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. In God We Trust

    [B]Reasons why atheism is horrible and unhealthy for our children and living things:[/B]

    – Atheists do not have any morality, and was not taught any.
    – Atheists grew up in a bad family, not being loved and treated bad.
    – Atheism was brought up 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 heartless, soulless and very cold.
    – Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith and belief.
    – Countries with high rate of atheism = high suicide rate.
    – Atheists tries to convert mainly young people into their evil belief over the internet.
    – Atheists believe in evolutions, and want us to act like animals.

    Atheists are minority in the U.S. and the world no matter what "secular" sources tells you made up by silly atheists dreaming about making America more atheist,, unbiblical and unGodly than what is is.

    IN GOD WE TRUST! All I want to say!

    May 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Andrew

      You sound like you may have low self-esteem

      May 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • bobbychuck

      Listen to your pope...even atheists can go to heaven.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:14 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 5:14 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      well now we know that you are a troll and not a christian like you obviously try to claim to be. We know this because bearing false witness and hating are specific hell sending no-nos, and your post is full of both.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • I Am God

      Blah blah blah. Keep repeating this regurgitated crap. Everyone knows that you are lying through your teeth, especially the part where you claim Hitler was not Christian. Talk about trying to hide the facts of the past.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • PushingBack

      LOL is all I have to say as there is so much wrong with your post. If you really believe even a single bullet of what you typed then you have serious mental health issues.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • BK

      You should read books other than the Bible. It may help your grammar. Until then, I'll take you for what you sound like, and that's a blithering idiot.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • LB Colorado

      Love what you said and that would explain a great deal. Also, for the one asking why cancer, disasters etc. Sin entered the world and there you have it. It was not God, but man disobeying God is the cause. He will not negotiate what He sees as right in His eyes. You don't like it, too bad.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • cynicalferret

      Reasons Why You Shouldn't Post Nonsense Like That

      1. its silly, stop that

      May 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • DarthWoo

      And like so many theists, you demonstrate your ability to make up facts on the spot.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • PushingBack

      Oh I just saw that you just copied and pasted this from the internet. Well, not an original thought of yours thank goodness but still disturbing that you would post it.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Hadassah

      That is terrible, and untrue. The same could be said about members of any "religion".

      May 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Geest

      Brah you must have a tiny P-nus.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Mensaman

      Your ignorance is simply staggering.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • Mike

      Not real religious, but the thing the one person said about Hitler being a Christian is false. While he never left the Catholic Church "officially," he was very anti-Christian as a whole. He also wasn't an atheist, though – he was more a twisted form of deism (read the Table Talks to get an accurate picture).

      May 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • I Am God

      Mike he was indeed Christian. He did indeed believe in God and many of the historical findings dealing with Hitler showed he was religious.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • jrs1972

      Go find the study that was done on IQ vs religion.. you wont like it much though.

      Feel free to believe the earth is flat and the blue stuff in the sky is more water held up by a bubble. I'll hang out over on sciences side laughing at you.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Chris R

      Honestly, when you spout nonsense like this 'why atheists are bad' drivel it really makes me ashamed to be a co-religionist. When people are questioning their faith do you really think this sort of foolishness is helpful?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • John

      I do believe I will enjoy this.

      "- Atheists do not have any morality, and was not taught any."

      If you mean we weren't taught not to kill or steal, you're right, we weren't. We figured that part out on our own. But your "god", small, petty and condescending as he is, thinks so little of you and your intelligence, he insults you by writing down, "don't be a dick". Lovely guy, that "god".

      "- Atheists grew up in a bad family, not being loved and treated bad."

      Personally, I can't speak for all atheists, but my mother in particular will end you if you make fun of "god". And my father will make it look like a suicide if you screw with one of his kids. We weren't treated bad at all. So, more lies for Jeebus.

      "- Atheism was brought up during the French Revolution, one of the most evil time of history."

      Fighting to be free from oppressive tyranny is evil now, I guess. Well of course it is, when you people want us all to be slaves to the King of Cosmos, right?

      Also, atheism was brought up when Og the Caveman said, "Me think there man in sky like me who make all things, and like what I like and hate who I hate", and his brother Ted the Caveman simply said, "Me disagree". Then Ted's wife was a widow, because YOU NO DISAGREE WITH OG!!

      "- Communism, evil system created by atheists!"

      Political systems have no inherant morality and therefore cannot be evil. Also, Karl Marx was born Jewish, not atheist. He saw what religion was doing for the poor underclass–which is to say, nothing, because heaven is only for rich people–and it disgusted him. Religion makes it okay to just go along and not ask any questions, all because someone said, "you don't need to worry about that". If the president said that, you'd wonder what he was up to.

      "- Atheists cannot prove God does not exist and how Earth was created."

      Atheism is not science, nor does it have to prove anything. Science has nailed down a reasonable idea of how planets are formed and what conditions are needed for life, however. Have you brought any clay figures to life, recently? Also, it's not up to us to prove "god" exists, we're not the one making the fantastical claim that magic skymen are real and they have superpowers.

      " – No atheists contribute to charitable causes, unlike Christians, due to atheism beliefs in Darwinism."

      For this statement to be true, you–you, personally–would have to give more money to charity then Bill Gates. Get to it.

      If Christians contribute so much, why is there still poverty? Religious organizations in the US alone pull in enough tax-free revenue to permanently wipe out hunger, homelessness, and poverty throughout the frigging world. If you really want to help people, why aren't you demanding the government rescind tax-exemption for all churches? Oh, that's right: if people aren't weak, poor, starving, and suffering, it makes it that much more difficult for your brainwashing "missionaries" to condition them into your cult.

      Also, not all atheists believe in evolution, and "Darwinism" is not a thing. It's like calling those who know gravity is real "Newtonists".

      " – Atheism making you agree with mass murder leaders like Stalin, Mao, Pot, Mussolini and even Hitler!"

      Mussolini= Catholic. Stalin=Russian Orthodox. Hitler=Catholic. Mao and Pol Pot...I dunno, never learned about them in school. But I do know that the only thing we atheist agree on- besides "breathing sure is neat", and "something drastic must be done about this Justin Beiber girl"-is that gods do not exist. We're atheist, not pod people.

      "- Atheists are heartless, soulless and very cold."

      No, just...no. Except about the "soulless" part, that's true. But only because it's true of everyone. Nobody has a "soul", there is not part of us that lives forever.

      "- Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith and belief."

      Because not talking to yourself, not believing you're being watched by an invisible superhero in the sky, and not believing in magic are all delusions? Nope, sorry, we don't believe because you people have never brought forth any evidence.

      " – Countries with high rate of atheism = high suicide rate."

      A dubious assertion at best, and utterly beside the point. One does not invariably lead into the other.

      Besides, countries with high amounts of "god"- in one form or another- have higher instances of murder, adultery, child abuse, domestic abuse, human rights violations.

      "- Atheists tries to convert mainly young people into their evil belief over the internet."

      Atheists use the internet to counter the intellectual gulag that religion has spent a thousand years building. So if we seem a little overzealous, bear in mind, we're the new kids fighting a big monster.

      " – Atheists believe in evolutions, and want us to act like animals."

      Again, not all atheists believe in evolution (singular, you'll note). I don't know what they believe in concerning the source of variety of life, but that isn't important.

      Also, we do act like animals. And it just so happens that the animals we act like, are humans.

      And you think we're clay. Go act like clay, see how far in life you get.

      May 30, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  2. Sanjaya

    Religion and its repercussions: http://www.nepalnews.com/archive/2013/others/guestcolumn/mar/guest_columns_02.php

    May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  3. Bleh

    Praise the lord!! Or a lack thereof!

    May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  4. Sarah

    I think America would be fine without religion. If only we could learn to love one another and be kind to each other there is really no need for religion.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • magoonl

      Ummmm. . .I could say the same about the hole in the ozone layer, but it wouldn't change the truth of the situation. Some things aren't determined by public opinion.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
  5. cm

    ugh, your opinion can be said of politics, corporations, and capitalism.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  6. Damien's conscience

    Atheists cause all the trouble in america the same way mail boxes cause crime. They're in the area, so it must be their fault.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  7. Hadassah

    Actually, if this is accurate, it's a good thing. IMHO......People should not believe in "religion". IF they are going to believe in anything, it should be belief in a personal relationship with God. That's more powerful and trustworthy than any religion. 🙂

    May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  8. Edaf

    It would have been interesting to ask if the 75% of those who think the U.S. would be better if we were more religious, really meant it would be better if more people believed in THEIR religion. Do you think born-agains think we would be better off with more muslims or Jews? Do you think observant muslims or Jews want more fundamentalist Christians? In a pluralistic society, are all religions the same?

    May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Daniel in Denver

      Outstanding point.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  9. Daniel in Denver

    Religion is about two things, power and money. If you don't believe it, stop giving money to your church and stop doing what they tell you to do. See how much 'love' comes your way after a few months of that.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  10. 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 5:10 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      What is his predominant positive claim?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • mama k

      I would call him a research scientist before I'd call him any kind of apologist or debater, Bill. He reveals in simple terms our cognitive abilities and limits. I think theists and non-theists can benefit greatly from his research.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
  11. Gregory Adamson

    Religion is a game that people play with themselves. They think playing the game will prevent them from burning in *ell, so they sit in a pew every Sunday. What the church leaders want in return for to be followed & get donation plates filled.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  12. MC

    The sooner it's gone, the better.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  13. qqqqqjim

    Thank God!

    May 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  14. Barney

    America has gotten lazy when it comes to pretty much everything, including what Christianity is. It isn't "religion". It isn't putting your faith in some guy that leads a local church; man is sinful everywhere and you will always be let down. It is putting your faith in Jesus Christ and His father, the mack daddy, God. Jesus Christ was the biggest rebel of his time against "religion". If we stopped being lazy cynics and started a real relationship with Jesus Christ, the world would be a better place. "Impeach God" that sign says. Pffffft. Are you kidding me? Is God supposed to give handouts? Is that why you are upset? Please. We need to grow up. It's about the relationship and being blessed knowing you are loved unconditionally and given strength in life. Who wants someone that loves you because you can give them things? God wants to weed out those who truly love Him, in tough times and in bad times. There is a reason the devil is called the great accuser and the deceiver. He knows the Bible more than just about any of us, I can guarantee you that. He discredits through our lazy, fearful nature. When you know the true nature of Christ, you realize the concept and it moves powerfully in your life. Nobody said it would be easy. Actually, being a true Christian in all aspects of your life here on this earth is the hardest thing you will ever do, and the most rewarding. Freewill. In Jesus's words "Those with ears let them hear". He never forced anything on anyone.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  15. wallybird1234

    You mean there isn't a big magical sky faerie, or a special bunny that hides colored eggs??

    Whoulda' thunk it!

    May 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  16. Dennis

    Jesus rose from the dead. Paul, the apostle says that if this is not so then our belief is a WASTE of time. IF HE did rise from the dead and IF he is God, then there is something about HIM that should be considered. Check it out for yourselves, did HE rise from the dead and is HE God? There are LOTS of resources to read, consider and then decide for YOURSELF. As you do your research consider what we believe as "true" with LESS information and then consider: if HE says who HE says HE IS, then what does that mean? The Bible can tell you that. BUT LOOK INTO IT FOR YOURSELF and NOT BASED on what others tell you.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • ME II


      May 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • qqqqqjim

      I did all of the above and came to the conclusion that MONEY is the god of Americans.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Grampa

      Extremely unlikely.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • lee

      Protip: NO contemporary records of Jesus exist, including the bible. Each of the gospels were written well after the man allegedly lived (and died). I'm not saying there wasn't a person named Jesus, I'm just saying that if such a character did exist (and no evidence indicates he did) there is certainly no reason to think he was divine.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      One of the few things Pauly got right. And since he did NOT rise from the dead, you need to throw in the towel.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
    • G to the T

      And yet you get your information from Paul, who wasn't an apostle, never met Jesus and was constantly at odds with Peter (the one Jesus said his chruch would be founded on). So who's getting their information from someone else?

      May 30, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  17. Mavek

    Capitalism is the religion of america. All other religions must crumble before its might.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • liz

      Or be co-opted which most of them have

      May 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  18. Ableza

    This is the best poll result I've seen in a long time. Now if we can get people to stop clinging to their guns we might get this country moving again.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  19. Chris

    Finally, I know that your country can become something great when it finally does entirely.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  20. jcstauff

    Well, if 77% of 1,535 people say it, it must be true! Of course that is only 1,182 people in a country of 313,900,000 people which equals 0.00038% of the population......

    May 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • qqqqqjim

      Take a statistics course and learn about sampling techniques. Actually, 500 people, randomly picked, could give an accurate result. Look about something called 'THE CENTRAL LIMIT THEOREM'.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
      • jcstauff

        I have taken a statistics course. Well, actually it was probability and statistics for engineering applications. What do you suppose is the probability of an urban american in their 20's or 30's taking the time to answer a Telephone Gallup Poll on religion? Whether it's statistics or probability at play, I highly doubt the people a part of this poll are a fair sampling of "America."

        May 29, 2013 at 5:59 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.