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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. keb carerra

    America is not losing religion, America is a place where you can practice your own religion , whatever that might be .

    May 30, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • crossbreed

      Just more propaganda by cnn.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  2. Religion

    Just look around at all the screwed up stuff going on in this world.

    If their is a God, he is either incompetent or doesn't give a rats behind what happens here.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  3. Tadtoo

    Keep religion in the church! Stay out of my life and do not tell me or women what to do!

    May 30, 2013 at 8:50 am |
  4. Doc Vestibule

    I hear a lot of members of the "Moral Majority" pining for the Good Ol' Days when God was ever present in America from the kindergarten classroom on up.
    They seem to forget that the good ol' days weren't very good for anyone other than straight, white, Christian men.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  5. Hard worker

    I believe in individual spirituality. What turns me off about US religious people is they can't mind their own business!

    May 30, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  6. C.M. Aaron

    Here's another one: 77% of Americans think the country should be more religious, but I'm pretty sure that less than half of all Americans regularly attend church. So 30% of the country is pointing a finger somewhere else when they should be looking in the mirror. You can't skip church yourself and then say the country should be more religious.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • snowboarder

      not that going to church actually makes a person more religious. what they should be doing is practicing what they preach.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Thoth

      To be religious you must attend church? This goes against the personal god mentality of monotheism... Didn't your god-man mention something about not being locked in brick and mortar buildings. Didn't he allegedly speak out against religious insti.tutions?

      May 30, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • C.M. Aaron

      Actually Snowboarder, I beg to differ. Religion is organized faith so you can't have religion without church. Faith without church is not religion. 300 million Americans could all practice their faith individually, but what would be the point? There would be no consensus, no way to turn belief into meaningful action. The statement "America should be more religious" implies that change is necessary, but that change is impossible without some kind of organization or consensus ie religion (church), not individual faith.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • C.M. Aaron

      Yes, Thoth, you can have faith without church, but you can not have religion without church.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Thoth

      @CM – so then does your version of god merely require faith, or communal religion? Organized religion is nothing short of a like-minded social group. Drop the dogma and you'd have nothing but a social club.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • C.M. Aaron

      The whole point of this article is to say that Americans are rejecting traditional organization, unity, consensus, etc in favor of more individualized belief systems to include atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, and even Christianity without church. While individual belief systems remain important to individuals, from a social standpoint, the break down in religious consensus partly explains the increasing breakdown and disfunction in America today. We increasingly see ourselves as individuals, and no longer as part of a community, religious or otherwise.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  7. I Am God

    People say America would be better with religion? Well they be wrong with that statement. Want an example? The Middle East.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Lester Singleton

      They be wrong? Obviously we could also use a little more education as well.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • I Am God

      Hey Singleton. What makes you think I didn't create my sentence that way?

      May 30, 2013 at 8:50 am |
  8. Thoth

    Over 300 million Americans and a random telephone poll of 1,535 of them is considered a valid litmus test?

    Please, someone explain to me how 'religion' would make the US better. Which one? Take a real close look at countries heavily influenced by religion.....

    May 30, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • ForzaForever

      Yes, actually it is. It's a valid sample size to represent the US population.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Nate

      It's basic statistics. All polls use a small sample size to represent the entire population; and it's usually very accurate. Yeah, there's still some error, but it's usually within 2-4% Open a statistics book every once in awhile, jebus.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Thoth

      @Nate – I'm well versed in stats. The only truth about stats is that they can be generated to reflect whatever someone wants them to. People often claim that flipping a coin you have a 50/50 chance....yet when you actually flip a coin 100 times this is not so.

      1,535 out of 300million is less than 0.0001% of the population..... Not to mention most 'stat' poles have two major problems. 1) the way the questions are asked, and 2) People lie – especially when you put them on the spot about religion

      May 30, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  9. cmh01

    A theocracy sounds great as long as it's your religion. If anyone wants to test drive a theocracy they can live in Saudi Arabia for a while.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Veronica

      Nope, not even if it's my religion. A theocracy is a terrible thing, no matter what.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  10. pat

    Even though "in god we trust" is our official motto, it really isn't true, is it? Not when 20 percent of the population is telling you outright that they don't believe in god. Seems like the country is putting words in other people's mouths.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The official motto of the United States is "E Pluribus Unum".

      May 30, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • pat

      @doc – so it really isn't true.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • pat

      @doc – check it again – Never codified by law, E pluribus unum was considered a de facto motto of the United States[citation needed] until 1956 when the United States Congress passed an act (H. J. Resolution 396), adopting "In God We Trust" as the official motto.[5] from wikipedia.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      As a Canadian, I figure that the motto prominently displayed on the US' official seal since the country's inception would be the official one.
      Thanks for ignoring history, Joe McCarthy.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Science

      Home » About » Education » History of 'In God We Trust'

      History of 'In God We Trust'

      http://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/in-god-we-trust.aspx

      May 30, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • There. Are. No. Gods!

      When I read this statement (In god We Trust) I often wonder to myself, who is the "We" in this quote? Is the "We" intended to represent we as in "We the People"? Or is "We" the Government? The Treasury? The Federal Reserve? This quote is quite unclear because it can NOT represent me as I have no trust in any gods. So who does it represent?

      May 30, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • Science

      pat.................in other words pat........... if you look close.................the link gives it away.

      Religion = $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$................no red horn-y devil needed.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  11. C.M. Aaron

    58% of Americans who attend church less often think America would be better off if the country was more religious. Here's an idea – if you think America is not religious enough, go to church more often.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  12. Glo

    "America" can do what it wants to but nothing will stop me from keeping the faith and belief I have in God. What's in my heart will remain there.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • James

      And no amount of tall tales and fear mongering will persuade me that their is a "big guy in the sky"

      May 30, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • James

      wouldn't that be nice tho? I would sleep so much better at night

      May 30, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • snowboarder

      of course, there is nothing wrong with that. conflict arises when the misguided attempt to codify their beliefs into law for the general population.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Veronica

      That's wonderful for you, and I don't begrudge you that. Where it becomes a problem is when you want me to live by your religious beliefs. Keep it out of schools and government, and we won't have a problem.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Scott

      You can always count on people like James. They want so bad for there to be no God and will go to the ends of the earth to convince those around him and ,more importantly, himself that this is true even though, deep down, he is just as unsure as everyone else. Others just choose to hold a different view. If what I say was untrue, you would feel no need to reply to a comment such as Glo's.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • nilla

      "wouldn't that be nice tho? I would sleep so much better at night"

      Knowing that someone is listening in on your thoughts and putting them in your permanent record?

      May 30, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • fintastic

      @scott.... big load of crap there scotty....... do you know him personally?

      May 30, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Scott: You have no evidence to support our claims. Nor do you comprehend that it's not a matter of not wanting a god, it's a matter of there is no evidence to support one. One is not needed to live a good life; one is not needed for anything. Religion dulls the brain to thinking without god you can't be good but non-believers prove every day how false that really is.
      "I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
      ...Stephen F Roberts

      May 30, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • fintastic

      James that is....

      May 30, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Lester Singleton

      @Veronica – How are people asking you to live by their religious beliefs? The majority of religious beliefs are just common sense that you should abide by anyway.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Lester Singleton

      @Scott – Exactly. You don't see people going around picketing Bigfoot and trying to convince people that he is just a "fairy tale in the woods".

      May 30, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • lol??

      Scott sayz,
      You can always count on people like James. They want so bad for there to be no God and will go to the ends of the earth....." They also want to play god.

      "Act 13:47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, [saying], I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."

      May 30, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • Lester Singleton

      @Truth Prevails – Its funny because those who believe in God will tell you there is proof all around. Proof is in the eye of the beholder. If you don't want to see what someone perceives as truth, you wont see it. For example, some people will say the bible is the inspired word of God and it is the proof that they need. However, you would probably say that it is a "book of fairy tales". What one sees as truth another sees as fiction. So the argument of there not being proof is just your lack of seeing what others see as proof.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Lester: What they see as proof is not proof based on anything more than faith. It does not equate to evidence in any way. There is a huge difference in belief based solely on faith and belief based on proof of the scientific evidence...one is false and can be shown as such, the other is true and can be shown as such.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • sam stone

      Good for you, Glo....keep it in your heart, but DO NOT attempt to legislate it

      May 30, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  13. I AM A MAGICAL UNICORN

    Republicans don't believe in climate change. I'm not sure why this is. It doesn't go against their caveman religious beliefs.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • lol??

      Dude, if yer almost a half million years old why do you have so many problems?? Can't ever reach maturity??

      May 30, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • lh

      Actually, we don't believe in cavemen, either.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • kirk

      "Republicans don't believe in climate change. I'm not sure why this is. It doesn't go against their caveman religious beliefs."

      Hey unicorn. The earth's climate has changed many, many times throughout its history; cooling, warming, cooling and warming. There is a very legitimate debate as to mankind's role in the current climate trend. Perhaps it is a bit arrogant to think that we can do anything to stop the cycle just because we don't like it.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Rob

      Blah blah blah, Unicorn. I still await a clever liberal.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • lh

      At least those of us that believe what the Bible has to say do not believe in cavemen.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Veronica

      ^ Believe what the bible has to say? You might as well believe in Spiderman. After all, Marvel comics says it's true, right?

      May 30, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • CosmicC

      @Kirk – No, there is no real debate in the scientific community over whether or not global warming is the result of human action. The only debate about it occurs between people who believe they have a vested interest in not acting and those that see that we are in the midst of a train wreck in slow motion. And, yes, we can influence climate change. If you want proof, just look at the hole in the ozone layer. Production of CFC's was halted 20 years ago and the hole is well on its way to closing. We know what to do, our actions are blocked by greedy people and people fearful of change.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • fintastic

      @lh.............."At least those of us that believe what the Bible has to say do not believe in cavemen."

      Are you saying you don't believe in evolution??

      May 30, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • lh

      Yes, I am saying that I do not believe in evolution. Not interested in debating it.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • I AM A MAGICAL UNICORN

      Humorous. People like Rob believe I'm a liberal. Funfortunately, he is incorrect. Just as the Republicans are incorrect.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  14. cmj

    religion is an excuse

    May 30, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • lh

      No, you are the one looking for an excuse:

      Romans 1:20-22 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that THEY ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE:

      Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

      Romans 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

      May 30, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • snowboarder

      @lh, quoting a book of myths and fables is meaningless.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • lh

      I agree. That's why I quote the Word of God.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Veronica

      lh, the bible was written my MEN. What makes you think that it's any more true than a book of fairy tales? Why are you so sure that it's the "word of God?" Because your minister says so? Because your parents say so? I don't get it.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • snowboarder

      @lh, there is no such thing as the "word of god". your religion, just like all others, is the invention of men.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • lh

      The Bible is written by God. I know that is foolishness to you- God said in His word that the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). Don't worry, you'll have your proof soon enough- in the day of Lord or when you die, whatever comes first- unless ye repent. It's not too late for you while you yet live.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • fintastic

      @ih..... thank you for displaying the ignorance that is religion.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Paul

      "Romans" is written by the Apostle Paul. How is it "the word of God"?

      May 30, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • snowboarder

      @lh, the people who assembled the bible said that it was the word of god? well that should be good enough for everyone. lol!

      what do you want to bet that the people that assembled the koran said the exact same thing. they must be right, too!

      May 30, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Actually, if you are quoting Romans, you are quoting Saul of Tarsus. Saul did not like the orientation of the Church once he finally got involved with it. There was too much influence of Jesus' family – his mother, Miriam bat Joachim, his brothers Yacov (James), Yehuda (Jude), Yosef (Joseph) and Shimon (Simon), particularly by Mary and James. Instead, he favored Shimon bar Yonah, called Cephas (Simon-Peter), who converted and accepted him, so any writings of Paul become immediately suspect based on his personal views. Without his influence and encouragement, Peter would probably never have gone to Rome, and would have remained in Judea or Galilee where he would still have played an important part in the faith, but would have demurred to James as the leader. Remember – the Gospels of Mark and Luke were written under the direction of Paul. Matthew may also have been written not by Levi the tax collector, but by someone under Paul's direction using the name of one of the 12. John was the only Gospel accepted as Canon that was NOT written under his direction.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • Paul

      "There is near consensus among historians and Christian theologians that Paul is the author of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, typically classifying its authorship as "undisputed"" from wikipedia

      Again... not "the word of God".

      May 30, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • snowboarder

      @lh, and you throw in the m0r0nic christian threats of imaginary punishment. fear is the greatest tool of religion. pathetic.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Paul

      These comments like "the bible is the word of God" are amazing. If you are religious you are not paying attention to your own book. When I took confirmation classes at my church we learned all about the history of the bible. Were you not paying attention?

      May 30, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • lh

      2 Timothy 3:16-17

      16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

      17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

      Listen, I understand that you do not believe the Bible. I do. The Bible says that it is the Word of God given to men. So don't believe it. Enjoy your life, if you call what you have life. If the Bible is true (and I believe it, every word) you will one day bow your knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. If not, well...I guess we will all know the truth one day.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • lh

      Romans 14:11-12

      11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

      12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  15. Reality Check

    It was only a matter of time before the sons and daughters of the Gaels turned their backs on the religion that was forced on their ancestors by the Romans Empire.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • lol??

      Your celebration is premature and shortsighted. The power just moved from the false prophet to the Beast (Diverse). The dragon in the middle gets his power from the clash. That's where you live. Fun??

      May 30, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • KAS

      Er, the Romans rarely forced their religious beliefs on those they conquered. Certainly the preference was for the Roman gods but except for the Christians who made a big stink about how theirs was the one and only true god, various religions were tolerated.

      It was the Church and its rampage through English Isles where, at sword and spear point, told the populations, either convert to our religion or die that did the most to force people to one religion over another.

      Then of course there was Oliver Cromwell and his attempt to overtake the English crown and force his religious beliefs on the Empire.

      I could go, but you get the point: The Romans were pikers when it came to forcing their religion on people compared to the Christian Church.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • lol??

      KAS, why do you capitalize church?? Do the same with car??

      May 30, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  16. M

    Good. Religion is responsible for some of the uglier parts our past. It continues to influence public policy in awful ways. Good riddance.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  17. snowboarder

    once religious indoctrination was removed from public schools it was inevitable that religion would wane.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • crossbreed

      And mass shootings would prevail..

      May 30, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  18. Junie Henry

    Religion should not be confused with Faith.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Tom

      One shouldn't be confused that Religion and Faith and very much holding hands skipping down the same rabbit hole.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • CosmicC

      I know that many "religious" people do not actually adhere to their professed faith and I know many faithful people do not ascribe to any organized religion. The former are the source of many of our ills, the latter, while pleasantly deluding themselves, do no harm to others and often a lot of good.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Religion engenders, shapes and then exploits faith.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  19. cmj

    stop

    May 30, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  20. Religion?

    Losing our Religion, why it has never been stronger everyone here is talking about what they Believe.......what they put their Faith in......whether that be by their own accord or someone else's everyone "Believes" in something.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • CosmicC

      I believe in chocolate.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • fintastic

      I believe I'd like to drink a beer.

      May 30, 2013 at 8:57 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.