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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. nk

    *panting*

    Am I too late to crack an REM joke?

    May 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • DaveinFlorida

      Is that you in the corner?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  2. Name*penguin

    I thank God religion is losing its influence.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  3. If God were real

    If God was real would he

    Kill so many innocent children with cancer, horrible diseases, starvation, war, more horrible diseases?
    Kill so many innocent people with cancer, horrible diseases, starvation, war, more horrible diseases, God made disasters?
    Kill so many people with cancer, horrible diseases, starvation, war, more horrible diseases, God made disasters?

    Seems like all he does is kill and every once in a while saves some fat woman who thanks him that he saved her from the tornado while killing her neighbors with three kids.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • P3

      Yep. Exactly!

      May 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • eri

      But he loves you.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  4. Bill

    I agree. What is religion? To me it is what you believe. You either believe in God or you don't. If you believe in God, is he the same person no matter what religious group you are affiliated with. Is Jesus God? Is Mohammad God? Is Buddah God? Is Johova God? Is Joseph Smith God? Heck is a dictator God? It all depends on one's frame of mind and belief. Could the USA use a little more religion or less religion. In my opinion, the people of the US could use a little more respect for their fellow man and woman. Treat those as you want to be treated. Governments and Religious monarchies tend to be a bad thing especially when they bring hatred and death to others just because they don't believe as you do. What the people of my country and the rest of the world could use is to follow the examples of the profits who believe in the peaceful words of the prophets and those we call God. I have read nowhere where God has said kill your fellow man or not to look out for your neighbors. What makes us any different than the Nazies, the Vikings, the Romans, the Huns, the Persians. Nothing. War seems to improve the economies and when war stops we have recessions and depresions, go figure. Can we use a little religion or the hand of God, sure seems like he is ticked at all of us with all the tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, wild fires, earthquakes, volcanic erruptions, Tsunamies, Wars, and Terrorism that take so many lives and hurt so many people.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • P3

      Except that there is no god controlling nature's forces. There might be a God, but it isn't involved in our daily lives.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  5. Gary

    We would all be better off if people spent more time practicing their religion and less time preaching.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • cm

      Indeed!

      May 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Sane Person

      If the relgious would stop trying to force others to follow thier brand of dogma, things would be fine. Worship how you see fit, leave me alone.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  6. The Lord of Excess

    This is one of the most pointless "polls" and articles I've ever seen. Whether or not one is evangelical or atheist, this info is useless. Thanks CNN for more utter time waste garbage.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  7. eri

    Thank god for dinosaurs.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  8. Matt

    I think the best way is to be agnostic. Pretty much wouldnt be surprised either way. I think a world without religion is one thing, but a world without faith something totally different. I think the Vatican has more gold than fort knox.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • cm

      Fort Knox has no gold.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  9. Will

    I'm a Christian and most of my Christian friends are sick of religion in America. If you go into the Third World, you will seed a vibrant faith community that isn't in love with laissez faire capitalism and doesn't associate Republican political doctrine with Biblical doctrine. If anyone wants to know why religion is waning in America, just look at Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, John Hagee, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker and all the other TV evangelists who are experts in kookiness and shame all of those who want a faith of integrity. Maybe it's good that religion is waning in America. Maybe finally those people who follow TV evangelists blindly will wake up and see the damage that they've done.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      however if you go to third world countries you also get religious people trying to introduce bills that call for the death penalty for being gay.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • musicguy

      You are EXACTLY correct. When I was growing up in the 50's and 60's there were likely many more people who considered themselves religious but would never dream of foisting their beliefs on their fellow Americans. Nowadays, many religious people have taken a cue from Carl Rove's take-no-prisoners playbook: It's my way or you're damned and I'm going to make you live and act the way I want you to live and act.
      America used to be a place of tolerance. Now it's Democrat versus Republican, Christian versus Muslim versus Jew versus Hindu versus Buddhist, and on and on. Such narcissim!

      May 29, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  10. Mark

    What do you expect after the conservative party hijacked christian conservatives in America. Their distain for politics is their distain for christians now!

    May 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • Carolyn

      I agree with Mark. I think religion in general has been hijacked by right-wing fundamentalists whose mission is to push a political agenda that fosters backward, unscientific, anti-educational, and misogynistic policies. They have been a divisive element in our society for several years. I do not see organized religion as it exists today as a positive thing – which is not to say I do not believe in God.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  11. gwaldo

    religion is a big myth. Its good to be thankful for your heritage and where you come from, but all the fake stories and myths are crazy. What's even crazier is that people believe they are real.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  12. sly

    Ok, a poll about people's personal opinions.

    Kinda interesting, but of very little importance in today's world.

    What people do in the privacy of their own home, or in some church, is not only not my business, it's completely irrelevant to my life.

    There are real issues in this world, and sorry, this one isn't in my top 100,000.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  13. levgram

    the right wing religious home grown american extremists are the most frightening, immoral thing to happen to america in my 70 years of living. they are 21st century fascists who will destroy this nation with their version of "morality".

    it's one thing to say that more religion = more morality, but which morality? the morality of the fascist right in our nation? spare me their 'good deeds'. I'll take the ordinary goodness of ordinary citizens any day. we are good people. we are not born sinners, or evil or any of that garbage. yet the extremist right believes we are. look at your baby, or grandchild sleeping. do you see a devil? they do.

    not me. I see the very human decency that formed this nation with the intent of freedom, democracy, and human purpose. no strings attached to the purses and revolting program of the kind of extremists in america's religious right. shame on them. when they speak, i'll be their Jesus covers his ears in despair.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • musicguy

      Bravo

      May 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      *Standing Ovation*

      May 29, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  14. P3

    I wish reason would reach the state of Oklahoma. There are too many religious nuts here, and I can never fit in because I am not one of them. Anyone who introduces himself by saying, "Hi, my name is ___. What church do you go to?", is definitely not anyone I want to befriend.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Been there, done that in a one stop light town in Okie-homa. Didn't take them long to figure out we didn't go to ANY church; needless to say we had few friends. Not that we'd have wanted them.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
  15. Roto

    Good!

    May 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  16. Woody HILLIARD

    Organized religion , that is "the church", is its own worst enemy. The hierarchy stopped dealing in spiritual matters and turned to being a political lackey for the right wing. The preachers in the Prostestant faith community continue to try to tell educated, inelligent people that "God" created the world in seven 24 hour days. They continue to teach the Noah's Ark story as literal fact rather than a story to demonstrate moral lessons. Similarly stories of like, Daniel in this lion's den, as absolute fact rather than an old Jewish story to prove God's absolute power in protecting "his" people from sinful rulers. I'm a believer, but just not certain by any means of god's exact nature and all the "rules" humans have set up and claimed it was directly from "God's mouth" to their ear. Jonah swallowed by a great fish and remained in the belly of the fish for 3 days??? Please!

    May 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  17. Juliet

    When man understands that religion is a cult, an organization rule by man, instead of God, pay, pray and obey, then perhaps we can be free of bondage and all have peace in our hearts. We all have one God, but different path to reach that staircase to Heaven. If you must seek fellowship in a Church, then find one that is Non-Domination and accept the fact that your belief is strictly between you and God.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  18. Jeanne021556

    Too many fake Religions and false prophets have turned people off. Not to mention science discoveries that dispute Biblical stories created to scare and control people thousands of years ago. Take the 401c tax exemption away from many of the FAKE so called churches. It's a scam

    May 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  19. sparky

    "According to the Gallup survey released Wednesday, 77% of Americans say religion is losing its influence."

    Coincidentally, 77% of Americans believe in angels, according to an Associated Press poll taken in 2011.

    So, both polls together might mean that 77% of Americans just might not know what they're talking about, and shouldn't be taken seriously.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • G to the T

      They believe religion is losing its influence. Doesn't mean they don't personally believe. 2 different things. A lot of VERY certain christians around here probably believe religion is losing it's influence as well. They just don't like it.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
  20. Pat

    Too bad the poll didn't ask about spirituality. I think organized religion is dangerous but I'm a very spiritual person.

    May 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • eri

      What exactly is "spirituality"?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:14 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.