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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. Warbler

    This just in... CNN has lost it's religion and wants to make sure everyone else does too.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Dippy

      Its, not it's.

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

      CNN is an organization, not a person. Regardless of what the Supreme Court says, organizations are not people. They don't have brains, therefore they don't have opinions, therefore they don't have religion.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:36 am |
  2. buckybadger

    The world will lose religion eventually. Its a primitive idea and eventually all religions will be looked at like how we view the Roman or Greek gods. The human race is always progressing and even to my surprise the IQ of the world as a whole raises about 10pts every 20 years. It isn't a rapid improvement and isn't evident in all areas of the world but as whole we are progressing intellectually. The Christian religion has its roots in largely developed areas where progress tends to move a little quicker As people become more and more inquisitive and seek out new information the idea of a deity will become foolish.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:57 pm |
  3. Bryan

    Can't lose something that was a fantasy in the first place.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  4. grantcv1

    Bachmann is out, religion is out, ObamaCare is working, economy is up,... so much good news.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
  5. Craig

    This information is being confused with the idea that one person's religion (or religious views) should be forced upon others. There is a huge difference. Perhaps more people with higher moral values would make the country better, but religion and moral values seem to have little connection these days. The Catholic Church has lots of money, but spends it trying to lobby Congress to stop allowing women to make their own choices regarding health care. Jesus would have spent the money helping the poor. I like Jesus a lot, I just can't stand his fan club.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
  6. devin

    Fortunately, the determining factor of truth is not and has never been the acceptance of the majority.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      And there goes the best argument for religion – that billions of delusional people believe it is true. Yes!

      May 30, 2013 at 1:35 am |
  7. Jim

    Not a moment too soon. I believe in God, I'm just not willing to pay off some pedophile's lawyer bills.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
  8. Colin

    Its true that atheism is, thankfully, rising meteorically in the USA, but this poll is utterly worthless for two reasons:

    (i) they polled 1500 odd people.

    (ii) they asked their opinion of whether religion is losing influence. This is very different to objective evidence that religion is, in fact, losing influence. They might as wel lhave asked them their opinion on who will win next year's Superbowl.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
  9. devin

    So basically a 2% change from the 1970 poll, virtually meaningless when taking into account margin of error, and the atheists are giddy. Maybe you all can find another rock to grind your axe on.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:50 pm |
    • jakinak

      Thanks for injecting a dose of reality, unfortunately you'll be roundly criticized for speaking truth,

      May 29, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
    • devin

      jak. As long as it is truth, criticism is meaningless.

      May 29, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
    • LinCA

      @devin

      You may want to take a look at the graph on the linked source for the article. Here it is again:
      http://www.gallup.com/poll/162803/americans-say-religion-losing-influence.aspx

      If the change over the last decade, or so, is correlated to the availability of information, the graph should scare the shit out of believers.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:37 am |
    • Saraswati

      That number isn't measuring a change in religiosity but an impression regarding the trend. It's like saying you feel a car is slowing when it goes from 100mph to 90mph vs when it goes from 50 to 40. The numbers aren't measuring the same thing. I believe this was pointed out earlier so I'm not sure why you're repeating this?

      May 30, 2013 at 1:40 am |
  10. Joe in Ottumwa

    "And Mathew said unto to thee, Save us Obiwan... I mean... help me Jesus, for thought forsaken thee..." or some nonsensical crap like that.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  11. Rob Public Again

    yeah

    May 29, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  12. Namerike*

    Good. We don't need to worship amass
    Murdering rapist god with a zombie son. Who needs to practice mock cannibaliam blood rituals each week

    May 29, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
  13. ScottLL

    What I think is sad is that when people say "religion" they think it is synonymous with Christianity. Look at the comments. 95% of them are against Christianity and at the same time they don't know what Christianity is about.. I think it would do them some good to know what they are talking about. Reading the book of Romans would be a good place to start.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
    • ScienceSoma

      Do you not realize that most American atheists are former Christians? And at that, many got there in great part due to their study of the religion and finding it answered no questions. You would be surprised how well versed in the Bible and world religious beliefs many atheists are, and it is that knowledge that strengthens, not diminishes, the convictions they have adopted.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • Jackson

      It's impossible to grow up in the United States and not know what Christianity is really about, as you put it, since it is so prominent. Like one of the other people commenting said, I like Jesus and what he says, I don't like his fan club. I don't understand why people feel they need to go to someone else to get their salvation or to push it on other people. What they need to do is make themselves better and lead by example, not tell others what to do. This is what the true interpretation of the light to the world passage (matthew 5:14) means in my opinion. But how could i know? That book is literally filled from cover to finish with contradictions

      May 30, 2013 at 12:11 am |
    • ScottLL

      The purpose of my comment was for those who have an open mind. For those who have closed minds, it is like what Jesus said in Matthew 7:6 "...casting pearls to swine..", i.e. they won't appreciate what is given to them.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:41 am |
  14. beatstockpromotersdotcom

    Its so hard to believe that so many people are still brain washed that the worlds largest religion (Catholicism) is not the worlds biggest cult.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
  15. RichardSRussell

    "The Riddle of Epicurus:
    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

    —Epicurus (341-270 BCE), Greek materialist

    May 29, 2013 at 11:44 pm |
  16. Pete

    "According to the poll, 75% of Americans said it the country would be better off if it was more religious."

    "Said it the conutry"? Is that even proper grammar?

    May 29, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • Dippy

      Conutry? Is that proper spelling?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:06 am |
  17. bspurloc

    religion is a virus with no cure for the ignorant

    May 29, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
    • ScienceSoma

      The cure for religion and ignorance are one in the same – knowledge.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  18. mason

    Well done Colin.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
  19. Fred Evil

    Good riddance.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
  20. Chicago

    The thieves, molesters, intolerant, and murders all hide in the shadows of religion while preaching the message of a higher power.

    God and I are fine. I treat everyone I see every single day with love and respect. I need nothing else. Religious doctrine and ambassadors are lost, not Americans.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:39 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.