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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. devin

    Let's see, a 2 percent change in opinion since 1970 . Taking into account margin of error in polling, this means there has been virtually no change in public opinion in 40 years. And yet, we have news that makes the atheists giddy. Go figure.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • Observer

      devin,

      Check the change in public opinion about gays and gay marriage.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • devin

      Observer. Why?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Observer

      devin,

      The Christian HYPOCRITES who pick on gays are losing the war. Education is winning.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • mama k

      I suspect things have become more polarized in the past 40 years with respect to religion. Christianity has always been conflicted, and I wouldn't be surprised if there is a strong correlation between periods of significant social change and more sudden splintering of Christian sects. Gay marriage is a big issue and has helped divide a number of denominations into different sects. Look at the ELCA (over four million members) versus their conservative counterparts.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Chris

      Why do you support gays, are you gay? Why is it natural for a man to stick his you know what where the sun don't shine just for pleasure? Sounds perverted to me since there is no pro-creational reason to do that. Buy some toys, but lay off the guys...

      May 29, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Observer

      Chris,

      I'm not gay but that is irrelevant. What is relevant is the HYPOCRISY of all those HETEROS who engage in sodomy, too.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I don't think you correctly understand the statistic. We already know from other data that religion has lost much of its influence. What we are looking at is yet another measure of a continuing trend. If we were to look at a country over 100 years as religious adherence ran down from, say, 90% to 10% it might continuously have the same perception of decreasing religiosity, but that perception would be continuously assessing different changes. if 75% notice a change as we move from 90 to 80% adherence (in this hypothetical country) that is a different measure than the 75% noticing the change from 30 to 20%. We're essentially looking at rate.

      If the observers surveyed are correct we are decreasing in religiosity at about the same rate/degree as we were in 1970. This is quite significant.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • devin

      Saraswati.

      1970 – 75%
      2013 – 77%

      Do the math.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  2. Mike Texoma

    Faith is between an individual person person and his or her God. Religion is theoretically a construct of men supposedly of similar faith. But then, men being what they are, religion begins to set standards of its own and the tail begins to drive the dog. Faith must conform to standards conceived by men, and faith must subject itself to controls in order to be legitimate. And ultimately religion uses faith to religion's own advantage because it can. And when people begin to realize what has happened, they wander off. I pray they take their faith with them, even though faith may need repairs. Life without faith is an 80 year sentence to be served at the follies.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Having grown up in a good christian home ™

      I can assure you from personal experience that having a 100% lack of faith, in any god, has been infinitely better than having any faith in christianity.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:54 pm |
    • Consequences Eternal

      That is what many who were turned away from Heaven at the time of their death obviously also said, Having grown up in a good christian home ™, but how they now wish they had erred on the side of caution and accepted Jesus Christ as their LORD and Savior and would not be suffering the Eternal consequences of their disbelief. And who knows that they were turned away? God does. He knows, and has plainly told us in Scripture that those are the Consequences of not believing in His Son Jesus Christ.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      CE, You have absolutely no evidence of that.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Consequences Eternal

      Evidence is what a foolish man asks for when he cannot accept the spiritual truth of God, thinking it is his ticket out of the dire wreck he has made for his life, In Santa we trust. But that which is spiritual has to be accepted by the heart not the mind and eyes. So, don't fall into that show-me-the-evidence trap that so many others have fallen into and who have paid the ultimate and eternal price for their naivete.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  3. Onetimecommenter

    That's bloody fantastic and about time!

    May 29, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • rosethornne

      Good riddance to bad fairy tales.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  4. Ryan

    A conscience based upon fear of punishment is not morality. The fact that it is socially acceptable to accept myths as absolute truths is absurd. Once you stop thinking about the world, the universe, and reality from an objective point of view, you stop discovering and developing as an individual.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • Rosalie

      Christians have a good sense of right and wrong. Christians such as Mother Theresa, MLK Jr. are some of the greatest gifts humanity could ever offer, and it had nothing to do with lack of objectivity–or whatever pseudo intellectual drivel you say. Their strong faith and values enabled their work and for the rest of us–Christians or not– opened our eyes to a better future for all kinds of people. What atheist could ever accomplish such things?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • zipfan

      Ryan - You and so many others can't see the hand in front of your face. Look at all the increasing ills in this country, the downfall in most every segment of society and you and people like you don't understand why. As they say, if ignorance is bliss we have many (including you) estatic people. I truly feel sorry for you, you poor thing....

      May 29, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • HeroesAre Rare

      We were created by God
      We believe in God
      We do NOT fear God
      God loves us, the bad and the good
      We rely on God for every breath we take and every heartbeat.

      Once silly people put God to one side and rely on MEN – it's their fate to live by the sword and die by the sword!

      May 29, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • Bill Gates? Doctors without borders?

      @Rosalie "What atheist could ever accomplish such things?"

      May 29, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • Ryan

      And believing in God does not remove some blindfold which prevents a person from seeing right from wrong. Slaveowners were religious and they used the bible to justify their atrocities. Also, MLK. preached equality, but he also cheated on his wife a lot and hit women. Great person in terms of social importance but nobody is perfect.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Pete

      The entire foundation of Christianity is founded on something that is completely immoral. Namely, that is Christians think it is o.k. to let someone else (Jesus) take their punishment.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  5. deforge

    Good.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
  6. Gorsh

    It is painfully amusing to read all the atheists who are saying this poll is good news. Just shows how easy it is to throw meaningless information out to non-scientific minds and they eat it up if it seems to support their beliefs.

    This poll was a measure of what Americans THINK is the trend. It is no more evidence of a trend than a majority of Americans denying evolution makes evolution false.

    Please learn to think rationally, especially if you claim your non-belief is based on rationality.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • Observer

      Speaking of thinking rationally, the Bible supports slavery and discrimination against women and the handicapped. Please read it someday.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • HenryB

      You talk about atheists being non-scientific. Are you implying that religious people are scientific? Hahahaha.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
    • eb1966

      Since you're so rational, I'm going to assume that you are an atheist who thinks this is actually bad news. Correct?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • GAW

      Atheism is for rednecks and comment trolls too.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • TMCNova

      @Gorsh
      Don't disagree with your argument but get off you high horse!

      May 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • GAW

      @ TMCNova What are you talking about? Just about everyone commenting on here is on a high horse.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Gorsh

      Guys, don't jump me. I am just pointing out how easy it is to fall for logical fallacies. And I am an avowed agnostic.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  7. devin

    I doubt God is very concerned.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  8. mastafunk

    Science is a Candle in the dark, things that conceal their true nature, run from the light.

    Maybe the Religious people are fearful of wasting their lives.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Lycidas

      How poetic..though wrong.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • devin

      Maybe many (not all, but many) in the scientific community are fearful of the the implications of a universe created by a being who requires accountability for sin.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Tim

      @devin

      Of course they're terrified of it being true, which is one of the major motivators for finding an alternative that can 'disprove' it. No matter how strongly someone claims to be an Atheist, at some point in their lives they've had worries in their mind about the possibility of judgement.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • mastafunk

      My "worry" Tim, died when I was a young boy. Fact-of-the-matter is neither side can disprove the other. Science is closer tbh. And for all you Religious people who judge, you are wrong, I am Agnostic...there is a BIG difference.

      You can insult my intelligence, I have a post Education so no worries there, you can insult my views, no worries there, you can insult my Character... again no worries. However you broke 3 independent laws that you by religion, have broken. Enjoy your nights.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • eb1966

      @devin Seriously? Accountability for sin? If you define this logically, most of the religious leaders in the country right now are doomed.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • devin

      ebb. Yes, accountability, seriously, and the fact that one is a religious leader is not grounds for exemption/

      May 29, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
  9. Beezel bub is a hoax same as jesus

    THANK CHRIST THIS IS HAPPENING! RELIGION IS PURE MUMBO-JUMBO

    May 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Beelzebub means "Lord of the flies". That would be a corpse, not a fairytale dude with a pitchfork and horns.

      May 30, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  10. David B

    Religion is fine as long as people are not Judgmental. Live your Religion and treat everybody fairly not imposing your views on religion. That is what troubles me about the Fanatics like Tim Tebow. People that are good are examples of good religion not those who wear it on their sleeves.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • caitlyn

      the ones that get to me are the ones that try to force you to become vegetarian and blow incense in your face

      May 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • Rosalie

      Everyone prejudges, everyone has biases of some sort, and so on. I don't see the point of lambasting one group of people for being the way all of us are. It is just stupid.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Lane

      Ever taken the time to understand what Tebow actually does or just firing for stereotypical effect?

      http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/7455943/believing-tim-tebow

      May 29, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  11. ionymous

    Finally religion is falling by the wayside. As they would say, "It's a miracle". LOL

    May 29, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Lycidas

      One out of three people on the Earth is Christian.
      It's only one out of every fifity.
      Yep....Christianity sure is falling by the wayside..haha.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Rosalie

      The article clearly states that the numbers fluctuate. Where's the critical thinking that you atheists claim as your strong suit? haha

      May 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
  12. GAW

    Another poll that will no doubt have another contradictory poll done months down the line. Boy do we Americans love our statistics.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • shawn

      No more polls to go the other way...

      It's been stated for a decade that more and more people are listing their religion as "none" or "atheists"...we are winning...

      May 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • GAW

      @ shawn You missed my point

      May 29, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • Thomas Nichols

      Perhaps, but there are contributing factors such as repeal of the "blue laws" which prohibited the sale of alcohol on Sunday, for example. Also there are many more dual income families where both parents work, also often on weekends, and church attendance is more difficult.
      Churches do have a "churn" rate and do try to maintain a quota if you will. But it is probable they could do more. To decrease churn, churches need to do many things I am not knowledgeable to suggest. Preventing fraud such as corrupt TV evangelists and weird cults would help. Complete turnoffs. Technology also has a part but I would say limited. People have been inventing things forever and the impact on religion is not as high as one could expect. Still, when people spend every waking possible moment playing Farm Ville, there are notable concerns.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  13. whee

    Good riddance! More Americans are waking up and realizing that you don't need religion to be a good person and that we no longer have to pretend to be religious for family approval. Most religious people I know (especially under 30) just fake it in public so their grandparents won't yell at them.

    I have no problem with people who want to be religious, but please don't do it for the wrong reasons and stop thinking you are better than people who do not share your beliefs, whether they be another religion or no religion.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
  14. Jon

    This whole article is written bass-ackwards.

    The poll didn't indicate that America is losing its religion... It indicated that people THINK America is losing its religion. The more important part of this story is that the majority of people polled feel that the country should be MORE religious.

    So in essence, this is the same, conservative, religious, brain-dead country its always been, and no one is eager to deviate from that path. There's your story.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  15. patw

    Be a nice day when the bible beaters leave us alone.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Rosalie

      Huh, losers like you only wish you were badgered by somebody.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
  16. Liz the First

    Considering mainstream religion these days is all about money, power, and getting the right folks elected, this is wonderful news! it's obvious from all the rotten things done in the name of religion that religion doesn't make people good. the divinity inside us all is what makes us good, if we let it. we don't need some preacher trying to scare the hell out of us with the threat of eternal damnation. we don't need preachers teaching us and our kids to hate anyone different. we don't need people taking our money to build palaces of worship when Jesus said to go into our closets to pray. we don't need people who follow the man who said His kingdom is not of this earth trying to create a theocracy out of our secular country. we just all need to recognize the divinity within and let it guide us and we'll be just fine.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
  17. Sid Airfoil

    Atheists like I see this as a good thing. But, I also acknowledge that, for better or worse (worse, usually), religion has always provided humans with an ethical framework that allowed civilization to move forward (often in the wrong direction, but forward nevertheless) Having said that, we atheists/humanists need to start providing a viable, practical alternative to theistic ethics. I, personally, have one that I think would work. But we have never been in a position to offer a consistent non-theisitc vision to the world. If that is changing, we need to step up to the plate and show the world that you don't need to believe in god to be good. This will be a real challenge, because it requires people to stop putting their faith in ideal, but imaginary supernatural beings and start believing in themselves and their very real, but flawed fellow humans. Anyone else up for the challenge?

    Sid

    May 29, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
  18. QC

    Im cool with atheists as long as they keep their mouth shut about it and don't shovel their non-belief into our government laws.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • Jeebusss

      Our government is a secular government. It is based on non-belief. Fail. Try harder next time.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Gorsh

      Well said. And anyone who believes that their morality comes from logic or some universal morality knows nothing of history or anthropology. "Western values" are essentially liberal Christian values, whether you believe in God or not.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • JJ

      But it's ok for you Christians to have "in god we trust" on our currency"?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Sid Airfoil

      Are you joking? Atheism is NOT about forcing anything down anyone's throat. Atheism is about stopping theists from forcing their views down OUR throats. For example, you can believe that life beings at conception if you want (a view that has NO basis in reason or science) but you can't tell a woman that she loses control of her own body when she gets pregnant just because YOUR interpretation of YOUR dusty old book says so. Stopping you from forcing religion on me is NOT a violation of YOUR religious freedom.

      Sid

      May 29, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Gorsh

      Sid, you do know he was being deeply sarcastic, laughing at folks like you, right? Both sides try to force their beliefs on us in the middle.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
  19. peace

    I really don't understand what's funny. The basis for much of history is the agreement of multiple eye witness accounts, which we have for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He's the real deal. And He is so good. I just wish you knew how much He cares for you. I don't think you'd mock Him if you knew.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Geraldine

      What eyewitness accounts?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Don

      Ha Ha Ha!!!!!!

      May 29, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Jeebusss

      You're hilarious. Delusional, but hilarious.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • .

      Well, that's one real question and two idiots performing ad hominems.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Jeff s

      I don't trust my brother with the pin number of my debit card. Why would I trust the written word of a bunch of people that live long before I was born with my soul?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Jeebusss

      You don't know what an ad hominem is clearly. Go look it up and try again.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • .

      Sooooo, you believe in the soul eh?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • Bazinga

      There were many eyewitnesses to Kennedys assassination 50 years ago, and they still don't know how many shot him or if it was a conspiracy. The most unreliable evidence in court today, is an eyewitness.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • .

      You didn't attack the commentors statement, you attacked the commentor.
      Do you understand what a ad hominem is numbnuts?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Jesus no longer exists. He died a long time ago.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • Agnostic-man

      Thing is, we cannot know with certainty if God or Christ exists. Then again they COULD. Then again their COULD be a giant reptilian bird in charge or everything. Can we be certain there isn't? NO, so it's pointless to talk about.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Jeebusss

      Negative. An ad hominem is when you attack the person's character with something unrelated to the topic at hand. If he said, "I believe in God" and I said "don't believe him because he's left handed" that is ad hominem.

      When someone makes an utterly insane statement about knowing an imaginary person and you point out that they are delusional that is not ad hominem. You completely fail to understand the contextual application.

      I realize you see atheists accusing people of ad hominem all the time and so you want to be a big boy and use that word too but you really do not understand what it means.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • ChrisA

      Are we seriously debating the existence of Jesus? Not one serious historian believes that he didn't exist. Where as certain as we can be that he existed. Wether he was God in the flesh or not, is the only reasonable debate.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • Sid Airfoil

      What about the 80% of the world's population that completely disagrees with your "eyewitnesses"? If you read a book other than your bible, you will see that those five BILLION other people have their own eyewitnesses that say different. Get out of your cave once in a while, and talk with someone else for a change.

      Sid

      May 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • .e

      Actually Jeebusss, since you did not state what was so hilarious...you did perform an ad hominem. You said he was delusional without evidence to support your claim. You gave nothing to counter his statement about the "eye witnesses". Others at least had the sense to do that.

      Basically put, your comment was directed toward the person who made the comment and not his argument. You called him delusional without evidence of why. Of course, his statement and your opinion about him being delusional have no relationship. Ergo...it was an ad hominem. Heck, you even make a blind guess about me without evidence.

      I suggest your return to debate 101 for a refresher course.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
  20. Jeebusss

    Can't happen soon enough. Fairy tales for adults aren't a healthy way to run a society.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • .

      Did you even read the article numbnuts? The article and the ti tle of the article have very little in common.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Bazinga

      Amen, brother!

      May 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
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About this blog

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.