June 30th, 2010
08:58 AM ET

More Americans say they attend church, mosque, synagogue

Church attendance crept up slightly in the United States this year, according to new Gallup research - but not everyone is buying the findings.

Slightly more than 43 percent of Americans told Gallup they attend church, synagogue or mosque weekly or almost every week, up from just under 43 percent in 2009, and about 42 percent in 2008.

The results are within the poll's margin of error, but still "statistically significant," Gallup said in announcing the results Monday.

A top expert on religion in America dismissed the numbers out of hand, but said there may be something to the trend.

"Those numbers are just wrong," Trinity College Professor Mark Silk said Tuesday.

He puts the percentage of Americans who actually attend weekly services somewhere in the mid-20s, pointing out that people tend to exaggerate when pollsters ask if they do something regarded as "good."

"The problem with (the) Gallup (poll) is that self-reported behavior that is good, you tend to overestimate your behavior. When people are asked how often they vote, they tend to be, let's say, optimistic," he said, pointing out that there are good independent measures of both voting and religious attendance.

But he also noted that a completely unrelated study found that Americans say they are spending more time on "spiritual and religious activities."

The Department of Labor's annual survey of how Americans spend their time reported last week that Americans said they engaged in spiritual activity for about nine minutes a day in 2009, up from 8.4 minutes in 2008.

That's a more reliable finding, Silk said, because people tend more honest when asked to account for their time than when they are asked about a specific "good activity."

Trinity College's American Religious Identification Survey found last year that the number of Americans calling themselves Christian had dropped to three out of four, while more than ever before were saying they had no


Silk said this week's Gallup findings don't necessarily contradict the Trinity survey.

"ARIS numbers don't necessarily tell you anything about changes in behavior," he said, only about how people define their identity.

Gallup polled more than 300,000 people in 2008 and 2009, and 117,156 people for the 2010 survey, giving a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point each year, it said.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Faith • Houses of worship

soundoff (270 Responses)
  1. Ken

    Hey Toby,

    God offers the proof to individuals who seek it with the proper intent. I have my proof and it didn't come from my parents.

    As for my children they know where I stand but they will need to work out their own relationship with God, I can't transfer my knowledge of this to them but I can explain why and how I found out for myself and let them take it from there.

    We can agree to disagree on this matter but I still needed to respond.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • Gary

      Ken, not attacking you but where is your proof? I hear the same claims from muslims,hindus,buddist,Jews ect..

      July 1, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
    • Toby

      "As for my children they know where I stand but they will need to work out their own relationship with God.."

      If you are telling them that there is a god who created them, then you are molding the minds of your children with what you want them to believe. With my own children, I leave them alone and let them discover the beauty in this world without poisoning the experience with ideas of subjugation and self abasement.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
    • Ken

      Hey Gary,

      You ask a valid question. The proof that I received came from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit testifies of truth. It doesn't matter if the source is Muslim, Catholic, Jew, Mormon, or Hindu, if it is true the Holy Ghost will confirm it. I personally believe the other major religions were started by other followers of God. If you look at the overall message of all the major religions they are the same: 1. Be Honest. 2. You're responsible for your actions. 3. Help others. 4. Do the right thing even if it's hard. I believe that men have changed the message of all major religions over the years but the essence is still there. To get the proof you seek you need to go to the source (God) with Faith. He may not answer you right away but if you really want to know he will answer you.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • Ken

      Hey Toby,
      I would submit that to withhold something from my children that has brought strength and peace into my life would be a serious form of neglect. If as they grow up they choose a different path that us up to them. If I can show them a way that will help them deal with pain and sorrow better and maybe avoid some pitfalls along the way I'm sure going to try.
      I would like to say thank you for keeping things nice and professional. That's not always the way it works out here. We obviously have very different opinions (and probably always will) but I have appreciated the exchange.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
    • Gary

      Ken , thanks for the kind response I wish you the best.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
  2. Toby

    I believe I am a good person without having any need for a god, salvation, or divine help. Religion tells us (and children) that they are born guilty of some sin that they inherited from a fairyland (Garden of Eden) and that they are deserving of death as a result. There is absolutely NO proof for any of this, and yet people are still told this as if it is a demonstrable fact. Young, innocent children imbibe these obnoxious, dangerous, poisonous ideas before they even learn to read. Their faculties of reason and common sense are corrupted and they then grow into adults, willing to defend (often to the death) ideas that, according to author Sam Harris "shouldn't survive an elementary school education." It is sad, it is immoral, and it may well be the undoing of our civilization.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:17 am |
    • salmo8318

      That you are "good" is to be commended. However, you and I and every person alive are involved in the most important issue ever to face mankind: the issue of universal sovereignty. Satan's challenge back in the garden of Eden was stating that humans would be better off making their own decisions rather than obeying God’s laws. He thus challenged God’s way of ruling or God’s universal sovereignty, that is, his right to rule. So, the question was raised: Which is better for humans, God's way of ruling or rulership independent of him? History shows that "man has dominated man to his own injury" (ECCL 8:9). In the days of Job, a secondary issue was also raised: loyalty to God. Satan contended that those who serve Jehovah do so, not out of love for God and his way of ruling, but for selfish reasons.

      A vital point in the issue of sovereignty is this: God did not create humans to live independently of his rulership and be successful. For their benefit he made them dependent on his righteous laws. The prophet Jeremiah acknowledged: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step. Correct me, O Jehovah.” (Jeremiah 10:23, 24) So God’s Word urges: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) Just as God made humankind subject to his physical laws to stay alive, he also made moral laws, which if obeyed would make for a harmonious society.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  3. Ken

    I know God lives. I know our Heavenly Father loves all of His children. He allows us all to choose our own path even if it is the wrong one. He has provided a Savior for us to help us overcome the mistakes that we make as well as death.
    Just because some people haven't had any experience with God doesn't mean that no one has. I have had a witness from God that I have been forgiven. There is no greater witness than the one that comes from God.
    In my experience it is easy to build a wall of selfishness to keep God out. What are you willing to give up to know God?
    I do not force my beliefs on anyone else but I'm happy to share what has worked for me if it will help others.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  4. FKC16

    "we are made of star stuff"-Carl Sagan

    We are one with the universe;plants,animals,rocks,water,planet,stars,the universe is "god",the universe is nature,nature is "god" for we are one with it because we are the same but manifested differently but our minds have allowed us to ask,seek and understand and i always wonder why do people have a problem in believing something like this,but people want ot put themselves as better than plants,animals,rocks,water,planets,stars,etc. and in the realm of immortality where the fear of death is the only thing that plagues the human mind and what better way to escape it than to believe a "greater power" has made us and awaits our return to paradise.....or suffering.

    Religion in my opinion had a chance to be something greater but it has failed us,look at history and how we keep on repeating it when it comes to religion by constantly fighting each other over those views,wanting to spread "your" influence over the rest in the name of your god.

    If people could learn to accept the fact that different views on religion will always exist and say lets live a life of understanding,compassion and love for each other wouldn't the world be a much better place,because those "Holy" books kill quite a lot of people.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:45 am |
  5. jamesnyc

    If we reduced the influence of religion on modern society to just tolerable philosophies we would be better off. We could do away with jihads/crusades and hypocrisy and false hero worship and accentuate the positive communal and generous characteristics. We could also tax them and clear up our national debt.

    July 1, 2010 at 7:37 am |
    • Gary

      Jamesnyc, excellent point especially tax the mega churches.....Benny hynn,T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen,Pat Robinson,Oral Roberts...millions of dollars which belong to tax paying Americans.

      July 1, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  6. Jeff

    So people who are critical of the church don't believe positive statistics about the church. A little wishful, biased thinking perhaps? That's like publishing an article where Republicans approval ratings are up and then asking the Democrats if they believe it.

    July 1, 2010 at 7:02 am |
    • Gary

      Jeff, church and religion is fine by me . I realize all cultures have some kind of religion or God they believe. I also realize many projects,charities, and even great family and community values come from churches and religious groups. That being said it offends agnostics greatly when Christians,Muslims and any other religious group says either believe in what we believe in or rot in Hell..

      July 1, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  7. truth777

    Its kind of interesting that in the bible i believe in the book of JOB. Keep in mind Job's book is i think the oldest if not one of the oldest books of the bible that has been carbon dated back to around 1500B.C. In JOB 36:27-28 it shows that bible testifies and also confirms what science in recent centuries have come to find out. Evaporation...Condensation...and Precipitation which is something we now learn in school when we are young. But interestingly enough it is mentioned in the bible hundreds of years before science even proved it. But in those times if you said these things people would think you were crazy. You can also read JOB 26:7 and it testifies that the earth is suspended in space and not on the back of some guy with muscles( i don't remember the name i think it was Atlas...correct me if i'm wrong) also other traditions thought the Earth was being carried on a turtle and many other ideas. but if you thought against any of these ideas back in the days you'd be ridiculed. So through these passages we come to understand facts that we learned also in school when we were young pointing out something hundreds and hundreds of years before it was even deemed fact by science. There are pophecies written in the bible especially in the book of Daniel that show with more clarity and detail than nostradamus things that really happened in history. Well that's actually a whole long study in itself which i will not elaborate on due to time. But my point is can we say the bible is fact? Or are all these things untrue? Is evaporation-condensation-precipitation and the earth being suspended by gravity in space true?

    July 1, 2010 at 4:12 am |
    • Gary

      truth777, No verifiable evidence of 99% of the bible. The names Timothy,Paul.Matthew,John were changed by King James. Some say Jesus real name was a yiddish name. ....

      July 1, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  8. ebecerra

    i urge everyone to read Self- Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson,written in 1841!!!!. Open your eyes and ur mind to how trully powerful and beautiful we all are..... Peace

    July 1, 2010 at 3:01 am |
  9. houstonrocks

    I am not impressed with more people going to church as I am with the character of the person that's going. You can go to church every week and be the most evil, self righteous and selfish person ever. People know how to look the part but it's really about being what you believe. I have seen too many people (especially on my job) talk about church service and how "the spirit moved in that place" yet they gossip, back-stab others and some are just down right mean. I am not perfect and never claimed to be. I know we all have our shortcomings. I just get tired of that self righteous trip that a lot (not all) of church folks are guilty of. I stopped going to church a few months ago because I was tired of what people have turned church into.

    July 1, 2010 at 2:15 am |
    • Gary

      Houston flat..Austin rocks...

      July 1, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  10. 1invsblehand

    I wonder if I will ever see a New York City police blotter stating "Long haired bearded man dressed in sandals and a home spun wool garment arrested for vandalizing the lobby of Goldman Sachs."

    July 1, 2010 at 1:50 am |
  11. audiscott88

    Once someone is brainwashed into believing in "god", is there really an argument that will convince them otherwise?

    June 30, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  12. edwords

    No, Noble9 (above), it doesn't count as church attendance, but it might get you a lottery jackpot.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
  13. Noble9

    I took this Gallup poll. Some of the questions had a decidedly judaeo-christian slant and were difficult to answer. I worship the primal forces of nature, man's and the earth's, in the form of the Gods of our ancestors. If I make an offering in my backyard to my ancestors, the spirits of the land, and the Gods does it count as "attending church"?

    June 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
  14. Toby

    One thing that has always puzzled me is this: If God and his son Jesus are one and the same in form and substance (according to the Bible) then, in effect, Jesus was complicit in impregnating his own mother. There is just no way out of this argument.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
    • salmos8318

      I agree with you... that's just one example of the ridiculous "mystery" of the Trinity teaching. I respectfully disagree with "Christians" who teach/believe a trinitarian God (with paganistic origins). It's no wonder that many have no inclination to want to get to know such a "mysterious" God. Not all who claim to be Christian have this belief.

      June 30, 2010 at 9:28 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      The Trinity is a dogma of the Catholic Church. It means there are 3 persons in one Godhead.

      The Angel, Gabriel, who is a messenger of God, told Mary that she would bear a son and name him Jesus. She asked, ‘How can this be since I know not man?’ The Church refers to this as the Annunciation.

      Mary is told that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. The word "overshadowed" is translated in the Greek Septuagint from the same word as when the Lord's glory appeared in the Tabernacle and "overshadowed" it. It means that the eternal Son of God (the Most High) united Himself with the miraculously generated human nature in the womb of the virgin resulting in "the holy One" the God-Man, both deity and humanity united for the redemption of fallen man.

      God has fashioned all things by His Word and His Wisdom.

      The Holy Spirit is the giver of life. Remember Jesus Christ breathed upon the Apostles and they received the Holy Spirit and were no longer afraid but filled with zeal for God and to do His will.

      When Mary received the Holy Spirit she was no longer afraid and wanted to do the Father’s will.

      For with God nothing will be impossible.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
    • truth777

      The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all represent God himself. Just like H2O- The ice, water, vapor are different titles but we all know that it is still water but in liquid, solid, and gas form and also used for different things. Another example is that I am a son to my father, a father to my son, and co-worker to my colleagues. in the same way the trinity represents different titles of God and different ways God will appear to bring forth his truth.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:45 am |
    • salmo8318

      (Note that I quote from Catholic sources here).. The New Catholic Encyclopedia explains: “The Old Testament clearly does not envisage God’s spirit as a person . . . God’s spirit is simply God’s power.” The same source adds: “The majority of New Testament texts reveal God’s spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God.” Neither the word Trinity nor the idea is taught in the Scriptures nor by the early followers of Christ.

      The Scriptures make it clear that the holy spirit is God's active force which he uses to accomplish his purposes. You quoted Luke 1:35 which links the holy spirit of "power of the Most High". Likewise, the prophet Micah said: "I myself have become full of power, with the spirit of Jehovah" MIC 3:8. And that's what the disciples of Jesus received in the form of "tongues of fire" just as he had promised them: "You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you" ACT 1:8. There are countless examples in the Bible that show that the holy spirit in not a person.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  15. bg in oregon

    It’s amazing that people would lie about having imaginary friends.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
  16. beboyzury

    The word RELIGION means: a form of worship to a animal, a god, yourself, money or any form of entertainment. Everybody has a religion even if it is the famous " my own religion". Atheist are people who does not believe in the only true God Jehovah, but they still have a religion or a form of worship, even if they decide ti give exclusive devotion to their family or themselves.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • bethradd

      And this is why I claim to be an agnostic. I do not believe in a "god" but my devotion to my family, the knowledge that I am who I am because of my parents, the faith I have in myself, my family and friends, I choose not to call myself an atheist.

      June 30, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
    • Ituri

      Not liking what religion is... and what isn't, in regards to things such as atheism... does not give you the qualification to redefine reality.

      June 30, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
    • Toby

      While I dispute your definition of the word "religion", I will withdraw it and use the more accurate word "supernaturalist." Now a supernaturalist can believe all kinds of interesting and untestable ideas-unaided human flight, communication with the dead, telekinesis, ESP, alien abductions, ghosts, demon possession, Jehovah, Jesus, virgin births of semi-deities, etc. Which do you prefer now? Religion or supernaturalist?

      June 30, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
  17. Gary

    natural selection,evolution and so obvious and proven. still dosnt prove or disprove existence of God or any particular religion...

    June 30, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
    • Eric G

      That is the thing about scientific theory. It never claims to have all the answers. If evolutionary theory is tested, verified and proven, it just proves evolutionary theory. Science never claims that because evolution is a proven fact that god does not exist. Believers, on the other hand, claim to have all of the answers without any proof. It's makebelieve.......just like the boogeyman.

      June 30, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
  18. Willie12345

    Da Obama administration makes people get religion. Da end is near.......

    June 30, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  19. Toby

    Very interesting. But keep in mind one simple yet sobering fact-even if all of these religions doubled in size over the next few years, it STILL does not prove that Christianity is anything other than myth and legend. It STILL would not prove that there is a god or that he intervenes in the affairs of man. What it WOULD suggest (albeit strongly) is that people are generally easily seduced by supernatural claims of "salvation by faith" and the unproven promise of a life after death.

    June 30, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  20. Toby

    Emmitt Langley

    "So...based on your lovely theory we must conclude that because evolutionists have disagreements about the exact nature of evolution (punctuated equilibria v gradual change, for example), that means evolution isn't true?

    Seriously, atheists need to take a course in intro logic. Your premises don't lead logically to your conclusion."

    Here's the thing Emmit, and there is just no getting around this: there is overwhelming evidence for evolutionary theory. If you truly understood evolution (which it is clear you do not because you equate scientific disagreement over specifics in evolutionary theory to Christianity being demonstrably true) you would know that evolution stands as a fact in the scientific world. It is testable, observable, predictable, and is FALSIFIABLE. Christianity is none of these things. Your cute attempt at equivocation is brutally devoid of any substantive meaning beyond the deliberate intent to mislead the credible and the gullible.

    June 30, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
    • salmo8318

      With regards to: "overwhelming evidence for evolutionary theory" and " evolution stands as a fact in the scientific world. It is testable, observable, predictable, and is FALSIFIABLE"? Have you considered the overwhelming amount of rebuttals to this theory? Do you realize that it takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in creation by a Supreme Being?

      I would appreciate a discussion on specifics, if you're open to it. And, please, just so that we can have some focus... let's keep it to one or two topics (cause both you and I know that we can go all over the place on these). Please state which specific area you'd like to discuss (I'll let you choose since I've already posted a few topics on this throughout this blog).

      June 30, 2010 at 5:21 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.