think religeon is good.Most lazy people don't wnat to commit to going to church or anything ,which fits their lazy very well!

    June 30, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • bostonjim

      Rabb, that is a pretty broad (and poorly spell-checked) generalization. Yes, there are positive, optimistic believers out there- and there are pessimistic, lazy non-believers. The opposite is also true. I've met people- as I'm sure you have even if you try and deny it- who run the gamut; none of which is predicated on their level of faith. It's more about how you apply your beliefs in your daily life than whether or not you believe in a higher power.

      June 30, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  11. salmo8318

    Hmm... just checking as my replies are not appearing...

    June 30, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • salmo8318

      well that figures... my one liners appear but any amount of reasoning (which requires a few paragraphs) are getting cyber-trashed

      June 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  12. ybs

    What it boils down to is...

    It's human nature to subjugate others. Religions legalized it!

    June 30, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
    • Larry

      Bill Mayer's movie – I think it is called "Religious" on HBO is a must see for everyone. Cudos to the guy and well done.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
  13. Larry

    A poll today shows that it is about 50/50 in favor of religious objects displayed in schools. So much for separation of church and state. No crosses or pictures of Jesus in classrooms please.

    June 30, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
    • ybs

      It's human nature to subjugate others. Religions legalized it! 😦

      June 30, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  14. Randy

    Believing in God doesn't make you a better person. Too many people say they believe in God and use Him when it suits their needs when things are bad or there's a possibility of something bad. These people are in for a rude awakening and an eternity of bad.

    Ditto for those who believe themselves holier than thou.

    June 30, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • ybs

      It's human nature to subjugate others. Religions legalized it!

      June 30, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  15. ybs

    Let's bring in more folks like Scott Brown!

    BTW, Scott's mom leeched on welfare while raising him up! Read it yourself! http://bit.ly/8GTp7d

    RichP, you keep praying & I'll keep beating off! Let's see who will win! 🙂

    June 30, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  16. RichP, easton, pa

    If you start seeing politicians in large numbers vanishing into thin air and being replaced with honest common sense ones you will know what they were praying for.

    June 30, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • ybs

      Yeah, let's start with Gingrich (is he working on this 4th wife/mistress yet?)! 🙂

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

      CNN really screws things up here. This was a reply to RichP's post...

      Let's bring in more folks like Scott Brown!

      BTW, Scott's mom leeched on welfare while raising him up! Read it yourself! http://bit.ly/8GTp7d

      RichP, you keep praying & I'll keep beating off! Let's see who will win! 🙂

      June 30, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  17. ybs

    good one! Me too... I'm going to worship later... Outside there's a beautiful, harmonious spiritual experience! 🙂

    June 30, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  18. d nelson

    They're all there, as I said outside. Anything that can be imagined in the minds of humans is there if you look deeply without discrimination.

    June 30, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  19. ybs

    This sentence hasn't killed anyone yet! 🙂

    We can debate about it but philosophically, both (religions & your/my sentences) are one big pile of dung! 🙂

    June 30, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • ybs

      This post was a reply to another post that got censored! Shame on those who subjugate others in the name of religion! 😦

      June 30, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  20. d nelson

    I'm going to worship right now on my bike. Outside there's a christian sky, buddhist trees, muslim rock, hindu barking dogs, taoist honking horns. A beautiful, harmonious spiritual experience. The universe offers example of harmony. Try it.

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

      how inclusive! 🙂

      where are the agnostic/atheists in your bike ride - btw, is it a stationary bike? 🙂

      and what about the unknown? 🙂 🙂

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

      how inclusive! 🙂

      where are the agnostic/atheists in your bike ride - btw, is it a stationary bike? 🙂

      and what about the unknown? 🙂 🙂

      will they be in your next post?

      June 30, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
    • ybs

      sorry for double-posting! CNN got clogged but went through twice...

      June 30, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
    • Gary

      d nelson very good point.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:04 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.