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Poll: America losing its religion
The Reason Rally, sponsored by secular organizations, draws a crowd to Washington.
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. E-train

    I do know this, my belief and relationship with God has NEVER led me down the path of doing wrong to my brothers and sisters. Say what you will about religion, but for many of us it is a path that makes the world a better place.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • asdf

      Right up until the time you decide to deny rights to others because our religion says so.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • tony

      When did you start to ignore gods word in Genesis and hand over the Earth to the Oil Companies instead of the people, as it is written

      May 29, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • E-train

      Mix a little individualism and freedom to think outside religion while applying the basic foundations of the bible, you are a good person. As long as you are a loving, peaceful person I will never hold my religious beliefs above you.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  2. anti-nothing

    I want to form a universe using nothing. What college should I attend to do this? How many universes have they formed? Can I see their universes formed and compare them to other colleges universes formed from nothing? What college did Stephen Hawking form a universe at first? He said he knows how to form a universe using nothing, and I would like to see what he's doing when he makes them. I have lots of nothing that could hold some good universes, I'm sure. That is why I think I could become a universe former like Stephen is. I have a calculator too, so I think I am just about there, if it is the right one to do the job. It has keys on it, like trig and stuff, but I never use them.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • midwest rail

      " I want to form a universe using nothing. "
      The raw material is all right there between your ears.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • Observer

      Explain to us how God came out of nothing and then created everything out of nothing. That seems to be the alternative to your "nothing" comments.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      And I want to see how your God was formed from nothing.
      See...it goes both ways.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Veronica

      And your universe was formed by... what? God? Is that a something? Or a someone? Or a puff of gas? Or a breeze? That is just so damned stupid.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You got plenty of nuttin' and nuttin's plenty for you.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Professor

      Go to Whatsamaddawith U.

      Its a good school.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • eflows

      These are completely meaningless statements. Stephen Hawking isn't claiming to create universes. He is a scientist who is using physics to try and explain how our known universe came into existence. if you prefer to believe a particular ancient myth, that's your right.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  3. Age of Reason

    ..the truth is that people today are much more aware and educated than in older times!
    What the American people should realize is the Founding Fathers (Thomas' Jefferson & Paine et al.) all stated that "Jesus Christ" was mythical political construct who NEVER existed! We should uphold their values and our worship should be the ancient pagan religions which George Washington and Ben Franklin were so fond of!
    This "Jesus" NEVER existed and DO NOT believe in him!

    May 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • kennyzales

      Interesting logic. People are more educated today than in days of old. Then, you quote the Founding Fathers from 200 years ago and state that they thought of religion as a form of mythology...but then, you remind us that we're more educated today than folks from long ago. Uh...okay.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
  4. Perilous

    I see nothing but good coming out of this in the end. Once we get past the violent lash-back from the believers who are adamant in their refusal to stop trying to dictate the beliefs and lives of anyone they disagree with, of course, which is where all of the violence and hatred comes from in the first place.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
  5. Ben

    All religion does is divide people. Whether you believe in Jesus, Allah, Buddah etc, it shouldn't matter-but it does. The Westboro Baptist Church have driven the idea home that religion (and their view of GOD) is evil. I used to be religious and as I've grown up, I have seen religion as nothing more than a tool that people use to drive their own agendas. It's really too bad.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
  6. jib

    want to understand the real, long term effects of religion...consider the arab world. once a leader in math, physics, philosophy, optics, astronomy...but over time, pursuit of knowledge challenged the perception of gods divine supremecy

    read this...it is a road map to the crap hole that religion will drive a great people down. it takes time...but it is well underway in this country.

    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/why-the-arabic-world-turned-away-from-science

    May 29, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  7. Brian

    What a bunch of hooey. There is a HUGE difference between People thinking religion is losing its influence on society and religion ACTUALLY losing its influence on society. What a horrible logic fail.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • Saraswati

      True, but several other Gallup and Pew surveys have found that religion is very much losing its influence, so the people surveyed appear to be right.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • eflows

      You know, Brian, religion doesn't exist without people to believe in it. If fewer people say religion influences them, then religion is losing its influence.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
  8. neo theskepticarena

    Gallup is an arm of the Christian far right. Their embarrassing attempt, days before, to rally the 2012 election for Romney failed miserably. The statement in the article above by Gallup's editor in chief only shows that they don't care if people know. Rational people can take heart knowing that those poll results probably drove a sizeable number of Gallup employees and Fox Fanatics to phone suicide hotlines.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  9. Theseus

    My unsolicited opinion.... no religion should EVER have a say in ANY decisions effecting a nation. Your denomination should be a private thing. Religion having a place in societal decisions leads only to one religion trying to force the world to believe and behave as they do. It inevitably results in tyranny.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • MrsFizzy

      Yeah, I thought the Founding Fathers had the same idea as you... hmmm. Nice thought, too bad it didn't stick!

      May 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      "Puritans (read fundamentalist theists) don't care if you believe as they do as long as you do as they believe." – HL Mencken, I think

      May 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  10. MrsFizzy

    There are some terrible examples in America and thinking people are just turned right off. It's like Gandhi said, "Your Christ I like, but I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." I really wonder how many of these Americans who spout about being Christian would give the real Jesus the time of day. They'd call him a long haired, socialist cheese-eating surrender monkey. And wait til they found out what he thought about guns!!

    May 29, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  11. Jim Hamblen

    If we taught religion in schools we could reverse this trend. Kids don't want to study on the weekend and who can blame em?

    May 29, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Observer

      If your religious leaders are so pathetic that it requires schools to do their jobs, you need new leaders.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Matt

      I guess it's a good thing we placed that wall there.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • Perilous

      I went to a Catholic grade school and high school both. They taught me that my atheism was the only truly intelligent choice to make.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
  12. yeaman

    Didn't He said that yall will deny Him?smh God gives all of us a choice either you believe or not. But you know what choose has a consequence. good or bad. Its just like smoking cigs when you were young, you know you're going to get in trouble if caught... think with the research. spiritual not physical believe. plus when things start coming to pass they're not going to care bout little ole you

    May 29, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Matt

      Why does a god need to punish a person for not believing? Sounds like a scam to me.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      If your grammar and spelling are so bad that it gives people a headache trying to figure out what you're trying to say, well, I wouldn't expect people to pay much attention. Oh and of course there's the fact that everything you're saying is complete crap.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  13. Jacqui

    I don't mind it losing it's religiosity as long as it don't lose Jesus Christ. Jesus is not a form of life, He is Life. His is the only right way.
    Today we see most people doing what seems right unto each of them. However, Scripture reminds us that that the end thereof are the ways of death. The Bible also reminds us that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • Jeff

      Why is Jesus any more legitimate of a prophet than L Ron Hubbard?

      May 29, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • Einstein

      Rubbish.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • Mydadspants

      At least LHR really existed

      May 29, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • Veronica

      Barf.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
  14. anonymous

    Good riddance, although all this article sounds like some more "war on Christmas" crap we hear every year. Religion has no place in politics. I wish jesus or allah or the flying spaghetti monster would hurry up and come back so all these religious people could be taken away. Perhaps then we could get some work done and make this country great again. Science bless the USA.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • mooseknuckle74

      It's funny that you say "to make the country great again". What do you suppose made the country great in the first place? You must believe that only secular/nonreligious/atheist beliefs led to the formation of the country then. Your statement is laughable and ignorant.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • DJP

      Well said... I'm not a believer myself, but I'm not anti-religious either. Regardless of what I think, I'm sure that religious beliefs offer some comfort to people who have little else to give their lives meaning.

      What I find difficult to tolerate is a person or groups belief that THEY ARE RIGHT (or that their "God" is right) and that everyone else is wrong.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • Veronica

      I wish here was a "like" button : )

      May 29, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
  15. just wondering

    when a party's base believes that the President of the United States is a Kenyan, born, muslim and that creationism is true, and evolution is false, and the earth is only 6000 years old.... That kind of says it all doesn't it..... Let the War on Education Continue.....

    May 29, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • MrsFizzy

      Problem is those are the "Fundies". They don't even represent all Christians, but you wouldn't know it!

      May 29, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
    • Notso

      The "base" believes exactly none of that nonsense. Most republicans are concerned with economic issues and weigh those higher than the social issues (on which they are mostly moderate). Personally, I am science all the way, could care less what you do in your bedroom, etc. (Most repubs are like this too). But economics is the most important thing, and the dems are so wrong in that department.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  16. jeh

    very few people seem to actually study the many texts now available from many religions. or even study their own religious texts with an open mind. they learn what it's all about as children or on the news and never explore further or deeper. they think it's about being good and not doing "bad" things and that God is a lot like a person only much more powerful and smart. then there are the careerists who pursue religion for the money, fame and power either in pulpits or lobbies or publishing shallow books of advice cast in religious jargon. and most seem to indulge in that childish claim that "hey, i'm better than you!" cause I got religion.
    what passes for "religion" now is pathetic and should be abandoned. maybe once that is gone, genuine inquiry and experience can emerge. I hope so.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
  17. anti-nothing

    This is what I typed on my calculator to get a universe to form:

    1/0 =

    The calculator said a universe should be there, I guess, but none appeared. Stephen Hawking said it's easy. What kind of calculator is he using? Are they at the mall?

    May 29, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Why do you keep lying about what Hawking said? Don't you know that lying is a sin?

      May 29, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Anti-intelligence is more like it. You seem to think you're being funny, but you're only confirming that there's a mathematical correlation between your IQ and your shoe size.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  18. Bearing Fruit

    Jesus said that "very few people would get into heaven", I can see by the comments here he is right!
    Religion does not "give you peace"! Fellowshipping with Jesus does!!
    I do not have to belong to a 'Religion' to walk with Jesus.
    I have Faith in God, NOT RELIGION!
    But even though ALOT of you seem to have harden hearts-Jesus STILL loves you...Have a plesent evening!!

    May 29, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • Dippy

      What does ALOT mean? Use English, if you know it.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "Plesent"?

      Why are so very many of these believers illiterate?

      May 29, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • Dippy

      Too much time on their knees, too little time in a classroom. Really shows, doesn't it?

      May 29, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • Athy

      Actually, I think it's simply the fact that religies just simply have to be dumb to believe in such preposterous bullshit as religion. This dumbness shows up in their dismally poor writing skills.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Good grammar requires a brain; religion does not.

      May 29, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
    • Vudism

      what is the definition of religion? is religion part of God or God part of religion?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
  19. Dennis

    Goodbye Mythology.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
  20. Jeff

    Thank God! We do not need any more mindless Christian drones. Religion is poison for the mind.

    May 29, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
    • Sue

      Do you see the silliness of that remark?

      May 29, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • Jeff

      That was kind of the point 🙂

      May 29, 2013 at 8:23 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.