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
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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. Unintelligent Designer

    Humans created religion, not a god. Religion dying off only solves part of the problem. I can only hope that we continue to progress socially.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  2. Common Sense

    The rise of Marxist ideology has been going on for some time in this country.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • mama k


      May 29, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Love Groucho!

      May 30, 2013 at 12:32 am |
  3. dangle66

    It's comical that so many religious people keep claiming our morals are going down... guess they would prefer we were still killing the natives, lynching blacks, and burning "witches." Does anyone know where we got the rules for indentured servitude and slavery??

    May 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Actually the african slave trade came from the Muslims taking non Muslims as slaves they introduced it to Europe during the Muslims invasions

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

      Pretty sure slavery has been around since the beginning of man. An easy example is the Israelites enslavement in Egypt, long before Christianity began. In the US it was religious people that pushed for abolition long before the idea was popular. I'm also quite certain that murder has been around awhile and isn't unique to the Christian world. So I'm not exactly sure what your point is.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Never burned "witches" in this country. That was Spain and Scotland. The Salem victims of religious hysteria were all hanged except Giles Corey who was pressed to death. Pressing is basically piling rocks on top of someone until they die. Typically xtian.
      Fun facts to know and tell!

      May 30, 2013 at 12:40 am |
    • G to the T

      NJ – Jews as slaves in Egypt – never happened. Not a shred of evidence outside of the Bible that they were ever there...

      May 30, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  4. fleurdelys

    Question: Why dind't CNN report since the beginning of this month about a muslim in NJ who has beheaded two christian coptics, cut their hands and their tongue???????????????????????????

    May 29, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      because it seems to be simple 'nutjob killed 2 people' event and not a 'muslim deliberately attacking them because they were christian' event.
      They all knew each other and apparently had gotten in an argument with each other before the event happened.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  5. mrskool

    Thank God ! LOL ! You'd think after 2000+ years people would finally get a clue 🙂

    May 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  6. snoozie

    Not that I believe (I am closest to agnosticism as a label), but perhaps religion and the bible are the very instruments of Satan the religious are always warning us about. Think about it. All they have wrought is war, pain, divisiveness and hatred. They give us excuses to hate. I keep reading that old saying, "The Devil's greatest trick was convincing mankind he does not exist". First of all, just because there is a clever saying does not make it true, but OTOH what if the devil's greatest achievement was making people think the way to God was through religion and the bible? After all, look at the fallout!

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

      I'm not sure many people believe that the way to God is through religion. Through good works? Yes. In the case of Christians, through Jesus, but certainly not through religion.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • MrHighMighty

      Snoozie, you are half-correct. Scripture tells us that Satan takes truths and creations from God and perverts them to pull man away from God, and false doctrine is one of Satan's favorite tools. (The first example is when Satan twisted God's words to trick Eve). So when confronted with doctrines or actions by "religious" people, the challenge for us is to discern righteousness from evil, and the first step in discernment is to consider the fruits of the doctrine in question - if it creates war, pain, divisiveness, and hatred etc, you can be sure it does not come from God. Indeed, much of the negativity toward religion in this country is a result of false doctrines being promoted as God's Word.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      That would require the actual existence of the devil. Some study about the origins of that particular myth might be in order. Humans are capable of great evil as well as great good; we don't need any supernatural help.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:43 am |
  7. goblackhawks

    I forgot to most of you godless , losers your god is in the White House. I would rather be on the side of our Founding Fathers, the Dali Lama, The Pope , and even Bill Clinton ... than on the side of Bill Maher

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

      I think the founding fathers would have appreciated Bill Maher.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Laurie in Spokane

      Is Bill Maher in the White House now? Far Out!!.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      Do you realize that the Dali Lama leads a "godless" religion?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      ah there is more of that hate.
      sorry goblackhawks but that will get you hell bound according to your own bible. No my rules you understand, sorry.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Back under your bridge, troll.

      May 30, 2013 at 12:44 am |
  8. Sonic10158

    Religion isn't inherently bad, neither is Athiesm. I just don't get why we always have to fight over which interpretation of why we are here/where we will go when we die/etc...

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

      Couldn't agree more. One's spirituality or lack thereof is a personal decision. To each his own.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  9. Secular Humanist from Ohio

    This is good news. It's about time to give up belief in bronze age fairy tales.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • cm

      Sorry living in your reality is just blah.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  10. lksdjflkj

    Cant happen fast enough. Too many people have been murdered in the name of god.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  11. Dan

    If conservative religious leaders and people like Rick Santorum actually told the truth .....

    May 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
  12. JesusLovesUsAll7


    FOR EVERYONE Please read, I beg you all...

    May 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Joe Anja

      Isn't it a sin to beg?

      May 29, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
  13. Punchmaster

    A glimmer of hope....People are evolving and getting smarter.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Laurie in Spokane

      I totally agree with you. It's about time people wake up and realize that religions, although they can and do good sometimes, are also responsible for so many wars and death and destruction in this world. Thank "god" I wasn't born with the "god" gene.

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

      Smarter – NOT. Hedonistic and secular maybe.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • sam

      @cm – you say that like it's a bad thing!

      May 29, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  14. Joe

    As it was written in the bible, this must come to pass, where Christians are the minority and will be laughed at and hated. Until we complete this cycle, Jesus will not return. So while those that say religion is silly and the more that turn from God, only enforces what we Christians have already read.

    Regardless if you believe or not does not change the fact you will kneel before God on judgment day.

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

      well said.. i second that

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

      Right Joe, only you have the correct answers. All your human brothers/sisters with no access to christianity are just out of the loop.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • Automatic Translation of above


      May 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      well seeing as it seems the overwhleming majority of people in the country are still christian then i guess you have a long wait ahead of you joe.
      cue the hold music.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  15. @OD

    If Alians ever come, what will we have in common, Jesus ( Budha, Al etc. ) or math? ...exactly

    May 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  16. Richard Dawkins

    Most encouraging...

    May 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  17. Saboth

    Violent crime is down, and religion is also down. Basically, most of the intolerance and hate towards other people seems to originate from religion. As Gandhi said "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christianity". If Christians actually followed the Bible, they wouldn't mind paying for welfare, because it helps the poor, but instead they want it eliminated.

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

      Because that's totally how the study of statistics works.....................

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

      On one hand you state it's good that religion's influence is decreasing then you quote a deeply religious man, Ghandi, on the faults he found with Christians. I'm not sure what your point is. Are you against religion or Christianity?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  18. Steve S

    GOOD news, as far as I'm concerned.
    Just look how well Islam turned out (sarcasm alert).
    And don't even get me started on the tax-exempt Mega-Christian Church movement.
    They make the thieves on Wall Street look like small time crooks.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
  19. AlbaMN

    I am not sure religon is losing it's influence as much as it is being represented in this country. Republicans and people on the right always seem to trot out their Christianity right before they propose something that is very un-christian. This causes many people to start thinking that Christianity is actually a very negative belief system instead of one based on the idea of love and forgiveness.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  20. M Theorist

    As an avowed atheist, I do not see why religion and secularism cannot coexist. I was born Catholic, but by age 12 I realized my thinking was governed by reason and science, not faith. If others want faith and belief in god to explain their place in the universe, that is fine. I choose scientific method and the discovery of the laws of the universe; I think the inflationary universe and quantum theory, and evolution are all pretty much settled arguments, but I am open to new evidence and to changing my beliefs, based on evidence. I do not need a benevolent god watching over me to help me sleep at night, I can deal with the fact we are a layer of organic goo on a tiny rock in the middle of the vastness of the universe, but this goo has learned to reason and become self aware. All I ask is that others don't use their god to interfere with my life, or stop the power of reason and the desire for a better place and happiness for all of us here on earth. If religion makes you feel safe, fine, just don't tell me who can marry whom, or stop embryonic stem cell research, or force schools to teach creationism as though it were a scientific theory, and certainly don't use god or quotes from the ancient book of jewish fairy tales in the political process...our Founding Fathers certainly didn't.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Laurie in Spokane

      Couldn't have said it better myself. Should be required reading..................

      May 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • ME II


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

      Awesome. I vote post of the day.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • mama k

      Nice post. I've been watching a lot of Dan Dennett videos on youtube. Absolutely fascinating man. I believe he sees a place for peaceful coexistence of religious and non-religious people, but his main warning is that to work together to get to the bottom of problems, the faith card has to come off the table. People of faith need to at least explain their reasons for thinking a certain way without just claiming their belief as the sole reason (followed by "end of story").

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


      May 29, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • JMEF

      Excellent. I may plagiarize that, well done.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Hear hear!

      May 30, 2013 at 12:48 am |
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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.