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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. Cted

    Finally... it's been a long time coming but hopefully this time it sticks and relgiion keeps losing its influence. Then we can get down to some serious science.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  2. davecu

    Religion divides, Spirituality unites.

    Trying to live by the thought treat people as you would like to be treated is not a bad idea.
    I can't change the world but I CAN make MY area a little bit better than I found it.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  3. magoonl

    This is fantastic news. God does not need our man centered moralistic religion. Originally Christianity didn't spread to the edges of the earth through the religious leaders of the day-it spread through 12 ordinary men who were willing to die for the truth they witnessed.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  4. Solitaire

    Religions should stay out of politics. It polarizes a country.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yeah and if there's anything we don't need, it's a difference of opinion.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • G to the T

      Bill – when one side is trying to INCLUDE as many people as possible and the other is trying to EXCLUDE those same groups, who do think as the moral high ground in a pluralistic society?

      May 30, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  5. William House

    Pray Away the Lying Greedy Bigots, better yet, Vote them Away!

    Democracy Invests Power in the People, a refreshing change from 6,000 years of Kings and Priests using us as pawns in their wars or slaves in their monopoly of wealth.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • ajk68

      You are a victim of the parody of how things used to be.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  6. erin

    Good. Now we can start to build our values and morals upon what is good, instead of basing then on what some guy wrote in a book thousands of years ago.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Danny

      I think it's safe to say that people have been doing this for centuries, which is why slavery was abolished long ago, along with letting women vote, among a few things. It was only a matter of time that social progress and ancient religions grew apart to the point of threatening religion. I see another major reform coming in the churches; it's the only way it can survive.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • ajk68

      What is "good?"

      May 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  7. Nathan

    This is wonderful news!

    May 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  8. Brad

    While 75% of churchgoers believe Amercia would be better off if the country was more religious, I would wager they all think it would be better off if America was more religious in line with their belief systems. Baptists want America to be more baptist, catholics more catholic, etc. Maybe that's why the founders put the no establishement clause in the bill of rights.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • mama k

      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)

      Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

      The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.

      (Jame Madison, from letters to Edward Livingston and Robert Walsh)

      May 29, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • sam

      It's a very good point. Every group would want it just their way, based on their sect's teachings. That's human nature. And it would get messy fast.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      equal time:

      Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man:To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered. [James Madison, according to Leonard W. Levy, Treason Against God: A History of the Offense of Blasphemy, New York: Schocken Books, 1981, p. xii.]

      May 29, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  9. pietynot

    It was a good run though.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • ajk68

      And this is the first time religion has ever been on the wane?
      During times of prosperity, people have always thought they were self-sufficient.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • G to the T

      LOL... and this is a time of prosperity? I thought Obama was destroying the economy... dangit, just can't seem to keep all this straight...

      May 30, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  10. Casey

    I know this is a great opportunity for those without faith to spout the usual anti God vitriol... but if anyone actually read the article ... is says that 75% of people think that the influence of religion is getting smaller in our country, and that 75% think that's a bad thing. So... a reasonable discussion to have (I know that reason is pretty far and wide to find on this board) is to ask why do we have this perception? Clearly, we are bombarded daily by horrible stories of people doing bad things to others. We see mass bombings, people killing 6 month old children over a video game, etc. We see folks with a near term agenda, that doesn't fit with the teachings of the Church, just trying to tear down that Church as part of some political exercise. Yes... I agree that the influence of religion is decreasing, and I agree that this is a bad thing for our country.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • sam

      The amount of religion does not equal morality. That's a false notion that has plagued mankind for millennia.

      Plenty of religious folks cause problems, too. Feel free to jump back a couple of articles to the folks who've let 2 kids die because they think faith healing works.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      its a false perception though.

      75% of the country say they want more religion so thats 75% of the country that is obviously religious, thats hardly a waning influence there.
      You want to claim less influence but i dare any politician to run for office whilst openly claiming to be antheist. They would not have an earthly chance. You dont get political attack ads saying 'so and so meets with christians' but you do get them about how such and such meets with atheist groups or whatever.
      Each politician, especially on the republican side, constantly tout just how religious they are.
      Every single anti-gay marriage bill that has been introduced over the last few years has been initiated by religious groups.
      That non-believers are being less afraid to speak up does not equate to less influence by the religious.

      It is a false perception.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • fleurdelys

      As a matter of fact a muslim beheaded two coptic christians in the beginning of this months and the main stream media did not report it. So maybe americans are getting less religious, which will cause muslims to harm them even more.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      and this shows why:

      " 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.""

      Those people who think it would be positive if America was more religious are the ones sitting their sorry butts in those pews every Sunday....of course they want more people attending, you can't have them going off and discovering for themselves now-can you? That might actually lead them to evidence and other information that could lead to them getting reeled in by the evil Atheists.
      No poll is ever completely accurate and in the grand scheme of it, most Atheists want to see a world where its peaceful...it's really not too difficult to see why certain numbers would be so high.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Belseth

      The fundamental problem with religion is it doesn't make you moral it makes you afraid to not follow a moral code. The fatal flaw is as people become more rational and question religion their forced moral code falls apart leaving them with nothing but self interest. That's what's destroying the country not a lack of religion. Philosophy is superior because it gives you a moral compass without needing an unprovable deity. Eventually as people awaken they have to deal with the fact that all religions sound just like the myths that we casually dismiss. Christianity is descended from the Greek myths and has many similarities. Most of the myths cycles of the time and many predating Christianity have the same events. Even Christ seems to be a composite of several people that lived around that time and no there is no historical record of Christ, that is a myth.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  11. Alex

    the toothfairy had it coming...

    May 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  12. Vic

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/16/end-times-for-doomsday-linked-radio-network/comment-page-1/#comment-2343757

    May 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Vic

      Trust me folks, that's what's happening!

      May 29, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Geraldine

      Is this something else you saw on Jenny Jones, Vic?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah thanks for not copy-pasting that silly post again, no one wanted to see it. And no, that's not sarcasm.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Vic

      Hey, I like Jenny Jones!

      :LOL:

      May 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Vic

      Hey, I like Jenny Jones!!

      😆

      May 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Geraldine: It was more than likely Jerry.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
  13. mama k

    Bill Moyers recently interviewed Daniel Dennett, an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, science & biology. He is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Watch the video at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUeQXmYVamA

    Dennett says that not for all, but for many, the dangerous thing about religion is that "it gives people a gold-plated excuse to stop thinking."

    Do yourself a favor and watch all of Dr. Dennett's lectures available on youtube. They are excellent.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Isn't he the guy who said "We don't know what we think we know about consciousness. In fact, our minds may be fooling us."?

      In his case, I think he's right.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Harald

      Not only that, but it's also a good excuse to delegate responsibility to some supernatural force.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Chad

      What does Dennett say about the inability of the view that all that exists is the material universe to explain:
      – origin of the universe
      – fine tuning of the universe
      – origin of life on earth
      – existence of free will
      – existence of consciousness
      – fossil record
      – empty tomb

      May 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • sam

      I don't know, Chad. Maybe go look it up for yourself. We know you don't actually care about the answers, you just want to find ways to spout whatever craziness you're up to at the moment.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • mama k

      I don't know that Dennett even attempts to address your Craig laundry-list there, Chad. He seems to stick to his area of expertise. I would be more likely to let Peter Millican argue against the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • ajk68

      Dennett has obviously never studied theology. He hides his ignorance behind a veil of superiority.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Rachel

      Please, please ignore Chad do not reply or he will spend all the evening reposting the same crap he has done over and over again. Yes I know I am guilty but more for the good of the blog and endless threads. There is no help for me I am trapped in the lunatics mind.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Really-O?

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb10QvaHpS4&w=640&h=360]

      May 29, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Just because there's an untaged gift under the tree doesn't mean a magic man in a red suit must be the one who delivered it, Chad, you fvcking moron. The answer, "We don't know," is so, so, soooooo much better than the stupid as fvck answer of, "big invisible sky wizard did it with magic spellz.":

      May 29, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • Joep

      I find Dr. Dennett to be a respectful man in regards to this topic. I may not agree with him, but he approach is non threatening it give people another viewpoint to consider.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Chad

      Dennett, 10 minutes to say "we dont know how (origin of the universe, origin of life, laws of nature, consciousness, free will , etc) , but we do know that it cant be God, because it MUST be purely naturalistic. The real reason can't be simple, it MUST be utterly implausible"

      kind of an inverse Occam's razor..

      pretty ridiculous.. right?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Really-O?

      =====
      Chad posting as "Rachel" –

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/06/richard-dawkins-evolution-is-not-a-controversial-issue/comment-page-10/#comments
      Starting ~September 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm
      Busted – September 9, 2012 at 8:13 pm

      ====
      Nonsensical Chad-bites:

      "I dismiss all other gods other than the God of Abraham because the God of Abraham has told me that they aren't real."

      "Every book that purports to accurately record history needs to be examined critically for internal consistency and for its accuracy in detail. The bible succeeds on all accounts [sic]."

      "The Genesis account stands alone amongst all creation stories of the time, a fact universally acknowledged...We are only know [sic] beginning to scientifically discover how accurate it is indeed."

      'As for supernatural vs natural processes, I also believe that the origin of life, and the development of more and more complex life forms on earth in the stages reflected in the fossil record, is the direct result of supernatural intervention (it's called "punctuated equilibrium" )'

      May 29, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
  14. Locker

    Religion is for suckers. Internet = smarter people who aren't as willing to "follow the leader" and believe things on "blind faith" More power to them... let this historical mythology fade into the past.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • Casey

      internet = smarter people? That is hilarious. You are just so cute.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Emmanuel Goldstein

      You were doing well, until the 4th word of your post, then it was all downhill. Religious people don't use the internet? HUH??

      May 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • JDH ONE

      Actually, you have it exactly backwards. The internet is leading people blindly. Most believe everything they read on the internet. It is pretty obvious you have no foundation in religious study based on your comment. Locker, how do you know when you are deceived? You don't, you're deceived.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Casey

      I can't help being passive aggressive and patronizing; I'm religious.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  15. Harald

    Getting rid of religion would be the best that could happen to the US and the world. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening any time soon.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • jargonwhat

      It's happening in Europe, where it seems to be a very good thing for society.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  16. Just wondering

    unfortunately it will just be replaced with a different dogma

    May 29, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Penn Jillette would seem to agree with you. 🙂

      “If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”
      ― Penn Jillette

      May 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Don't ya just love it when someone says something that sounds so good but can't be proven?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • sam

      Yes, like the bible, Bill.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Bill: The scientific evidence we have now can be built upon, can you say the same for your bible? The bottom line in the end is that no-one truly knows what this universe is all about...not you, not me...safer to say I don't know than to imply a supernatural being.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  17. guest

    This sort of thing was predicted by the apostle Paul: 1Now we beseech you, brothers, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together to him, 2That you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin [the anti-Christ] be revealed, the son of perdition; … 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

    May 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • sam

      Good. Hopefully the end comes soon and everyone who wants to can be swept away by Jesus and leave the rest of us in peace.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • jargonwhat

      Jesus also said that all of the prophecies would come to pass during the lifetimes of the apostles. So maybe the predictions weren't so accurate after all.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Joep

      Peace? Leave the rest of us in peace? I don't think that how it works.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah sorry, there's no hell. Unless it's listening to the faithful yammer on about how special their beliefs are. So a little rapturing would be nice.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • G to the T

      You mean the false apostle Paul? The one that never met Jesus and was constantly at odds with Peter? That's who's word you're going to believe?

      May 30, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  18. Martyr2

    How can losing religion be a bad thing? Look at Star Trek the Next Generation. They got rid of religion centuries ago and it ushered in a time of reasoning lead let us to travel the stars. The messed up civilizations they run into, half of them have some crazy religious rule that is bringing them to the edge of destruction.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      So you're building your thoughts on social order from a derivative TV show? Have you even seen Galaxy Quest?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • G to the T

      Yes Bill – have you? Did you see the ending? You know where they all lived happily ever after...

      May 30, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  19. JoshO

    Oh no! First REM and now America?!

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

      That's me in the corner! That's me in the spotlight!

      May 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  20. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Why is religion losing its influence? Let us count the ways:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    May 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • ....Okay?

      Well.....at least it's nice to see someone being bigoted toward eastern religions too?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • jargonwhat

      I will say though that many sects of Buddhism are non-theistic at least. Buddha was quoted as saying "The question of whether or not gods exist is irrelevant."

      May 29, 2013 at 5:34 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.