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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. Dmu

    If God didn't create the universe, then who did and who keeps it running 24/7?

    May 30, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • redzoa

      asked and answered in the previous posting of this exact same question . . .

      May 30, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • Dippy

      Dmu seems to be a little slow, doesn't he?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • Huebert

      Why do you as.sume that someone created the universe and that someone must "keep it running"?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • tallulah13

      Dmu: Go back to school. This time go to a real school, and stay awake. Once you hit the fifth or sixth grade level, you should have a least a basic understanding of natural and geological history.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:52 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Dmu may be slow, but he, she, or it is obviously advanced enuf to be able to copy and paste his, her, or its own previous posts. I guess this represents progress of a sort.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • Looper

      Why would anyone care. I'm sure you have better things you could do than to ponder that question.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:30 am |
  2. devin

    Ah the atheist crowd, bowing their collective knees at the alter of the scientific method.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • Dippy

      Altar, not alter. Don't you know the difference?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • The Deist

      Atheists are not the only ones who think religion is nothing more than a crutch because you can't cope.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • Huebert

      The scientific method is the most useful tool I know of for accurately interpreting the nature of the universe, but if you can come up with a better one I'll happily use it. That is how progress works, we abandon less accurate ideas and theories in favor of more accurate ones. It's like what is happening to religion right now...oh wait.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:39 am |
  3. boofer

    Religion will NEVER go away...unfortunately.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • Dmu

      God is not a religion

      May 30, 2013 at 12:40 am |
  4. JMB

    Sacred Scripture's definition of a fool:

    The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. Ps. 14.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:32 am |
    • redseca2

      we will never discover warp drive until we renounce our parochial , one planet, god and embrace our destiny.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      And the wise person says so right out loud.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • tallulah13

      The Merriam-Webster Definition of a fool:

      1: a person lacking in judgment or prudence
      2: a retainer formerly kept in great households to provide casual entertainment and commonly dressed in motley with cap, bells, and bauble
      b : one who is victimized or made to appear foolish : dupe
      3 a : a harmlessly deranged person or one lacking in common powers of understanding
      b : one with a marked propensity or fondness for something
      4: a cold dessert of pureed fruit mixed with whipped cream or custard

      May 30, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • Geraldine

      You have that backwards. It's the fool's "sacred scripture". Yes, there are quite a few things built in to try to convince one not to leave.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:46 am |
    • A Frayed Knot

      @JMB,
      "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. Ps. 14."

      A quite old and sometimes effective tactic – declaring that those who do not believe your story are 'fools'. Nobody wants to be considered 'dumb' for not seeing the Emperor's new clothes, or a 'bas.tard' for not seeing the Sultan's new turban, or a 'cuckold' for not being able to see the Miller's gold thumb.

      Even Joseph Smith used it when he gathered his 'witnesses' to his golden plates. He told them that only those with 'true faith' would be able to 'see' them.

      The ancient, primitive Hebrews who originated those Bible stories were quite adept at manipulative mind-games.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:08 am |
  5. Dmu

    If God didn't create the universe, then who did and who keeps it running 24/7?

    May 30, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Dippy

      If god created the universe, who created god?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      The Universe DOES exist. We're agreed on that, right?
      Hypotheses as to why:
        (1) Somebody made it.
        (2) It's always been here.
        (3) It sprang into being spontaneously.

      There is no evidence, one way or another, that allows us to choose between these hypotheses.
      All the evidence was destroyed in this giant explosion you may have heard of — the Big Bang?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • Dmu

      He is the beginning and the end

      May 30, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • Dmu

      The only evidence we got is that the universe runs exactly as it should

      May 30, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • The Deist

      The universe doesn't "run" it expands.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:40 am |
    • Huebert

      The universe is. Who are you to say how it should or shouldn't run.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • Dmu

      Expands huh?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • Geraldine

      Dmu: "He is the beginning and the end"

      Bieber's popularity is waning; don't get your hopes up.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:54 am |
  6. JMB

    "f I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth."

    1 Timothy 3:15

    May 30, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • A Frayed Knot

      The fantasies of Saul of Tarsus. So what?

      May 30, 2013 at 1:11 am |
  7. Scaber

    That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight...

    May 30, 2013 at 12:26 am |
  8. RageMojo

    Religion is a plague on humanity. And responsible for holding back development more than anything else in human history. Religion is poison to real spirituality and we will all be better off with out it.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:24 am |
    • The Deist

      Amen

      May 30, 2013 at 12:40 am |
  9. Andrew

    Every day more people reject the judeo-christo-islamic lesson in the story Abraham and Isaac (just follow the dogmatic orders no matter evil they are) and begin to practise moral reasoning for themselves... and become much better people because of it.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:24 am |
  10. shannon

    There is a division between believers and non-believers....and that division is growing more by the years. Between the "sheeps and the goats". This is what Jesus talked about in Matthew 25:14-15
    True Christians have faith in our creator and recognize why our world is decaying. Its full of violence, earthquakes, imoralality, wars...the "cooling" off of love, lawlessness. All these things are what Jesus spoke about as part of the "last days"

    Christians have the "assured expectation of things to come". This is what faith is. What the world is sorely lacking in. Jesus described in John 20:29 ones who have faith in our heavenly creator.
    'Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

    May 30, 2013 at 12:22 am |
    • tallulah13

      Our world is not decaying, unless you think that longer lives, improved education, improved standards of living and improved human rights are "decay". Of course, these things still aren't universal. It's very hard to bring progress to countries and cultures that bury their heads in religion.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:28 am |
    • DudeInSeattle

      Earthquakes ?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • The Deist

      Sorry to burst your bubble, Shannon, but even when Christianity was more in than out there was loose morality, lawlessness, and BS. Your argument is invalid.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:42 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Having faith in anything is a fool's errand.

      Faith is the world's all-time worst method of making decisions.

      Nobody with a lick of sense ever uses faith to decide anything important — CERTAINLY nothing that can be tested.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:43 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Oh will you people please shut up with the "last days" crap you've been yammering about for 2,000 years now? Blah-blah-friggin'-blah.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
  11. Andragogue

    Thank god.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:21 am |
  12. svann

    I dont mind if America is religious, but I dont think the church should have any political power at all.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:16 am |
  13. les

    Myself, I don't believe in any of this mumbo jumbo, but obviously most people do. It seems that most people need to believe this stuff in order to be what they think Is moral. If they don't believe in some god, they think they will go crazy killing and maiming. There is no reason to believe in something that you can't see or feel, it makes no sense and it makes no difference whether you believe or not, your life will be the same either way. So if belief in god keeps some people in line, then it's OK with me...

    May 30, 2013 at 12:13 am |
    • Andragogue

      Every god that can be killed should be killed.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:22 am |
    • The Deist

      God and religion are not mutually exclusive. A Christian / Muslim / Jew / Mormon / whatever the flavor of the month is for religion, does something heinous it's "God" that gets the bad PR.

      Try blaming the individual responsible. A fallible human.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:44 am |
  14. biglio

    It's about time!!!!!

    May 30, 2013 at 12:08 am |
  15. devin

    Absolutely fascinating how tenacious the atheist crowd is in proselytizing their unbelief. At times, I find it is done with an even greater fervor than many Christians who share their faith.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • Observer

      devin,

      At least atheists aren't trying to deny you rights like many Christians do.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • devin

      Observer. I'll go out on a limb here and assume you are alluding to the gay marriage issue. The reality is we deny "perceived" rights everyday, whether it be those of polygamists, the fellows over at NAMBA, fathers prone to incest, whatever. Rights are not given in a moral vacuum.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • Observer

      devin,

      It's all pick-and-choose HYPOCRISY. You don't agree with all of God's version of the "sanct-ity of marriage", but likely use God as an excuse to deny marriage rights to gays.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:21 am |
    • Al

      Ok that's the way you feel. You don't have to be so hateful about it.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • LinCA

      @devin

      You said, "The reality is we deny "perceived" rights everyday, whether it be those of polygamists, the fellows over at NAMBA, fathers prone to incest, whatever."
      All the practices that you so cavalierly equate with same sex marriage are nothing but. Same sex marriage, or homosexuality, hurts nobody. There is no reason to deny equal rights.

      You said, "Rights are not given in a moral vacuum."
      Your religion based morality applies to nobody but you. Your fairy tale only applies to those simple minded enough to believe it. You are free to live your life according to your delusion, but in a civilized society, nobody else should have to.

      If you feel that your imaginary friend doesn't want you to engage in homosexual activity then you shouldn't, but your imaginary friend has no jurisdiction over sane people.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • devin

      Ah the atheist crowd, bowing their collective knees at the alter of the scientific method.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:32 am |
    • Observer

      devin,

      Ah the religious crowd, bowing their collective knees at the alter of unicorns, talking animals, a 600-year-old man building a ship holding millions of animals and months of food, the earth stopping in it's tracks, etc..

      May 30, 2013 at 12:35 am |
    • Dippy

      Altar, not alter. What a dunce.

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

      Lin. Your delusion is broad. The tenants of my "religion based morality" given by my " imaginary friend" have been woven throughout the historical fabric of this country. Pretending that they are insignificant and meaningless is at best naive and at worst, plain silly. Surely you can do better.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • Dippy

      Its, not it's. Can't anybody write any more?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:40 am |
    • devin

      Dippy. You would have made a great copy editor. I'm sure mom would be proud.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      "Tenets", not "tenants". What a dunce.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:41 am |
    • DudeInSeattle

      How did this turn into a gay marriage debate ?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • The Deist

      Gentlemen, and I use that term loosely, religion does not have exclusivity to God. So stick to the topic. Are you talking about religion or are you talking about God? They are not one in the same. It is completely possible to have nothing to do with one and have a base belief in the other.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • Geraldine

      devin: "have been woven throughout the historical fabric of this country."

      lol – like when the first settlers started laying into the natives.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • Geraldine

      "How did this turn into a gay marriage debate ?"

      thank the numbskull devin for that

      May 30, 2013 at 12:51 am |
    • LinCA

      @devin

      You said, "The tenants of my "religion based morality" given by my " imaginary friend" have been woven throughout the historical fabric of this country."
      tenets*

      That religious influence has fucked up this country for centuries is no reason to continue to fuck it up. It's high time fairy tales are left where they belong. In the minds of children and simpletons.

      You said, "Pretending that they are insignificant and meaningless is at best naive and at worst, plain silly."
      Unfortunately they are very significant. I never said they weren't. It is time to correct wrongs and get your delusion out of the lives of rational people.

      You said, "Surely you can do better."
      Oh, I'm sure I can, but, given your obvious ignorance, I sincerely doubt that you can.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:52 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      That's due to the fact that you and your ilk are so determined to create a christian theocracy in this country that it threatens the very basis of liberty upon which the United States was founded. Please do not come back with some nonsense about how this is a "Christian" nation. It is not, never has been, and sanity willing, never will be. You would deny those who don't believe as you do equal opportunities and equal rights. Please don't deny this – over and over again we see you christians positively shaking with joy at the thought of non-believers being tortured forever in a lake of fire. In fact your sickening enthusiasm has convinced me that if you could get away with it you'd make sure it happens *before* death. You people are just plain evil, and too steeped in your own nonsensical fantasies to see it.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  16. Douglas

    Celibate gays are renewing their faith.

    More updates to come!

    May 30, 2013 at 12:05 am |
    • Observer

      Douglas,

      Trying to make gays feel guilty for how they were born is not the sharpest idea.

      Churches are full of welcomed Christian hypocrites. A few more shouldn't make any difference.

      If you really cared about saving people, you'd work on the much bigger problem of Christian adulterers.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • mama k

      More updates is right – like within the next day or so we should hear something about gay marriage rights in Illinois and Australia.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:30 am |
    • tallulah13

      Yes, Doug, we get that you are renewing your faith. Meanwhile, the rest of the gays and lesbians are living happy, fulfilled lives with or without religion.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Pete

      Trust me, Douglas knows a thing or two about celibate gays.

      May 30, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  17. Jerry

    It isn't happening near fast enough! Gods and religion are the two greatest evils perpetrated on man, by man.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • The Deist

      No, just religion. God (s) haven't done a thing to humanity. Humans have perpetuated every ill that has ever been perpetuated against another human. So why is God or the Gods getting the bad PR?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:51 am |
  18. Colin

    Dear Christians:

    God here.

    Are you really that small-minded that the concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the actions and thoughts of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is not utterly ludicrous?

    Look, if I did exist, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Greco-Roman mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors or how and why it was compiled with certain writings included and others excluded, nor how it has been edited over the centuries, yet you cite it for the most extraordinary of supernatural claims.

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who elected to withhold all evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifthly, in the same vein, I would not make about 5% of the human population gay, then punish them for being that way. In fact, I wouldn’t care about how humans have $ex at all, given that I created all of the millions of millions of species on the planet, all of whom are furiously reproducing all the time. Human $ex would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Has it ever occurred to you that your obsession with making rules around human $ex is an entirely human affair?

    Sixth, I would have smitten all you Christian activists, and all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric even for a sick, sadistic bast.ard like me to contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.

    Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you cringed in fear during the Dark Ages and thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.

    Move on – get over me. I did.

    God

    May 30, 2013 at 12:04 am |
    • Jay

      Can I get a amen lol well said I get messed with all the time by my family for knowing the truth religon is the biggest money making scam in the world and the reason for 90 percent of war

      May 30, 2013 at 12:15 am |
    • Frazier Lee

      How do you know? Maybe the idea of a creator sounds ludicrous, but doesn't dust exploding and creating an entire universe and all of the galaxies sound equally ridiculous? The truth is none of us really know.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • Chad

      @Colin

      the old "I would have done it differently" defense..

      You never did answer that question" "how WOULD you have done it (reconciled humanity) with out obviating free will"

      May 30, 2013 at 12:20 am |
    • Andragogue

      Superb! Thank god. Er... You.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • Susy

      I enjoyed your essay on why you think there is no god. i used to believe as you do, even writing notebooks of such essays and thoughts on why god couldn't possibly exist; the problem of evil being chief among them. 5 years ago after years of living a secular life, I had in a extraordinary, blinding, life changing INSTANT that I can find no earthly reason for. I am now a Catholic and incredibly grateful for this incredible pure GIFT. Never say never, Colin. The "Hound of Heaven" may catch you yet.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • Tom K

      Amen Colin...This is my favorite post I've ever read on these generally whack boards...

      May 30, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • Sam I. Am

      Wow... I've been lied to! All this time I thought God's name was Art (Our father who Art in Heaven...? right?)

      Now I find that his name is Colin!

      Seriously though, well said, Almighty Colin! 🙂

      May 30, 2013 at 12:36 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Hang in there, Colin. You are doing the secular equivalent of the Lord's work.

      I encourage you to save these essays and start a blog. Perhaps the good folx at Patheos could host it.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • The Deist

      Well, that's one opinion...

      May 30, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • HotAirAce

      And it is at least as credible as The Babble!

      May 30, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • Cherilyn B

      You've obviously put some thought into this which is quite refreshing. From me, you have applause. For a standing ovation, you need to study the history of the people who invented this god to serve their needs. Viewed within that context, additional flaws become readily apparent.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:36 am |
  19. Sam

    so....religious people think we are becoming less religious and think we would be better off if we were more religious....and this is news how?

    May 30, 2013 at 12:03 am |
    • The Lost Surveyor

      No doubt. The more things change the more they stay the same. I'm 46 and they said the very same thing when I was a kid back in Texas.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  20. TheXDude

    Americans losing their religion... Thank god.

    May 29, 2013 at 11:59 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.