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. Bloue

    America losing religion? Yeah right

    May 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • ron

      If you believe then you aren't losing anything. The rest of us are just thinking for ourselves. Our concern not yours.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
  2. sam

    Who brought the popcorn? I don't think it was my turn yet.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      It's your turn for the beer.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • sam

      That's right. Everybody ok with Blue Moon? That stuff rocks.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  3. asdf


    May 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • asdf

      Can I get an Amen for Brother Maynard?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  4. Pakistani

    I wish America had Sharia Law.. Murdering gays and nonbelievers!

    May 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Unintelligent Designer

      Wow, you speak pretty good English :rolleyes:

      May 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  5. Rez

    God is way to run a business selling hope to fools tax free...i love religion!!!!!

    May 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  6. Madame Stiletto

    So maybe it's time to take away their tax-exempt status on income and property.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  7. Unintelligent Designer

    Something is off with this article. The USA is losing its religion, but 75% of Americans think we're better off with religion? If these 75% actively practiced religion, I think it's safe to say that the US is far from losing religion.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  8. Fundies Gone Wild!


    May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  9. Austin

    Religion (all religions) is by far the worst thing that humans have created. It greatly staggered our potential to evolve as a race and society for decades. It hindered our understanding of the universe. It divides a vast number of people into religious sects that eventually leads to war. It easily manipulates people that our mostly uneducated who might otherwise not be so close minded. In perspective, when Christianity was being developed some 300 years after Jesus died humans thought the earth was flat and the sun rotated around the earth. It was so important for religion to consider us divine that it blinded humans from the truth that we evolved into who we are today, and anyone who thought differently was killed. If your religious I hope you take a big step back and educate yourself on the universe, human evolution and the history of earth. One day we might live in peace as a human race, but only if we take religion and throw it in the trash can.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  10. ChrisA

    One of the greatest Atheist's who ever lived was Friedrich Nietzsche. In his poem "God is Dead" he said,

    “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
    How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?
    What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned
    has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us?
    What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement,
    what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this
    deed too great for us?
    Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

    What he was saying was that if God is dead, than how will we replace what what we've lost, namely our absolute source of morality and purpose. It's easy to say that morality is something that's "rational", but is it really?

    Maybe something like "don't steal" is common sense. But what about something like "forgiveness". Most people's first reaction when somebody does something bad to them is to get revenge. America definitely thinks like this, we just call it justice. In other countries, they've been killing each other for thousands of years because they think, "if you kill my family member, I'm gonna kill two of yours." To them that's perfectly rational.

    As an atheist what are you going to say to the person that has a different set of morales, ones that they've supposedly arrived at rationally? Who gets to decide what's morale or not, is it up for majority vote?

    These are some of the difficult questions atheism has to answer if it's ever going to be taken seriously here in America and the rest of the world.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • betty

      Religion does not own such qualities.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • One one

      Morality is relative not absolute, not even in the bible. The bible says thou shalt not kill then commands people to kill their family for worshiping other gods . The bible teaches the "sins" of the guilty can be absolved by punishing the innocent. What king of morality is that.

      Who decides morality? People do, as it has always been. God didn't write the bible, people did. And many of those people are eager to tell the rest of us what god wants, what he thinks and how feels about numerous issues. How arrogant !

      There are no gods, just people.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
  11. Madame Stiletto

    So maybe it's time to take away their tax-exempt status and begin collecting on income and property.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  12. Religion


    May 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • devin

      Be interesting to get George's take on things now that he's dead.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • .

      Should be played in every religious insti.tute and school.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  13. Calcommuter

    I am confused. If there is no God, then who is making the matches at christianmingle.com! If he's not doing it like the commercial says, isnt that false advertising?

    May 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Well you see...

      google "christian mingle r a p e". That should answer your question.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • ME II

      It's okay, I'm sure the employees pray over the computers at least once a month to keep the spirit indwelling enough for proper matches.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  14. Rez

    666 comments made me nervous. so here is 667:)

    May 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • 667 (neighbor of the Beast)


      May 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  15. Call me a troll... I tell the truth

    Reasons why atheism is horrible and unhealthy for our children and living things:
    – Atheists do not have any morality, are heartless, soulless and cold.
    – Atheists grew up in a bad family, not being loved and treated bad.
    – Atheism was brought upon during the French Revolution, one of the most evil time of history.
    – Communism – evil system created by atheists!
    – Atheists cannot prove God does not exist and how Earth was created.
    – No atheists contribute to charitable causes, unlike Christians, due to atheism beliefs in Darwinism.
    – Atheism making you agree with mass murder leaders like Stalin, Mao, Pot, Mussolini and even Hitler!
    – Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith and belief.
    – Countries with high rate of atheism = high suicide rate (Nordic nations).
    – Atheists tries to convert (young) people into their evil belief over the internet.
    – Atheists believe in evolutions, and want us to act like animals.
    – Atheists bash Christianity based on Jewish scriptures (Old Testament/Torah) and organized religion, and tend to ignore or forget how amazing, loving, friendly, supportive, and excellent the most influential person who has even walked on Earth, Jesus Christ, was.
    – Atheists do not believe in Jesus Christ; therefore they must hate their neighbor and enemy.

    Atheists are minority in the U.S. and the world no matter what "secular" sources and polls voted by few thousands of people tells you that were made up by silly atheists dreaming about making America more atheist, unbiblical and unGodly than what it actually is. More than 90% of Americans believe in God. Period!

    May 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • mama k

      Atheism means only one thing, one doesn't believe in a god or gods, nothing more. Ideologies of any stripe taken to extremes get people killed. That you mix concepts like atheism and twisted ideologies of dictators of past failed regimes just highlights your stupidity on the matter....

      May 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • asdf

      Posting that drivel over and over is your idea of saving souls huh? Never get in the way of a man who thinks he is doing God's will.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • Huebert

      You have a funny relationship withe the word "truth".

      May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • Astounding

      I love this comment – No atheists contribute to charitable causes, unlike Christians, due to atheism beliefs in Darwinism.

      Obviously he doesn't understand that an athiest created the computer he's using to type his hate filled speech out. He must of also forgot about the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation that has donated billions of dollars to help mankind. However, according to your logic this should not exist a NON Believer, doing good for the purpose of man kind.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      Is there a prohibition against bearing false witness?

      May 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • One one

      Atheists don't preach to children that they will be sent to hell for not believing as they do.

      2 Thessalonians, 8-9:"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."

      May 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Mattie1213

      This is just plain ignorance. You know NOTHING about atheists, obviously. Go back to church and continue your brain washing program. And quit ranting about something of which you know NOTHING.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • One one

      Atheists contribute to charities. They just don't where it like a badge like religious charities do.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • @incrediblenurse

      Yes. Atheists are all of these things. And we eat christian babies.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • Simon Jester

      The adult nightclub I work at gives more to charity and feeds more people locally on holidays than every church in a 30 mile radius put together. They seem to want to spend all their money trying to shut us down. We also pay our taxes.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
    • JohnnyInSNJ

      The jokes on you. You are the exact reason American's are leaving religion. No body wants to be associated with people like you.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • I only thought you existed in the movies

      I think everything you said about atheism is untrue. Atheism only different from the culture of the atheist in that we actively choose not to believe in god. Most atheist would accept the true message of a man Jesus Christ or Muhammad etc but reject the BS that a religious person would continue to believe in. Such as living in giant fish and talking snakes etc. Even you have to say that is BS. Because if you really believe in talking snakes and women coming from rib of Adam then we have nothing to discuss because you're crazy.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      I give you the soulless...can't have that which doesn't exist. The rest is pure ignorance.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • leonid7

      You obviously know next to nothing about atheism or atheists, but show remarkable skill at presenting logical fallacies.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • fred

      TruthPrevails ;-(
      Shame as that would mean no solace for the soulless.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  16. Shane

    I'm pretty glad to hear this, and hopefully it is true.

    Religion had its place, but I don't think it is needed anymore.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  17. El Flaco

    I read about a survey of a small town. People were asked if they went to church the previous Sunday.

    Then, the researchers went to all the churches in town and got the attendance figures for the previous Sunday.

    It turned out that half of the respondents were lying.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Well you see...

      that just proves that 50% of the town are atheists pretending to be Christians out of convenience. If they weren't they would likely be more worried about lying.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  18. Some what of a Grammar Nazi

    I don't care what the subject is about... just please learn to proof read your writing before publishing it.

    "According to the poll, 75% of Americans said it the country would be better off if it was more religious."

    On another note, this country is an escape for those who are being choked by religion. That's what this country was truly built on. The right to believe as you may, to live how you may so long as you do no harm to the innocent man. Do not break common laws that everyone should know right from wrong... but do not enforce your own rules upon others for what you FEEL is wrong.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • asdf

      > just please learn to proof read your writing before publishing it.

      Come on go easy on the unpaid intern bloggers CNN calls writers these days.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "Somewhat" is one word.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  19. Greenspam

    That's me in the corner
    That's me in the spotlight
    Losing my religion
    Trying to keep up with you
    And I don't know if I can do it
    Oh no, I've said too much
    I haven't said enough

    May 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • asdf

      So says the talentless hack who banged the heroin addict widow on the grave of a decent poet.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • phil a

      song is about being gay.
      religion doesn't like gays even though
      god created them...

      May 29, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
  20. asdf

    46% of Americans believing the earth is less than 10,000 years old is more of the reason why things are going to hell in a handbasket in the US. We need less religion and a whole lot more STEM education.

    May 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • ME II


      May 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • rch

      well...either I (a Christian) is right, or you (an atheist) is right. If you are right, all I have done is waste my time. If I am right, have fun in Hell!

      May 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • Well you see...

      46% of Americans are stupid. HeII, 22% of Californias thought California was it's own country. If grading on a bell curve 65% of America should have to wear dunce caps.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Well you see...

      rch is apparently ignorant of Pascals wager. If there were only two possible outcomes you would have a point rch. As it is, I think you are about as pointless as a broken pencil...

      May 29, 2013 at 6:27 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.