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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. cynicalferret

    I'm no mathematician, but how can we simultaneously be "losing our religion" while 75% still say the country needs to be more religious?

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

      By comparing the last poll on the subject and comparing the numbers from then and this one.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • jcstauff

      Because the 75% of 1,535 people polled (about 1,151 people or roughly 0.00036676% of the country) probably disproportionately included elderly persons, stay at home adults and religious types who are frightened by the trend of a more godless country.....You know, the kind of people that will sit around and take a telephone poll about religion.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • lee

      Approximately 75% of people are religious and those same people think others should be religious (I mean how many non-religious people think we need more religion or vice versa?). The point of the article is that both those numbers are shrinking. Which, in my opinion as a member of the non-religious 20ish%, is a very good thing.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  2. lalalalalalal

    The destruction of religion is necessary to allow for the goals of social engineering. Religion is a huge obstacle for social engineering. You can't mold a society based on what certain people want if they believe in something more than man.

    it is not that hard to figure out.

    if you think this will lead to progress... look at the USSR youused to go to jail for religion and that place was the pits.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      so the Evil Overlords want to get rid of The One True And Only Way (let me guess....christianity?) so they can create their idea of a perfect society? Because xianity is somehow "in the way", because it's the way to save us all from said Evil Overlords?
      You're a looney-tunes.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
  3. him

    It doesn't matter. it's got MONEY LAUNDERING IN USA.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  4. BobbyBangin

    The religion we can do without, but I hope people never lost their spirituality.

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

      If, by "spirituality", you mean being moved by things like art, music, sports, yoga, poetry, or what have you, then of course, but if you believe in a god, it's religion, no matter which way you spin it.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  5. Agnostic

    Religion is ALL about Big Business, nothing more, nothing less...It is the main cause for countless wars since the beginning of time. Religion is a farce !! If there is a God, my question would be what is God's religion?? Obviously, the answer would be we are ALL God's children and God does not favor one religion over another. That's why I say, religion is ALL big business and a major farce !!

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

      If you want to know what religion God is – read the Bible.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  6. cm

    It is something to consider.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  7. DarrellSF

    I think the US would be better off if it was more spiritual, rather than more religious. The effects of religious zealotry can't be denied in the age of instant information. However, I feel the internet has also allowed people to lose touch with their better side. When you're constantly bombarded with bad news, and the comment boards are filled with sickening commentary, it's easy to lose sight of just how wonderful humanity actually is! As long as we embrace a philosophy that humanity is basically good, I think we'll be alright. However, if we keep equating spirituality/philosophy with the evils of religious leaders, and reject these wholeheartedly, I think we will indeed lose our way.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  8. WVLady65

    The reason being, if this statement is true, is that if you are a Christian, if you lead a good life, obey the rules, work, teach your children right from wrong and go to church, YOU are vilified and crucified by these actions. And people wonder why America is losing its religion?????? America is drowning in immorality and if you stand up and say so, YOU are the problem. America is drowning in political correctness and if you stand up and are politically incorrect, YOU are the problem. There is something terribly wrong with this scenario and it is called, not having a conscience or as the experts say, you are a Sociopath.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • I Am God

      Do you want to know why America is losing its morality? Easy answer it is. People like the Westboro Church.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      Anyone that dares to claim to be a christian and is NOT PC is a hypocrit.
      PC talks about respect and tolerance for others, it asks that if you had the choice to avoid hurting someone then you make that choice,. Do people go too far? oh certainly, but dont ever claim to be a christian and then moan about having to treat people with respect.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • DarrellSF

      NO, you're putting apples and oranges together and getting fruit salad.

      No one is criticizing people for working hard and having a religious belief system or moral code. What they are criticizing is people believe their brand of religious belief is the only valid belief. When this happens, the good-hearted, hard-working, law-abiding people are vilified for NOT believing in a specific religion, philosophy, or spirituality. And when so many well-meaning people discount the goodness of others simply because they are different, it's almost impossibly to not resoundingly discount religion/philosophy/spirituality as a whole!

      If you truly want YOUR religion, philosophy, or spiritual beliefs to be accepted by others, you MUST accept that the religions, philosophies, and spiritual beliefs of others are JUST as valid as yours! If there is any form of discrimination against another American belief system, then you will be discriminated against yourself. It's your own karma. You're creating it.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      A kaleidoscope has nothing on your warped view of reality. This country is totally run by christians for christians except in a few enlightened places.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • bigducksfan

      The problem is those who claim to be the most christian, tend to "cast the most stones". Its this sort hypocrisy among many christian groups that continues to muddle the influence of religion in this country.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Johnlev

      Well, lets see here. According to google you describe yourself on a dating site as having a “few extra pounds”. Gluttony is a sin, correct? Why are you disobeying GODS word. You also listed yourself as divorced. That’s a sin. Why are you even messing around on a dating site instead of praying on it and trusting on the LORD? That’s another sin. Then of course the bible strictly forbids women to even teach but instead to remain silent and defer to their husbands. There’s another sin. Look at the plank in your eye before pointing out the speck in ours.

      May 30, 2013 at 6:49 am |
  9. mama k

    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.

    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 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      interesting comments even thought hey are approaching 300 years old.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • God is good

      Gods a nice fellow... thats to simple for man kind..

      Man is selfish... Man has to be right .. Man has to show dominance over their fellow man to show they are better... Man is always trying in someway to show they are greater then god.

      I'm not an overly religious person , I dont go to church , I don't pray as much as I like. But I do believe... which one of hundreds possible is trivial. I think God will understand that when my time comes. That I just tried to be good and do good and not get in anyones face of which one i was earning brownie points for.

      We all have to come to terms with our own interpretation of god... if he is , or isnt if he/she/they was happy with our deeds or banishes us to hell.. if we poof into nothingness or just get put in time out. If we come back to try again.. if we come back as a mouse or the next president.

      Man Kind has lost untolds amount of civilizations just over the past 500 years let alone 1000 or 2000. It does not surprise me the tales of God could be forgotten as well or manipulated by your fellow man in time in a way to control you.

      One day YOU will know the answer and it won't be another MAN telling you. Hopefully it will be God.

      I carry a Get out of Hell free Monopoly style card in my wallet... I hope I will have it and show it to him and at least make god laugh. Perhaps thats all that will be needed. Perhaps that is God merely a laugh and an enjoyed life. Is that to much to ask. Can Mankind ever put that behind them of not being right or wrong and merely live, explore and succeed.. and then wouldn't this be heaven on earth, but we are Man we do not want such things.

      Care for an Apple?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  10. Middleway14

    THANK FVC KING REALITY!!!! It's about time these puritanical fairy tales ended.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  11. CGAW

    Sorry, 1500 people polled is not a good sample size, so whatever the response and whatever your views, it doesn;t matter since it is not even close ot being a true assessment.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Tim

      Good Point.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • G to the T

      You both need to take a statistics class sometime...

      May 30, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  12. cedar rapids

    The fact that 77% says its losing influence, and 75% says it should increase suggests that maybe they are wrong in their perception of a declining influence as 3/4 of the country obviously religious is a pretty hefty chunck.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  13. LB Colorado

    This may very well be true, I do not want to hear "where is your God now", when all hell breaks loose and it will. America has definitely changed and has kicked God out all together. So it is what it is – look around you. Be careful what you ask for.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Chuckles

      How do you kick god out of the US?

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

      One kicks God out of the US by disallowing prayer in school. One kicks God out of the US by allowing gay members into the Boy Scouts of America. One kicks God out of the US by allowing atheists to mock God and say he doesn't exist and the Bible (God's Word) is just a made up story.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • G to the T

      So what would be your solution? Put the "laws" of the Bible into actual law? Face it, they never were. Though shalt not steal is the only one that's against the law (the whole though shalt not kill vs. not murder is another discussion). So then, WHICH laws in the bible should we make apply to everyone in the country, whether or not they happen to be your type of christian?

      That's why it's important to keep the laws as neutral and INCLUSIVE as possible. Anything else is injustice.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
  14. affwFWF

    About time we wised up.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  15. Hugh_Mann

    That's me in the corner

    May 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  16. gary

    religion is ancient myth and folklore.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • cm

      no it is a gateway.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • G to the T

      A "gateway" drug certainly...

      May 30, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  17. If God

    Reasons why God is horrible and unhealthy for our children and living things:

    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 5:05 pm |
    • ikdenised

      Really? all God does is Kill? and I suppose that new baby in his mothers arms does not count. If you have ever read the Bible you will see that there are all kinds of things God does, war, floods, storms, etc. but all for the better good. If there had never been a Hitler, there would have never been a new home country of Israil , the Bible clearly states there must be a new Isrial in order for all other things to come to pass.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Bob

      One can blame God for each and every horrible thing that happens to human beings. Be careful how you blame God! He will judge you one day. People including children die of cancer every day. Job in the Bible endured losing his whole family. Yet he had a strong faith in God and God rewarded him. You have to develop faith in God by reading the Bible and fellowshipping with other Christians. A lot of us are being tested in this time of economic hardship and political trouble. Hang in there. If you believe in God, he will not leave you and may just change your view someday.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • G to the T

      @ikdenised – Really? You don't think that an "all powerful" god couldn't come up with a way for the Israel homeland to be re-established without killing millions of people? That's just f'd up...

      May 30, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  18. R Burns

    "religion is losing its influence in the United States" If we are talking about organized religion, this may not be a bad thing! Too many people have the wrong idea about just what faith should mean. It doesn't mean following a powerful religious leader blindly, nor does it necessarily mean regular worship in a church that tells you what you want to hear. It's always been about listening to the spirit, something many people recognize and strive for – but hard to poll. If sermons were focused on Jesus' teachings as a core element maybe more people would pay attention. Like teenagers who deep down know they need to hear the admonitions of their parents and advisors, most adults I know would go a long way to hear the truths that will make them want to change their behavior for the better. That doesn't mean hellfire and damnation, but it does mean reminding each other as co-"workers in the field" of what we really need to hear and to know.

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

      Oh, the "Not a religion, but a relationship with Christ" crowd has it's leaders and it's tight religious set of beliefs too. I doubt that there's much leeway in what you can believe under this umbrella and, if that ain't "organized", then what is it?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  19. LT Fang

    Thank GOD for that.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  20. Sane Person

    thank god.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:04 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.