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Poll: America losing its religion
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May 29th, 2013
03:06 PM ET

Poll: America losing its religion

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – More than three in four of Americans say religion is losing its influence in the United States, according to a new survey, the highest such percentage in more than 40 years. A nearly identical percentage says that trend bodes ill for the country.

"It may be happening, but Americans don't like it," Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief, said of religion's waning influence. "It is clear that a lot of Americans don't think this is a good state of affairs."

According to the Gallup survey released Wednesday, 77% of Americans say religion is losing its influence. Since 1957, when the question was first asked, Americans' perception of religion's power has never been lower.

According to the poll, 75% of Americans said the country would be better off if it were more religious.

The poll doesn't reflect Americans' personal religiosity, such as church attendance, but rather how large events and trends shape shared views, Newport explained.

For example, the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War and the rise of the counterculture fed the perception that religion was on the wane during the late 1960s, he said.

Views of a secularizing America peaked in 1969 and 1970, when 75% of Americans said faith was losing its clout in society. A similar view dominated from 1991-94 and from 2007 to the present.

Americans saw religion increasing its influence in 1957, in 1962 and at a few points during the Reagan presidency in 1980. This number also spiked to its highest point ever - 71% - after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The pollster didn't speculate on the contemporary factors that led to the current views on faith's influence.

Still, the poll numbers are dramatically influenced by church attendance, according to Gallup. More than 90% of people who attend church weekly responded that a more religious America would be positive, compared with 58% of Americans who attended church "less often."

The Gallup poll was conducted via telephone from May 2 to May 7. A total of 1,535 people were sampled for the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • United States

soundoff (6,389 Responses)
  1. goblackhawks

    Oh I do agree Rev Al "notso" Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are more race hustlers than religious people. But they do preach in churchs. Religion is more about morals and ethics .. That is what the teaching in the bible are. COuntries who have lost their religion often descend into decay. That is why religion is important .. it is a moral compass. And that is why our Founding Fathers had religion in their writings... and they would totally dislike Bill Maher ... Maher is a bigot who hates woman who can think on their own ... I would follow Sarah Palin before Hillary .. Sarah Palin like her or hate her is where she is at based on her ability ... Hillary is where she is at because of Bill Clinton ..

    May 29, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • EatOctopi

      ..."is where she is based on her ability"...

      Thanks for the laugh.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • One one

      What morality does religion provide that cannot be had without it ?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Divac

      Read Exodus 21 to be sure you have all of your slave ownership "morals" in place.

      I would pay for a ticket to watch Palin debate Mrs. Clinton. That would be hilarious. Oh and be sure to listen to all talking snakes, they are great at guiding your "moral compass"

      May 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Khloe

      On a lighter note, Michelle Bachman announce she's not going to run again...

      "Ability" and "Sarah Palin" do not belong in the same sentence.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • CB

      I just said a prayer for you.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  2. joe

    The day America start relying on logic and reason and ceases to look towards ridiculous fairy tales will be a great day. Please please let all these religious morons die off so we can have a utopia already.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  3. GodFreeNow

    What a meaningless poll. 75% of McDonalds eaters feel like the the lettuce is getting smaller. 84% of grandmothers feel like their grandchildren are visiting less often.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      100% of atheists know that religion has too much influence on laws.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • cm

      @godfreenow what laws are you referring too? Not in the big players on earth.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
  4. Scot

    When you have politician using religion to win elections, when you have mega churches with their ubber rich pastors and their diamond dripping wives, when you have our armed forces made to listen to evangelical officers that are ministers state that we are warring against non Christians , and when you have tax free havens for these "pious" individuals there is a big problem. I went to church for 20 years as a kid and young adult and none of these things were going on. Then Vietnam and the rest is history !

    May 29, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  5. chris

    I agree, it is the medias choice in reporting which has given the impression of religion loosing. Personally if this is true I feel its not good. Look... religion in all it's forms for me is all about setting a foundation for life, for living among others. Believe in god or not, believe in the stories in the bible or not, but under it all there is that foundation of good living, treating others with kindness which religion teaches...so yes without it we are hurting. My dad said that the only reason we go to church (catholic) is so young children learn to sit still and listen to adults talk. Hey...if they do that in school how much easier would our teachers have it! I think too many people who knock religion are too hung-up on the belief in god, and the stories. They can't deny the lessons.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Scot

      The old fashion religion you are talking about has gone the wayside to corrupt and non pious ministers that do not take everyone in !

      May 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Adam C

      You don't need religion to be a good person.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Aesop had better lessons.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Shane

      Why do you need a religion or a god to make you treat other people fairly? Most Atheists I know are very nice people, very caring people, some more than others.

      You don't need a book, a god, or a religion to make you nice or compassionate.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  6. asdf

    Religion in all cultures makes people retards.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • asdf

      Almost a majority of Americans believing the earth is less than 10,000 years old is more of the reason why things are going to hell in a handbasket in the US. We need less religion and a whole lot more STEM education.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      Do you realize that many atheists also believe in things that are not true? They just happened to be things besides religion.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • G to the T

      UD – possibly – and if anyone proposed legislation based on one of those beliefs, I would be against it as well...

      June 3, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  7. CLOS

    In response to lee...why does the burden fall on the person who believes in God when you believing there isn't a God at the end of the day is just a belief as well. Hypocrisy at it's best I see!

    May 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • B

      Use the reply link.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Huebert

      The burden of belief falls on the believer because you are the ones making a claim. You are claiming that god is real, we are simply asking why you believe that. No one ever ask me why I don't believe in faeries, why are you so concerned with why I don't believe in your god?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Atheist

      In the same way that we don't need to prove that leprechauns don't exist, we don't need to prove that your god exists. There's no proof for either one, so the default position should be that they don't exist. Sensible people understand this.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Because extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • LinCA

      @CLOS

      You said, "why does the burden fall on the person who believes in God"
      Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy? The Easter Bunny? Pink Unicorns? If you don't please prove to me that they don't exist.

      You said, "when you believing there isn't a God at the end of the day is just a belief as well."
      There is a non-zero chance that there is a god somewhere. There is no evidence to suggest there is, but it is true that absence of evidence doesn't constitute evidence of absence. But without evidence to support the notion of gods, it's silly to believe they exist. It is entirely up to those that believe these creatures exist to produce a compelling case for them.

      You said, "Hypocrisy at it's best I see!"
      No, simple logic.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Cyle

      the burden of proof is always on the positive claim.

      if i said "obey me, for i am the conduit of god's will", i'm sure you'd want me to prove it.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Lack of belief is not a belief. The onus is upon those making ridiculous claims to prove themselves.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  8. Pam

    I understand peoples' needs to feel that somebody up there cares. I'd like to believe it too, but my common sense says NO. Believing in a god, any god, is probably wishful thinking, but does no harm. Religion, on the other hand, seems to do much more harm than good. It's bigoted, mean-spiritied and angry. The bible god is vengeful, angry and mean. When people say "God loves you", I can't help but think they're kidding themselves. And when christians say you can't go to heaven unless you believe in fairy tale Jesus, how vicious is that! It's all made up stuff. You might as well believe in Thor (who is much better looking when played by Chris Hemsworth!) So why not believe in Thor?! He seems friendier than that mean old nasty god.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • CLOS

      Just because the bible says it doesn't make it true. Heck it just means man defined God incorrectly. That still doesn't prove that there isn't a God.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Huebert

      CLOS

      But it does prove that the bible is not the "word of god".

      May 29, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Adam C

      It also doesn't prove there isn't a Thor. Or a Zeus. Or a Mars. Or any other god ever created by man.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  9. mistamista

    The irony here is that most Americans aren't losing their religion, their religion has lost them! For 200 years, our country based it's policy on the solid thinking of people who had REAL faith. Those people were found to be flawed, as we ALL are! The problem is that religion has left its core teachings and found that making more dramatic readings of the bible and "un-complicating" the complex moral issues taught in the bible would be easier if dumbed down. Our country cannot afford to NOT teach the word as it was written. It was written by MEN about another MAN. The writers and the subject are flawed, but we try to tell our kids that the bible is perfection incarnate. It is NOT. WE ARE HUMANS! WE LIVE, WE DIE! RELIGION IS NOT OUR SAVIOR! RELIGION IS MERELY A HANDBOOK FOR REFERENCE! To read it any other way is to steal the opportunity for faith from our children and every subsequent generation.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • F Burke

      You are so right they are such a miniorty. They only want to get their few seconds of stupidy. The picture of the tent in the background and the yellow banner tells me one thing "LOSERS".

      May 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Scot

      AMEN Brother !

      May 29, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
  10. JWoody907

    I'm more worried that people think religion for this nation would be a good thing. They're absolutely off their rockers if they think that adding more religion is going to fix anything. I mean hey look at all the problems we're having specifically because of religion, and not even radicalized religion: "Ground Zero Mosque", lawsuits over whether you can display the 10 commandments in government buildings, prayer in school, child abuse, etc etc etc the list goes on.
    Let's just let religion die out and everyone will be happier and probably better off.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  11. Over 40,000 sects of insanity

    The U.S. has always been predominantly Christian. But it seems the more time goes by, the more conflicted that majority religion becomes. Perhaps that is becoming more obvious to people, especially the younger generation, and that is why we are seeing a decline overall religiosity of the population.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one (over 4,000,000 members) in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage. One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags". Many of these sects are equally divergent on the roles of women in society.

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri. Some believe the Pope is the Antichrist. Some believe Obama is the Antichrist.

    Some believe that celibacy is the only option for certain people, or for people in certain positions. Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but pretend not to understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease.

    Conflicted right from the start, Christianity continues to splinter, creating more and more extreme divisions, with each division trying to assert itself as some true messenger of the word of the Christian God.

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)
    ..

    May 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  12. Adam C

    Let's give ourselves a round of applause! We're moving in the right direction.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  13. WillieFDiazSF

    I for one think this nation has had its most progressive moments in history when we were lacking religion. From the counter-culture movement and civil rights progression to the advances in technology and materialism in the 80s and 90s, and today, a half black president leads our nation... None of this would have happened had people lived for themselves and done something different than the norm. While religion itself is not the enemy, people who think everyone needs to follow it and preach that they are righteous and anyone not following isnt is the enemy. I think for America to become a better, greater nation, we need to recognize that religion can not rule us. And we need to band together and say that you can practice and preach peacefully but can not interfere with state and public affairs of a nation that needs less of it to move forward for the benefit and greater survival of all.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  14. CBP

    Good grief, another poll! Why or why do we get all upset by these polls? What we need to worry about is how we feel and what our family does or does not feel about religion.

    With so many very important issues facing this country no does any polls about these. Too many people rely on these polls to tell them what to do? They are merely one tool of many which help us to really know what is going on in this country or nay other country.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  15. outawork

    And what they didn't tell you: 75% of people thought CNN polls are baloney.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  16. sylvia

    Seems to me that the only thing this poll reflects is that religious people feel that religion is loosing its influence. Too bad we weren't really loosing it.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  17. signswooden

    Religion is poisoning the humanity. Less religion is ALWAYS good. Peace!

    May 29, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Cyle

      R'amen

      May 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  18. Religion

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtX_R-V5Cws&w=640&h=360]

    May 29, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
  19. The Dead Critic

    Perhaps it should be put forth the U.S. is losing it's religion....but that RELIGION is it's belief the NEWS is informative and FAIR/Balanced. Which it hasn't been in decades. ANYTHING CNN, CNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX is biased and can't be taken seriously. Essentially they lie and distort the news to BRAINWASH the masses.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Especially when you don't like what they're saying.

      May 30, 2013 at 4:56 am |
  20. devin

    Let's see, according to the article there is a 2% change from Americans views in 1970. So according to CNN a 2% change in 40 years equates to "America losing its religion". I really do think these CNN journalists are rocket scientists on the side.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • Yakobi

      If you bothered to look at the poll, you'd see it's a significant increase over the last 10 years.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • devin

      Yak:

      1970- 75%
      2013- 77%

      Do the math, it's not that difficult.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Yakobi

      You're right, devin, it's not that difficult. Here's some math for you to do:
      Feb 2003 48%
      May 2013 77%
      In fact, the trend since 2004 has been steadily going up.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • devin

      Yak. Let me make this real simple for you. There has only been a 2% change from the value reported in 1970. OBVIOUSLY there have been fluctuations both up and DOWN in public opinion these past 40 years. What does this all mean? Simply that the public's opinion from 40+ years ago, taking into consideration error margin in polls, is unchanged. Hope that clarifies things for you.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:58 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.