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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. Jack

    To CLOS,
    The scientific evidence is overwhelming that our mind is a function of our brain. ALL evidence indicates that when our brain ceases to function, so does our consciousness.
    And Atheists do realize that death is not the end. We will still have some decomposing to do.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  2. Omg

    Communism here we come !!!!

    May 29, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Omg

      get a grip.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Huebert

      Atheism = a lack of belief in a god or gods

      Communism = a form of government in which the state controls the means of production

      These two ideas have nothing to do with each other.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Really, Omg. Do you need a fainting couch and some smelling salts? Knock of the hysteria.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • fred

      Anything but a fear of God is just Stalin the inevitable way of the godless

      May 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • .

      BS, fred. Atheism means only one thing, one doesn't believe in a god or gods, nothing more. Ideologies of any stripe taken to extremes get people killed. That you mix concepts like atheism and twisted ideologies of dictators of past failed regimes just highlights your stupidity on the matter.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • fred

      Hubert
      I understand atheists love to pretend they have no faith or holy book however:
      Stalin was Godless and just as all atheists had faith based on a book. In Stalin’s case it was the godless writers Darwin, Marx, Engels, and Lenin.
      In 1983, Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize said:” if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." (Edward E. Ericson, Jr., "Solzhenitsyn – Voice from the Gulag," Eternity, October 1985, pp. 23, 24.)

      May 29, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • Huebert

      Fred

      Darwin was a christian.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • fred

      .
      So, now you want to convince me that you have no world view whatsoever? That is the disconnect with atheists that believe they just reject God and have not replaced the need for God. Sorry, your posts prove you have a belief system based on a god of your making. Yes, you reject the God of Abraham because everyone must come to a place where they honor God or reject God. To claim you have no central belief or world view that is your purpose and meaning in life is nonsense.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • fred

      Huebert
      ""In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind."
      -Letter 12041 — Darwin, C. R. to Fordyce, John, 7 May 1879". Darwin Correspondence Project. Retrieved 2011-01-24.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • Huebert

      Fred

      I have a world view and several central beliefs they just do not concern god. Atheism is a byproduct of my central beliefs, it is not one of them.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • fred

      Huebert
      Are you simply organic matter responding to chemical stimuli?
      The reason I ask is because there are days where my faith tank is empty yet I cannot get passed the sense that life is more than that. That sense is an extension out of self awareness which is not constrained by the physical. This awareness (life or existence is greater than chemical reactions) extends to 98% of the world population.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • Huebert

      Of course I am simply organic matter and electro-chemical impulses. The fact that people "feel" like they are more than this is simply a reflection of our desire to see ourselves as infinitely significant. The burden of humanity is that we exist in a small physical/chronological scale, but we can imagine existence on scales that render us insignificant. Most people can't handle this so they turn to religion which tells them that they are important to the universe. Gods and religions are little more than a balm for troubled, frightened, minds. People believe them because they are soothing, not because they are true.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • fred

      Huebert
      No doubt it is a common trait as 98% of the worlds population has that trait. We see 54% believe in the God of Abraham and another 8% theistic so that 62% remains statistically significant and the current prevalent world view. In a broad sense I could see where the God of Abraham meets the need for individual significance but, they believe because it is a life view that has been passed down generationally. This passing down of the purpose of our existence and how we should respond could well be why we still exist today. A godless world view for 98% of the population is something mankind has never experienced. Given that just last year Obama removed the restriction that the men on the nuclear war switch be Christian we are entering new territory. Is there any value in eternal accountability to God (real or imagined)

      May 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      I'll take "Stuff that does not Follow" for $50.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  3. cubicledweller

    Good riddance. Religion is artifact of the distant past and has no place in the modern world.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  4. 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 6:22 pm |
  5. skytag

    "More than three in four of Americans say religion is losing its influence in the United States"

    Good. The less we rely on the delusion of those who think they hear voices the better.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  6. Robin Jones

    Gimme that old-time religion, and I mean really old-time. All those atheists (and this includes that goofy bunch of Jews, Christians and Muslims) who do not believe in and worship Odin are doomed.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  7. tokuiten

    Good. Abrahamic religions are harmful to culture and civilization, and they make people weak.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  8. Yup

    So goes religion, so goes the family, so goes society ...

    May 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • skytag

      More fear mongering by a believer. 😉

      May 29, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Kp

      I don't think so. No religion has it right, not even the Atheists. We need to find the answer to the universe free from dogma. All the organized religions are too clouded and closed minded to ultimately get it right. So is fair to live a lie in order to make everybody "happy" and feel "safe" for a more orderly world. I think not. The search for real truth will never be found under a rigid structure.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Kp

      We need to find a way to figure out the reality of it all at the same time as being moral for it's own sake. We need to evolve out of using the mainline religions as a crutch. I behave nicely to others because I want to and it's just right, not because of some perceived afterlife punishment.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  9. asdf

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=higPeuBiI-8&w=640&h=360]

    May 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • asdf

      Do you believe in miracles?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  10. As long as we have a KING, we will have religion in our Blessed Country!!!!!!!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVkoQHCXSK8&w=640&h=360]

    May 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  11. arlo

    The religious effect on this country has been devastating. The sooner we become a rational society, the better.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  12. Laird Eklund

    Although it's easy to jump to conclusions, it's interesting that most of the folks in the photo of the "Reason Rally" appear to be white. Is there a subtle connection between adherence to atheism and race? Just wondering . . .

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

      @Laird Eklund

      You said, "Is there a subtle connection between adherence to atheism and race? Just wondering . . ."
      Probably not, but there is a connection between education and atheism, and there is a racial disparity in access to education.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  13. !

    Reasons why atheism is horrible and unhealthy for our children and living things:

    – Atheists do not have any morality, are heartless, soulless and cold.
    – Atheists grew up in a bad family, not being loved and treated bad.
    – Atheism was brought upon during the French Revolution, one of the most evil time of history.
    – Communism – evil system created by atheists!
    – Atheists cannot prove God does not exist and how Earth was created.
    – No atheists contribute to charitable causes, unlike Christians, due to atheism beliefs in Darwinism.
    – Atheism making you agree with mass murder leaders like Stalin, Mao, Pot, Mussolini and even Hitler!
    – Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith and belief.
    – Countries with high rate of atheism = high suicide rate (Nordic nations).
    – Atheists tries to convert (young) people into their evil belief over the internet.
    – Atheists believe in evolutions, and want us to act like animals.
    – Atheists bash Christianity based on Jewish scriptures (Old Testament/Torah) and organized religion, and tend to ignore or forget how amazing, loving, friendly, supportive, and excellent the most influential person who has even walked on Earth, Jesus Christ, was.
    – Atheists do not believe in Jesus Christ; therefore they must hate their neighbor and enemy.

    Atheists are minority in the U.S. and the world no matter what "secular" sources and polls voted by few thousands of people tells you that were made up by silly atheists dreaming about making America more atheist, unbiblical and unGodly than what it actually is. More than 90% of Americans believe in God. Period!.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • mama k

      Atheism means only one thing, one doesn't believe in a god or gods, nothing more. Ideologies of any stripe taken to extremes get people killed. That you mix concepts like atheism and twisted ideologies of dictators of past failed regimes just highlights your stupidity on the matter.....

      May 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Huebert

      People like you do more to advance the secularization of America than I ever could. You should consider getting together with Westboro.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Do you enjoy being stupid, !? You're very good at it.

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

      You're lying. Or trolling. Either way, yawn.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • steve

      Are you on drugs, or are you just, well, you know...

      May 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • JMO

      A lot of anger towards a minority. Is that what your God is all about?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • mm1970

      this is sarcasm, right? That's what it looks like anyway.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Bob E

      Go back & read what you've written here. Most of these statements don't even make sense. Others are blanket generalizations. What exactly is your point?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • dannyC

      The above post was written by "!", who is the personification of why atheism is experiencing such rapid growth in this country.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • mom2ocz

      Really? Do you know me? How can you make such firm statements, when you don't even know me? Excuse me, while I go hug my children...kiss my husband of 15 years....run my daily 5k to raise money for a local charity....enjoy my dinner where my family gathers around the table together and shares what their favorite part of the day was....volunteer at my school.....pick up garbage in my community.....smile ate people as they pass...... People like me are all a terrible influence on society? You do not know me.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • more2bits

      Total balarky.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  14. tarzanjungle

    And soon, the whole world.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  15. WachetAuf

    The point of this article is lost on me. I would observe that the "big questions" which "religion" once tried to answer are not being addressed today. The large masses of people who flock to churches are fed only what they can be sold. They can be sold only what they are buying, a weekly ego fix driven by the interplay of popular cultural influences, mythology and tribal politics.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
  16. mama k

    Bill Moyers recently interviewed Daniel Dennett, an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, science & biology. He is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Watch the video at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUeQXmYVamA

    Dennett says that not for all, but for many, the dangerous thing about religion is that "it gives people a gold-plated excuse to stop thinking."

    Do yourself a favor and watch all of Dr. Dennett's lectures available on youtube. They are excellent.
    --

    May 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • WachetAuf

      The very purpose of religion is to remove certain subjects from scrutiny. Once something becomes "sacraiized" it can never be questioned. "Blasphemy" is punishable by death. The herd is constantly making more and more things sacred. Men (and women) are becoming mere robots with no ability or power to think for themselves.

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

      In my opinion there are many dangerous things about religion. One is that it portrays belief without evidence as superior to believe with evidence. Possibly the greatest danger is what can happen when believers decide, with no evidence whatsoever, that group of people are displeasing God and must be stopped or eliminated.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  17. Russ

    America's losing its religion? THANK GOD!!!!

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

      Touche!

      May 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  18. Go

    Westboro Baptist Church should be state religion 🙂

    May 29, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
  19. Roscoe Chait

    I hope the story is true, although I find it hard to believe. Does that mean more and more people are actually taking responsibility for their lives?

    May 29, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      If 75% of Americans thinks we would be better off with religion, I think it's safe to say that we are NOT taking responsibility for our lives and expecting others to go to church for us. Why aren't these 75% being proactive and going to church? If they were, we'd be far from losing our religion. But I'm glad it's going away.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • just sayin'

      Gee, generalize much? Just because someone is a church goer, then they don't take responsibility for themselves? That, in itself, is a ridiculous statement.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  20. idl3d3m0n

    Less religion is more of a good thing. People need to become EDUCATED. They need to educate themselves on these subjects known as Math and Science. The reason this country is failing is because the majority of Americans are just plain stupid. We would rather know what Kim Kardashian and Honey Boo Boo are up too instead of knowing real issues that affect our daily lives. If everyone was smarter and stopped paying attention to stupid crap TV than this country would rise up once again. We were a country of intellects long ago. Now we are falling into stupidity due to large corporate interests...

    May 29, 2013 at 6:17 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.