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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. Justin

    I am a deist. I believe in a higher power but I see church's in certain communities that are anything but godly. They cast judgment and throw people to the way side and it seems Christianity is loosing it's fundamental message. You see specific church's becoming an elitist group of people who would never lend a helping had to someone in need and you can't tell me that it's not true I have seen it with my own eyes. These people are a sad excuse for humanity. It's sad that people use religion to punish others and then turn around and pick and choose which verses suit them and abandon the rest. I see it everyday. I believe in love and in that the universal key.

    May 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Dippy

      Losing, not loosing.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Justin

      It happens. We can't all be perfect!

      May 30, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Dippity Two

      Yeah, and " it's fundamental message" should be "its" not "it's"... and "church's" should be "churches".

      May 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Justin

      You lost me. First are you a deist that happens to believe in christ but you don't think christianity as a religion makes sense, or are you a deist in the most general sense that you think there is an unfeeling, uncaring, sentient being who created the universe and then zoomed off to somewhere else?

      I guess the real question is, if you are a deist, what have you found so far to point you towards believing there is a "higher power".

      May 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Speller

      Justin, it's "churches", not "church's". "Wayside," not "way side". "losing," not "loosing". Keep trying.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Justin, how long did you watch these church members to come to your conclusion?. Did you interview each one and then submitted your post?

      May 30, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  2. mb2010a

    I know what you mean...I have lost all my faith in Jesus. He was supposed to have mowed my lawn today and he didn't show up again.

    May 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Dippy

      Hire Jose to do it.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      1 Timothy 1:13

      Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did [it] ignorantly in unbelief.

      Amen'

      May 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    Americans seeking varieties of religious experience would benefit from study of THE DEVIL'S OWN, by Peter Robson (1969).

    May 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  4. profbam

    Interesting to contrast the perception versus the reality. A higher percentage of people report attending church than ever before. Most state legislatures are cramming religion based statutes down our throats. One bill in the NC legislature, which fortunately died in committee, would have made Christianity the official religion of the state. I don't know if it died, but there was another bill that said foreign laws could not be used as a basis for legal arguments in the state courts. The bill was aimed at Sharia Law, but would also eliminate Biblical based arguments as well and would require to county court houses to take down their prominent displays of the 10 Commandments. One mark of religious zealots is that they always feel that they are a persecuted minority.

    May 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      More people come to believe in Jesus' truth in end days more than any time in history.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  5. Colin

    Actually Mary, I am not an atheist because I am "shallow." You’ll find that most (ex-Christian) atheists don’t believe for one or more of the following reasons:

    The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.

    Throwing the three together into one being effectively cubes its already dispositive implausibility.

    We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Greco Roman Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. We can’t help but ask ourselves, “did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?”

    The answers usually proffered for what we see as basic logical flaws in Christianity – “you have been blinded by your lack of faith” “God moves in mysterious ways” “God is outside the Universe” or “our minds are too small to understand the greatness of God” are never satisfying to us. We see a retreat to mysticism as the first refuge of the cornered fool.

    The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, the Judeo-Christian god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. The Universe may well be infinitely old without a "cause," there may be an infinitie number of universes or time itslef may have began in the Big Bang. We simply do not know. BUT “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?

    We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.

    We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”. Likewise, we know how all faiths evolve, morph and change over time and do not think we were lucky enough to have been born in the one generation that “got it right.”

    We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews, gospels, letters, apocalyptic story (Revelations) and other materials that found their way into the Bible, in that they are largely indistinguishable from the other mythology and religious writings of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean. For example, many of the myths about Jesus, including his birth around the Winter Solstice, his being betrayed and executed, his virgin birth and his rising from the dead are straight out of earlier myths about Horus and Apollonius of Tyana.

    Human beings are terrified of their own deaths and we see the various religious beliefs that try to “wish it away,” such as reincarnation, living happily ever after in Heaven with Jesus, having your own Mormon planet etc. as nothing more than childish stories for the more näive, timid minds among us.

    We do not see morality as predicated upon a belief in the supernatural. We accept that one can be moral without believing in the supernatural and that doing so is no guaranty that one will conform to the norms of society that people call “morality”.

    “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist” is not a convincing argument to us, or even a relevant point, because an inability to disprove something is a far cry from it being true. We cannot prove that the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu do not exist either, nor Santa Claus for that matter, but that is hardly a reason to believe in them. It is not even evidence for their existence. It is impossible to prove a negative in this context.

    When one looks at the various Christian beliefs that were once firmly believed – Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, people living to be 700 or 900 years old, the Red Sea splitting, water turning into wine, a talking snake, a man living in a whale’s belly, people rising from the dead, Jesus driving demons out of people and into pigs – but which are now acknowledged by most thinking people to be mere mythology, it is pretty hard to give a lot of credibility to what’s left.

    It is hard not to consider Christianity as based on circular reasoning. Most Christians believe in God because the Bible says so, then turn around and say they believe the Bible because it is the word of God. To draw an analogy, “I believe Mao Zedong was a great man because The Little Red Book says so, and the reason I believe The Little Red Book is that it was written by Mao Zedong, who was a great man.” Do you even have the slightest idea of how your Bible was written and compiled over the centuries or who decided what to include and what to exclude and on what grounds? Can you even name one of hundred plus authors who contributed to it? One of the many people who decided what got in and what didn’t?

    To be bluntly honest, the more one comes to understand mother nature, the less reason there is to believe in a god and the more one understands human nature, the more one sees why so many of us still do.

    So, before you next proudly proclaim you know the secrets to life, death, the origins of life on Earth and the origins of the Universe, simply because your parents or priest taught you some comforting stories from Greco-Roman Palestine as a child, you might like to reflect upon the overwhelming enormity of the claims you are about to make and the complete paucity of evidence that underwrites those claims.

    May 30, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Anthony

      wonderfully put! bravo!!!!

      May 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • mb2010a

      I believe you're right...

      May 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • mama k

      Excellent!

      May 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Pure-Religion

      2 Timothy 2: 14 – 26

      Jude 1 -25

      Revelation 20: 7 – 10

      May 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Ezekiel 38

      Amen.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Colin:
      The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.
      The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.
      The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.

      Colin is right, but that is because we have none of these properties ourselves and no experience of any beings that have any of these properties. Moreover, logic as we've developed it gives rise to apparent paradoxes when we contemplate them. Beings with such properties may exist, however. Our inability to conceive of them has no bearing on that. Belief in them has no utility unless they interact with our world in some way we can know.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  6. Choir Loft

    Behold fools who go where angels fear to tread.
    ***
    God has not died, nor has He abandoned His designs for the future. But those who hate Him eagerly embrace every opportunity to bash the faithful and God's good Word. If there is no God, why rant so loudly?
    ***
    "What a fool believes, no wise man can reason away."
    – What A Fool Believes
    Kenney Loggins & Michael MacDonald
    ***
    and that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

    May 30, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "If there is no God, why rant so loudly?"

      If there is a god why do so many people believe in so many different versions?

      May 30, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  7. richunix

    Damnit CNN I posted a reply concerning factual issue with the Bible and you block them!

    May 30, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • richunix

      Yup, I can post this but not want I needed to post...

      May 30, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN Belief Blog/WordPress automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters or some html tricks to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      -
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in racc-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      crac-ker…
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, sopho-more, etc.
      ho-oters…as in sho-oters
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      inf-orms us…
      hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      nip-ple
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-oon… as in sp-oon, lamp-oon, harp-oon
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      que-er
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sl-ut
      sm-ut…..as in transm-utation
      sn-atch
      sp-ank
      sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      strip-per
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, t-itle, ent-ity, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, salt-water, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
      wt-f....also!!!!!!!
      x.xx…
      There's another phrase that someone found, "wo-nderful us" (have no idea what sets that one off).

      May 30, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Osama Bin Laden

      richunix – your posts are good. do not dispear......

      May 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  8. Brice Trumey

    There is no heaven,
    There is no hell,
    There is no god,
    I wish you well!

    May 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Choir Loft

      "Whenever I pass by a church,
      I always stop in for a visit.
      For fear of when I'm carried in,
      God will ask, "who is it?"
      – Jack Paar
      ***
      and that's me, hollering from the choir loft...

      May 30, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Pure-Religion

      Psalms 14:1

      May 30, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  9. Corkpuller

    Nope....3 out of 4 SAY....not 3 out of 4 have. Religion is for most private and personal. Not surveyed and blogged.

    May 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  10. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    Mohammad Followers Steadily Taking the World Backward
    come on muslaman, stay on your islamic sites, don't crap over here.

    No need to be a hindu, denier of truth absolute GOD, Islam freed humanity from hinduism racism of pot head hindu sanatans, criminal crooks playing as gods, and gave rights to humanity, including consti tution of USA.

    Gift of hinduism racism as a religion by faith, based on hindu atheism,, criminal self center ism, denial of truth absolute GOD, IT IS A CRIME TO BE A PERSON OF DARK SKIN.

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5EhcDPkgC8&w=640&h=360]

    May 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  11. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    Becoming independent of such influences as the Koran and the Bible improves one's thinking enormously.

    May 30, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  12. Cassie

    They act as if it's a bad thing religion is going out the door. I wonder which religion are they talking about? There is more then one but they act as if this is only a christain nation which it states clearly in the treaty of tripoli that it is not. To me religion is poison. It should not be that they think this country needs more of it, people are free to pratice what they want (freedom of religion) but they must also respect the separation of church and state. Thats what I think this article is trying to state that they want the US government to be more religious. Have fun getting that to happen.

    May 30, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  13. Martin

    Thank you random troll for explaining to me that religion is bad.
    I will be dropping it immediately.
    (Said no one. Ever.)

    May 30, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • SkepticalOne

      Said more and more intelligent people every day.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • penelope sims

      Of course "no one said ever". If they had said it before, there would be no wars, no problems, etc.

      Religion is the cause of every major problem in the world and we'd be a much better happier place without it!

      May 30, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I did.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  14. Pure-Religion

    Revelation 22:12 – 17

    May 30, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • oOo

      Revelation?? J of Patmos must have crashed his camel into a lake of bath salts to come up with that mess.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There's nothing irrational about stories of 7 headed, water spewing dragons that wander the forest looking for pregnant women to eat.
      Perfectly sane.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • He is the alpha and the omega

      🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

      May 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      That is an awful, highly immoral passage. One of the reasons I reject the bible as anything more than cult propaganda.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Pure-Religion

      Psalm 63

      Psalm 66

      Proverbs 1:7

      Psalm 14:1

      May 30, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • To The Word

      We 🙇

      May 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  15. timelord7202

    Ezekiel 23:20
    matthew:19-24
    Mark: 10-25
    leviticus: 19-19

    Big long list could follow, especially over justifying slaves, hittiing one's wife, and other nassty things.

    People read the propaganda and don't buy into it, and even for the more heartwarming and noble stuff about forgiveness ans such, when we see proclaimed believers act the opposite of the way the book instructs, nobody should be surprised at how people stopped caring. People want honesty and fairness. Not chicanery.

    May 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Pure-Religion

      Exodus 20:1 – 17

      May 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  16. Thoth

    Wow....77% of 1,535 people contacted randomly by phone are religious and think the country would be better with 'more' religion. Shocking.

    Let's see. Roughly 80% of Americans claim to believe in god (in previous polls). Is it really 'news' that a nearly identical percentage believe the country needs 'more' religion? I wonder if the polsters asked 'which' god...

    May 30, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Correction:
      77% think America needs more of their specific religion.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  17. laura

    why*

    May 30, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Zed.*

      May 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  18. Mark

    Every single verse of the bible was written by a person just as brainwashed as you. God is on his way out the door. We don't need this bigoted slavery anymore. Go preach to the mirror. Or talk to yourself as usual.

    May 30, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Mark

      The Romans kill your cult leader and they make up stories about rising from the dead. Give it up losers.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      It's ok to talk to yourself Mark. But when you start agreeing with yourself, seek wiser council.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Pure-Religion

      @Matt

      Hosea 4:6

      Hosea 6:1

      May 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Science

      Mark

      http://legalnews.findlaw.com/article/0bj7cdy2zIcqA?q=law+OR+lawsuit+OR+legal+OR+%28court+AND+law%29

      With news updates !

      May 30, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Pure Religion
      Revelation 12:3
      Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14
      Jeremiah 8:17

      May 30, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • timelord7202

      Bill, the word is "counsel". If we have slavemasters that demanded accuracy as much as they would a big quota for cotton picking, God would be beaten into you just as nimbly. Or shoved down youur throat and if you didn't comply it would be slit. Gotta love what Cortes did in the name of Jesus... (not really)

      May 30, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      ok, since you misspelled youur, allow me to invite you into the group of people who would rather discuss ideas than typing skills.

      May 30, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  19. Pure-Religion

    Matthew 19:16

    James 1:27

    John 3:16

    Romans 10:8 – 13

    May 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Pure-Religion

      Matthew 19:26

      May 30, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Numbers 31:17
      Isaiah 13:16
      Psalm 137:8
      Samuel 15:3

      May 30, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Pure-Religion

      James 4:6 – 10

      May 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • John 3:16

      For God so 💚 the 🌎 that he 🎁 his one and only Son, that 👫 believes in him shall not perish but have ∞ 👑

      May 30, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Hulk 1:181
      (that's the first time he fights Wolverine)

      May 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "For god so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son,
      that whosoever would believe in him would believe in anything."

      May 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  20. In God We Trust

    Didn't know America had a religion in the first place!

    May 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • mb2010a

      America has lots of "religions"...luckily I am not required to believe in any of them.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
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About this blog

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.