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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. richunix

    @ToothlessAtheists
    Your fallacy: loaded questions: embodies an assumption that, if answered, indicates an implied agreement. (e.g., Have you stopped beating your wife yet?)

    Bigotry, hate and crimes have no color or religion. You do not need religion to be moral or is morality a requirement of religion.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • candycoatedapple

      You can't believe in God and be gay.... God is a bigot because he created Eve as a help-mate to Adam instead of another man.... the two beliefs cannot co-exist... god must go!

      May 30, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • JRNY

      Oh toothless, you silly, sad little thing, do you think attacking us for using bigotry to describe you is hurting us? We think, you don't. The end.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • closet atheist

      @toothless

      Atheism is a cult..?? Care to elaborate..??

      I, for one, am also really sick of the ignorant masses linking morality with religion... immorality with atheism... pure and total ignorance. Most atheists I know live a far better life (morally) than a ton of religious people I know.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • tallulah13

      Toothless is a troll. He's just on here to get a reaction.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • closet atheist

      It's like trying to reason with a child. In fact, my 5 year old demonstrates a better grasp of logic.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • AthiestKelly

      "Then why are you atheists are spending so much time fighting religious people on these blogs if you have any kind of morals at all?"

      @toothless... by that logic, that make you far more immoral than me... Since this is my first comment on the story I, as an Atheist, am more moral than you. Silly troll.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:33 am |
  2. Over 40,000 sects of insanity

    The U.S. has always been predominantly Christian. But it seems the more time goes by, the more conflicted that majority religion becomes. Perhaps that is becoming more obvious to people, especially the younger generation, and that is why we are seeing a decline overall religiosity of the population.

    Recently we learned from CNN of a child dying when their parents, members of a Christian sect in Philadelphia, as part of their faith, refused medical care. When incidents like the subject of this article come to light, many Christians are only too ready to try explain how another Christian's interpretation of ancient "scripture" is not quite right.

    There was a sect in Chile, South America late last year (November) who sacrificed a baby to a bonfire. The sect leader of this group comprised of mostly professionals had convinced the mother of the baby that the baby was an antichrist. They wrapped the baby up and slid it down a plank into a raging bonfire.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one (over 4,000,000 members) in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage. One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags". Many of these sects are equally divergent on the roles of women in society.

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri. Some believe the Pope is the Antichrist. Some believe Obama is the Antichrist.

    Some believe that celibacy is the only option for certain people, or for people in certain positions. Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but pretend not to understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease.

    Conflicted right from the start, Christianity continues to splinter, creating more and more extreme divisions, with each division trying to assert itself as some true messenger of the word of the Christian God.

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

    May 30, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Science

      You know faith you are stuck in a big pile GREEN SLIME with NO horn-y red devil to save your ass.

      May 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |

      Agree ...............mama k............. everybody do a simple search for Prof. Higgs............the church hates that .

      A box does not work well for thinking.............think outside the box at http:/ted.com/talks

      Peace

      Hey faith/chad... and sally too........Thanks have a great life.

      http://www.wecanbeheroes.org/

      http://www.caterpillar.com/Foundation

      http://www.autismspeaks.org/

      http://www.hlntv.com/clusters/salute-troops

      https://www.zotero.org/colleengreene/items/5XRFKX8N

      Heaven for atheists? Pope sparks debate

      By Dan Merica, CNN

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/23/heaven-for-atheists-pope-sparks-debate/

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/02/09/my-take-a-word-to-christians-be-nice/comment-page-44/#comment-2369235

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/23/the-money-man-behind-atheisms-activism/comment-page-77/#comment-2369249

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/21/who-hears-prayersforoklahoma/?replytocom=2369279#respond

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/19/proofs-of-heaven-popular-but-not-with-the-church/?replytocom=2366421#respond

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/24/has-the-oklahoma-atheist-been-saved/comment-page-2/#comment-2369325

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/05/when-christians-become-a-hated-minority/

      May 25, 2013 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |

      May 25, 2013 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |

      Hey doogie you too !

      Hey Chad,faith the peach and all creationists what color JELL- O you stuck IN. ? Star Dusts (chondrites) and water !

      Scientists Offer First Definitive Proof of Bacteria-Feeding Behavior in Green Algae

      May 23, 2013 — A team of researchers has captured images of green alga consuming bacteria, offering a glimpse at how early organisms dating back more than 1 billion years may have acquired free-living photosynthetic cells. This acquisition is thought to have been a critical first step in the evolution of photosynthetic algae and land plants, which, in turn, contributed to the increase in oxygen levels in Earth's atmosphere and ocean and provided one of the conditions necessary for animal evolution.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130523143741.htm

      May 30, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  3. God is as real as Santa Claus

    Religion is fading because science is gaining focus. There is absolutely zero hard-evidence to support the existence of a God and/or Jesus Christ. The bible a fairytale... and nothing more. Further, if Christ did exist... he is no different than any of the other nutjobs that have claimed to be the son of God over the past 10,000 years. Yes... there were men who claimed this prior to Jesus... and obviously well after. What makes Jesus any different than the others??

    Religion is the root of all that is evil in this world... and that is a fact. It is the foundation for every war that has taken place. As far as orgainzed religion in the modern world... it is a useless, contradictory, money-making scam.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • mike

      The difference is that Jesus was actually real and a good guy. A bit nutty? Sure. But if Christians were actually Christ-like we'd be in a much better place.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • SAM

      I'm losing more and more respect for CNN. They're obviously entirely biased as lately I've watched them try to force and create a news story about the number of atheists in society and how Americans are losing religion. How about the CNN video where the reporter asks the woman who lost her home in a tornado, "I guess you really thank the Lord for your safety" and she says, "Uh, actuallyl, I'm an atheist" Just a fabricated story. Reporters don't ask that question. The news item about atheist celebrities has been on your front page for several days now. What are you trying to stir up here CNN? I'm a Canadian who reads your website every day, but it's time to move on to a more credible online American news website.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • CMJ

      They have proven Jesus Christ existed and died on a cross. Roman crucifixion ledger for the people they crucified. Ignorant..

      May 30, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • derp

      "They have proven Jesus Christ existed and died on a cross. Roman crucifixion ledger for the people they crucified. Ignorant"

      There is no contemporary record of the existence of Jesus christ. No Roman, or Jewish records from the supposed time of his existence at all. Not one record.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • fintastic

      @sam;....................... ""I guess you really thank the Lord for your safety" and she says, "Uh, actuallyl, I'm an atheist" Just a fabricated story."

      Oh! a fabricated story? so that live interview was fake? dang!....... ... do you know we didn't actually land on the moon?

      May 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  4. Heretic

    It's time to wake up and check out of the prison bus.

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aE2GCa-_nyU&w=640&h=360]

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

      Oh how cute, the preppy acapella kids went and bought some clothes at Hot Topic...LOL...

      May 30, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Heretic

      LOL

      May 30, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  5. lemon

    There's only one true religion in America, and that's materialism.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  6. Jacques

    The illogical rationalization of some religions by certain religious individuals is what makes religion a bad idea for this country. Being more logical will fix this country, not some wizard in the sky.

    I may be misquoting, but if we lost all religion tomorrow and all science, religion would return completely different with new stories and beliefs, whereas science would end up being the same. That's the benefits of facts over fiction.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • lol??

      Bennies are high on the list for socies.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  7. wisdomVSknowledge

    Organized religion is the cloak of evil men filled with greed and lust for power.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  8. Scott Alten

    Did anyone proofread this article?

    May 30, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • Vic

      Yes. The poll is about Religion Loosing Influence in America as opposed to the t i t l e: America Loosing Its Religion! The t i t l e is exaggerated!

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

      Who F ing care?

      May 30, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Vic

      Plus, it is an opinion poll as opposed to actual reading!

      May 30, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Vic

      Oops! I meant losing! Misspelling that word is one of my pet peeves! My apologies!

      May 30, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  9. AverageJoe76

    America is simply losing it's religion because more data is available at the fingertips. It's up to the future generations end our religious arguments. This will be done.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  10. Bernie

    those opressed(minorities:black,hispanic)tent to drink that Bible poison.Look at the photo of the Reason Rally,mayority were white.I must assume with certain degree of education.So,again,the poor,less educated are more under control of the preachers and in the hand of these preachers they continued to be blinded,brainwashed and opressed

    May 30, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • lol??

      Those are gubmint workers and won't give up luxury without a fight.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • midwest rail

      " Those are gubmint workers..."
      Another falsehood from the Belief Blog's most accomplished liar.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • lol??

      The belief blog isn't my first, rail. Experience has taught me the biggest socialists are already gubmint workers, with waivers and other bennies.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • midwest rail

      " The belief blog isn't my first,...."
      I have no doubt you are the most accomplished liar on whatever blog you choose to troll.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  11. Zachary

    I don't like religion because its infantile. Absolutely silly. But now that I see it being replaced with radical individualism. I'm already missing the days of people thinking of something bigger than self.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  12. Scarlet Bow

    America isn't losing its "religion". America never had a religion. America was made on the premise that all of its people could worship freely, regardless of the religion or methods. America was made so that influences from any church or religious views stayed out of the diplomatic powerlines. But since those two don't exist in the modern day America, can we even say that this is the same nation that was made by those who fought for the freedoms they didn't have, so that we may enjoy them? The answer is no, this isn't the America it was meant to be. Keep the religions in the homes of America, not in the media, not in the government, not in the schools, not anywhere but the homes of its people.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  13. Todd

    Actually religions are leaving us.
    I am a person of faith. However most of the religions that I am seeing are making me sick, they are moving away from the teachings of their religion and pushing more political like action. While they can't say Vote for this party, they can say you are wrong to believe in such ideals supported by such party. They are fighting Science when they don't have too, Science and religion isn't in conflict. In a religion that suppose to emphasize love for God and thy Neighbors, they are pushing a campaign of hate towards people who do not see things the same way.
    We need a religion of moderation, and of morals. Not one trying to turn us into political lackeys.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • I AM A MAGICAL UNICORN

      You are incorrect. We do not need religion.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • What

      My religion better than yours, so Sux up

      May 30, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  14. jayharland

    "that trend bodes ill for the country." Get real. Religion has played its role in our history but its time to go away now – we're far better off without it.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  15. brett

    Nihilism is America's religion.

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

      Do you actually know and understand what Nihilism is?

      May 30, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      If you're gonna play that game, it would be more accurate to say the Capitalism is America's religion.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  16. Heretic

    Good religion is dangerous, a scourge. I just hope that I will see it's downfall in my lifetime but alas i doubt it.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  17. Ironhouse

    This is inspiring, this country just might get it's priorities straight before it's too late. This gives me hope for the future, a future of laws and decisions based on logic.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • lol??

      What about all the silly laws already on the books?? It was a gross misapplication of law, anyway.

      "Gal 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

      May 30, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  18. laststonecarver

    All religion is decision making process, but all decision making process is not religion –
    There are good stories in the bible, and there are good stories that are not in the bible –
    If you woke up tomorrow, and there was no religion, would you still be able breathe, and consume, and sleep, and most importantly think?
    And if you decided to, you could think in continuity to your environment, so that you could survive, and in turn, assist others to survive – and maybe if you think enough, you could save up some extra thoughts for some good times –

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

      laststonecarver

      http://www.discovertheforest.org/...............where the stony irons are.

      Peace

      May 30, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • laststonecarver

      @Science,
      Gracias amigo –

      May 30, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  19. brad

    The death of religion will have good and bad effects. People who have to have religion to be good, will turn bad, many people will be lost without some leader telling them what to think, and for the rest, we get to move society forward. I think much much much more good will come from religion dying. Congrats open minded free thinkers, lets move society forward.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • lol??

      The Beast has grown and muscled out religion. Can you afford the gubmint god, slave??

      May 30, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  20. EdwardTr

    We can not prove or disapprove if god exist, but we can refute all religions.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • derp

      "Just like we can refute atheism"

      Exactly how do plan to refute the lack of belief in a higher power that there is absolutely zero evidence of?

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

      @ toothless, how can you refute Atheism?

      May 30, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Huebert

      Toothless

      1) Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a se.x position.

      2) The only way to refute atheism would be to provide evidence for any god or goddess. Do you have such evidence?

      May 30, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Live4Him

      @derp : Exactly how do plan to refute the lack of belief in a higher power

      Atheism is defined as a belief in no higher power, not the lack of belief. Only TRUE agnosticism is a lack of belief. After all, agnosticism translates into 'I don't know'. Once you believe you know, you've embraced some religion. And since almost everyone above the age of 10 has formed a belief, you cannot claim to be free of religion. So, either embrace the reality or reject it. Your choice.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • JRNY

      @ live4her, sorry, you've got it the other way around...which shows more ignorance. Being an Agnostic, I believe there is a higher "being" but I don't worship it. Being an Atheist is bot believing in a higher power at all. Please educate yourself before trying to be intelligent. A little less religion would do you some good.

      May 30, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • derp

      "Atheism is defined as a belief in no higher power, not the lack of belief."

      No it is not.

      From Merriam-Webster ( Merriam-Webster is a dictionary. A dictionary is a really big book that tells you what words mean. You should buy one )

      Atheism

      a : a disbelief in the existence of deity

      Once again you religiots can't even get the definition of atheism right.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • fintastic

      Yup, another religious nut case trying to twist word definitions to fit their world of mythology.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
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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.