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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. Laughing

    Amazing how the atheists are just as angry and spiteful as the religious people (Christians, they are cowards who don't attack any other faith)

    May 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Laughing

      First, That's my old handle.

      Second, Would you like to discuss other religions? They're just as peculiar

      Third, spiteful and angry? Care to elaborate?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Jesse from KC

      I can't speak for ALL Atheists, but personally I do feel some anger and spite towards Christians. I grew up in the Bible Belt, and was ridiculed for my lack of belief my entire life. I was 3 years old the first time I was told I was going to burn in hell, and it's been that way ever since.

      I'm sorry that sometimes my anger, which I have been forced to keep inside for my entire life because I was ALWAYS the minority, comes out. I'm sorry if I seem to think that religious people are stupid for believing in something that was resolved on the day they were born (geographical location is the SINGLE most important factor in determining a persons religion). I'm sorry that the arrogance of believing that you know something I don't gets under my skin.

      But mostly, I'm not sorry. Because it's crap. It's rubbish invented to keep the masses from questioning those in power. If there is a God, he probably doesn't want, and CERTAINLY doesn't DESERVE our worship. I can't rule out the possibility of a being that created us, everything, but it's less likely than the many alternatives available via scientific research. The brainwashing is ridiculous.

      Nothing makes me angrier than seeing a child being indoctrinated into a religion. I have a step-son whose step-mother believes she can speak to "faeries' in a "faerie" circle. She has him convinced this is real. Now, most of you will be shaking your head at how ridiculous that is... But I tell you, a God who implants their son in a virgin, and then has him brutally murdered, then raises him from the dead to forgive all the bad bad things you've done... That's equally as ridiculous.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • birch please

      The second another mythology takes its place in this country we will be all over it, I promise 😉

      May 30, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      Lol. how's that narrative working out for you?

      June 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  2. Choir Loft

    Which religion is losing ground? Spirituality hates a vacuum and if traditional Christianity is losing ground, then it will be replaced by a more robust system – ISLAM.
    Islam is the future, experiencing a huge surge of popularity throughout the globe.
    and that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

    May 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Valerie

      Good Christ I hope you are wrong...atheists should stand up and be PROUD to be the champions of Science and Reason!

      May 29, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Popularity is the wrong word. Islam definitely has the numbers, but that's in part because they don't allow people to stop being muslim. They kill you if you stop, which makes the thought of deconverting a terrifying venture.

      There's also the fact that Islam has been getting terrible press in the western world for a while.

      PS, why would you think someone would throw out christianity, feel lost and decide islam is the true path? Religion isn't really a "if you can't beat em, join em" type thing

      May 29, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • conrad

      Thank you I needed a good laugh. I'm not sure what robust means when it comes to religion ... but I get an image of forced compliance.

      Personally I think most American's would be more inclined to accept a non-invasive, gentle religion like Zen Buddhism. But that's just me chanting peace from my meditation cushion.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • jprz2121

      The reason wh y Islam is so big in the global third world commuity is because a muslim tend to have more children then christians and other religions. Although it is growing, I highly doubt islam will spread to the West.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Choir, you are such a boob. There is NO indication that people who aren't inclined to believe in ANY god are somehow going to glom onto Islam.

      Get a grip, Priscilla.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • Grant

      LOL... if atheists hated Chistians, wait till they try to turn the Islam switch off..LOL, LOL!!

      May 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
    • Einstein

      Every religion is a fairy tale. There are hundreds of different religions in the world, each defended as the only true faith by its believers. Obviously only one can be correct, and chances are it's not. We don't make a thoughtful decision to believe in the supernatural. Generally our religion is brainwashed into us when we were children, and we were taught not to question. You can't inherit a belief. You have to search out the facts for yourself - study science, history, philosophy, comparative religion, mythology. Then you can come to an intelligent conclusion - and inevitably become either an atheist or an agnostic.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
    • june

      America is so diverse, understandably it has many choices of faith. Most people will go through a journey of finding the ideal faith. Christianity is a great religion, but the bible as supposed to be its manual, has lost its originality tremendously since its revelation. It's been translated,interpreted, and lost its meaning. Qur'an is pretty much authentic and constructive, if you ever read it, covers most aspects of humanity, sometimes it's hidden between the words.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
    • Cory

      @Einstein
      You are right that it's important for people to seek out their OWN beliefs through education and experience. The problem with any religion, or any culture for that matter, is the fact that they are self-limiting systems with clearly defined values. Anything that doesn't fit within the model is denied and marginalized. These value systems are handed down to the next generation and the younger the recipient, the more likely the conditioning will be effective.

      I've learned that the world is made of language, plain and simple. As Terence Mckenna once said,
      You can say the world is composed of tiny packets of matter squealing across empty space at close to the speed of light and subject to certain set of interlocking scientific laws..or..You can say it's made of tiny little demons performing calisthenic exercises each one the size of a flee's eyebrow..or..that we came from the p!ss of the Great Anaconda God when he stepped out of his canoe at the first waterfall to take a leak. But notice what you get each time is words. The world is composed of syntax. Words that we define. We ourselves are made of language, DNA. The world is made of language. It is what we say it is.

      The world is FAR stranger than it appears to be. It is multidimensional and not merley composed of space, time, energy, and matter. Science's interpretation is grossly inadequate. Culture, science, religions, etc. are mere operating systems on the monkey hardware. But the old male-dominance hierarchy processor is still running it all, which is why our situation and the state of the world is a tragedy. This is all self-evident if one simply avails themselves to the right tools, which are of course schedule 1 since they de-condition.

      June 5, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  3. Karma

    Good! Time to evolve past Fairy Tales.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • kent

      Considering 1 percent of the world is atheist that is a whole lot of people that believe in a fantastic true tale

      May 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • swami545

      Over 84% of the world is religious. It must suck being the minority.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
    • G Man

      What percent of the world would you all consider to be intelligent? There is no way it is 100% and I doubt it is anywhere close to 84%... That 1% is looking more favorable now.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:09 am |
    • birch please

      The vast majority of humans are uneducated, fearful sheep living in shacks... Yes it is quite nice to be the minority.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
  4. Grinning Libber

    Science and facts instead of fairy-tales will do that.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • ScottLL

      Science and "facts" explain the how, not the why.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • James

      ScottLL: religion doesn't explain the why, no one knows why. That is why man made up religion, to try and understand why.

      May 30, 2013 at 7:57 am |
  5. Charlie

    3/4 of Americans are correct that the United States is becoming less religious.
    However, 3/4 of Americans are WRONG that this is a bad thing.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Valerie

      Very true.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • dibsdone

      couldn't agree more

      May 29, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • june

      I think America and other western nations are the ideal places for religious people. In the secular nations, we take granted our family, neighbor, and society to practice the common faith. But when we become the minority, the urge to learn is so deep. You'll be surprised, you will find the most knowledgeable scholars in religious matters in your neighborhood, here in America.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:07 am |
    • birch please

      I might have to disagree. There are many, many stupid people in this country who are not ready to be out on their own.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
  6. Chris H

    I wish it would disappear entirely, tomorrow; the world would be a better place if we were humanists, and all the bull about imaginary beings went into the dustbin of history. Alas, it won't happen for centuries, but it WILL happen.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • conrad

      I think by definition imginary beings can only exist in our minds.

      I do think it is quite unfortunate that the sheer madness of religion drives people away from investigating spiritual life on a deeper more sincere level. I think there is much to be learned from getting to know ourselves intimately. When our minds slow way way down so-called 'reality' can start to look very different. It is here that our false beliefs are revealed to us and the magnificence of life and what might be called 'holy' emerges. Here we discover that whether life is divine or mundane is entirely up to how we choose to experience it. When we disregard all spiritual possibilities with a big 'religion sucks' brushstroke then all opportunity to discover something more is lost.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • dibsdone

      @Conrad
      Amen brother! Amen! Be in the now. Slow the ego. Appreciate it for what it is and it is; a very "holy" place to be.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • cHRIS

      Religion will never go away. If it does, it will be a sad day in history. What you may think is good for you may not be good for others.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  7. Marcus

    Thank God! Christian fanatics are just as dangerous as Muslim fanatics. If religion is losing it's influence, then why is so much of American politics driven by right wing religious zealots?

    May 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Because dying animals are often most violent at the very end.

      The cult will use any and all means to maintain its power, but in time they will in time be crushed by force by the next group of cults to rise.

      Then the new rulers shall do unto them as they did onto the Jews.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • conrad

      Because heavy-handed zealots aren't actually motivated by genuinely spiritual convictions. It is mostly fear and it's related need to control and consequently destroy whatever it fears. I believe the mark of spirituality is gentleness and compassion. A big screaming mouth condemning everything around it is delusion in action.

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

      Because they are the ones that run for office. They will fade in time.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  8. Richard Miller

    It is about time. Now if the rest of the world would do the same, then we just might have a few less wars based from religious fervor.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • FreeThinker

      I am laughing at your comment. Most of the world is on board with the fact that religion is just a bunch of made up fairy tales passed on from generation to generation. Forgetting the Middle East (still stuck in the dark ages) along with parts of South America and Africa, most of the World is laughing at the USA for this being a predominently religious nation. I don't begrudge people that attend church and believe in a higher power but I do remind them...."I contend that we are all atheists. I have just taken that one last 'crucial' step and believe in one less god than you."

      May 29, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  9. GodHere

    It is OK people I am just a made up thing to control for weak minds, if you stop believing the fairy tale of god I will just go away because I am all in your weak little minds anyway.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  10. Geraldine

    Uh oh – this be a front-pager now. Let me make sure I have a good stock of popcorn; lol.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  11. glorydays

    When you see how nasty religious people have become, I'm not at all surprised.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • liz

      Exactly. My niece has gone through this because the teens held in such high esteem at her church were some of the meanest, most cruel,, hypocritical at the school they attend which is affiliated with that very same church

      May 29, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Manic Zorbian

      Let's not forget all the nasty atheists posting comments on this article.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  12. MagicPanties

    My invisible pink unicorn doesn't know what to think about this.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • George Karlson

      If its invisible, how is it pink?

      May 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      You must have faith that it's pink!

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

      LMAO!

      May 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • the REAL steve

      george, the Invisible Pink Unicorns exist on another plain... in a dimension of faith and in the realm of the one true God Zoltar! if you were to see them your limited mind would implode, such is their greatness! hence, Lord Zoltar created them both invisible AND pink! (pbuh!) in His realm they are pink. in ours, invisible. pray you never see the Invisible Pink Unicorns of Doom!!! Lord Zoltar only unleashes them upon the truly evil!

      May 30, 2013 at 4:24 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      Sacralige! Her Horniness always knows what to think.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  13. PeterD

    This is happening in America because they are more interested in Gay & Lesbians Rights, Illegal Immigrants Rights, Criminals Health Care Rights instead Moral Rights.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • Grinning Libber

      ...your "right" to inflict your warped version of morals on others.
      You have no such right.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      So you would like a theocracy, eh?
      You should move to the middle east.

      In the USA, freedom FROM religion is just as important (if not more) as freedom OF religion.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • reality check

      "Science flies you to the Moon, religion flies you into buildings." Richard Dawkins.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • rob-in-austin

      it's happening because more and more people are realizing the fundamental tenets of most religions are exclusive, violent and archaic.

      It's evolution in action.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • TC

      Those ARE moral rights. How we treat our fellow humans is at the very heart of morality.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • dibsdone

      Again, morals do not have to have anything to do with religion. True morals are rational, some of which can actually be found in the bible. You don't need the bible or koran to teach and understand morals.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • Satan's Coming For You

      You're correct. Your morality must be preserved! Quick! Stone your wife to death and paint your door with your child's blood to ward off the evil demonic atheists! HURRY! HURRY BEFORE THEY COME GET YOU PRAISE THA LAWRD PRAISE HIIIIIM

      May 29, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
  14. wolfyb

    Well, actually political extremism is supplanting religion, which of course more distubing, because there is no morality in extremism.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • TC

      Yes, there is no morality in religious extremism.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  15. RandyF

    The priesthood is the second oldest profession but not much different than the oldest.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • William Demuth

      The primary difference being the oldest profession takes it, and the Priests give it.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • PaganScorp

      lol...too funny, good one

      May 29, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • Patrish

      ... Nice one.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  16. blakenaustin

    Sad but true. The number of atheists and nominal Christians who are politically aligned with the far left politically is a major factor.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • wolfyb

      Not too mention the fundamentalist aligned with the far right extremist nut jobs.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      Heh, not so sad.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  17. Daniel

    Wow...they play one of there article every few months...God never was, Jesus was the greatest salesman the world has ever seen, and Mohammed was the greatest thug known to humanity....BLAH BLAH BLAH...

    Humanity needs religion. It as a whole cannot face the fact it is .0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 part of the entirety of existence....ignorance is bliss for the fearful

    May 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Chuckles

      That's one way to argue for religion, say humanity needs it because our collective egos would be too bruised if we realized we're suh a small part of the universe.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Einstein

      Exactly. People need religion because they are too afraid to fact life and death on their own. They are self-delusional moral cowards. It takes courage to fearlessly acknowledge that you are on your own in this world with now magician in the sky looking out for you, and nothing waiting for you when you are dead.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • cHRIS

      Einstien............. You are one of the most disrespectful pieces of garbadge I have seen on here. I your a shinning example of an atheist, I can't see how anyone would ever want to share your beliefs. Your a sad little man.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  18. asygifvasi

    My God, are we finally joining the Enlightenment of the 17th Century???

    May 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  19. sly

    Facts are facts, and the fact is, religion is losing it's influence in America.

    Face the facts. Don't worry godsters – no one is taking your opinions away – you can continue to believe in whatever you believe.

    This story is a logical reflection of how Americans think. Guess what? Our thinking evolves.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  20. Bob

    Fantastic news. Great for America.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • d2astik84

      Exactly my thought's. This is the first good news I've heard from CNN in a long time. Religion breed's hate, bottom line, it is a tool used to control people.

      May 29, 2013 at 4:51 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.