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Survey: Small minority of Americans use Facebook, Twitter for religious reasons
August 3rd, 2012
02:36 PM ET

Survey: Small minority of Americans use Facebook, Twitter for religious reasons

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Despite the attention that major religious leaders have received for their use of Facebook and Twitter – including pastors like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen - a new survey finds that only a small minority of Americans use social media for religious reasons.

Six percent of Americans say they are part of a spiritual group on Facebook, and 5% report that they follow a spiritual leader on Twitter, according to a survey released this week by the Public Religion Research Institute. The numbers come as nearly half of Americans report using Facebook at least a few times a week.

“We were a little bit surprised,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. “We thought there would be a higher usage given all the press that has surrounded pastors on Twitter and people posting prayers online.”

Some religious leaders have taken to Twitter with gusto.

Evangelical ministers and authors like and Osteen (834,419 followers), Warren (684,144 followers) and Mark Driscoll (262,935 followers) have used the social media site to expand their personal brands and to reach worshipers. Even the Dalai Lama has become active on Twitter, with 4.8 million followers.

The size of Osteen’s, Warren’s and Driscoll’s followings is proof of another trend, Jones said.

“The exception to (the lack of religion on social media), and really this is across the board, are white evangelical Protestants,” Jones said. “They stand out.”

On Facebook, in particular, white Protestant evangelicals are more actively engaging with their faith than people of other faiths. While half of survey respondents said they don’t post their religious affiliations on Facebook, just 25% of white evangelicals said they don't post their beliefs to Facebook.

According to the survey, white evangelicals are more likely than people of other faiths to post about being in church and more likely to have downloaded a sermon.

“Part of the reason why is that social media fits very well with the great commission to go out and make disciples,” Jones said.

The use of social media is also in line with evangelicals' embrace of technology. Evangelicals were some of the first religious leaders to take to radio, to utilize local access television and even, in some cases, to tap into cable and satellite television in the early 1990s.

The survey also finds that younger Americans are significantly more likely to post about religion than their older counterparts. For example, younger Americans are much more likely than older Americans to follow a religious leader on Twitter or Facebook (9% vs. 1%) and are more likely to have joined a religious group on Facebook (10% vs. 1%).

In many ways, Jones said, young and old Americans are mirror images of one another when you compare their social media uses and the level of which they attend church. While a majority of people online are age 18 to 29, a majority of people in church pews are older than 65, says Jones.

“Social media users are a different population that church users,” Jones said. “If you look at who is online and who is on church, those are different groups of people.”

The Public Religion Research Institute phone survey was conducted between July 25 and July 29 with a random sample of 1,026 adults of 18 years of age or older. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Church • Technology

soundoff (209 Responses)
  1. atheists KEEP OUT!

    Small minority of Non-religious are atheists.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  2. ebay business account

    I'll right away grasp your rss feed as I can't find your email subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you have any? Please let me realize in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

    August 6, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  3. TheRationale

    The Internet looks like it will do away with religion. Anyone who goes fact-checking or looking up rebuttals to theological arguments with a sincere interest in the subject will, if they stick with it, most likely end up an atheist.

    August 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    and other stuff

    August 6, 2012 at 4:42 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!#

      August 6, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  5. pATHEISTic

    My response to the other thread.

    Yes, it's "ALMOST" (the highest was 18% )and I wish that you have a little knowledge in statistics to grasp that 2% is NOT a lil difference when it comes to seven-digits figures.

    In fact most of non-believers are agnostics and unaffilliated and only SMALL MINORITY (in between 1&4%) are arrogant, self-centered, egotistic and militant atheists like you and the rest of your type on this blog.

    August 5, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  6. Zman

    What is right and wrong? Is there an unchanging priciple that directs, or do we decide this on a case by case basis? Is democracy the deciding factor for all things? Can the majority be wrong? Can the minority be right? If the majority is wrong, then what tools do we have to determine this?

    August 5, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  7. AGuest9

    On one hand, it doesn't clutter up the Web. On the other, we already know that many of these folks only read one book, which is a complete work of fiction.

    August 5, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Beth

      Scientist have studied that atheists frontal lobe isn't being utilized to know God. Therefore, you guys aren't working on all cylinders.

      August 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things

    August 5, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • AGuest9

      No, prayer changes nothing. Action changes things. While you sat in your pew this morning listening to babbling, I was at the hospital, volunteering. Get out of your pew, off your knees, unclasp those useless hands, and DO SOMETHING to change the world!

      August 5, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • AGuest9

      Better yet, stay there praying – at least you will be out of my way.

      August 5, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Amputee

      So, where's the leg that supposed to grow after ALL the prayer I received? I woke up today with the same stump. Prayer fails. God hates amputees...We are the ONLY group that is deprived of miracles and thus must turn to science.

      August 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • just wondering

      Since you are not an amputee i wonder why you feel the need to impersonate?

      August 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • What IF

      Amputee,
      "God hates amputees...We are the ONLY group that is deprived of miracles and thus must turn to science."

      Yes, even lowly starfish, lizards and axolotls regenerate lost appendages - I guess we need to find out who they pray to?!

      August 5, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Beth

      What if, look up the scriptures about the mustard seed.

      August 5, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      I prayed yesterday that you would start to write other stuff.

      August 6, 2012 at 2:21 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!#.

      August 6, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Starquasia

      how are you today you wonderful people? My name is Star and i just wanted to let you all know i appreciate every prayer that is said to help one another and that god truly blesses us all.

      August 7, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer really changes things,

    August 5, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • Amputee

      I'm still waiting for my leg...I hate walking around like a pirate. Prayer fails.

      August 5, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Amputee

      Why does God detest amputees so much?

      August 5, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • just wondering

      Why not use the legs you have since you are not an amputee and are only using the misfortunes of others to try to elevate your own selfish ego?

      August 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Beth

      Amputee, you must be an atheist. If you were a believer, you'd know the answer.

      August 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!# . .

      August 6, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  10. Dyslexic doG

    FACT: it's 2012 and almost 20% of the US are non-believers! Anyone who has access to the information that the internet offers can move beyond the nonsensical delusion of religion.

    Another 10 or 20 generations and Americans will look at God and Jesus as we now look at Zeus and Apollo and Thor. This foolish bronze age religion is soon to be categorized with the tooth fairy and santa claus.

    August 4, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • pATHEISTic

      My response to the other thread.

      Yes, it's "ALMOST" 20%(the highest was 18% )and I wish that you have a little knowledge in statistics to grasp that 2% is NOT a lil difference when it comes to seven-digits figures.

      In fact most of non-believers are agnostics and unaffilliated and only SMALL MINORITY (in between 1&4%) are arrogant, self-centered, egotistic and militant atheists like you and the rest of your type on this blog.

      August 5, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  11. Dyslexic doG

    deGràsse Tyson 1:1 God is an ever receeding pocket of scientific ignorance

    August 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  12. Bootyfunk

    the bible is repulsive. that disgusting book says we should kill all g.ays, non-virgin women, disobedient children and anyone working the weekend. the bible is a terrible guide for living a good ethical life. want proof? watch this short film.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkXOwBIRX7Y&w=640&h=390]

    August 4, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • póóhpybutt

      We love you booty, so I beg you please. get out from your miserable and pathetic life and go back to Jesus. Or, quit advertising your overwhelming stupidity on this blog.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  13. atheists KEEP OUT!

    Small minority of Americans are atheist.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • YES!

      And most of them (if not all) squat on this blog.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • atheists are immaterial, thus, irrelevant

      And they belong in the second-class minority and has no say on anything. Hence, they should STFU!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      lol. you christards are hilarious. out of that "small minority" would be the majority of scientists. but i'm sure that would be just fine with you. you could change maps so they say the world is flat again. hahaha.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • pATHEISTic

      They are miserable and pathetic and they want to radiate misery on this blog.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      we atheists have nothing but love for you poor deluded sheep. leave the cult. think for yourself. become a better person.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • póóhpybutt

      We love you booty, so I beg you pls. get out from your miserable and pathetic life and go back to Jesus. Or, quit advertising your overwhelming stupidity on this blog.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      As of 2012, almost 20% of the US are non-believers!

      Be afraid Christians. Another 10 or 20 generations and Americans will look at God and Jesus as we now look at Zeus and Apollo and Thor. This foolish bronze age religion is soon to be categorized with the tooth fairy and santa claus.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • pATHEISTic

      Yes, it's "ALMOST" (the highest was 18% )and I wish that you have a little knowledge in statistics to grasp that 2% is NOT a lil difference when it comes to seven-digits figures.

      In fact most of non-believers are agnostics and unaffilliated and only SMALL MINORITY (in between 1&4%) are arrogant, self-centered, egotistic and militant atheists like you and the rest of your type on this blog.

      August 5, 2012 at 12:39 am |
    • AGuest9

      Then stay out of our schools with your fictional nonsense!

      August 5, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • AGuest9

      Over 20%, mostly educated, and most importantly – VOTERS!

      August 5, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • pATHEISTic

      @guest

      I wish you have a better argument to counter mine, other than ludicrous claims so that we can talk and discuss things lil bit longer.

      August 5, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
  14. Ransom

    I wonder what Tom Tom and the other atheist trolls use facebook for.Hmmm.

    August 4, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  15. PAUL

    This Is Marvelous!!

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GZPm07XFbY&w=640&h=390]

    August 4, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  16. Lol

    Jesus was a schizophrenic who didn't even know what electricity was lol just lol.

    August 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  17. Religion is not healthy for children and all living things

    Prayer will make you stupid.

    August 4, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things. Proof provided by post above

      August 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      prayer is a colossal waste of time.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • póóhpybutt

      And you're huge waste of oxygen, booty.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Prayer changes things"

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!#

      August 6, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  18. ufadoof

    Small minority of Americans use Facebook, Twitter for posting pictures of their breakfast as well. Who cares?

    August 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i do. shows that religion is going the way of the dinosaur.

      August 4, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • just sayin

      Total domination of the planet until Jesus returns then the Kingdom of God forevermore. Not quite like the dinosaurs but then old battyfunk never was that bright to begin with. God bless

      August 4, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Satan

      Good luck with that Jesus returning....lol...people are so brainwashed.

      August 4, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      see any dinosaurs around, dummy? lol.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • just sayin

      Just you. God bless

      August 4, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • AGuest9

      No dinosaurs, just billions of sheeple.

      August 5, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Beth

      Bootyfunk, correction. It's the atheists that go the way of the dinosaurs.

      Thanks for playing.

      August 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    August 4, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • ufadoof

      Prove your statement.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      actions cause change; prayer wastes valuable time.

      August 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Anti-christ troll

      The priests I possessed that abused all those children.
      Their prayers were not answered.
      All prayer is useless.

      August 4, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Melissa

      HeavenSent, does your Jesus wear a thong?

      August 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • just sayin

      @melissa
      You are on the wrong thread. God bless

      August 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • just sayin

      You are all here. God bless

      August 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Proven

      August 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Jesus

      You're a proven liar. Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!#

      August 6, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  20. lamb of dog

    This is a very comforting article. It sounds like the youth are less likely to allow a book from 2000 years ago run their lives. Religion does not have a monopoly on right and wrong. Its time to stop letting the words of ancient men steer our fate.

    August 4, 2012 at 2:31 am |
    • Flamespeak

      I don't get that less youth are less likely to be religious from this article, just that they don't go to what amounts to gossip sites to talk about their religious views.

      I also disagree with the phrase, 'It's time to stop letting the words of ancient men steer our fate' because there were several ancient men whose words are still widely accepted and have just as much impact today outside the Abrahamic faiths.

      August 4, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      lamb, you're exactly right. the youth have the internet to fact check all the religious b.ullsh.it. harder to pull the wool over their eyes. the myths of christianity are dying out.

      and flamespeak, the bible says to kill h.omos.exuals, non-virgin brides, disobedient children and anyone working the weekend. the bible is a terrible guide for good ethics. it's time we bury that awful book.

      August 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Melissa

      Bootyfunk I'm young and what you said is right on accurate. Anyone young with an open functioning mind who reads the bible and has any awareness of what we now know about our world will realize that the bible is a load of silly old tales that have very little correct in them, from a time that we knew very much less than we do now.

      Life is much better now than then, and we need to put old harmful religious books like the bible to sleep with the religions they advertise. They just have too much in them that is wrong.

      August 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      well said, melissa

      August 4, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • Beth

      Melissa, if you really had an opened functioning mind, you'd be open to all aspects of life. Since you reject the bible, you're actually close minded as all atheists that don't work on all cylinders are.

      August 5, 2012 at 5:12 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.