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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. Brian

    Jesus Himself called out the Pharisees and Sadducees saying they were hyprocrites for the same exact reason i think we are seeing people turn away from the Church today.. they knew of Him, but missed the most important thing: Grace and their need for him. They were religious in the sense that they knew the Word, but their lives didn't reflect it, while they held its contents over others. many in the Church today are the same; claiming to believe, yet our lifestyle speaks nothing of the life change that comes from truly "knowing Him personally", rather than just "knowing of Him." let him without sin cast the first stone.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • Reality

      John 8:7

      "When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

      Said passage, as per many contemporary NT scholars, was not said by the historical Jesus. One reason for this conclusion is that it appears no where else in the scriptures.

      Actually, all of John's Gospel is of questionable historic value.

      To wit:

      From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book, Rabbi Jesus,

      "Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in works of late date. John's Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a source......

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_John#Authorship

      "Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus.[3][4] "[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous,"[5] and date it to 90-100."

      "The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle."

      And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,

      "Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "

      See also http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/john.html

      May 29, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  2. disanitnodicos

    "The Soviet Union was the first state to have, as an ideological objective, the elimination of religion and its replacement with universal atheism. The communist regime confiscated religious property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in schools."

    http://en.wikipedia.Org/wiki/Religion_in_the_Soviet_Union

    May 29, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      OK. Any conclusion you'd like to draw from that observation?

      Perhaps that government forcing ANY ideology on an unwilling populace is a bad idea?

      May 29, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Think of early efforts at using the power of the state to deal with religion as sort of field testing. We'll get it right in the end. No worries – we learned that the stick isn't the answer.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • Bob

      N. Korea is an atheist country

      May 29, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  3. you.cant.handle.the.truth

    There is 1 god. 1 creator. 1 truth. The hard part for most americans is coming to grips with the fact that the blonde haired, blue eyed 'jesus' is not that 1 truth. Just another facade used to control the malleable masses. Jerry Sanduski is going to heaven if he repents, right?

    May 29, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I double-checked your counts and came up with 0, 0, and 1.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • Yobby

      I agree with the first sentence.

      We call him "the flying spaghetti monster".

      May 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
  4. RichardSRussell

    Faith is the world champion, gold-medal, blue-ribbon, undefeated, uncontested winner in the sweepstakes for the Worst Decision-Making Method of All Time.

    Nobody EVER uses faith to decide anything that really matters.

    Likewise, nobody ever uses it to arrive at any conclusions that can possibly be tested.

    That's why the priest class — which relies on an unending supply of gullible suckers to keep the long green rolling into the collection plate — praises faith to the skies, because if you ever took a serious look at their bushwah using anything OTHER than faith, you'd realize what a con job it all is.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Rationalintn

      The clergy is more interested in self-preservation, not in saving souls. What would these guys do for work if they weren't parting the flock from their cash? Has anyone seen the houses some of these pastors live in, or the cars thy drive? What would JC think of these guys today?

      May 30, 2013 at 7:31 am |
  5. Brian Opalewski

    Get rid of religion but teach a secular humanism that instills a strong moral compass and humankind will flourish!

    May 29, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
  6. nvtncs

    i believe Jesus is God.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I believe nvtncs is Satan.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      And you still believe in Santa Claus, right?
      I'll stick with my invisible pink unicorn.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • Tim

      Where is the word 'trinity' in the bible?

      May 29, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • nvtncs

      RichardSRussell, MagicPanties,
      Say "God does not exist" as the last sentence before you expire and i'll believe you. Until then, i don't believe what you say.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      And?

      May 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
  7. Bob

    Tant tater, what #£|| are u talking about

    May 29, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
  8. Al

    Nice to see this country is finally waking up. Hopefully it's not too late.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
  9. john R

    if religion in this country was dominated by people spouting the golden rule, i might listen. but with religion in america nothing but a forum for winning votes and power (on BOTH sides on the political spectrum, i might add), i am not sad by such a poll. whatever happened to live and let live?

    May 29, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
  10. Joe in Ottumwa

    THis is the sort of story that makes tea bagging conservatives punch themselves in the face at the dinner table. That piece about "sweeping away the stupid" only makes them slam their fingers in doors.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
  11. Rick

    Religion lost a lot of us with its swing to the right. It became all about guilt, dogma and worship of the rich.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • evilroyslade

      Rick, Agreed.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      When was it ever about anything else?

      May 30, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
  12. Tater

    Organized religions are a terrible misdirection for human beings.
    People are looking for something to believe in. We are losing our faith.
    My spirituality stems from a deep sense of debt for my existence. The earth and the stars. These are pure things worthy of true worship. Worthy of reverence. I don't need the fear of eternal damnation to be my moral compass. I get up in the morning, I smell the air, I feel the sun on my face and I am grateful. Everyday.
    I take my dog for a walk and I admire him. I admire his lust for life. His complete lack of guile. His undying devotion and unconditional love. We have all seen the videos of animals caring for different abandoned animals. Animals who are supposed to be mortal enemies living together in harmony. Children have these instincts. They know instinctively to help others. They too love unconditionally. When is that lost in most of us? Why?
    People should love and worship the earth and its inhabitants. We had it right a long time ago but we forgot. That is what people are missing. Religion is the misdirection.

    May 29, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Metesbounds

      I can relate to that. It's simplistic and earthly. Thanks for contributing.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • evilroyslade

      Christians trashing the environment and poor while worshiping capitalist.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • MyTyposArIIntentional

      "We" NEVER had it right, but the Native Americans were pretty close. But we had to kill them & their buffalo because they were blocking our new train tracks.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  13. Scott

    The comments here are as ridiculous as the poll. The poll doesn't say anything but "the people we called, who mostly identified as religious, wish America were more religious. " d'uh. Im shocked. it's a useless poll, and CNN makes it worse with a picture of humanist protesters who have even less to do with the subject of the poll than most of the comments. It has nothing to do with actual numbers of religious people, which in America are demonstrably plentiful. I'd give anything for some thoughtful discourse. Instead we have the Internet.

    May 29, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
  14. Metesbounds

    To all religious beliefs,

    "You will lose". Terminator.

    May 29, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
  15. Rick

    Pretty soon atheists are gonna research monkeys and then say that a grown man who is attracted to kids was 'born that way'

    May 29, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      You really are a primo example of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome, aren't you?

      May 29, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • Satan's Coming For You

      Are you even aware of the words that your fingers are punching in? Or are you just a mindless pulse with access to a keyboard? The latter seems the most likely. How unfortunate your type are allowed near technology.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • Metesbounds

      Ok. Had to lookup Dunning-Kruger Syndrome. Your Spot on.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
  16. Ken phillips

    The Bible clearly states in Romans Chapter One the cause of our deterioration. Since we don't want to keep God in our knowledge, He has given us over to a reprobate mind. From the leadership of our country, an implied yet forced seperation has been placed between the government and the general public restricting any acknowledgment of His place in our government. Most noticeably, it began in our education system.
    Since the '60s, what used to be right (in our history, morally) is now declared wrong and mocked by those in the public domain. We now see a government full of unprincipled, self centered individuals.

    May 29, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Yobby

      More like science has progressed and we now know the bible is full of idiotic lies.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • Bush carried the evangelical vote

      Most of these politicians you speak of claim to be devoutly religious.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
  17. Stepho

    Religion is good for those who need that in their lives–however, not all of our founding fathers were religious, and sometimes it took votes 60+ times until they all agreed on the "right" policies to begin our country (*Source: The 5,000 Year Leap). If religion helps you, good for you. If you aren't about that (as I am not) good for you as well. Teach your children your values and hope they have the intelligence to reach the "right" conclusion. But please, don't force those values on others. How many Americans would be up in arms if the Qur'an, instead of the Bible, was suddenly the norm in schools? While you are fighting your wars for God, Jesus, and Allah, please remember to be respectful of those who are (and raise their children) otherwise/agnostic/ athiest.

    May 29, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • gman5541

      Good points, but religious people tend to ignore them. They believe that simply what's good for them is good for you and if you don't agree then you're some kind of 'Heathen' ; a non-believer.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
  18. Alfredos

    Finally some good news. Since all religion is man made nonsense, it's great that secular common sense is increasing. With Muslim nuts running wild, common sense needs to capture humans imaginations....

    May 29, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • Rick

      U lack common sense

      May 29, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
  19. Sam

    Only a fool says 'There is no God'.

    May 29, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "... but whosoever shall say, Thou FOOL, shall be in danger of hell fire."
      —Jesus Christ, Matthew 5:22

      See ya there, Sam!

      May 29, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • Yobby

      You people are just in denial, religion is fairy tales and evolution is true. The only true book is the one written by Darwin.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • Chad

      @Yobby

      =>you'll be devastated to know that Darwins notion of Phyletic Gradualism has been utterly abandoned by the paleontological community in favor of Punctuated Equilibrium..
      Darwins gradualism simply couldnt be reconciled with the fossil record..

      May 29, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • ReasonablePerson88

      Only a fool doesn't recognize that all religions are human fabrications. Oh, excuse me, all but yours – yeah, right.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      Only a child says there is a Santa.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Chad

      @ReasonablePerson88, MagicPanties

      =>what investigation have you actually done that has lead you to reject the God of Israel.
      none?

      (note: the absence of my proof that santa/ra/odin/snoopy isnt real, doesnt mean you magically have a reason to reject the God of Israel...)

      May 29, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      So many Gods, so little time, Chad. Try to get it. Your God of Israel isn't rejected so much as it never rises to the level of consideration.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • Chad

      well, if His existence never rises to the level of consideration, why are you on here day and night claiming He doesnt exist

      😉

      interesting question..

      May 29, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      We must be all things to all people so that we may by all means save some, Chad. I think the God you've got running in your imagination isn't really all that entrenched. Soon we'll have you right as rain.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • Chad

      nice dodge 😉

      May 30, 2013 at 12:02 am |
    • redzoa

      "=>you'll be devastated to know that Darwins notion of Phyletic Gradualism has been utterly abandoned by the paleontological community in favor of Punctuated Equilibrium..
      Darwins gradualism simply couldnt be reconciled with the fossil record.."

      As with most of Chad's positions on scientific topics, this one is also overstated, reflecting his limited familiarity with the actual research. Yes PE dominates the modern interpretation, but there remains sufficient evidence to indicate Darwin was not completely off the mark. For example:
      http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v330/n6148/abs/330561a0.html

      From the abstract: "Here I report some of the first detailed evidence of phyletic gradualism in benthic macroinvertebrates, based on a study of ~15,000 trilobites from central Wales."

      Although Chad may feel the need to shield his pride by responding with a plethora of quote mines, this study (among plenty of others) and Gould's own references to various phyletic gradualism evidence within the Foraminifera is enough to refute Chad's "utterly abandoned" mantra in his continuing miscomprehension of PE as supporting Theistic Evolution. Then again, because TE posits a magical mechanism, this explanation falls neatly alongside other unfalsifiable magical explanations which can explain any and every possible outcome; thereby effectively explaining nothing. In other words, Chad can relax knowing that his "god did it" TE premise works equally well with phyletic gradualism as it does with PE, the only difference being the degree of supernatural nudge required as species change.

      To further preempt Chad's "grand paroxysm" claim of PE: 1) the "rapid" changes take place over tens of thousands of years; 2) a species-level change (i.e. the focus of PE) is the smallest discernible change between species; 3) these small changes do not require significant genomic remodeling.

      Lastly, even Darwin did not expect the rate of change to necessarily be uniform:

      [N]atural selection will generally act very slowly, only at long intervals of time, and only on a few of the inhabitants of the same region. I further believe that these slow, intermittent results accord well with what geology tells us of the rate and manner at which the inhabitants of the world have changed" (Darwin 1872, 140-141, chap. 4).

      But I must here remark that I do not suppose that the process ever goes on so regularly as is represented in the diagram, though in itself made somewhat irregular, nor that it goes on continuously; it is far more probable that each form remains for long periods unaltered, and then again undergoes modification (Darwin 1872, 152).

      It is a more important consideration . . . that the period during which each species underwent modification, though long as measured by years, was probably short in comparison with that during which it remained without undergoing any change (Darwin 1872, 428, chap. 10).

      Darwin, C. 1872. The Origin of Species, 6th Edition. Senate, London

      May 30, 2013 at 12:28 am |
  20. cristo

    debemos hacer oracion entre todos para que este fenomeno de la perdida de creencia en estados unidos se elimine y vuelvan a creer en la oracion , en la religion en la iglesia te dejo este en lace que te habla de la palabra http://www.cristoesmyguia.blogspot.com

    May 29, 2013 at 10:54 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.