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. cgowens

    "Religious belief is a totalitarian belief. It is the wish to be a slave. It is the desire that there be an unalterable, unchallengeable, tyrannical authority who can convict you of thought crime while you are asleep, who can subject you – who must, indeed, subject you – to total surveillance around the clock every waking and sleeping minute of your life – I say, of your life – before you’re born and, even worse and where the real fun begins, after you’re dead. A spiritual North Korea! Who wants this to be true? Who but a slave desires such a ghastly fate? I’ve been to North Korea. It has a dead man as its president; Kim Jong-Un is only head of the party and head of the army. He’s not head of the state. That office belongs to his deceased father, Kim Il-Sung / Kim Jong-Il. It’s a necrocracy, a thanatocracy. It’s one short of a trinity I might add. The son is the reincarnation of the father. It is the most revolting and utter and absolute and heartless tyranny the human species has ever evolved. But at least you can f****** die and leave North Korea!"

    -Christopher Hutchinson

    May 30, 2013 at 3:54 am |
  2. Right perspective

    It is the happiest feeling telling people God exists, nothing like it anywhere. And to tell them Jesus died for their sins, you can see why 75% of the population is enthusiastic about spreading the word of God and getting everyone bibles. Praise God!

    CNN should change the story picture to a cross, it'd be more accurate and would align with the population wanting more belief.

    May 30, 2013 at 3:46 am |
    • Jinm P.

      "CNN should change the story picture to a cross,"

      You do know there are other religions in this country than Jesus-based ones I hope. And if you can believe it, they are legal and their followers are allowed to vote and hold office. Probably shocking to you.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:54 am |
    • Right perspective

      1 out of 3 people on this planet believe Jesus Christ of Nazareth died on the cross for their sins, and rose again the 3rd day.

      1 out of 2 people on this planet believe Jesus Christ showed up speaking for God.

      Nearly everyone on the planet knows the name Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

      75% of the population wants MORE belief.

      More Jesus Christ of Nazareth... MORE, not less.

      The picture should be a cross, not a picture of confused 'nothing god' believers wondering how we got here, wondering where they're going, and wondering if there's more to life than nothing.

      May 30, 2013 at 4:38 am |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Right perspective,

      You sound like the ShamWow salesman... but at least there's some evidence that his product produces the desired result some of the time - yours = none.

      May 30, 2013 at 4:48 am |
    • sam stone

      so, man needs salvation from an god who is angry at man for doing what he designed man to do in the first place?

      and you want to spend eternity with this being?

      May 30, 2013 at 5:40 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      Eternity with a ShamWow sounds great for only 19.99!!! Wait a second...I don't need a ShamWow....eternity as a stupid human?
      No thank you. I would prefer an upgrade of some sort for a while until I wanted another upgrade.

      Got anything in your religion that says I get an upgrade? Nope. No guarantees of any sort. Individual results will vary.

      May 30, 2013 at 5:51 am |
  3. Major Tom

    There may be hope for this country yet.

    May 30, 2013 at 3:33 am |
  4. Rationalist

    Thank god I'm an atheist.

    May 30, 2013 at 3:31 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      I can feel Jesus telling me your soul is in danger and that you should send me 19.99 for a spiritual ShamWow.
      Act now. Offer not available in stores. Call for yours today!

      May 30, 2013 at 5:53 am |
  5. Right perspective

    More than 2 billion people believe Jesus died on the cross for them. 75% of the population thinks everyone should be more religious.... more and more... 2 billion isn't enough.

    Jesus said it would start out as a mustard seed and would grow to be huge. He was right.

    May 30, 2013 at 3:31 am |
    • Right perspective

      There ya go CNN, print that.

      Jesus looks to be taking over the planet.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:34 am |
    • Blair

      That mustard seed has sure grown big and fat but the ketchup is coming and it tastes a whole lot better!

      May 30, 2013 at 3:39 am |
    • OTOH

      Over 2,000 years now and still 2/3rds of the world does not believe the Jesus legend. It took probably less than 50 years for the theory of gravity to be accepted world-wide... and it is the same for any other proven ideas, eg., mathematics, the telephone, radio, engines, penicillin, etc., etc., etc.

      The population of the world at present is a bit over 7 billion.
      There are approximately 2.1 billion Christians, which is around 33 per cent.


      May 30, 2013 at 3:41 am |
    • Right perspective

      One man, Jesus, told them about the mustard seed analogy.... and here we are, billions believing him and the majority of the population wants MORE belief. It's not enough.

      Jesus had that much impact, unmatched anywhere. If you include Muslims, more than 1/2 the world population believes Jesus was there, and it's likely most of the planet has heard of that one man, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. That's the power of God at work over those 2000 years. That's incredible.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:53 am |
    • Jinm P.

      He also said the mustard seed was the smallest of seeds (it isn't) and grows into the largest of trees (it doesn't). If (supposedly omniscient) he can't get basic botany right, why trust him on much of anything else?

      He also said he'd be right back while his listeners were still living. That was almost two thousand years ago (If it ever happened at all). That's one heck of a smoke break.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:57 am |
    • Right perspective

      The smallest seed they planted there and knew of for his analogy to set in, was a mustard seed.

      Paul seems to have thought he came back.

      Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit... still there, as powerful as ever.

      May 30, 2013 at 4:04 am |
    • sam stone

      jesus was a loudmouth who angered the wrong people and got whacked by the romans.

      then the myth grew

      May 30, 2013 at 5:42 am |
  6. Just Call Me Lucifer

    Its an evolution revolution.

    May 30, 2013 at 3:26 am |
  7. BigTex


    May 30, 2013 at 3:26 am |
    • Jimmy G.


      May 30, 2013 at 6:09 am |
  8. Toby Dana

    Religion is the most dangerous thing in the world and religious people are monsters. That's right...I said it...even the sweet little old lady, like my aunt, who goes to church on sundays is a MONSTER.

    May 30, 2013 at 3:22 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Maybe you are the monster.

      That's Right I said it .... 🙂

      May 30, 2013 at 3:25 am |
    • Blair

      I agree that religion is dangerous for many reasons but I doubt very much your aunt is a monster anymore than most religious people. However, what is monstrous is that their beliefs and actions lend weight to a ideology that can be manipulated and controlled for monstrous actions by monstrous people. Without sufficient critical mass behind an idea the idea is as effective a tool. Your aunt is part of that system as small as her contribution maybe.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:30 am |
  9. mikengermany

    now if we could only get the religion out of the politics...

    May 30, 2013 at 3:22 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

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

      Seems, that it is open to wonder if they are wanting more Religion in all parts of America.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:33 am |
  10. Ole

    Sounds right.
    Just look at the fact that, since the beginning of recorded time, various religions and their assemblies of gods
    have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Why would Christianity and Islam be any different?
    History shows it's just a matter of time.

    May 30, 2013 at 3:18 am |
    • Blair

      Damn right Ole. A man after my own heart. History has been moving towards Atheism since day one. Polytheism moved on to monotheism and soon enough it will be atheism. Given this trend I find it hard to even call it monotheism – its just a weaker atheism – after all most monotheist don't still believe in Zeus, Thor or Saturn. In that sense I we are all Atheists already – just that some of us have gone one god further.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:25 am |
  11. Thomas

    its interesting that mankind (which yea, includes women, so, how do you say that? people)

    its interesting that people always have to have a devout way of looking at ones' perception life live to the world, and what's beyond..

    makes you wonder, that there is something MORE on the inside,

    perhaps what the search for soul and meaning is all along?

    i'm for that last part, for sure. 🙂


    thomas 🙂

    May 30, 2013 at 3:10 am |
    • Dippy

      It's, not its.
      One's, not ones'.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:13 am |
  12. Paul S

    Basically 20% of the people in the country are functionally atheist and are worried about how much the separation of church and state is being attacked by religious activists. The other 80% think the country is not religious enough and they think that's a bad thing. Of course they think that, they wan't everyone to believe the same rubbish they do.

    May 30, 2013 at 3:09 am |
    • Hillcrester

      Exactly. Religion should be a personal matter with no interface with politics, government, or law.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:18 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Question, when John Kerry and John McCain rest on their military experience and history as having influence over their political choices, if I held an anti military view.... would it be fair to ask them to leave that part of them at home and not in Washington?

      May 30, 2013 at 3:24 am |
    • Blair

      Absolutely, question them on everything. But try and question them on religious beliefs and you'll get sent packing. When's the last time you saw a presidential debate with a religious segment? Plenty of economics, military, education etc. I would have loved to see Obama hammer Romney on some of that Mormon craziness.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:36 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Absolutely, question them on everything. But try and question them on religious beliefs and you'll get sent packing.

      So, you feel that politicians, on either side, will answer any question with out mega spin? You can ask about any subject and all you will get is sent packing....or worst, your emails confiscated or investigated by the IRS.

      May 30, 2013 at 4:10 am |
  13. Brian

    Have a faith-filled life used to tough for me as my "churches" tied to their religions. Then, it was broken down for me like this: "God doesn't want your religion. He wants a RELATIONSHIP with you. After all, the people Jesus had the most trouble with was religious people". This has helped my spiritual / faith life in an incredible way. I even refrain from saying I am "religious" now.

    May 30, 2013 at 3:07 am |
    • Dippy

      Brian. Want to try that post again in English?

      May 30, 2013 at 3:11 am |
    • the REAL steve

      Lord Zoltar, the one true and everlasting GOD, forgives you of your unbelief. He tells me that you will be spared the Invisible Pink Unicorns of Doom.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:12 am |
    • Blair

      I'm not sure how we are to be sure what God wants; religion? relationship? faith? I've read both the bible a few other religions texts and it seems what God wants from us changes constantly. He seems to be portrayed like the guy in front of you at a fast food restaurant who just can't decide what he wants from the menu and every once in a while he'll throw a coke at the cashiers face if he isn't happy.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:18 am |
  14. Miles

    Doug...couldn't say it any better!!!..."Blair"...good luck with that, it didn't fair well for the millions the russians killed when they had their coming out, "replacements"...I was told not to argue with an idiot...

    May 30, 2013 at 3:01 am |
    • Blair

      Classic Stalin/Hitler response to Atheism which has been countered time and again, next you'll be telling me we can't have morals without religion. Stalin was an Atheist but that didn't drive his policies and Hitler was a Roman Catholic. Plenty of literature on both characters where you'll find detailed and composite reasons for their actions.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:13 am |
    • Mike

      I heard Hitler despised Christians because they worship a Jew. Are you sure he was a practicing Catholic vs. being raised as one?

      May 30, 2013 at 3:16 am |
    • Blair

      No way we'll know for sure but I can tell you this for sure, the majority of the people who carried out Hitler's work were either practicing Roman Catholics or Protestant (mostly Lutheran) which are all major branches of Christianity.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:20 am |
  15. BO

    Progressivism kills.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:59 am |
  16. Rick

    About time, this whole cult/scam thing has gone on long enough feeding on ignorance and fear.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:59 am |
    • Mark from Middle River


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

      Part of me, even as a Christian wonders about this.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:00 am |
    • bozo

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

      First, that's an odd typo. Someone needs to pay a little more attention. Second, I doubt the pollsters or those polled meant that at all. 75% of Americans do NOT think the country should be more Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu. Certainly they don't think the country should be more Branch Davidian, yet that's what the question implies.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:43 am |
  17. BO

    Progressivism sm kills.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:57 am |
  18. postedbygeorge

    The preamble of the consti-tion is a great antidote to religion, (Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness) sheep not people need muddle east religions–.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:55 am |
    • mickyd

      If you're talking about the foreword, noone ever reads that part. It's just some guy rambling on about how much he respects the founding fathers.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:04 am |
  19. postedbygeorge

    the drug cartels are following the game plan of reli-gion, do as we say or we will send you to hell;

    May 30, 2013 at 2:53 am |
    • Blair

      Once we finish getting rid of religion, we can focus on legalizing drugs. Then that problem will be solved too!

      May 30, 2013 at 2:54 am |
    • Geraldine

      really, posted? I wouldn't be surprised. by the way no dash needed there in religion.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:55 am |
  20. Doug

    This is silly. America is not losing its religion it simply has a more popular one, secularism. Worship continues only now most are worshiping themselves with their own desires as the all mighty authority.

    May 30, 2013 at 2:50 am |
    • Nordenfeldt

      So not having a religion is a religion? I am endlessly amazed by the way half-wits keep trying to make this argument, trying to claim that rationalism and atheism and secularism are religions. Co consult a dictionary.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:06 am |
    • I'm 45, unemployed, and live with my parents

      Amen! I couldn't agree with you more.

      May 30, 2013 at 3:07 am |
    • Hillcrester

      Deism in all its versions is an effort to deny uncertainty. Life is uncertainty. Denial doesn't change that. I'm certain of that!

      May 30, 2013 at 3:21 am |
    • sam stone

      i would rather put authority in my own hand than accept the authority of a book of edited, translated hearsay

      May 30, 2013 at 5:48 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.