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. Gary

    Helsgod, I choose to believe anything one way or another based on fact. I do lean towards a creator. I realize earth is billions of years old. Proof oh yeah. mid oceanic ridges,Pangia patterns,erosion patterns,animal fossils and fossil fuels. Big bang theory just like evolution is just a theory not a proven fact. God or our creator could certainly have done it. God if he exists could also be in control of natural selection and evolution too. I can pretend to believe in something if I dont. I can not choose to believe in something based on feelings or religious texts. Even studying ancient cultures like American Indians points to all humans wanting to believe in some kind of God or Gods. I dont fault anyone for sincerely believing in Allah,Budda,Christ or who ever. I am very happy to be alive. I love my family,career,friends and hobbies. If God exists I do appreciate my life he created. Until I see him,Meet him I have no way to praise him.......

    July 3, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
    • Gary

      HelsGod, As far as Atheists. Well the burden of proof is in the believer not the doubter. That being said No atheists has ever and can not prove to me or anyone God dos not exist. Atheists can want their not to be a God. Atheist can make the assumption there is no God. Just like any devout muslim,Jew,Christian,hindu ect they believe beliefs. They do not know for sure. religion in my opinion is faith based. Atheism is severe lack of faith. Agnostic is not sure yet.

      July 3, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      So if you lost your sight, you could no longer praise your spouse and children?

      July 4, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      So if you lost your sight, you could no longer praise your family or love them? You must really put a lot of faith in sight. Do you need glasses to see well? Going blind would be a real worry for you-way more traumatic for you then the guy next door.

      July 4, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
  2. Grist

    Mr. Greene says that people often lie when asked about a behavior that is "good". Interesting that he simply defines attendance at Church as being good. That is debatable. I suppose that most of our society thinks that attending Church is good. As an atheist, I do not believe that attending Church is good so I guess I would not lie about attending Church. And I thought that bearing false witness was a sin?

    July 3, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  3. Gary

    Helsgod, You proved my point exactly. As an agnostic who truly cares about his fellow man. I wish you the best

    July 3, 2010 at 10:10 am |
    • HeIsGod

      Hi, Gary, I just want to say that Agnostics are people that are in a shipwreck. They don't if God exists or not. You either believe there is a God or not. You are either a believer or an Atheist. Sorry to tell you this, but Agnostic are worse than Atheist, why, because out of the ignorance of an Atheist, they refuse to believe in their Creator and Agnostics, well, sometimes they defend comments of others proclaiming God's existence or His Word, but than they don't know what to believe. That is living in confusing and Satan is the author of confusion as well as the father of all lies.

      So, I don't know what you meant that I have proven your point.

      July 3, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      "They don't know if God exists or not.

      Also, I wanted to add in regards to the shipwreck comment. Agnostics are being tossed from one end to another by their own confusion.

      July 3, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
    • Jacob

      not knowing something and confusion aren't always the same thing.

      July 5, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
  4. revjudith

    I'm an Episcopal priest in a suburban parish. Our parish attendance report show a decrease in worship attendance for 2009; many of my clergy colleagues have noted the same trend. If Americans reported a .06 percent increase in their spiritual activity last year, compared to 2008, that increase doesn't appear to have any relevance to regular worship attendance.

    July 3, 2010 at 9:12 am |
  5. juan.lopelo@gmail.com

    am very much interested in this case,because as much as we disputes,argues about God signifies that He exist within humans,for at the time of human creation God inserted His Spirit inside man,if you decide not to believe HIm while you are alive,definitely you will met Him at your dying bed.FOR IT IS APPOINTED UNTO MAN TO DIE ONCE AFTER THAT JUDGEMENT.we are looking at the evidence that God actually exist,please do ask a practicing doctor or nurse the horrible,anguish,excruciating,and agonising pains of the soul or spirit of an athiest or unbeliver and that of the peaceful departure of the soul of a saint.things of God are foolishness to an unbeliever because they are spiritual decern.God IS SPIRITand for you to understand God or come close to His deity,you must turn your flesh into spirit.how,the book of john chapter three verse three will give you an insight,you must be born into the Spirit of God,because GOD IS SPIRIT AND THE THAT WORSHIP HIM MUST WORSHIP HIM IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH.let me tell you an interesting experience.
    !!!!! a man asked a clergy that he want to see God,the clergy replied the man to follow in his jeep and they drove down the rumpy road to the mighty river,both came down walking inside the river but the clergy leading the way,but inside the mans mind,a thought came up whether the clergy wants to kill,but having faith in the clergy,the man continued as the water from the sole of his feet is now at the shoulders,and all of a sudden the clergy turned, got hold of the man shoulders and firmly pressed him down the river for some minutes,the man finally thought that this clergy wants to get rid of him that he may see God,but the good clergy man raised him up gasping,soaked out of breath.immedistely the clergy man asked,the man*at the point that you were down there,what must do you want in life* and he reply MY BREATH,I WANTED AIR.read the book of jeremiah chapter twenty nine verse twelve to fourteen.may God JESUS CHRIST BLESSES YOU AS YOU BELIEVE.

    July 3, 2010 at 8:17 am |
  6. Gary

    I notice its an African American church. Blacks were suckered into religion by their slave masters back in the day.

    July 2, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      I belong to a Black community nondenominational Church and as a Mexican, I can say it is the best church I have attended for more than 15 years. If the blacks were suckered into religion by their slaves masters back in the day, well, they are now serving the real Master, Jesus Christ. Glory to God!

      July 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
    • donavon

      true dat hels- Christ the gracious master. better to be slave to Christ than free with no hope

      July 2, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
  7. HeIsGod

    AMERICANS Need to return to God. I am so glad to see that more Americans are listening to the voice of God. Without Him, we are nothing. May the Spirit of God be poured out upon every mankind in this nation and all over the world! AMEN!!

    July 2, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
    • GodIsForImbeciles

      Americans need to return to science and history class. You need to return to the rest home and change your Depends.

      July 6, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
  8. madatmyselfforevenleavingacomment

    To quote Rodney King.."Can't we all just get along"? This is my disappointment in the internet. It allows people to attack peoples' beliefs (or just attack people in general) for merely stating how they feel! Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists....most of these postings are absolutely rediculous!

    July 2, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
    • wyson.

      be disappointed with the people not the internet

      July 2, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
    • Jacob

      yes, I think you will find that there are a handful of difficult people here on the Belief Blog, some of them believers and some of them athiests, but that for the most part the people on here are thoughtful and doing what they think is right. I have a great deal of respect for both sides (I am BTW neither a Christian nor an athiest, so I see this bickering as an outside observer) except when the name calling begins.

      July 5, 2010 at 8:37 pm |
  9. chris

    Some have Faith in God, some have Faith a lightening bolt skipped across a pond in such a way that it ionized some water molecules and created some precursors to some amino acids...
    But both beliefs are faith(cannot be proven). A wise saying goes something like "no wonder I don't respect your beliefs when you do not respect mine" On this Fourth of July weekend Lets all thank GOD we live in a country where we can believe what we want....Freedom of faith on being a pillar of why this country was founded in the first place....Religious Freedom.
    Lets all thank God we live in a country where we can have that. Ironically it's all those who have faith in the magic lightning bolt cult that feel so compelled to attack Christianity. Ever think why you feel so compelled to make others think just like you do(atheist)? Perhaps if a predominately chrisitan culture(USA) is so oppressive, one should moe on to espose religous intolerance and hatred in perhaps....a middle eastern country, perhaps even France?

    July 2, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  10. Tom

    I hope this isn't the case but it could be all the people out of work or haviing financial difficulties. Many turn to God when times get tough.

    July 2, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
  11. Mike

    For Christians it is vital to be involved either in a congregation or a community of Christians seeking to glorify God. We are told in Hebrews 10:24,25 not to neglect meeting together so that we may encourage each other and stir one another to love and good works.

    Proverbs 27:17 says "As iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." The first duty in the life of a Christian is to love God with everything that we are. Everything. If we can't sacrifice a few hours a week to worship and glorify the Creator and Redeemer of our very souls, we are too busy!! Believers should be giving everything that they are for His glory.

    God is sooo incredibly good, and we, as fallible believers, need to be around one another so that we can be built up in our faith to the glory of God. We need to come to other faithful to learn how to be better servants and vessels for Him. 🙂

    July 2, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
  12. TexinVA

    Wow, a teeny tiny fraction of a percentage point increase. Probably people dropping Christianity and moving to other religions.

    "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 religion."

    Sounds like more people are thinking for themselves more now instead of blindly following old myths and fairytales. A very good thing in my view.

    July 2, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  13. ybs

    This correlates well with the increase in horoscope readership! 🙂

    July 2, 2010 at 6:15 am |
  14. Andy

    prayer is a tool, a mechanism to understand things that happen at a pace that is suited to the one who prays. it is not some ritual that gives you points to get into heaven. whatever you believe, if you believe. Even if you don't thats still what it is.

    July 2, 2010 at 5:16 am |
    • TexinVA

      Wrong. It's a ritual, not much different than chanting Hare Krishna or any other such mumbo jumbo nonsense. I worry about people that talk to invisible, supernatural beings.

      July 2, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  15. Griff

    What a weird news story. What is CNN's motive for using one paragraph to report an event (poll results) and then using 13 paragraphs to try to claim it can't be believed?

    Typical. If the result is not what CNN wants, then they need to undermine it.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
  16. Mike

    This is great news! Now everyone can return to the one TRUE faith of *religous organization* and accept that it is the ultimate truth! All praise to * appropriate Diety*

    Here is a template for anyone looking to preach. No thanks necessary, now please get off the computer and go outside

    July 1, 2010 at 9:37 pm |
  17. STLBroker

    Albert Einstein quotes:

    "God does not play dice."

    "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."

    "There are two ways to look at life. That nothing is a miracle or that everything is a miracle."

    Possibly the greatest scientific mind that has ever lived understood that there is a God and had special insight as to how God operates and thinks.

    Science and religion both seek the truth. They both end up finding the same thing, God.

    July 1, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  18. jfonty1

    God has set eternity in our hearts. And it is there for a reason. We were made by God for God. Even through our denial of His existence, self centeredess,egotism,arguing, restlessness, and replacement with other "stuff". That pull and longing for what is "missing" in our lives will always be there and it will never go away. That is why people are heading back to church because they long for what is missing in their lives – God. And God has placed this there on purpose. To draw all of His creation to Himself.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  19. CatholicMom

    Some of you seem to think that the Catholic Church is somehow against Truth in Science. This is false. Many Catholics are noted scientists in various fields of learning.

    The Church knows that when science shows us a truth it is that we are just discovering the truth at this point in time even though it has always been there as truth. I love science! Every time we humans discover something new—it is just so thrilling and amazing and wonderful to hear about it. It just proves over and over how awesome God is.

    So, people with those wonderful scientific thinking minds,—keep exposing truth to us so we can thank God and praise Him for His gifts! Life is full of wonder and never ceases to bring God’s creative genius to mind. You can’t help but love Him!

    Here are a few Catholic minds that have helped ‘progress’ as we call it—progress along in Truth!

    Dietrich von Frieberg, a priest who solved the mystery of the rainbow.
    Francesco Maria Grimaldi discovered the diffraction of light.
    Georges Lemaitre—the priest who showed us the universe is expanding
    Louis Pasteur—the germ theory of disease.
    Galileo Galilei—the New Science
    Antoine Laurent Lavoisier—the Revolution in Chemistry
    Nicolaus Copernicus—the Heliocentric Universe
    Erwin Schrodinger—Wave Mechanics
    Andreas Vesalius—the New Anatomy
    Enrico Fermi—Atomic Physics
    Marcello Malpighi—Microscopic Anatomy
    John von Neumann—the Modern Computer—Jewish Catholic
    Gregor Mendel—the Laws of Inheritance—Augustinian monk
    Alexander Fleming Penicillin

    Of course there are many others, and many non-catholics, and the Church recognizes all Truth and thanks and praises God for it.

    July 1, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  20. Amanda

    When all of you one day meet your maker, JESUS CHRIST, on your judgement day..Maybe what you posted on this blog will come to mind and you will regret it. Religion and faith are two totally different things. GO TO CHURCH.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:45 am |
    • Gary

      Amanda when you meet alla or Budda or who ever on your judgement day I say good luck to you and your eternal afterlife..

      July 1, 2010 at 12:04 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.