Poll: America losing its religion
The Reason Rally, sponsored by secular organizations, draws a crowd to Washington.
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. Joanne

    We're not losing our religion, it's being stolen from us. We are becoming a spiritually bankrupt country.

    June 12, 2013 at 11:26 am |

    America MUST find its New Religion,

    for a better Future,

    now and forever!


    June 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Nonsense. There's no logical reason for the people of this nation to believe in a deity.

      June 11, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
  3. J Ndluli

    I wonder why atheists spend so much time and effort trying to convince Christians that their faith is irrelevant.
    Truth is, it's each person's basic human right to believe in God (or not) and to worship God (or not). Likewise, my faith is my private issue and I don't 'push it down anyone's throat'. But don't go yelling at me, saying my belief is worthless and my faith meaningless – then we're going to butt heads! Peace.

    June 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • alex

      Truth is, it's each person's basic human right not to believe in god and not to worship any imaginary being. But don't go yelling at me about judgement day if I don't believe in your god – then we're going to butt heads! Peace.

      June 11, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
  4. Pennsylvania writer

    I am writing a book about why people have left evangelical or fundamentalist Christianity. If you're a former Christian who has left the faith, can you take about two minutes to answer a survey? Thanks! http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YC7RHTG

    June 11, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  5. Salero21

    Evidence keeps mounting daily in this blog, that DEMONStrates without a doubt that atheism is stupidity in Full bloom. 😀

    June 11, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • alex

      What an idiot!

      June 11, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
  6. Anon

    Remember delusional believers, mythological Jesus says critical thinking is bad for you.

    June 10, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Reality

      From Professors Crossan and Watts' book, Who is Jesus.

      "That Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as the Creed states, is as certain as anything historical can ever be.

      “ The Jewish historian, Josephus and the pagan historian Tacitus both agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea. And is very hard to imagine that Jesus' followers would have invented such a story unless it indeed happened.

      “While the brute fact that of Jesus' death by crucifixion is historically certain, however, those detailed narratives in our present gospels are much more problematic. "

      “My best historical reconstruction would be something like this. Jesus was arrested during the Passover festival, most likely in response to his action in the Temple. Those who were closest to him ran away for their own safety.

      I do not presume that there were any high-level confrontations between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas either about Jesus or with Jesus. No doubt they would have agreed before the festival that fast action was to be taken against any disturbance and that a few examples by crucifixion might be especially useful at the outset. And I doubt very much if Jewish police or Roman soldiers needed to go too far up the chain of command in handling a Galilean peasant like Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine the casual brutality with which Jesus was probably taken and executed. All those "last week" details in our gospels, as distinct from the brute facts just mentioned, are prophecy turned into history, rather than history remembered."

      See also Professor Crossan's reviews of the existence of Jesus in his other books especially, The Historical Jesus and also Excavating Jesus (with Professor Jonathan Reed doing the archeology discussion) .

      Other NT exegetes to include members of the Jesus Seminar have published similar books with appropriate supporting references.

      Part of Crossan's The Historical Jesus has been published online at books.google.com/books.

      There is also a search engine for this book on the right hand side of the opening page. e.g. Search Josephus

      See also Wikipedia's review on the historical Jesus to include the Tacitus' reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.

      From ask.com,

      "One of the greatest historians of ancient Rome, Cornelius Tacitus is a primary source for much of what is known about life the first and second centuries after the life of Jesus. His most famous works, Histories and Annals, exist in fragmentary form, though many of his earlier writings were lost to time. Tacitus is known for being generally reliable (if somewhat biased toward what he saw as Roman immorality) and for having a uniquely direct (if not blunt) writing style.

      Then there are these scriptural references:

      Crucifixion of Jesus:(1) 1 Cor 15:3b; (2a) Gos. Pet. 4:10-5:16,18-20; 6:22; (2b) Mark 15:22-38 = Matt 27:33-51a = Luke 23:32-46; (2c) John 19:17b-25a,28-36; (3) Barn. 7:3-5; (4a) 1 Clem. 16:3-4 (=Isaiah 53:1-12); (4b) 1 Clem. 16.15-16 (=Psalm 22:6-8); (5a) Ign. Mag. 11; (5b) Ign. Trall. 9:1b; (5c) Ign. Smyrn. 1.2.- (read them all at wiki.faithfutures. Crucifixion org/index.php/005_Crucifixion_Of_Jesus )

      Added suggested readings:

      o 1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.

      2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
      – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–

      30-60 CE Passion Narrative
      40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
      50-60 1 Thessalonians
      50-60 Philippians
      50-60 Galatians
      50-60 1 Corinthians
      50-60 2 Corinthians
      50-60 Romans
      50-60 Philemon
      50-80 Colossians
      50-90 Signs Gospel
      50-95 Book of Hebrews
      50-120 Didache
      50-140 Gospel of Thomas
      50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
      50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
      65-80 Gospel of Mark
      70-100 Epistle of James
      70-120 Egerton Gospel
      70-160 Gospel of Peter
      70-160 Secret Mark
      70-200 Fayyum Fragment
      70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
      73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
      80-100 2 Thessalonians
      80-100 Ephesians
      80-100 Gospel of Matthew
      80-110 1 Peter
      80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
      80-130 Gospel of Luke
      80-130 Acts of the Apostles
      80-140 1 Clement
      80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
      80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
      80-250 Christian Sibyllines
      90-95 Apocalypse of John
      90-120 Gospel of John
      90-120 1 John
      90-120 2 John
      90-120 3 John
      90-120 Epistle of Jude
      93 Flavius Josephus
      100-150 1 Timothy
      100-150 2 Timothy
      100-150 T-itus
      100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
      100-150 Secret Book of James
      100-150 Preaching of Peter
      100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
      100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
      100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
      100-160 2 Peter

      3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,
      – "an extensive and constantly expanding literature on historical research into the person and cultural context of Jesus of Nazareth"
      4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–"The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."
      5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
      6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria
      7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html
      8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias
      9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.

      June 10, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Reality

      Summarizing the above:

      The Apostles'/Agnostics’ Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (references used are available upon request)

      June 10, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Salero21

      No doubt about it, atheism is stupidity in Full bloom.

      June 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
    • Reality

      For those who are reading challenged:







      Added details upon request.

      June 10, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • Science

      Hey Anon.............critical thinking works.

      Martian Clay Contains Chemical Implicated in the Origin of Life,


      Meteorites and water. made us aye.

      June 11, 2013 at 7:29 am |
    • J Ndluli

      ANON: The atheist can't find God for the same reason that a thief can't find a police officer.

      June 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  7. Anna

    Legs of Hollywood.

    June 10, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  8. Anna

    Is It Wrong to Make Babies Cry For Art?

    June 10, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  9. Alex

    I know lots of people who quit Jehovah's Witness.

    June 9, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  10. TheTruth

    Some believe they're better because of their religion.
    That is not just an opinion; it's a prejudice.

    Teach your children well. Teach them to be free of prejudice.

    June 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Science

      Science wins over creationism in South Korea

      Government asks publishers to retain examples of evolution in science textbooks.


      June 9, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • J Ndluli

      Some persons (atheists) feel they are intellectually superior – because they don't believe. Prejudice...
      Consider a person's democratic right to believe (or not) and worship in that faith (or not). Therefore, what's the purpose of trying to convince someone otherwise?

      June 11, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  11. Science

    The Light...is...Science Wins God Loses | Facebook................from the little blue box.........think outside the box.


    "Creationists make it sound like a ‘theory’ is something you ... are all over it. ... that says I must submit to him or suffer agonizing punishment for all time?

    8,000,000 results Any time

    June 8, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • J Ndluli

      Atheists, like to propagate the idea that they are logical beings and scientifically minded intellectuals. Truth is they have already had their chance to rule and have made a huge mess of things, to such an extent there is no comparison. Consider the early 1920’s – 1990`s and the rise & fall of the USSR (Soviet Union). It was the first state to have, as an ideological objective, the elimination of religion and its replacement with universal atheism. China, Cuba & Korea were some other countries which followed this faithless-strategy. However, during the various atheist driven programs rolled-out in countries, such as the ‘Great Purge’, ‘Red Terror’, ‘re-Locations’ & ‘Gulags’ – 100’s of millions of innocent people were murdered, or placed in horrendous conditions which resulted in huge numbers dying. FAIL.

      June 11, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • Dandintac

      J Ndluli
      Your logic is flawed.

      No one has ever been killed in the name of atheism. Atheism cannot be a source of inspiration, because it is content-free. It is solely a referent to someone who doesn't believe in claims of god. There is no doctrine, no ideology, no holy books or priests, no ideology. Therefore, there is no causal connection between atheism and the communist atrocities. Stalin, Mao and other communists did what they did out of paranoia and megalomania, like other Christian dictators.

      Furthermore, Communism was all too much like a religion. It was a dogmatic ideology that tolerated no dissent, and contained doctrines which it was a crime to disbelieve.

      Finally, if you lay the crimes of Stalin and Mao on atheism, you must charge Christianity with the crimes of Hitler, who was baptized Roman Catholic, never left the church, and was never excommunicated by the church. He said he would always be Roman Catholic, and actually bragged about stamping out atheism in Germany. Hitler got his anti-semitism from church teachings. He claimed to be doing the work of God and Jesus. So there is more of a connection between Hitler's crimes and religion, than there is between the communists' crimes and their lack of religion.

      June 12, 2013 at 12:40 am |
  12. .

    the photo looks like the ugliest gang of butt pirates i've ever seen

    June 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  13. Pantheist

    This is the most encouraging thing I've read on CNN today!

    June 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  14. Rev Dr Felix Nwosu

    Because their love for God is growing cold.at the last days peoples love shall grow cold says JESUS CHRIST.in jesus name pick your faith where you drop it.i invite you to worship with us at christ foundation sabbath mission 10 omotayo banwo street ogudu ori-oke ojota lagos nigeria. where Christ is Lord even of the SABBATH.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • Jesse

      I guess wherever you got your doctorate, they don't require any literacy testing or English classes. No wonder the America is becoming a dumb nation, they have to listen to people like you on Sundays.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • sam stone

      wow, the last days....how scary....for people who believe that tripe

      June 10, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Sue

      Yeah, that "prophecy" stuff about the end of days is the standard Christian con game. Look, anyone can say bad stuff is gonna happen, and enough stuff happens that eventually they will be right to a degree. Present some bible prophecy with exact dates, and then prove that the events happened on those dates. Good luck; no one has ever successfully done that.

      Bible "prophecy" is 100% bullshit. Nothing more. Christians lap it up, but only because they're stupid.

      June 10, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • sam stone

      Rev Doc: Did you get your Phd in theology (study of the imaginary)?

      June 11, 2013 at 7:06 am |
    • J Ndluli

      Rev. Keep the Faith brother. A universe whose only claim to be believed in – rests on the validity of inference must not start telling us the inference is invalid. If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever, would be wholly the result of irrational causes. It cuts its own throat.

      June 11, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  15. Tina

    ...the comments displayed here:: is this a taste of what a battle between the nonreligious and the religious will be like in the near future....It doesn't say alot about people when there is no tolerance.....no compromise...no middle ground the next step is small incidences and from that mobs of people protesting against each other and yes WAR comes next....What a pity and its the 21st century... technology has come along way but ....mankind remains unchanged......PEACE

    June 7, 2013 at 1:40 am |
  16. lazarus00000

    You can tie this question to the story of Southern Baptist pulling out of the Boy Scouts to get your answer.
    The liberals and most moderates consider the Southern Baptist to be the "American Taliban" or so I have read. As long as the extremist try to influence the internal politics of America, the Godless rate will climb.

    June 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Jesus

      Da.mn it! I should never have raised you from the dead.

      June 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  17. Tanya

    If you don't believe in God, one minute after you die you will know that there is a God. It would do everyone to seach and ask God to reveal Himself to you if He is real.

    June 6, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Many of us have, but to no avail.
      Everyone would do well to question their own beliefs.
      Mankind has imagine innumerable Gods throughout history. They can't all be right, but they can all be wrong.

      June 6, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Bill

      If you continue to believe in your god, five seconds after you die you won't know there have been no god . I hope you will realize that within your life time.

      Rather than believing there is an afterlife, I hope you will live a full life on this one and stay true to yourself and to others. Every human has one life to live, and that's it.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      I asked god to reveal himself to me...he did...but I was only 6...so they took god away.
      Oh wait...that was my "uncle" Roy.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Illusive

      Which god? what if it turns out to be Allah, Zeus, Ra, Odin? if any of those gods are real, then you will not go to their "heaven/ good afterlife"

      June 6, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • David Warnock


      June 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • sam stone

      look up "confirmation bias", tanya

      June 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Dandintac

      Tanya, mankind has invented thousands of gods. One minute after you die, it could be one of the others. Believers should expect damnation simply as a matter of probability.

      June 12, 2013 at 12:50 am |
  18. Shawn Irwin

    Christianity is a nihilistic system of belief that uses hyperbolic distortion of good and evil . . . bad deeds always outweigh good deeds. Hence "sin" is considered more weighty than any good deeds that someone has done. As a result, according to their belief system, all those who are not "believers", no matter how much good they have done, or how little bad they have done, are destined for a place of unimaginable torture . . . . christains are not only nihilistic, they are sadistic too.

    June 5, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • Bill

      What you described is so true. No only I had seen it happened to others, those situations also happened to me, done by the people I trusted and close to me.

      To the christians that I came across, "bad deeds always outweigh good deeds. Hence "sin" is considered more weighty than any good deeds that someone has done. As a result, according to their belief system, all those who are not "believers", no matter how much good they have done, or how little bad they have done, are destined for a place of unimaginable torture."

      June 6, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Bill

      No matter how close a person's relationship is to you, the minute that person impose his/her religion onto you, two things will eventually happen: 1) you are converted and go with his/her religion, or 2) your relationship with him/her destroyed because of that person's continuous advances. I am not talking about just boyfriend girlfriend kind of relationships, but also husband and wife, brothers and sisters in a family, sometimes parents and sons daughters.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Bill

      My experience happened over a period of 30+ years.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • J Ndluli

      Shawn: I doubt Christianity can be regarded as 'Nihilistic' nor could it be accused of rejecting all distinctions in moral or religious value, or a willingness to repudiate all previous theories of morality or religious belief? Maybe Atheism would be a 'better fit'!

      June 11, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  19. drc

    I am not a religious person but then I have nothing against it either. If it helps you live a decent life, provides comfort and help your fellow man then that is great. It is interesting the hate however but some who are not religious. Let live and let live. I am an ex Catholic but I have nothing against those who continue to go to church. The sad part of all religions is that most people forget about it the moment they hit the parking lot.

    June 5, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Shawn Irwin

      For the most part, religion is nothing but a breeding ground for prejudice thinking, after all, they believe that they are the "chosen ones", which is a manifestation of prejudice in itself. They believe also that they possess an eye for the truth, over all others, and, some religions can even justify murder of non-believers or people who do not think like they do. If that is not extreme prejudice, I do not know what is . . . so, certainly, I have something against religion.

      June 5, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • J Ndluli

      Shawn: It appears that you have an 'archaic' understanding of Christian philosophy (eg: forgiveness, love & tolerance). Also, don't confuse a failure in achieving such tenants, with the failure of the faith – as it's the corrupt human element that falls short.

      June 11, 2013 at 4:16 pm |

    Who cares? The bible thumpers give cricket guns to their five year old sons.

    June 5, 2013 at 3:06 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.