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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. Itssteeven

    FINALLY!!!!

    May 29, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • devin

      "FINALLY". Did you read the article? There is a 2% change from public opinion in 1970. That means, taking into account margin of error in polls, there is virtually no difference in opinion from 40 + years ago. Conclusion: meaningless.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
  2. asdf

    Can you imagine trying to explain the primitive screw head concept of religion to some advanced race of alien. I think ultimately our scientists would just point at all the people with signs waiting for the rapture and translate the word retard into their language.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
  3. NorthVanCan

    Sweden most atheist 85% best country.
    Afganistan most religious 99% worst country .
    Enough said.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
  4. Yakobi

    There are no gods or goddesses, demons or devils, ghosts or goblins. Religion was invented by man to control the masses.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  5. joe

    Yeah we should be more religious like fundamentalist muslims right? God isn't dead, he never existed and it is about time americans stopped believing in that dangerous nonsense

    May 29, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  6. EJ

    Keep in mind, folks, how the data for this poll was collected. It wasn't an in person study or even done through the mail. It was done through phone calls to land lines most likely as that is how most phone polls are conducted. Cell phone users were most likely not contacted at all meaning that this data only takes into account how a very small segment of the population feels. In general, the people who have land lines still are typically members of the older generations who typically have stronger religious feelings.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • D

      Every house has a phone

      May 29, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Huebert

      D

      My house does not have a land line.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • EJ

      Fewer and fewer houses have land lines now. More people just have cell phones.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
  7. Hypatia

    Well, between nutcases playing "pranks" at Disneyland with explosive devices that endanger children and gun freaks defending their rights by attempted assassination, this is some good news!

    May 29, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  8. James Joliat

    More religion and more people who follow religion will make the country better off? Similar to how the middle east is better off with more religion? please. The intelligence of the human race terrifies me.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
  9. GRAIL KNIGHT

    The reason americans are losing their religion is because they are recognizing the false choice christianity presents in the form of a poison chalice. As the Grail Knight from Indiana Jones Reminded: You Must Choose, But Choose Wisely.
    P.S. He suggested we presume Monotheism, Abrahamic & Christian.
    You have a 1 in 41,000 Chance of being right. Good Luck!
    /watch?v=4iW504DdEDo

    May 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • Hypatia

      Blue! No, yellow! *wink*

      May 29, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  10. Mike

    Religion is man's pitiful attempt to come to terms with something that is completely beyond our ability to understand. The origin of life is SO beyond our ability to comprehend that we will never know the truth before we cease to exist as a specie. But, I guess it gives the small thinkers a degree of solace. So I guess there is value in that.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  11. NorthVanCan

    At 6 I figured out religion was nonsense all by my self.
    Still believed in Santa for a while longer , only cuz he gave stuff.
    I have little faith in Humanity with an average intelligence level of a 2 year old.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
  12. Frank

    people – get the massage – religion is the business of spiritualty and it is very profitable – some religious are the most richest organizations in the world – everyone has some concept of God or how we exist – it may not be the same point of view as religious people and many choose not t think about it but everyone has a "God view" – this has nothing to do with religion – religion is the business of spirituality – the worlds oldest profession is a holy man or a witch doctor or a priest or what ever you want to call it – if you want spiritually go out into nature and be a good person – all religion does is make people fight – how can that be right

    May 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • Michael B

      Thank you for the massage, my shoulders needed it.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  13. Bad Dog

    I am an atheist, thank God!

    May 29, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      You are welcome, my son.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  14. Ray

    I am a Christian and work hard at following the teachings of Jesus Christ. I will admit it is sad to see the comments being posted towards religion. Why attack when we should be trying to live together. I do not want to preach so let's just take a look at the world together from one eye. Religous or not, I think we can agree it is no secret that the world's moral compass is disintegrating. We see horrors of wars, crime, economies failing, greed, disease, violence, bullying just to name a few and I am sure you could list many as well. I try to do good where I can, fighting an upward battle is not easy. I try to teach my children right from wrong, try to teach them good morals. So rather than go at odds towards each other, what do we need to do to help bring some sanity back to the world?

    May 29, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Steven Pinker says violence is declining.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • Yakobi

      All those things were going on in the time of Hay-seuss. Nothing has changed because man hasn't yet evolved enough to shed this primitive notion that religion is needed.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Violent crime has indeed been declining. In fact, some researchers believe that R v W was a partial cause of said decline.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • sam stone

      "I think we can agree it is no secret that the world's moral compass is disintegrating"

      Compared to when?

      "We see horrors of wars, crime, economies failing, greed, disease, violence, bullying just to name a few"

      Yeah, and we never had wars, crime, economies failing, greed, disease, violence, bullying, etc before

      May 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Why attack when we should be trying to live together."

      When your christian bretheren stop attempting to deny others their civil rights, get back to us

      May 29, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • Christopher

      I agree we do need to strive for more Sanity in the world. We can start by getting rid of childish and dangerous fairy tales like a Gd.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Really, do some of you never study history? This world isn't any worse than it's ever been. In fact, in most ways, it's better. Better health care and medicine, longer life span, lower infant mortality, decrease in violent crime, higher standards of living, better sanitation, food safety, etc.

      Honestly, some of you remind me of Chicken Little!

      May 29, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  15. nimrod

    Atheism is just a temporary fad. Society goes through phases every decade or two. It'll be forgotten again in a few years.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Huebert

      I think you have your parties mixed up. Religions come and go, Atheist have been around since the beginning of religion.

      May 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
  16. BJ

    Religion; the bane of human existence. Good riddance.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Mike

      "F" religion

      May 29, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  17. brad

    If the truth had been let out about the Dead Sea Scrolls it would already be dead. They keep them away for 40 years to cover up what was written in 60AD. Things that do not match what the cannon has told us all these years. The truth will come out in due time though.

    May 29, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • Calcommuter

      Do tell!

      May 29, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  18. Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Oxford May, 2012

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRTVg4-H4Qo&w=640&h=360]

    May 29, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
  19. MagicPanties

    That's me in the corner
    That's me in the spotlight
    Losing my religion

    May 29, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
  20. Tom

    Best thing that ever happened to America...

    May 29, 2013 at 7:01 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.