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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. Captain Slappaho

    Religion has NO place in these times. Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, GOD!

    May 30, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • Chris

      Now now, at least Santa had a real world inspiration.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:42 am |
  2. Gabriel_Allaire

    So pathetic that people keep on believing there is an answer to their lives and a way to act pre-etablished by some kind of God. Think logically, and you will see you can make yourself your own answers or just let it be, because you cannot always use your imagination as an excuse...

    May 30, 2013 at 1:14 am |
  3. Gavin Ford

    At last! An article that gives me hope for the future 🙂

    May 30, 2013 at 1:13 am |
    • devin

      I think Joseph Stalin said the same.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:22 am |
    • Geraldine

      So is it the "hope for the future" part that is terrifying for you devin?

      May 30, 2013 at 1:28 am |
    • devin

      Who said anything about "terrifying"?

      May 30, 2013 at 1:32 am |
  4. devin

    I'm still waiting to see the countless number of orphans who have been given homes, sick and dying cared for, hospitals built, famine sufferers fed, etc... in the name of atheism. Seems like the belief in that "sky fairy" has done some pragmatic good.

    May 30, 2013 at 1:13 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I think you meant to say "the non-stamp-collectors" club. Atheism isn't a group or a movement, it's just people who don't believe in fairy tales. We don't have a word for non-santa-believers, because we call adults who believe in Santa "legally insane." Just because we don't believe that magic spells will cause blood from a jewish zombie to save us from his invisible sky-wizard daddy's wrath doesn't mean we should build hospitals over that non-belief. But remember, you're delusional, so just cling to faith.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:17 am |
    • Saraswati

      Atheism isn't an ethical system so you're comparing apples to oranges. If you google secular charities you'll find that most of the largest are non-religious, For individual donors who happen to be atheist the miracle of the internet is there for you again. But if you really cared about the truth you'd have put in 20 minutes research before typing silly things.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:20 am |
    • tallulah13

      I think you are a troll, but here's your answer: The Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Oxfam, The Nature Conservancy and Mercy Corps are among the secular charities helping save lives around the world - all without the strings of religion.

      Here is the statement for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (an atheist charity)

      "We work with partner organizations worldwide to tackle critical problems in four program areas. Our Global Development Division works to help the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of hunger and poverty. Our Global Health Division aims to harness advances in science and technology to save lives in developing countries. Our United States Division works to improve U.S. high school and postsecondary education and support vulnerable children and families in Washington State. And our Global Policy & Advocacy Division seeks to build strategic relationships and promote policies that will help advance our work. Our approach to grantmaking in all four areas emphasizes collaboration, innovation, risk-taking, and, most importantly, results."

      May 30, 2013 at 1:23 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      This may come as a great shock to you devin, but the vast majority of non-believers do not care to advertise or publicize their charitable works. It's neither necessary or desirable to say "Look at me! Aren't I a wonderful person?"

      May 30, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
  5. arkie

    Only the church is foolish enough not to recognize that it's loosing its grip. I live in the bible belt and the church doesn't have the influence it once had.

    May 30, 2013 at 1:12 am |
  6. Chad

    I refuse to believe that, in a random sampling of adults across the US - the entire US, that 75% think the country would be better off if it were "MORE religious." Good freaking grief, we're already by far the most religious (or faux religious) highly advanced nation in the world and we're beset by near-endless social problems in comparison. More religion is not the answer, LESS religion is!

    May 30, 2013 at 1:07 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Of course. Why let a poll dictate what you'll believe? I refuse to believe all sorts of stuff that sounds utterly stupid.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:10 am |
  7. Cpt. Obvious

    test

    May 30, 2013 at 1:03 am |
  8. worldcares

    In order to understand, one should study world theology and the ancients.
    I went to the grocery store this evening, and was down the aisle from a you couple with their daughter. The little girl needed to go to the bathroom. The Mother said, in harsh words, There is no bathroom in here, you need to suck it up and hold it." I looked at the little girl, maybe three or four years old. She had dark circles under her eyes, an indication of allergies. I wanted to say, "There is a bathroom in the back of the store."
    I felt bad for that little girl.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:59 am |
    • Looper

      I would of the the mother in front of her child there is a bathroom and where it is.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:06 am |
    • arkie

      Religion in America is mostly about money not faith

      May 30, 2013 at 1:06 am |
  9. Donna

    To all you nay sayers.... GOD bless you all....you so obviously need it.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • LinCA

      Nah. I have no use for your imaginary friend or its blessing.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:59 am |
    • Andrew

      And keep an eye out for He Who Must Not Be Named. After all, it's just a book.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:00 am |
    • tallulah13

      Oh, Donna. Just because you believe something doesn't make it true. But you can say useless things all day if it makes your little heart happy.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:01 am |
    • RayJacksonMS2

      Why would a blood thirsty mass murderer bless anyone that isn't one of its evil followers?

      May 30, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Thanks, Donna, and be well, yourself.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:05 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      God, the figment of my imagination, blessed me with reason to think myself free of him.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • Robert

      Try reading a science book. It would do you a lot of good to learn about real things.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • arkie

      fictional book that is

      May 30, 2013 at 1:08 am |
    • sam stone

      Donna: You are a condescending gash

      May 30, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Yes, of course, you would know better than we what we do and don't need, because Jesus told you. Aren't you special.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  10. Mohamad Jesis

    LOL... Athiests hate the hajis as must as they hate the conservapedia crowd.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:56 am |
    • LinCA

      @Mohamad Jesis

      You said, "LOL... Athiests hate the hajis as must as they hate the conservapedia crowd."
      atheist*

      Mocking dimwits for their infantile beliefs isn't hate. It's a public service announcement.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • tallulah13

      Nah. I save my hate for trolls.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:00 am |
  11. jomamaxx

    Yoga – which is really 'Hatha Yoga' , based on the Yoga Sutras, and part of Hinduism – is growing rapidly, and it most definitely is 'religion'. The proletariat are illiterate fools. Which is why they still need crude religion to keep them on the right path.

    Also – as America moves away from it's founding Christian principles – it will flounder. This is already happening. Americas success is perfectly correlated to how many people in Church.

    I'm not saying Christianity is better than anything else.

    I'm not even saying that Christianity is Spiritually valid (it is).

    I'm talking about the organized, weekly community building sessions that people attend, to remind themselves of the greater good. That weekly, community building reminder is what builds the fabric of civilization.

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

      Its, not it's.

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

      Can't that "greater good" be humanity rather than religion? Honestly religion has been used to justify quite a lot of evils throughout history, including segregation, I'd rather champion our collective humanity than champion any religion.

      Humans don't need god, we need other humans. We should come together for the purpose of making our world better, not because some god tells us to.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:58 am |
    • devin

      Dippy. We get it, you're the grammar police. This is a CNN blog not the National Review, get over yourself.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:07 am |
    • Dippy

      Then learn the fuking difference. Impress us a little more.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:09 am |
    • tallulah13

      "I'm not even saying that Christianity is Spiritually valid (it is)."

      Actually, you are very blatantly claiming that "christianity is spiritually valid". Therefore your personal bias destroys any objectivity you may claim. You merely think your religion is valuable because it is what you believe.

      And while you think religion builds community, as far as I can tell it divides humanity. You get several groups within a population, each convinced it's dogma is correct and it's god the only real one. How many wars have been started over religion? How many places of worship vandalized or destroyed? How much malice and anger have been spewed over the question "whose god is the real one?"

      Meanwhile, there isn't a shred of evidence that any god actually exists. So why should any rational person believe that religion is valuable?

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

      @Dippy

      fucking*

      😉

      May 30, 2013 at 1:11 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      "I'm talking about the organized, weekly community building sessions that people attend, to remind themselves of the greater good. That weekly, community building reminder is what builds the fabric of civilization."

      I find my daily community communion at the CNN belief blog. The greater good? The struggle against ignorance.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:12 am |
    • Dippy

      Yeah, fucking. I fucked up.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:13 am |
    • devin

      I have no desire to impress you. And, you forgot the c, although you already knew that.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • Looper

      "America moves away from it's founding Christian principles." No it wasn't! This is more christian propaganda to try and push their hate on others. Only the dumb (Christians) believes in it.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:17 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      @ Looper, One could as easy say that America moved away from its founding principles when it abolished slavery. Even if we were to assume that a founding principle was religion, it doesn't in any way empower it to see some of the other founding principles it shared the stage with.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:20 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      You are a complete idiot with no knowledge of history. This country was NOT founded on "Christian principles".

      May 30, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  12. Aum=Amen

    The people who claim this is a "Christian" country, have to remember one thing: Yes, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion. But it also guarantees freedom FROM religion. Get over it.

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

      Where exactly does it say "freedom from religion" I would love to see it? Christians have as much right as other groups to talk about our faith.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:35 am |
  13. brainiac3397

    Separation of Church and State. Plain and simple.

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

      There is already very strong separation between Church and State in America – so what's your point?

      Do any laws in America refer to God?

      Is it legal for employers based on Religion?

      Of course not.

      Finally – there can be no separation of a people and their religion. So things like education, public holidays etc. should reflect the Spiritual aspirations of the people.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:59 am |
    • RasPutin

      Jomamaxx, I've never seen a more impressive "forest for the trees" statement. Quite impressive.. If you can't separate your personal beliefs and desires from those things that are best for the other people and the nation, then you are not only lacking a critical skill of full adulthood, but you have completely missed the point of what the core ideals and philosophy that the USA was based upon.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:07 am |
  14. jjkhlk

    Good.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • Holden Litgo

      Took the word right out of my mouth.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:55 am |
  15. Jeff E

    It's hard to maintain religious beliefs, when you pray all the time, and never see them granted for over 40 yrs. Even your most adamant supporter of religion, must wonder somewhere in their mind, whether it's all a scam or not, whether they admit it or not.

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

      Perhaps you have been praying the wrong prayers...

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

      Wow. 'To pray for 40 years and never see them granted'.

      Dude. Prayers are not there for you to wish for stuff.

      Think of prayer like meditation.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • tallulah13

      A better way to test your religious beliefs is to research the nature of what you believe and why you believe it. It becomes difficult to maintain faith after you discover that there is no verifiable evidence to support the existence of any god.

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

      Remember the Garth Brooks song....."Some of GODs greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers". Everything happens for a reason... trust GOD to know the reason and the solution.

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

      Donna, you're seriously deluded. Throw your bible away and try thinking logically.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • Kilgore Trout

      ...but Garth Brooks said so!

      May 30, 2013 at 1:09 am |
    • tallulah13

      Garth Brooks also said "Papa Loved Mama
      Mama loved men
      Mama's in the graveyard
      Papa's in the pen"

      May 30, 2013 at 1:13 am |
    • Dippy

      True. You can't argue with that.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:14 am |
  16. atomD21

    Of course religion is losing its influence in America. When the majority of society is moving forward, and the majority of religion is trying to hold things back, that's going to speed up obsolesence. Religion in this country missed the point a looong time ago when it went from a group of people meeting together to share a common belief system and then try to help make their communities a little better to a politically driven power hungry group of people clamoring for influence and wealth. Now of course, that is not a thing that can be universally applied, but the most public and loudest of them are the ones that everyone else gets lumped into. Because Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and all of their ilk are idiots, all of a sudden, every Christian is. Same with Atheists, on the flip side of the coin. Because there are some that come across as angry and hateful toward any person of faith, they all get thrown into that mix. Until Religion as a whole moves past the idea that it is somehow their job to direct the course of everyone's lives and moves to the place of using their strength in numbers to be a force for good in the world, it will continue to wane in the public sphere.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:41 am |
  17. JMB

    "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

    James 1:27

    May 30, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • atomD21

      Yeah, haven't seen too many people in church lately that fit that bill... We have lost our way when we care more about preserving our giant expensive church buildings than preserving the community in which we live. Jesus led with love and compassion for all, not rebuke and judgement. Maybe the church will come around to that realization soon, but I'm not holding my breath.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:54 am |
    • JMB

      Luke 10:16

      “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

      May 30, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • tallulah13

      "The god of war is impartial: he hands out death to the man who hands out death." The Iliad, Book 18, lines 359-360

      May 30, 2013 at 1:15 am |
  18. Mary Mulberry

    As happy as I get to think that religion and the idea of a supreme being will cease to exist, sadly, I don't feel it will ever go away. Theism is a plague and will never be completely eradicated. Well get rid of AIDS before religion goes away.

    May 30, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • mickey1313

      Its sad, that you are right, I think that theism is one form of mental disorder that we just cant get rid of. I wounder why you can not get tax exempt status for believing in purple dragons, but you can for believing in a cruel sky spirit. I think our sustem is broken beyond the point of repair.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:55 am |
    • jimmy23

      theism will exist as long a people exist. People have to believe something. A-theist or otherwise. The intent of this article is to state that organized religion with a central diety (ie christianity) is losing its influence. Atheism is a whole different set of beliefs with poorly characterized parameters. The consistent theme of the atheist religion is that death is the end. The reality is that no one really until it's too late to change your mind. Whatever you believe, hope you're right, and ask yourself, what if you're wrong.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:56 am |
    • atomD21

      It's not the belief in God that's the plague. It's the belief that this infinite being who has the power to create entire universes and all the myriad life and variation in it chooses to side with only the particular group in which you belong, to the eternal exclusion of all others. That is where the problems start.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:57 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      You should read _The True Believer_ by Eric Hoffer (1951). It was written shortly after WW2, and Hoffer mused on pre-war Germany having the equivalent of street gangs with the Communists vs. the Nazis. He was struck that, after the Nazis finally prevailed, the easiest recruiting they had to do was among the former Communists. They were all archetypal followers, usually the dregs of society, looking to be part of something larger (and possibly nobler) than themselves. Hoffer generalized that to mass movements in general, and certainly it applies to the religious fundamentalists.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:14 am |
    • Saraswati

      mickey, if you fill out the right paperwork you can get tax exempt status for the dragons religion. The govt. actually isn't too picky.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:14 am |
  19. The Deist

    Good...

    May 30, 2013 at 12:37 am |
  20. Blackrar

    Thank you for all the kind words.

    Colin, I explained my objections already. They were small and I just wanted your post to reach the maximum amount of religious idiots. That is all.
    Ironic how most people jumping on the dogpile on top of me did just what they are complaining about.

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

      And I see I can't quite manage to hit the proper reply button. This is what happens when I am having caffeine withdrawal...

      May 30, 2013 at 12:35 am |
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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.