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. Kilgore Trout

    The fact that religiosity in America peaked after 9/11 still amazes me. We were presented with arguably the most compelling example of the horrors that a hyper-religious society is capable of, and most of us wanted to turn right around and try to become more like them. It boggles the mind.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • Jeebusss

      Yup, it doesn't make any sense. Then again, if religion made any sense whatsoever it wouldn't be so bad in the first place.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • kent

      The one side was blinded by their beliefs after 9/11 most were turning for comfort and we should. There is no better feeling

      May 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • Sarah

      Seriously? I'm a Christian and I don't kill in the name of God, so how does that make me the same as the terrorists? Try again...

      May 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Science flies one to the moon; religion flies one into buildings.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
  2. 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:


    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 9:17 pm |
    • Paul

      You should watch Dr. William Lane Craig's interactions with Dr. Dennett along with his debates of prominent atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and the like. It's all at reasonablefaith.org.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • mama k

      I have no interest in going to any specific Christian apologist's site. I do listen to Craig if he is debating someone, but to find the most current debate videos, one can easily go to youtube.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
  3. Shannon

    Maybe we'll have to talk as a nation more about being "good without god" now. What has always disturbed me about the hold religion has on my fellow Americans is how my fellow Americans assume that because I don't buy into any religious dogma I must, therefore, not be a moral individual. I am at least as empathetic, ethical, charitable and honest as they consider themselves to be; I simply ascribe this to my human nature, loving upbringing, and rational thought. I'd like to be respected for that just as they'd like to be respected for being "good Christians." Instead, America has always seemed like it was run by a Christian club that I'd have to become a hypocrite to join. Hypocrisy is not a good foundation for a moral life, and making people feel excluded does not result in effective teamwork. My ancestors came to this country seeking relief from the oppression of other people's religion; I would like to see the day when I can say they've succeeded.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • Ron

      Shannon, did you right that or did the devil? "Good without God" What is good? What is evil? How we would know without God? You are strongly delusional, and typify the spirit of antichrist.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  4. Dee G.

    Funny! So America is filled with more atheists and agnostics than the Christians can handle and they're having a hissy fit.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant


      Shannon, did you right that or did the devil? "Good without God" What is good? What is evil? How we would know without God? You are strongly delusional, and typify the spirit of antichrist."

      First of all, it's "write", not "right". Compelling evidence for a 3rd grade education. Secondly, the devil does not exist. Thirdly, "God" is not necessary or even desirable as a bench mark of what's good (killing nearly every living thing on earth is good?) or evil. Fourthly, there's no such thing as the antichrist. Fifth and most amusing is a moron like you calling someone who doesn't believe in your fairy tales "delusional". Absolutely stunning.

      May 30, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  5. Many of our leader were not religious or quite different from today's Christians

    As Deist Christians, the first five presidents including John Adams, James Madison & Thomas Jefferson were likely to have quite a different notion of God than the Christian God of today. Deist Christians may have followed Christ's teachings, but usually refuted the divinity of Christ. They were always ready to call out on the dark side of organized religion:

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history. "

    (John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816)

    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)

    Obviously Deism played an important part in the lives of the key framers who wrote the Constitution and its initial set of Amendments that we live by in the U.S.

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (James Madison, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights – from A Memorial and Remonstrance as delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785.)

    John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law.

    John Tyler, the 10th POTUS was a Deist Christian.

    Many believe Abraham Lincoln was a Deist.
    John Remsburg, in his book Six Historic Americans (1906), cites several of Lincoln's close associates:

    After his assassination Mrs. Lincoln said: "Mr. Lincoln had no hope and no faith in the usual acceptance of these words." His lifelong friend and executor, Judge David Davis, affirmed the same: "He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term." His biographer, Colonel Lamon, intimately acquainted with him in Illinois, and with him during all the years that he lived in Washington, says: "Never in all that time did he let fall from his lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men."

    Theodore Roosevelt did not take the oath of office on a Bible in 1901.

    William Howard Taft, the only U.S. President to also hold the office of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court:

    I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.


    The Deistic side of John Adams comes out strong in these paragraphs A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787-1788)

    The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

    Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm |

    • (leaders)

      May 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
    • JerseyHosier

      Don't forget Ben Franklin...or Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Peter Higgs, you know, some of the smartest people that have ever walked this Earth.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • mama k

      Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

      If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
  6. Suki

    I do not think the right question was asked. The question should be "Has America lost it's values?" We all practice our own religion. We are not a strictly Christian nation and we should not be. Several different religions are represented in this country. All religions have good people and bad people in their groups. Just being Christian doesn't make you a good person. Being Muslim doesn't make you a bad person. People are good or bad and there are people who spout religion for their own purpose, usually to have power. Atheists are humanists but that doesn't mean all Atheists are good. It is more important to do good in the world because it is the right thing to do, not just because a deity tells you to. I believe there are still many more good people than bad people in the world.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
  7. Troy

    Yeah, right. I wish....

    May 29, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  8. mac101

    Can't happen fast enough.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  9. Over 40,000 sects of insanity

    The U.S. has always been predominantly Christian. But it seems the more time goes by, the more conflicted that majority religion becomes. Perhaps that is becoming more obvious to people, especially the younger generation, and that is why we are seeing a decline overall religiosity of the population.

    Recently we learned from another CNN BB article of a child dying when their parents, members of a Christian sect in Philadelphia, as part of their faith, refused medical care. When incidents like the subject of this article come to light, many Christians are only too ready to try explain how another Christian's interpretation of ancient "scripture" is not quite right.

    There was a sect in Chile, South America late last year (November) who sacrificed a baby to a bonfire. The sect leader of this group comprised of mostly professionals had convinced the mother of the baby that the baby was an antichrist. They wrapped the baby up and slid it down a plank into a raging bonfire.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one (over 4,000,000 members) in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage. One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags". Many of these sects are equally divergent on the roles of women in society.

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri. Some believe the Pope is the Antichrist. Some believe Obama is the Antichrist.

    Some believe that celibacy is the only option for certain people, or for people in certain positions. Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but pretend not to understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease.

    Conflicted right from the start, Christianity continues to splinter, creating more and more extreme divisions, with each division trying to assert itself as some true messenger of the word of the Christian God.

    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)

    May 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • .

      Thank goodness the law kept Jefferson from forcing his wakced out beliefs onto others. Lol.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • mama k

      What ideas of Jefferson's? Hmm?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
  10. Dr Matrix

    Religion should be a personal choise. Organized religion should be ignored. Theocracies should not exist. Live by your own moral compass and respect other points of view.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  11. Billy

    Religion is a $50 billion dollar business and the fools are the ones sending in the money hoping to buy a place in heaven.
    Faith is service to help others and humility, something lacking in the religious morons on this post.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • asdf

      I think that is about the same size as the diet industry as well.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  12. Hmm

    There are only 2 Gods
    Most people worship this deity $$$$$$$$$

    May 29, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  13. Rob S

    Americans hold to an irrational, false belief that "things would be worse" if there were more non-belief and less religion. When we look at sociological data, we find that atheists act just as morally as believers. Also, when we look at other countries with higher rates of non-belief (like Denmark and Sweden, for instance), these countries function quite well, with higher levels of reported happiness and less crime than the United States.

    For a nice review of the sociological literature on atheism, have a look at http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf

    May 29, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • Hmm

      Aethiesm is just another point of view
      Any point view has fallacies of judgement attached

      May 29, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  14. ROberto

    I SINCERELY HOPE religion disappear from the face of the earth, However I sincerely hope (much more) that a personal relationship with Jesus and faith increase in every human being and finally religion is not more the impediment for the spread of the TRUE GOSPEL the RIGHT way. Its very easy just read the words of Jesus in the NEW testament and you will see RELIGION got it ALL wrong !

    May 29, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • skeptic4life

      I'm sorry, man, but you don't make any sense. Religion confuses people and fills them with unfounded fears about the unknown and drives them to cling to meaningless rituals and obscure rules (made up by those who want to control you) that somehow will lead them to some afterlife paradise fairy tale. Life is complex enough. Just use your eyes, your ears and your reasoning skills. You can do it. Have a nice life.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • Forest For the Trees

      Yet, skeptic4life, when atheists attempt to use their eyes, ears, and reasoning skills they cannot see the forest for the trees. They continue to be blind to the Truth that those trees they see cannot be made by man but only by God. And those eyes they see with, they were not created by a stone statue or body of water they may rather believe in. One would think they were more intelligent so as to figure this out and deduce from what they see around them but then again the proof of the pudding is in the eating!

      May 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  15. SoCalMatt661

    Thank God!

    May 29, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  16. Rocky Mountain High

    Did you hear about the dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac? He stayed up all night wondering if there is a dog.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  17. Hmm


    May 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
  18. peace

    Jesus's death and resurrection are historically verifiable based on the eyewitness account of multiple people, many of whom were willing to die for the testimony. Also, during his life, Jesus's kind treatment of women elevated their status and changed society for the better. And Jesus loves you. Don't hate.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • Geraldine

      What eyewitnesses??

      May 29, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
    • peace

      The apostles. They recorded His life and miracles and death and resurrection.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • The big A

      False... Look it up.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • asdf

      Eyewitness testimony has proven to be very unreliable even today in court. Forget 20 centuries. There is some archaeological evidence for a Jew named Jesus who let in non jews and was executed for it by the power structure. Not so much for the son of god born to a virgin zombie Jesus thing.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • peace

      I've definitely looked it up. It's the truth. Jesus cares about you - loves you - very much.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • Dee G.

      Eye witnesses? LOLOLOL!!!!!

      May 29, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • TomSeattle

      You just keep believe that brainwash. There were no eyewitnesses and the first writing about a man named Jesus didn't happen until 84 years after his death. Now you think about that for a minute. If someone came up to you and said, "Hey – there was some dude named Jesus back in 1929 who said he was the son of god." Any SANE person would say "Sure there was – right along with the Loch Ness Monster." Do yourself a favor and do some research before you post nonsense again.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • The big A

      You should read a more reliable source than your bible. Something non-fiction for a change.

      There are no first hand accounts. All of it was decades later. None if it signed. It is all anonymous BS.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • TDM

      Yes, it is written that Jesus treated women very well. And then Paul decided to negate all of that, didn't he?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • skeptic4life

      I don't hate Jesus, but he was only a man. He was a revolutionary who was executed by those who saw him as a problem. He died. Dead. A religion was created after he died and shaped and molded into Christianity over hundreds of years by powerful men who created rules and traditions to control people like yourself... rather effectively. It's time everyone stopped drinking the koolaid. Think for yourself. Be the kind of person you want to be for reasons that are meaningful. Jesus this, Jesus that... stop the broken record! I'm sure you're a very nice person. You don't need this crutch.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      If you really believe that – and you do – you are completely ignorant of history. "Historically verifiable"? LOL!

      May 30, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  19. asdf

    Honestly I think the difference is more people are comfortable admitting it as opposed to lying and only going to Church twice a year for Easter and Christmas Eve or whatever. Devout religion is usually a lot of work and most people are lazy.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
  20. pkfops

    Religion is a mental illness.

    May 29, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      If it is, it's a "learned" mental illness.
      It's like saying that believing in Santa Claus is a mental illness.

      May 29, 2013 at 9:06 pm |
    • Brian

      Religion is what drives your worldview so everyone has a religion. Based on your posting, that means you're mentally ill and probably should be taking lithium, etc....

      May 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • jr

      Its a Ponzi scam. pay 10 percent of pay and get paid when you die?

      May 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
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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.