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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. faith

    As a devout atheist, I resent my brethren insulting Christians. We need to focus on our own flimsy ideas instead of diverting and behaving like sick two year olds.

    May 30, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • sam stone

      like you, filth?

      May 30, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • ME II

      @faith,
      Atheism is a single negative position, not a philosophy. In other words, it doesn't have "ideas" flimsy or otherwise.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • meifumado

      Every atheist is different.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • illusive

      meifumado is right that every atheist is different, MEII is right that there are no "atheist ideas"....and I will go a step further and say that you are not an actual atheist because very rarely do atheists refer to themselves as "devout" and most importantly, the atheist position is not flimsy in any way, it is the theist position that is flimsy.

      May 30, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  2. DJC

    First of all a poll of 1500 people hardly seems significant in a country of over 300 million. I am of the opinion that we would be much better off if our religious beliefs and political ideologies don't mix. Have faith in whatever you want (or don't) but keep it in your private lives and this country would be a much better place.

    May 30, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • ToothlessAtheists

      Oh we will but under one condition, keep people like you back in their closets, where they really belong to.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • JRNY

      Good response DJC. Also, one wonders if the poll wasn't taken in some place like Mississippi or Alabama...you get my drift...yeah, I think you might 75 percent of the populace thinking that religion would make America better thereabouts...

      May 30, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • JRNY

      @ toothless...why don't you just go find a shrink and rant and rage your christian hatred at someone you have to pay so that they HAVE to listen to you. You're getting old, stale and just plain repugnant. If you're on here just to start fires (as some people with mental disorders are wont to do) then go to fox news and do it.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • DJC

      People like me back in their closests? What does that even mean? You are making less and less sense.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "keep people like you back in their closets"

      Feeling a little persecuted Toothless? Reality scare you??

      May 30, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • ME II

      I think the sample size of 1500 for ~3% margin is normal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_size_determination)

      May 30, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • AntEater50000

      Actually for 300 Million Peopl,e 1500 is more than enough to get within +/-3% error at the 95% confidence interval.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misuse_of_statistics#Misreporting_or_misunderstanding_of_estimated_error

      I think the industry standard for this sort of stuff is like 1200 participants.

      It would be cool if they'd get like, 10,000, but no one seems to think that it's worth the money.

      May 30, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  3. Reality

    "More than three in four of Americans say religion is losing its influence in the United States,...."

    And why is that? Let us count the ways, #5: (see pp. 1, 9, 37 and 46)

    JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

    Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Many contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?

    May 30, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Stu

      Why do you think that Jesus would be declared legally insane? The people who believe this crap are not.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Reality

      As noted:

      "Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!"

      i.e. Christians are not insane. They simply are a bit on the odd side.

      May 30, 2013 at 11:37 am |
  4. Anthony

    I A country divided within itself shall not stand.

    May 30, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • JRNY

      Oh well.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Heretic

      No longer a nation under god.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      This country has always been divided, but we know when to stand together. Eff what people think. America stands united when we need to, then we fight amonst ourselves when threat is no more. THAT'S AMERICA. When has America ever been like the Get-Along-Gang? We're a dysfunctional family.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  5. Atheist Rising

    Religion is the ROOT of all Evil. Its what separates people and has always been the main cause of all the worlds wars one way or another. If used properly religion can be a great way to escape and feel good about oneself, but unfortunately its mostly used in defense to hate others for being different or having different belief then theirs. Its used to demoralize people and as an excuse to hurt others. There is nothing good about organized religion, nothing at all.

    May 30, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • ME II

      Perhaps the corollary is 'it's not religion, but the love of religion that is the root of all evil.'

      May 30, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • lol??

      "1Ti 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

      May 30, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Martin

      I'm sure you have a rhetorical gimmick to leave communism out of the equation.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • johnny hurst

      People wonder why the world is the way it is. Children killing cildren in schools. Children having children. Children starving in the land of plenty. You see Jesus philosophy was simple. Love thy neighbor as yourself. That means, Love everyone, jew, athiest, muslim, hindu and Christins. Live and let live. If possible live at peace with ALL men. Alot of people perverted Gods teachings in the past as an excuse to hate, still do. Americas athiests and unbelievers are going to get their way and outlaw Christianity. It will be a sad state of affairs when that happens. We as Americans have become a nation of sociopaths, not truly caring for and abusing and killing our neighbors in the pursuit of our own selfish desires. Your going to get your way athiests. Just remember in your day of calamity that you are the creators of this Hell on earth, and you are the one who denied the very existance of the one who you will have to answer to when your life is over. One day every knee shall bend and EVERY tongue shall confess.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Steven

      "We as Americans have become a nation of sociopaths, not truly caring for and abusing and killing our neighbors in the pursuit of our own selfish desires. Your going to get your way athiests. "

      It's stupid comments like this that demonstrates why Christians are so bad for society. Since 80% of Americans claim to believe in a God and many of those, claim to be Christians that this comment applies to your religion, NOT atheists. You had many negative things to say about America but you've conveniently over looked all the good that is happening. Do yourself a favor, turn off your TV and actually get involved in your community then you will see why your post is ridiculous.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • LinCA

      @johnny hurst

      You said, "People wonder why the world is the way it is. Children killing cildren in schools. Children having children. Children starving in the land of plenty."
      Most of this is caused by the people tat are most fervently pushing religion.

      You said, "If possible live at peace with ALL men. Alot of people perverted Gods teachings in the past as an excuse to hate, still do."
      a lot*

      Yup, that's why the influence of religion needs to be eradicated like the cancer that it is.

      You said, "Americas athiests and unbelievers are going to get their way and outlaw Christianity."
      atheist*

      I don't think very many people want to outlaw christianity. You are free to believe whatever nonsense you want. You don't get to force it on the rest of us.

      You said, "It will be a sad state of affairs when that happens."
      It won't.

      You said, "We as Americans have become a nation of sociopaths, not truly caring for and abusing and killing our neighbors in the pursuit of our own selfish desires."
      And most sociopaths are deeply religious.

      You said, "Your going to get your way athiests."
      You're*, atheists*

      My way would be that everyone gets freedom of religion. For that to happen, your religion needs to stay out of the lives of everyone else.

      You said, "Just remember in your day of calamity that you are the creators of this Hell on earth, and you are the one who denied the very existance of the one who you will have to answer to when your life is over. One day every knee shall bend and EVERY tongue shall confess."
      existence*

      Only according to your fairy tale.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  6. Len

    I wonder if a majority of Americans would still feel that we need more religion if it happened to be a different one from their own?

    May 30, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  7. That's just crazy talk

    Good, religion is the scourge of the world

    May 30, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  8. John Adams

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    (letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816)

    May 30, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  9. demetrius

    Good.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  10. John Adams

    The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

    Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

    (from A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787-1788))

    May 30, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  11. AverageJoe76

    Faith doesn't like details, but I do. Faith is limited, but are surroundings are limitless. Faith is leaned on for everything unknown, until it's known.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • lol??

      What's a gallon of petrol cost these days?? Imperial measure please.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      @lol?? – Got me, buddy. Point?

      May 30, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • lol??

      Your name always reminds me of an average bloke tryin' to buy gas.....76 (Phillips 66)

      May 30, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      @lol?? – I never really thought about it until you pointed it out, lol. I see your point

      May 30, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  12. Ben Franklin

    (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

    If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • richunix

      The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."- Ben Franklin
      "In the affairs of the world, men are saved not by faith, but by the lack of it."- Ben Franklin

      May 30, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  13. candycoatedapple

    The media only acknoweledges "religion" when stupid people make stupid mistakes.... but there are more cases where things go right but no one gives God credit when things go right, only when things go wrong. Besides, God must now be considered a bigot for creating a woman as a help-mate to Adam instead of another man... go figure.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • What

      You are sickco. Where is god? You are mentaly ill

      May 30, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • ME II

      @candycoatedapple,
      It seems to me that Christians often blame bad things on man's sin and a fallen world, as opposed to God's will that does not cause "evil", but only allows it.

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

      That's only valid if you believe the silly "god created Eve as a "help-mate" to Adam" story... If that's not part of what you believe, then your "logic" flies out the window, and is no longer valid or reasonable as a point of discussion... Though I'm a spiritual individual, I choose not to believe in fantasy tales that seek to marginalize women because of their gender, or because they supposedly commited some ridiculous "original sin" for which they must be eternally demeaned and punished as members of society... It's utter nonsense...

      May 30, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Len

      candycoatedapple
      Most of my experience is that believers seldom give credit to God when things go wrong. They make excuses about his "way" being too mysterious to warrant any real blame for disasters, that Christians who commit the most terrible crimes were never really Christians to begin with, and that people are merely not reading the Bible "correctly" when they spot God being genocidal, or inconsistent.

      Don't most believers usually start with the conclusion that "God is Good" and try their whole lives to make what they experience fit that presumption instead of looking at things objectively and then making up their minds about God? That's the first thing that they teach their children: that God is good. I wonder how many children would grow to love God if they objectively learned about him first?

      May 30, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  14. richunix

    CNN, stop it

    May 30, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • candycoatedapple

      They can't help themselves... 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 9:52 am |
    • What

      My god love it CNN

      May 30, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • ME II

      " God is a bigot because he created Eve as a help-mate to Adam instead of another man."

      lol. I don't know about "bigot" but misogyny is a serious concern.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Len

      ME II
      I'm not sure that ancient Hebrew men hated women so much as they just saw them as their property and as inferiors. Not much above their slaves and livestock. What's more sad is how many Christian women fully accept this assessment of themselves. That's an abuse, IMHO.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • ME II

      @Len,
      In a strict sense of "hatred" perhaps you are correct, but I don't think misogyny is strictly "hatred" and can include discrimination, deni.gration, and abuse of women. ...semantics perhaps.

      May 30, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  15. kd

    Useless poll, dreamed up to sensationalize. Meaningless.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  16. Joe2

    Immorality has nothing to do with Religion but it is a someone's choice between Good and Evil..

    May 30, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • What

      My religion better than yours, my god powerful then yours

      May 30, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  17. woody

    Religion is how people saw the world 2000 years ago when everything seemed like magic . Today we know better . Or at least some of us do .

    May 30, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  18. Tom Paine

    That must mean the other 25% are the ones more likely to comment on articles on CNN's belief (or lack thereof) blog. 😉

    May 30, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  19. 0431lar

    Jesus!!! Because believing in the easter bunny is silly.

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

      I do believe it, because I love those human bunny and hot chocolate

      May 30, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  20. DD

    For me, it's just me & the cosmos. What I choose to believe or not is solely my business. I have no use for organised religion. No judging anyone. No declaring war on anyone. No killing anyone in religion's name. Sounds like a good plan.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Shake

      You're not from Mobile, are you?

      May 30, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • What

      There is no suck thing as that religion, no killing, no judging????? What religion is that?

      May 30, 2013 at 9:53 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.