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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. Tim Perez

    Before the trolls come... I first want to state this isn't my opinion, but factual data. It's proven that less religious countries have the lowest crime rates. If you don't believe me, google "countries crime rate religion" or whatever and find stats.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • brad

      Makes since, it's easy to do whatever you want knowing all you have to do is ask forgiveness, then get to walk away with a clean conscience.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • derp

      Yup, religion, christianity in particular, is the biggest abdication of morality in human history.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • lol??

      Yup, they'll shoot ya for smokin' a cigar.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  2. Doc Vestibule

    Sociological evolution is leading us away from religion. Not because Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc are negative in and of themselves, but becuase at their cores, they are sectarian and divisive.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Archibald Smythe-Pennington, III

      Bullseye.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • lol??

      OH, ooooohhh, a coagulatin' "Wegodian" speaketh.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • midwest rail

      A partial list of words lol?? has invented new, irrelevant definitions for :
      1. socialist
      2. communist
      3. government
      4. hate
      5. nazi
      6. church
      Feel free to add as the occasion arises.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Science

      Hey lol??.............go play in the forest where the chondrites are you might learn something.

      http://www.discovertheforest.org/

      May 30, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  3. Mark

    America is losing its religion?? Thank God!

    May 30, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  4. Science

    Scientists Recover Wooly Mammoth Blood ..................cloning could happen maybe

    Posted by Soulskill on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @01:52PM
    from the wooly-mammoth-vampires-very-excited dept.

    http://science.slashdot.org/story/13/05/29/1712242/scientists-recover-wooly-mammoth-blood

    May 30, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • Science

      Oops

      Big Data Chardie.............from Bing................again easy to access.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Science

      Chad do not forget this .............also easy to do for YOUR records................right click on comment section.......click print

      preview..........set.............print.......to easy chad.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Science

      Or save as what ever your heart desires chadie you to lol?? and faith the peachy one.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  5. GI Joe

    Big money-making scam. Give us 10% of everything you have - GOD doesn't need money.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  6. jackieg

    I don't think people are "losing" their religion. Instead, they are evolving to the point where they realize they don't need someone else to mediate their relationship with their creator. They also recognize the harm that has been done to the world in the name of organized religion–holy wars, discrimination, inquisition. As a Catholic child, I was told that my Protestant friends would not go to heaven–that's the kind of thing that drives people away from religion.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • Lovecrafty

      I mediate my relations with my creator twice a year...Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner!

      May 30, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  7. Rev. Rick

    This is strictly my opinion, but I would say part of the reason for the decline in religion has to do with the current toxic political environment. The conservative right (Republican Party) has drap-ed itself in the banner of religious (Christian) faith and anyone who doesn't join them under the banner are considered anathema. I was once a Christian conservative. Now, the Republicans have painted themselves into such an extremist corner that I felt I had no choice but to remove myself from their influence. I was not a big fan of President of Obama, and I did not vote for him in either election, but there are so many attacks on him (most of which are fear mongering based on twisted facts) that I have come to support him, and for now I doubt that I will ever vote as a Republican again. I currently just don't see any viable, reasonable conservatives in their ranks. One day, if that changes, I may return to the conservative party but for now, I feel that the party has lost its way.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • I Am God

      I agree with you. I was going to vote Obama during the second election, but there was one person in the Republican ranks that could have had my vote. That person was John Huntsman, but the Tea Party believed he did not follow their ideology and they did not wish him to be their candidate. It was definitely a turning point.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • CdninCa

      Well said. Unfortunately, the Religious seem to forget about separation of church and state.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • wisdomVSknowledge

      I agree, the Republican party should never have made religion (mostly fundamental Christians) it's bed partner. The thing about religious groups is that as they grow in power, so does their ego and desire to control everything and everyone.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  8. Religion

    If Christians were anything like Christ, everyone would be Christian.

    Unfortunately most Christians are self-righteous, bigoted, hate-filled, hypocrites who have a pathological obsession with trying to run other peoples lives.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • lol??

      Only Christians have the capacity to be hypocrites. Enjoy.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • CdninCa

      Ghandi said something to the effect of "I like your Christ, but not your Christians"

      May 30, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • lol??

      Yeah, Gandhi would be in jail now for s*e*x* crimes. You quotin' a criminal??

      May 30, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      lol??: And your god impregnated a 14 year old, mass murdered and was complicit in the death of its only child...those things would have your god jailed

      May 30, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • wisdomVSknowledge

      It's hard for me to understand how you can love Jesus so much that it drives you flipping crazy.... then again, maybe those folks were crazy before religion. They just didn't have an outlet for their insanity until they went to church. ???

      May 30, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  9. Bryan

    The faster the better....religion has been a thorn in the side of human existence for, well, the duration of human existence.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  10. ArthurP

    Welcome to the 21C.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • John

      And the 20th and the 19th. Religion has been losing influence in the West for a long time, which is why we don't look like Saudi Arabia. Let's keep it that way, shall we?

      May 30, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • lol??

      John, don't they have better roads than the US? They can actually use those autobahn speedsters??

      May 30, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  11. Rugger

    Some need to believe in something others don't, what America really needs is more people with common sense! Stupidity has hit an all time high.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • via2

      Common sense says that all of existence has a Creator, a beginning, pure stupid or stupidity says that everything just "popped" into existence from nothing available to do the popping.....!!!!!

      May 30, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • snowboarder

      @via2, that is your religious indoctrination talking. nearly all things once attributed to divine origins have been determined to be of natural cause. the realm of the supernatural is simply a placeholder for the things that we do not yet know. nothing more.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Common sense also dictates that you'll fall into a loop of infinite regression playing that game.
      If all things have a Creator, what then created the Creator and so on, ad infinitum.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • John

      "The universe can and will create itself out of nothing." – Stephen Hawking
      I guess you consider him stupid compared to you?

      May 30, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • mrdeepblue

      via2@ are you familiar with the term Hogwash ? well you should be...

      May 30, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • via2

      snowboarder, religion really has nothing to do with it. Just pure logic. Nothing can come from nothing. From nothing comes nothing. Something can not come from nothing. Sorry for the cartoonish simplicity, but it's really just as simple as that. And it matters not WHO says otherwise. The mind of a man is finite and limited in understanding.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • lol??

      "..............Stupidity has hit an all time high............"

      It goes with the Torys from the territory of the Frankfurt School of vain imaginations.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • snowboarder

      @via2, you don't know that there was nothing. so your childish simplicity is simply your own.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • via2

      snowboarder, Your scientists have already DATED the universe, have they not????? Then what about BEFORE this date??? YOUR scientists have already "proven" that the universe is NOT eternal....CORRECT???? Then I ask you again....what was BEFORE?????

      May 30, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • sam stone

      "Nothing can come from nothing"

      Where did the creator come from?

      May 30, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • Huebert

      Via2

      The fact that we don't know what came before the universe does not mean that there was nothing.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • snowboarder

      @via2, yes the universe has been dated based on it's rate of expansion. i don't think we know what existed prior to this universe. how is that even relevant? just because we don't know does not miraculously make a supernatural explanation even remotely possible.

      when men didn't know how the sun rose and set each night, they believed it was the action of gods. when men didn't know what caused illness, earthquakes, floods, pestilence, all those things were believed to be the action of gods.

      and guess what, we now know that none of those things are the actions of gods. the realm of gods is a continually shrinking pocket of ignorance.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • sosueme

      @via2

      Your mind is caught up in a huge contradiction. You are saying that we do not know what created the Universe, or what existed before the Universe, and then you are ascribing it to God. You are, in effect, saying "We don't know" and "Here is the answer". Why not just be satisfied with "we don't know", until more information is available? When you answer your own not knowing with an assumed answer, you then close yourself off to understanding. But don't feel bad, you are yet another in a long long line of people who have done the same thing - regarding sunrise and sunset, comets, weather, geography, astronomy, disease, etc. Luckily, as we have grown up, we have learned the truth about these things (through science) and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that this trajectory will change.

      May 30, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  12. Religion

    11th Commandment:

    "Thou shalt keep thy religion to thy self."

    May 30, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • mrdeepblue

      AMEN !

      May 30, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Jeff

      The 11th Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Get Away With It.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I thought it was "Thou shalt not get caught"

      May 30, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • James

      that should be the first!

      May 30, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • lol??

      That's an antichrist law.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  13. john

    Guess our school are doing great. Why would we want to teach kids not to kill steal lie or cheat.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Religion

      We don't need religion to do that.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:05 am |
    • CdninCa

      Morals and values are learned at home, don't blame the schools.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • I AM A MAGICAL UNICORN

      Morality existed long before religion.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:23 am |
  14. Evil Church

    Good. Religion specially the christian one is destined to disappear because it is based on a 1700 year old lie. This is a sign that humanity is finally waking up from the stupor placed by those that wish to control it through religion. The focus is being shifted as we speak from the external to the internal where you are the only one that matters. Spirituality is way more important than any religion anyways.

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

      People often do not see the value of something until it's gone. I don't think Christianity has survived for nearly 2000 years without having a lot of value.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • I AM A MAGICAL UNICORN

      Incorrect. It has zero value.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  15. kirk

    I don't think most people understand what this poll means. 77% THINK that religion is losing influence. 77% also think that is a bad thing. Seems to be the same 77%. Who do you think would say that is a bad thing? Religious people of course. So all this poll tells us is that 77% of the country is religious and thinks the country is going to hell. Normal response for them with all the things they see in the news everyday.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Bill Ewen

      Excellent point Kirk.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • Evil Church

      Yes I do. I loathe religion but I believe in God, Source, Spirit, name it what you want. I do not need a clergy to tell me a thing. I can read and reason. I can seek and make up my own mind. And I KNOW the Bible Jesus to be a construct, not the real one. Religion is losing its grip on America and that is a good thing.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  16. Jerry in Jersey

    With nearly 99% of Americans partaking in the holiday Christmas (root word Christ) that celebrates the birth of Jesus, I would say we are a pretty religious nation. Either that or we are a nation of opportunists who like to take advantage of religious rooted holidays.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Ron

      Yeah it's the latter. I love the Christmas holiday and I don't give a rats backside about an ancient Jewish zombie.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Evil Church

      Was Jesus born on Dec 25th. DO you know that it coincides with pagan feast days? Wake up from the lies.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • sosueme

      The irony of your post, Jerry, which you seem to be completely oblivious to, is that the Christmas holiday is rooted in pagan rituals. And why is it so hard to imagine that a non religious family would enjoy coming together and sharing seasonal traditions without the mythology?

      May 30, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • Huebert

      Gotta' agree with Ron there

      May 30, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • snowboarder

      we celebrate a secular christmas and easter.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:20 am |
  17. Dan Allen

    So, maybe we're just lucky?

    May 30, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  18. jonp

    If you're 'losing' your religion, that's your problem. Religious faith is a personal issue. Don't assume that I should conform to your narrow world views.

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

      Thats halarious, because I think your the one with narrow views that can't see the bigger picture. Just because I believe in God does not make me narrow minded. In fact, your narrow minded just for saying that.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  19. via2

    Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the third President of the United States, may not have been a Christian; but after reading many books of different faiths and religions found the teachings of Jesus Christ regarding morals so compelling, that he cut out all of Christ's words from the Holy Bible and made his own book full of nothing but the words of Christ. He did not do this with any other book he ever read.
    THIS IS FACT.

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

      Completely irrelevant to the subject.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • CdninCa

      I'm not religious, but I believe Jesus can teach us a lot about how to live a moral life. BUT, unfortunately, too many Christians take those teaching to the extreme. Jefferson was on the right track, but not to religious extremism.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:27 am |
  20. randy

    i would like to see, what people that dont believe would do, if they were in combat, bullets were flying past thier head. if they would whisper under thier breath, " god help me" or if they would just say, oh, what will happen will happen. if they say they would say, what will happen, will happen, they are lieing

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

      Allow me to prove you wrong.

      I'm an atheist. I'm also a retired marine that served in Desert Storm. I've been in that exact situation. I didn't pray to any god. I had 'faith' in my armed brothers right there with me.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • mrdeepblue

      Semper FI bro !

      May 30, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • ToothlessAtheists

      @Thoth

      I thought atheists were against God because they're saying religion killed too many people. And you went to war killing others? Nice hypocrisy from atheists.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • JRNY

      Why do you have to wait till bullets are flying past your head to pray to a god? That's not faith, that's fear, and if fear is the only reason to believe in something, then you've proved the point of most agnostics and atheists...religion is unreasonable, just as fear is.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • sosueme

      @ToothlessAtheists Atheists are not "against god". Atheists don't believe that gods exist. Also, you have a deeply undeveloped sense of discernment. There is a huge difference between killing people because you think they are not adhering to your religion (witch trials, Inquisition, Crusades, terrorism, etc) and the unfortunately necessary act of protecting your country against people who want to harm it. You owe Thoth an apology. I won't hold my breath.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • ToothlessAtheists

      @sosueme

      I own no apology to anyone, atheists are hypocrites. you are not against cruelty, as a matter of fact by going to was you are supporting it, and that makes you no different than any religious groups. The hypocrisy of atheists goes beyond me.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • sosueme

      Randy, I am an atheist who had my life threatened when I was stuck in the path of an oncoming tornado. It came almost directly over the barn I had taken shelter in. I stood there watching entire trees ripped from the ground and whipped through the air, as the building collapsed around me with the sound of a thousand freight trains and I never once cried out to the make believe god. And nor do I believe that some supernatural being miraculously saved me for some "special plan", while the same storm killed an infant. It's self-absorbed quackery.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Thoth

      @toothless – your ignorance is showing. Atheism isn't 'against god'. It is a rejection of claims made be mere men in regard to the existence of gods/goddesses.

      Furthermore, I believe in serving my country. It has provided much opportunity for me. I didn't and don't agree with everything the US military leaders do....but I don't regret serving my country.

      As for religions and war – sure, many wars have been over religious ideologies. They've also been over greed and power.

      I was simply pointing out that your original post was inaccurate.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • sosueme

      @ToothlessAtheists

      You are incoherent.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:32 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.