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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. Demigod Vadik, CA

    F religion...

    ...nothing good came out of it...EVER...

    May 29, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • LinCA

      It's OK to say "fuck".

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

      Expect universities, music, sciences, organized thought and writing systems, etc. I don't like religion either both to say nothing ever came out of it is stupid.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • Baa Weet

      nope,someone under 5 that has not head or seen the f work yet may become mentally unstable,and put diaper poo in your lunch box

      May 29, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  2. Patrish

    Religion has always been around control. From the earliest times. You must believe as the church or religious group requires in order to fit in. The more you depend on religion, the more easily you can be manipulated. We see it all the time. The great desire to fit in at all costs.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
  3. IvotedforObama

    I believe in Jesus Christ and God Almighty. It is a fallacy when people say He does not exist. God is the creator of all Heaven and earth, but people turn other's from Him by their actions. God's two great commandments are to 1. Love Him and 2. Love your brother as yourself. Many people say they love Him, but their actions and words show they hate their brothers.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • LinCA

      @IvotedforObama

      You said, "I believe in Jesus Christ and God Almighty. It is a fallacy when people say He does not exist."
      Care to provide some evidence to back up such a ludicrous claim?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Ah, to be living a lie. To be so scared that my convictions just might be wrong. There but for the grace of the Great Mutant Star Goat go I.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
  4. caitlyn

    there ignorant lol

    May 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • .

      "there"? lol

      May 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • Hank

      Try to prove He does not exist! Anti-religion libs are the least tolerant of anyone. Total Hypocrites.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  5. Vic

    Pay attention to that the premise of the poll isreligiosity AND NOT Faith/Belief in God!

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/16/end-times-for-doomsday-linked-radio-network/comment-page-1/#comment-2343757

    May 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  6. asdf

    He flexed his muscles to keep his flock of sheep in line
    He made a virus that would kill off all the swine
    His perfect kingdom of killing suffering and pain
    Demands devotion atrocities done in his name
    Your god is dead and no one cares

    May 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  7. Jeebus

    Religion will never disappear. Religion gives man a Moral Justification for the Hatred ,Cruelty and the Brutalities that they inflict upon their fellow man , God's law always trumps Mans law, Also it is one hell of a Business to.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • steve-0

      Amen

      May 29, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • Yakobi

      What's with the Random Capitalization?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  8. Michelle S

    Phone polls? hahahahahah! I think the Gallup poll margin of error needs to be expanded substantially if it still uses lanline phone calls to gather information about the general public. Let's be honest, those still using lanline phones (or those answering phones at all) are far more likely to fall into a pretty specific age bracket and don't therefore represent the general public at large. Gallup needs to enter the 21st century and gather their information in a more comprehensive way.

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

      It's "land line," not "lanline." Also, pollsters should take your concerns into consideration. Most people do not answer their phones when called by an unknown number. Is there any proof that those who answer their phones are more religious? I don't know. Any ideas as to how to proceed with such a study?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
  9. chuck

    Its very Biblical, its called "The Apostasy"

    when the world turns away from God, just before Armegeddon

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

      Armageddon was a movie starring Bruce Willis, idiot

      May 29, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Armageddon tired of you people.

      May 30, 2013 at 5:11 am |
  10. lbdukeep

    The religions of "white" America have been so cruel to other religions that its no wonder, those that may not have chosen a religion are turned off from "white" religion. After all, who wants to be judged and made to feel ashamed of being alive and/or being different. There should be an addition of "FREEDOM FROM RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION added to the First Bill of Rights....so that the bullying and intolerant treatment of those that are different or believe different won't suffer for being different. Jesus said if people don't want to hear what you have to say, dust off your clothes and walk on. Intolerance turned me off from "white southern religion" that I didn't want to walk back into a church. My religion is nature and my temple is the earth. I don't need a building to pray in, because God isn't the building, He's everywhere. And so is the Goddess! Blessed Be!

    May 29, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  11. M

    Would we be better off without religion? As and atheist, I would have to say, "I'm not sure." There is no doubt that terrible atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. But in the void of religion, where would the people who depend on religion to get some sense of morality from then get their morality? These are not people who typically like to think for themselves or challenge their beliefs. Would they make the effort to read about different morals. We forget that most atheists are well-educated, but this is not true for most religious folks.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • LinCA

      Yup. Sheeple need a shepherd.

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

      morality predates religion... i'm sure it will survive long after religion is part of history.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • M

      Just a thought. Would we be better off, or would something worse replace, or something better. There is no evidence to say, but only speculation.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      You insult humanity.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • me

      I identify most closely as "humanist" and I've thought of this a bit myself. I think it's debatable. Reason being – it seems to me there are some people who are prone to harm themselves or others that only the fear, and the "companionship and support" offered by "God" in their mind is enough to snap them out of it and keep them out of jail. I can't figure out what the replacement to this would be without religion, but I've noticed for example, that addicts quite often "find God" during their recovery. I know many recovery programs use religion, however it seems to happen with or without that. As though they need "someone" to keep them in check who they can't manipulate or see as an "enabler". "God" never turns a blind eye?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • M

      That's an interesting thought. That's what AA does. Would it work if there was no religion?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
  12. JMO

    Beware a government that must use a god to justify its actions.

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

    The Bible pretty much prophecized people abandoning the faith in the latter days. It's been slowly happening in Europe and it's happening here in the U.S. with the advent of the "new Age" religion of the super star Evangelists like Joel Osteen or Benny Hihn.

    One of the master objectives of the globalist empire is to rid itself of religions, specifically Christianity because of the threat it poses to their credo of a closed society, where, they are the God that provides for all under a tyranny. The world is truly an evil playground and making choices is what it's about because more sooner than later, we won't have choices to make.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Do you realize you sound just as crazy as all the other internet conspiracy nutjobs?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Oh yes, and the Apocalypso is upon us! That's like the Apocalypse, but with a catchy beat you can dance to. Much more fun!

      May 30, 2013 at 5:14 am |
  14. 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 6:30 pm |
  15. Cyle

    We have only to look to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lybia, and Egypt to see how bad it can be when religion controls the government. This country was founded on the principles that we should never allow a theocracy to exist here.

    For the last 1600 years the Abrahamic religions have brought pain, hate, suffering, and genocide to our world. It's well past time to grow out of our infatuation with imaginary friends and embrace reality.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • .

      Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

      If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

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

      During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

      (James Madison, from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785.)

      May 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  16. Skeeve

    Good! Its about time

    May 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  17. Omg

    We need more Westboros in America

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

      You have to put a 😉 after a post like that. Otherwise someone is going to think you are serious.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      No but you do need more education.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
  18. pauleky

    Religion losing its influence can be nothing but a good thing. Are we finally moving out of the Dark Ages? One can only hope.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • Catechism Sucks

      The one big drawback is if all religions were abandoned tomorrow you would have 100,000's of priest, ministers, imams, shamans, etc. who have been sucking on the believers teat suddenly out of work with absolutely no employable skills. Selling snake oil is gone out of fashion and only a limited amount of people can make a living as used car salesmen.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  19. Patrish

    Best thing that could happen. Being religious does not make someone a better person. Just more narrow-minded, ignorant, and arrogant.. A person can be kind, gentle and caring and not be religious. A religious person can be mean, perverted and hateful. I will take the anti-religious person over a so called religious person any day. At least you know where you stand with them, and they don't try and convert you to their way of thinking.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Grafted Olive Branch

      Sounds to me like you don't know too many religious people. Or maybe you don't know any Christians.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Grafted: If you did not have your Bible as a 'moral' guide, would you be doing good in this world? Would you be working towards a better world to leave behind to the next generation? The point is that with or without religion, one can do good. And to answer your question...my family is full of christians; my neighbor's across the street are Catholic; my husbands family is also Catholic; our friends Mom is religious...we're surrounded by it and they are all good loving people...they respect us, we respect them. It's only a part of our daily lives on the internet, otherwise we live normal happy lives.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • .

      Divorce is a.o.k. with christians if the chick gets fat.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • sam

      Oh now I get it, Grafted is the poster from several weeks ago whose brother got divorced when the mrs got too fat.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  20. MJW

    America is not losing it's religion, it's losing it's ignorance through rapidly growing access to factual history and science. Religion does not exist and it never has, only it's mythology.

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

      Nope

      May 29, 2013 at 6:32 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.