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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. Blair

    The Atheism Coming Out Party is coming soon! Thank god!

    May 30, 2013 at 2:47 am |
  2. replacements, after a lull on production

    This is America, we invent more religions than any other country in history.

    No worry, more on the way.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:47 am |
  3. Mark

    Nah. Religion lost/is losing Americans. Rampant abuse, hypocrisy, greed, hate, extremist political agendas. Americans have discovered they can have faith without the corrupt bureaucracies.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:47 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      But, when the polls says that the majority wants more Religion, that is higher than I ever thought.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:50 am |
    • sam stone

      the bias of land lines

      May 30, 2013 at 5:51 am |
  4. Josh

    We never had an official religion. Our country was founded on the freedom to select whichever religion you feel is right for you, without persecution.

    Hasn't always happened that way, but the law reads differently than what's actually been enforced.

    Shame on you, CNN.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:45 am |
  5. ChrisA

    @Saraswati
    My claims aren't silly but I admit they could of been stated in a better way. That being said, they where a lot more tame than people on this board stating Christians have no more reason for believing in God than invisible unicorns or flying spaghetti monsters.

    Also most Atheists I've talked to have said that given enough time, "all that can be known, will be known" I'm interested in knowing why you disagree.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:43 am |
    • Jim Herr

      Because you generally generalize too much from a small sample.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:49 am |
    • Chris

      @ChrisA

      Dark energy doesn't hold the universe together. It is, in fact, tearing the universe apart. It exists based on the observation that the universe's expansion has been speeding up, an impossibility unless energy is being fed into it, and given that all known forms of energy... doesn't do that, there has to be something we can't otherwise detect feeding it. Otherwise the expansion should be slowing down.

      Life coming from nonliving things is a bit complicated, but viruses are kinda like a middle step. They are proof that DNA (and RNA) can and will join up with proteins to form a "cell" all on their own, and all the ingredients to create DNA and proteins existed naturally on the ancient Earth, and it has been proven they will become DNA/proteins when exposed to energy, specifically lightning.

      Reason coming from the irrational is a foolish argument. It presumes that animals can't reason, and, well, that doesn't seem to be the case. At all. In fact, as far as I can tell humans simply presumed we were the only thinking beings... and then completely ignored all the evidence to the contrary, putting it up to "instincts." But then, where does instinct end and reasoning begin? Perhaps all we have is instincts as well, just better able to form around abstract situations.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:51 am |
    • Dippy

      ChrisA, it's "could have," not "could of." And please don't capitalize atheist. It's not a proper noun. Keep working on it, you may get it yet.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:57 am |
    • Saraswati

      ChrisA, It depends what you mean by "All that can be known will be known". I interpereted this as "all that is logically knowable will be known" as the literal translation could be seen as a tautalogy depending on how you read it. What I mean is that there are not only limits to human technology but limits to human senses and brain power. I don't imagine we'll ever have more than limited insight on the universe and how it works and we will likely never be able to put together information on individual events of past and future.

      I agree many atheists make illogical and exagerrated claims. That doesn't make your own claims look any better.

      May 30, 2013 at 7:36 am |
  6. postedbygeorge

    Repuked by CNN modration again.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:32 am |
    • Geraldine

      You're probably having trouble with the word filter. Put a dash between sensitive words. the usual culprits are:

      se-x
      consti-tution
      va-gue

      there is a list that maybe someone can post, but those seem to give people a lot of problems

      May 30, 2013 at 2:35 am |
    • postedbygeorge

      Hopefully the easily perverted mddle eastern relegions are being seen for what they are. Money hungry, child abusers, hypocrites, and hard headed.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:35 am |
    • postedbygeorge

      Part 2 But, religion is needed to herd the sheep., who in turn provide money, children for the sheperds and defend the sheperds while under the influence of the religious drug in the name of a god.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:36 am |
    • postedbygeorge

      Part 3Americans(vernacular) do not really need mddle eastern religions as we are endowed by our Creator not some religous god.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:38 am |
    • just maybe

      It's because you can't spell?

      May 30, 2013 at 2:41 am |
    • postedbygeorge

      part4 But if belief gre-ek mytho-logy makes you a better person, Americans understand, because under the Consti-tution religous beliefs are accepted as long as they are a personal choice and

      May 30, 2013 at 2:43 am |
    • postedbygeorge

      correct spelling as correct thought equals C-nn moderat-ion-– and not pushed onto someone or condems someone else for not believing as the pusher aka drug pusher..

      May 30, 2013 at 2:46 am |
    • Geraldine

      postedbygeorge: so far the only thing I think the filter would have picked up was const-itution. another one to watch out for is ho-mo; i.e., ho-mo-se-xual has two things to watch out for.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:49 am |
    • Geraldine

      and you only need a dash in between ti-t, not between say tio

      May 30, 2013 at 2:51 am |
    • Dippy

      Tit.
      Homosexual.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:03 am |
  7. khrog

    Not good enough yet. I'll thank God when more people have ditched religion.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:28 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

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

      Seems folks are cheering more for the 700 Club crowd.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:48 am |
  8. Mitt

    If anything people are getting too religious. Whether it's Muslims or Born Again Buddhists people are getting increasingly radical about their beliefs. What happened to faith being a private matter?

    May 30, 2013 at 2:26 am |
    • Jim M

      New religion is being driven by extremes, threats of going to hell, and burning for your past sins, it fills the evangelist churches. Those who preach peace, and tolerance, often face apathetic congregations, who aren't terrified to leave.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:32 am |
    • guest

      I think you missed the point. Religious people are still going to church and may even be more religious, but the article meant that those who are not attending church are more irreligious.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:40 am |
  9. RichardSRussell

    Science has made literally millions of discoveries. The computer that you're working on right now, for example, is a product of science.

    What has religion EVER discovered?

    Every time it gets into a disagreement with science, it loses. EVERY SINGLE TIME! Why are all you TBs still betting on the same horse that's lost every race it's ever been in?

    May 30, 2013 at 2:26 am |
    • Chris

      Religion has discovered how to manipulate humanity.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:28 am |
    • Sleepwell

      Who gave us the ability to invent this technology?

      May 30, 2013 at 2:32 am |
    • Chris

      @Sleepwell

      We took it for ourselves. There was never a need for someone to give it to us.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:34 am |
    • Ana

      There isn't any battle going on between religion and science, they complete eachother. Humans have both a rational, problem solving, curious side and a spiritual, meaning-seeking side.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:42 am |
  10. devin

    Geraldine. I make a decision early on to respond to those who have coherent thoughts, whether or not I agree with them. The fact that yours have not fallen into that category is the reason I have not replied to your posts. Just so you know.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:26 am |
  11. LouAZ

    The use of supernaturalism to manipulate and control people is the world's oldest confidence scheme, it relies on the ritual abuse of children at their most impressionable stage by adults who have themselves been made childish for life by artifacts of the primitive mind.- Your Mom on a CNN comment.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:23 am |
    • jane

      What about the missionary work reaching out to adults in developing countries, or ministering to the elderly and dying?

      May 30, 2013 at 2:43 am |
    • Pete

      My favorite is the missionary work done in Uganda where Christians were able to convince people that being gay is a sin, and get a law passed to make being gay punishable by the death penalty.

      May 30, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      In support of that idea, it's interesting to note that contrary to popular opinion, magic is the world's oldest profession. I'm not certain of the source, since it was many years ago that I came upon that little gem, but I do recall it was a trustworthy one.

      May 31, 2013 at 1:05 am |
  12. AAron Lebos Reality (great music group)

    It's real simple...God does not exist! Fairy tales are not real...Its such a huge myth that much of the world is still based on...time to move forward!

    May 30, 2013 at 2:23 am |
  13. fmblog

    It is about time, thank God!

    May 30, 2013 at 2:23 am |
    • just maybe

      I sometimes really miss not having a 'like' button to click

      May 30, 2013 at 2:42 am |
  14. Mark Greenway

    I'm so hurt and disgusted by church. Lost my job, got one that payed less, dropped down my offering, and lost my church. I look at all these people making minimum wage, that would not have been welcome there, and it just disgusts me. Churches have lost touch and sensitivity to what's going on in this country. Some even have a political agenda. They know how to fix this and just don't care.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:13 am |
    • Dippy

      Paid, not payed.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:24 am |
    • Jim M

      It's called Dipy, not Dippy!

      May 30, 2013 at 2:27 am |
    • Saraswati

      I'm not a Christian but in their defense I have to say I'm not aware of any church that boots p eople for reducing their offering like that. What religion was this?

      May 30, 2013 at 2:30 am |
  15. Jim M

    The sad reality is that religion in America is being hijacked by religious extremist, these Christian Taliban are the new terrorist threat in America, led by their bigoted 'false profit' minister's.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:13 am |
    • Dippy

      Ministers, not minister's.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:25 am |
  16. simplyput

    Check the picture out of the atheists at top of article, see any joy?

    May 30, 2013 at 2:12 am |
    • Chris

      Do you usually see joy at protests?

      May 30, 2013 at 2:14 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Mosey on over to the pictures of the survivors of the Oklahoma tornado and ask the same question.

      What's your point? Since you probably don't have one, let me help you out:

      "The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one."
      —George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Irish writer

      May 30, 2013 at 2:15 am |
    • Jim M

      It's called listening to speakers, rather than being 'drugged' by religious extremist, exhibiting cult like behavior with an mindless grin.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:17 am |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, there were quite a few happy looking people. I guess you were just blinded by your faith and couldn't see.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:18 am |
    • lori

      Nope, no joy. Because we don't believe in fairy tales, nor do we look forward – with glee – to the destruction of the world. We see civil rights and humanity being dragged back into the Dark Ages; we see people being denied food and jobs, and we see with horror that a bizarre Fundy bunch of "We can't WAIT for the Apocolypse!" nutters now hold high political office. I see nothing to be joyful about, you're right. But you go ahead and comfort yourself with some barbaric Middle Eastern mythology; it won't make the pain any less for you, either.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:20 am |
    • Jim M

      @lori; I guess that explains Texa*s!

      May 30, 2013 at 2:22 am |
    • Saraswati

      Not that its really relevant, but if you zoom in there are actually a lot of people smiling in that pick. Way more than at your average Christian pro-life rally.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:25 am |
    • Geraldine

      Actually, now that you mention it, that is some stock photo that they have used before for BB articles about atheists.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:26 am |
  17. Judy Wood

    When I was eight years old and attending church, I decided I did not believe. That was forty years ago. I still don't believe. I have no problem with religion or religious people. I have a problem with religious people trying to force their beliefs on me or others. I have a problem with religious people trying to put religion into politics and laws. Keep church and state separate. The founding fathers were for that and I agree with them. The religious have freedom of speech, but I have the right not to be forced to listen. When the extreme religious people do not get their way they falsely claim they are being oppressed. They seem to think they are the only ones with rights.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:11 am |
    • UO88

      So how are people forcing their beliefs on you? I would like to know specific examples. I hear this phrase all the time, but no one ever explains how.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:29 am |
    • Chris

      @U088

      North Carolina recently tried to get a State Religion. Yes. Seriously. It happened.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:31 am |
    • Saraswati

      @UO88, Everyone who wants to invalidate my marriage based on their religion is forcing their views on me. Everyone one who wants me to pay for religion in public schools is forcing their beliefs on me. Ditto for prayer meetings when the government should be doing real work with my money and ditto for the kids I have to pay welfare for because we wouldn't supply birth control and abortion to mothers who wanted it.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:34 am |
    • Cyle in Dublin

      @UO88 – several states have "blue laws" prohibiting sales of liquor on sundays. the entire government takes Christian religious holidays off. several states have passed laws restricting rights to marry or adopt based on a religious moral code. it's rare for anyone not of the Christian faith to be elected.

      and here's the big one... our government loses $71 Billion in tax revenue every year from not being able to tax churches as the businesses they are. we could get about half that from property taxes alone.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:45 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      There are a ton of non-profits which are not taxed. If we take aim at one non-profit, then we should aim at all of them. From the Unions to Planned Parenthood to any of the great many. Tea Party to Occupy.

      It is easy to say tax the groups that me and my friends do not agree with but hard to say tax the ones that I do agree with.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:58 am |
    • Dippy

      It's "I and my friends." Not me and my friends."

      May 30, 2013 at 3:06 am |
    • UO88

      Actually Dippy, it's "My friends and I"

      May 30, 2013 at 3:14 am |
    • Dippy

      Correct. But I'm going one step at a time.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:17 am |
  18. Geraldine

    Bumper sticker: Science too Hard for You? Try Religion.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:10 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Oooh, ooh, bumper stickers. Here are a couple of my own faves:
       • Nothing fails like prayer
       • The Spanish Inquisition: The Original Faith-Based Initiative
       • If God wanted people to believe in him, then why did he invent logic?
       • Praying Is Politically Correct Schizophrenia
       • Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers
       • Jesus Is Coming? Don’t Swallow That

      May 30, 2013 at 2:20 am |
  19. conoclast

    Bumper Sticker: If You Won't Pray In My School I Won't Think In Your Church

    May 30, 2013 at 2:04 am |
  20. conoclast

    Bumper sticker: Instead Of Being Born Again Why Not Just Grow Up?

    May 30, 2013 at 2:02 am |
    • tallulah13

      I quite like that.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:19 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Or these:
       • Born right the first time
       • I tried to be born again, but my mother refused

      May 30, 2013 at 2:23 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      LOL

      May 31, 2013 at 1:24 am |
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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.