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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. Porky Rottenham

    What most Americans call "religion" is really worship of the words of man. We could use to lose it. The expression "holier than thou" tells you why. Organized religion in America is nothing more than a money-making subculture. Its tax-exempt status costs the country billions for which we get little more than self-delusion in return.

    May 30, 2013 at 6:24 am |
    • mark

      "Nothing more than a money-making subculture" – clearly the billions around the world that would say their faith is genuine and meaningful and motivates them to compassion, service, dedication, and piety are all delusional and you must be smarter than every single one of them. I'm not saying that that subculture isn't there, but your comments are clearly coming from a personal bias and seem petty. This is one of the tiredest knocks against religion.

      May 30, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • Paige

      Organized religion and faith are 2 different things.

      May 30, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • Tanker

      Are you saying that people can only exhibit compassion, service, dedication when threatened with eternal hell-fire?

      Then I guess its not compassion, service, or dedication, its fear.

      May 30, 2013 at 7:01 am |
  2. Sciernce

    Or creation vs evolution...................evolution wins hands down or thumbs up.

    May 30, 2013 at 6:19 am |
  3. joshua

    there is false religions and God hates religions isaiah 1 and there is the truth hidden in the Bible see book of john and you will see. see also mathew 24&25 rev 6 & daniel 7-12 we living in the end times since 1948 and now things will get worse because many have preached the lies and for money. the true evangelism is free and real. see repentandpreparetheway.org and you will see the truth. we all have to fast dried fasting for 3 days to crusified the body on the Cross and wake up a new Espirit of sanctification than go up the mountain daily praising God and His son death and resurrection than on top of the hill you will receive the Holy Ghost and He will take you to the Cross and from the Cross to Heaven. Hebrew 12:14 santification is a must to see God and trust me He is real. see kakamega revival video on youtube and you will see the truth. God bless.

    May 30, 2013 at 6:17 am |
    • sam stone

      how do you know that yours isn't a false religion?

      May 30, 2013 at 6:22 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      You're just another in a long line using the same old book to try to prove something that can't be proven. Amazing how everyone interprets that book differently but yet not one of you can provide substantiating evidence outside of the buybull to support your claims.
      Try reading it cover to cover and then you'll see the true reality of it and in turn more than likely become a non-believer. Oh and add a science book or 10 to that reading list.

      May 30, 2013 at 6:24 am |
  4. A dose of realty

    Humans astound me. Brilliant enough to invent the most elaborate mythologies, and stupid enough to believe them.

    May 30, 2013 at 6:15 am |
  5. evil_atheist

    There is no god. There is no afterlife. Jesus did not die for your sins. Sin does not exist. All that exists is the here and now. If people would focus more on the here and now and less on the mysticism and magical thinking provided by religion, the world would be a better place.

    May 30, 2013 at 6:13 am |
    • Steve

      Well then good and bad don't exist, people do what they do because it's our nature. There is no good and no bad. Your perceptions of a better world are your own myths. Suffering is just as important as beauty and just as pointless.

      May 30, 2013 at 6:28 am |
    • sam stone

      good and bad exist outside of the concept of god

      May 30, 2013 at 6:33 am |
  6. joshua

    see kakamega revival and you will help yourselves and family members. the true evangelism is coming back and more powerfull and real. see blind eyes opened, hiv healed etc and for free. God bless.

    May 30, 2013 at 6:07 am |
    • jungleboo

      "k a k a m e g a ?.....oooooh, you have to be a troll, this can't be sincere.

      May 30, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  7. analystjer

    You interview 1500 people and think that is representative of the entire United States, come on Gallup are you SERIOUS? 🙂 I don't know how this article has any credibility, I mean honestly, 1500 people speaking for 300,000,000 ?

    May 30, 2013 at 5:59 am |
    • sam stone

      1500 landlines, at that

      May 30, 2013 at 6:05 am |
    • downbytheriver

      That's how polls are done. And yes, they can be quite accurate with that number of folks, as long as it's a representative sample. A sample of 1500 people comprised of people from all walks of lfe is much more representative than a sample of 1 million college students, for instance.

      May 30, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  8. unowhoitsme

    Religion is man-made and a way to manipulate people...a cult. Now, God is another subject altogether.

    May 30, 2013 at 5:50 am |
    • 119

      Hail Satan!

      May 30, 2013 at 5:57 am |
  9. Bleh

    Hail our dark lord Satan!

    May 30, 2013 at 5:44 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      Wave your arms in the air like you don't care!

      Hay
      Ho
      Hay
      Ho

      May 30, 2013 at 6:01 am |
  10. LakeRat1

    The more certain that a person is about reliigion, the more likely it is that they are wrong. People cling to certainty, because it is convenient.

    May 30, 2013 at 5:42 am |
    • Anonymous

      I agree

      May 30, 2013 at 5:43 am |
    • Anonymous

      Also they aren't the brightest people 🙂

      May 30, 2013 at 5:45 am |
    • LakeRat1

      ...and yet. I am pretty much certain that almost all religious beliefs are wrong.....OOPS.

      May 30, 2013 at 5:47 am |
  11. Anonymous

    Organized religion is a sham, in order to control the weak minded people who can't think for themselves. We need gay ppl they help with our population problem. Also they adopt children in America that need homes. I realized at a young age how wrong it was. You can't say that just because you're no a specific religion that you're going to hell. There isn't proof of that nor is there proof that heaven exists. I'm glad that as a country were getting smarter. Instead of wasting time to go to church only to have an excuse to be social and show off how wealthy you are by trying to out dress everyone & donating money. Donate to your families that need the help. Pray in your home, why do we need all of these churches? The reverends are usually perverts ruining young children's lives. Science is real, it's a proven fact that we evolve as we are today with new technologies and new species. It's mostly old ppl that are religious because they're parents force fed them that bologna. I believe in myself I do good things for people in my family and my friends. I don't need hocus locus in my life especially a book that discriminates against human beings being themselves. And ppl need birth control, & what ppl don't understand is that without having these awesome resources we would be over populated and have shortage of food and jobs. Don't bring kids into this world knowing you can't even support yourself. If we weren't slaves to our environment then we would be having a very different discussion. So honestly I'm glad that religion is fading out. In ten more years I'm sure the churches and they're scandals will be obsolete and that will be a happy day for me. Believe in yourself, do the right things in your life and you will be fine America. It's the close mined ppl that go no where in life and end up alone. There is no such thing as a good Christian. You're either a good person or you're not.

    May 30, 2013 at 5:40 am |
    • Anonymous

      I misspelled a couple of words but you get the point lol

      May 30, 2013 at 5:44 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      Well done. Now practice making paragraphs. Are you using a phone to post? Don't sprain a thumb.

      May 30, 2013 at 6:06 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      @Anon
      Sorry, I wasn't trying to sound nasty. You wrote some good stuff there.
      I just have a hard time tracking if there are no visual breaks in the text.

      May 30, 2013 at 6:12 am |
    • jungleboo

      Good post. I am glad to see these sincere ideas worked out logically for people to read and learn from.

      May 30, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Logic led me to atheism

      Last two sentences.....excellent

      May 30, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  12. John

    Religion is a thing of the past. Gays are winning against religion. That should be a telling sign. Immorality is the law of the land.

    May 30, 2013 at 5:37 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      Gays are finally coming up the ladder of equal rights as they should be allowed to do anyway.
      You have a persecution complex. This is about equal rights.
      How can equal rights be against you unless YOU are the one being hateful and not wanting others to have the same freedoms as everyone else?
      You want freedom to marry who you want? It's not up to you, fool.
      Equal rights were the law from the beginning of the USA.

      May 30, 2013 at 5:43 am |
  13. jayman419

    That's all well and good, as far as opinions go. But the simple facts are that in the mid- to late-Eighties the Republicans closed the "big tent" and turned it into a revival festival.

    It is possible to be moral with the promise of rewards in some future (possible) existence beyond this one. In fact, I've found that people who believe this is all we have seem to cherish and protect it even more fervently.

    May 30, 2013 at 5:29 am |
    • jungleboo

      The only "reward in the future" that is even remotely possible is the Pleasant Now that you experience after having done something inherently productive and good. That's the real meaning of "heaven". If religion tells you you are going to heaven after you die (if you've been good), it's just a b4stardization of the concept that every NOW dies and is replaced by an ever-present new NOW.

      In simpler terms, if you do the dinner dishes right after the meal rather than waiting til tomorrow morning, your impending "tomorrow morning" will be heaven on earth, waking up to a sparkling clean kitchen and an organized day ahead of you. What could be more heavenly than that? Don't answer that...

      May 30, 2013 at 7:41 am |
  14. Outwiththeold

    Losing my religion? That's an old song. This years hit is Black Sabboth's God is Dead. At least something is moving in the right direction these days.

    May 30, 2013 at 5:23 am |
  15. innersixx

    More than 3 in 4 Americans would mean its 4 in 4, you can't have a percentage of a person so what it is?

    May 30, 2013 at 4:59 am |
    • onelis1978

      yea or 76 percent onwards

      May 30, 2013 at 5:21 am |
    • Math

      You're not really that dense are you?

      May 30, 2013 at 6:50 am |
  16. Justin

    Religon will become smaller and smaller through the years to come bet on it.

    May 30, 2013 at 4:43 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.

      Looks like folks want more Religion.

      May 30, 2013 at 5:05 am |
  17. Spokk

    United States of America, decades behind the rest of civilized world in this.

    May 30, 2013 at 4:42 am |
  18. jjkhlk

    Bug gaining your sanity.

    May 30, 2013 at 4:19 am |
    • jjkhlk

      *But

      May 30, 2013 at 4:20 am |
  19. Darwin

    Its about time people quit being sheep and letting others tell them what to think and believe. We are all born atheists, why do we tell children lies about the tooth fairy and santa claus and the easter bunny and eventually we tell kids the truth about them. But when it comes to religion, people readily accept the same far-fetched, ridiculous stories and eat it up. They devote their lives to preaching to others about this crap and its fine. Hell, its protected by law! If anyone else said "I hear voices and I mumble to myself magic words that are supposed to cure people and stop evil." they'd be locked up as nuts. But if they said "I pray and hear the word of god." its okay. Some people are too stupid to think for themselves.

    May 30, 2013 at 4:09 am |
    • Right perspective

      The concept of God thinking for me, about me, or providing helpful guidance, does have a certain appeal to it.

      You don't get that with nothing.

      May 30, 2013 at 4:18 am |
    • Blake

      Stupidity is when a person walks out into this beautiful world and seeing the complexity at which everything was made and works and says this happened in a "Bang" instead of a divine Creator. Open your eyes!

      May 30, 2013 at 4:39 am |
    • Anton

      Stupidity is someone making a huge decision without any real evidence one way or the other. Atheists are as dumb as Believers.

      May 30, 2013 at 4:56 am |
    • sam stone

      it is dumb to make the logical leap from the possibility of a creator to a particular "god"

      May 30, 2013 at 5:25 am |
    • jungleboo

      @Blake, honey, 14 billion years is a very long time. The big POOF you are referring to was 375,000 years of opaque pre-photon soup too hot and dense to allow any concept of distance whatsoever. If you are stuck with a child-like image of POOF now we have ladybugs and polar bears, you are indeed a child. Do the math and get back to me.

      May 30, 2013 at 7:49 am |
  20. Linda

    I wonder when the polling companies will realize that using a sample group made up entirely of people who still have landlines and haven't figured out how to place themselves on the do not call registry may result in skewed data.

    May 30, 2013 at 4:06 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      XD@Linda
      Nice

      May 30, 2013 at 4:36 am |
    • Jack

      In this case, I bet those less tech-savvy (older) people are more religious. So maybe we are losing religion even more than the data show.

      May 30, 2013 at 5:56 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.