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. Catechism Sucks

    Stories across the country of catholic schools closing, churches amalgamating, parishes combining, the cash flow dwindling, good news all over. Got to give the great deceivers credit on the lengths that they take to protect their wealth as best they can, hide the cash and declare bankruptcy. Hypocrites.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Joep

      Great. Now you feed and clothe the poor smart guy.

      May 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  2. Just wondering

    what will the atheist blame now for everything that goes wrong?

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

      Do you have something specific to discuss?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • Just wondering

      does anyone on the sight have something specific to discuss

      May 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Just wondering

      in recent times every time something happens that is bad is some way the atheist groups on this sight ask "Where was God, why did God let this happen?" granted its an effort to disprove the existence of God. I'm just wondering if religion is gone in America who will they blame for the next disaster or tradegy?

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

      Just Wondering – Atheists don't blame god for anything. That makes as much sense to me as blaming Apollo makes to you. What atheists often do, which I imagine you are conflating with blaming god, is point out the inherent hypocrisy when a religious person thanks their god for saving them from a disaster, while not blaming god for the deaths of others. If god can take credit for the good things, he/she/it has to take blame for bad things. That is just the nature of an all-powerful, all-knowing being.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • cm

      They will blame politicians. From my standpoint the godless folk bow to politics. Its usually their religion.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      "The" atheist? Any atheist in particular? And I can tell you who or what "the atheist" will NOT blame......the debbil.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
  3. Kelcy

    "God" has been the excuse for more deaths of humans than any other cause in all of humanities time on earth. "God" is an excuse for hating other people. "God" is an excuse for thinking one is better than other people. "God" is an excuse for why you should have power and control over others. "God" is an excuse for why ones life is as it is (poor, rich, ill, ill-begotten, smart, uneducated, pretty, not pretty, whatever, "God" is an excuse for not thinking for ones self or taking responsibility for ones actions. "God" or gods (as you prefer) is an Excuse.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  4. dagray08

    It would be nice if this article mentioned any reason this trend was not the typical "younger generation going to hell in a bucket" mentality that recurs with each crisis. One thing that separates this trend is a perception that religious leaders and secular leaders who quote their bibles no longer have any shred of moral authority. Religious texts have historically been used to support the hatred of bigots, but that hypocrisy is under a greater microscope. A sad development may be that more people view religion's shortcomings through the shortcomings of it's flawed but self-righteous leaders, and many are sick of it.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
  5. In God We Trust

    Reasons why atheism is horrible and unhealthy for our children and living things:

    – 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 bash Christianity based on Jewish scriptures and organized religion, and 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 tells you made up by silly atheists dreaming about making America more atheist, unbiblical and unGodly than what is is. > 90% of Americans believe in God. Period!

    May 29, 2013 at 5:19 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 5:23 pm |
    • I Am God

      Get lost foolish troll. You are a failure to society and one of the main reasons why this country is falling apart.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • meifumado

      LOL Everyone of those are completely wrong.

      Do you even think before you make stuff up?

      May 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      still full of lies and hate i see. pack light, you wont be needing much

      May 29, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • DaveinFlorida

      Wow, you have serious issues. I suggest atheism.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • PushingBack

      Keep posting it over and over – we are still not buying any of it.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Make up stats much? Invent your own facts much? English not your first (or second or third) language much?

      May 29, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
  6. liz

    Morality is not equivalent to organized religion. There is plenty of good in those outside of it and lots of bad within its ranks.

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

      Correct! Morality exists without the need of religion. The argument these days would be that religion is the cause of immorality, at least in a number of examples.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  7. Grampa

    If we can ditch the ignorance and mindless dogma, and hold on to the wisdom, we'll be MUCH better off.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
  8. Eric

    I'm not one to take to CNN to talk politics, but I think if the GOP actually took these polls to heart and finally distanced itself from the religious right, it MIGHT actually have a chance at winning an election rather than slowly becoming the party without a country...

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

      I think you're right. I think it potentially could bring some sensibility to the party and keep the religious wingnuts from dragging down the religiously moderate.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  9. mama k

    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.

    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 5:16 pm |
  10. Chris

    Yeah, just what this country needs, more religious nuts. We just got rid of little Bush. Even better, lets put a handsy priest or a imam in charge of the government. That works so well in Iran or Afghanistan or the local parish.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  11. Eugenia

    Psalm 9:17
    The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

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

      Looks like you're coming with me.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • PushingBack

      What a loving god! But seriously, what religious people can't comprehend is that when you quote scripture to a non-believer all we think is that you are a nut job. Atheists do not believe that book is the word of god. We believe, rightfully so, that it was written over a period of over 1000 years by hundreds of individuals, all with varying goals. Is it art? Perhaps. But it is most certainly the work of men and nothing but men.

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

      Liberace 4:14 I wish my brother George were here.

      May 29, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • G to the T

      And how does God punishing a whole nation line up with free will in a democratic society?

      See in the days that line was written, the King was a direct represtative of god. If the King sinned, the nation sinned. It simply makes no sense in a modern context...

      May 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  12. liz

    Why is rejecting the political, uber-conservative, evangelical WASPish version of Chrisitianity equated with losing religion?

    May 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  13. T

    Clearly the poll was not conducted in the South!!! Way toooo much religion in this country, religion always causes fights and anger amongst the people!!!!

    May 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  14. Middleway14

    There are no gods. Gods are creations of mankind, derived from his imagination and the need to appease an ever-present "alpha" who does not exist. The deference to a superior authority is hardwired into us, as it's a social functioning survival mechanism that's necessary for getting along in a group with a pecking order and thriving.

    I suggest everyone read the famous book, "The Naked Ape". It's a zoologists take on the human species, and it gives much context for our earthly primate existence, as it allows us to step out of our own shoes for a moment and see us for what we really are.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  15. Shuffler

    Sign of the times........ less morals more individuals not to be trusted.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Morals are not owned by religion! If anything religion lacks a whole wack-a-load of morals, just look back two articles to see the damage of religious 'morals'; look at the hate for the LGBT community; look at the prisoner population-75% Christian...sounds like some really good morals or Not!

      May 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
  16. goblackhawks

    Good than if all of these "smart" folks are against religion .. than give me your cash since it does have "In God We Trust" on it ... Wait 'til something bad happens and they "pray to god" to change what ever bad is happening at the moment .. remember there are "no atheists in fox holes" ... This is proof positive are society is breaking down ... People like Mao and Hitler would be proud ... Remember Hitler was also and atheist .. just like most on the left ... A sea of jejune people in the picture above ...

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

      This kind of nonsense from religious people is why religion is so unappealing, to me at least.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • J-Pap

      So if Hitler was an atheist, all Atheist are evil? Mother Teresa was a good person, so does that make all religious people good? How good are religious terrorists then? Is Bin Landen a good guy?

      Your reasoning is false.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Middleway14

      I've been in fox holes many times in my life (i.e., close to death on multiple occassions), and I'm an atheist and an ignostic.

      Don't you try to tell others what their philosophical alignments are.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Two dates for you: 1776-The Cosntitution was put in place specifically stating freedom of and from religion.
      1956-In God We Trust was put on the money
      The first date over powers the second date always!

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

      Wow troll. I suggest you stop denying our history like most of the right wing folks have. Hitler was indeed a Christian

      May 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      "goblackhawks – Good than if all of these "smart" folks are against religion .. than give me your cash since it does have "In God We Trust" on it ... Wait 'til something bad happens and they "pray to god" to change what ever bad is happening at the moment .. remember there are "no atheists in fox holes" ... This is proof positive are society is breaking down ... People like Mao and Hitler would be proud ... Remember Hitler was also and atheist .. just like most on the left ... A sea of jejune people in the picture above "

      oh where to begin. From the beginning I guess......
      if jesus did exist he would be appalled at god we trust being on money. absolutely and totally appalled. Its you that should be giving it away and decrying its use on currency.

      And praying to god at a bad moment? why would you think that would happen? it would be a kind of pointless exercise.

      atheists in foxholes? really? that old chestnut? often claimed, long recognised for being the nonsense it is.

      and hitler was a catholic. He wrote how by killing the jews he was doing god's work,. and that he was not ashamed to shout how he fell to his knees and gave thanks to god that he was born at such a time. His writings are full of his references to faith and god.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • PushingBack

      It's only recently that was added to the money in the first place. Don't worry, we will have it removed once again.

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

      Having done two tours in Iraq and was actually out in the fight. I can tell you that the old saying "There are no atheist's in a foxhole" is a bunch of baloney. I was shot at, and almost blown up on numerous occasions and did not once pray or change my religion. There are many more like me it's just all you religious people can't just accept that you and your religion cannot control everyone with your fairy tales...

      May 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  17. Sick Rantorum

    More people are losing religion, but many are finding faith. And that is more important. Organized religion has been decaying for centuries and have become bigger than the message. Lose Religion and have faith.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • PushingBack

      Atheist groups are seeing a very large increase in numbers these days. And the organization of these groups in social media is allowing more and more "closet" atheists to come out.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  18. BK

    America losing its religion? More like America coming to its senses.

    “Civilization will not attain to its perfection until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest.” – Emile Zola

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

      Ah Zola...a wonderful writer/philosopher for elitists to sit around and talk about as if they had some sort of understanding of the universe. If it makes you wine sipping indoor yuppie folks feel as though you have some sort of great insight and understanding about the world then so be it. Kind of like your religion.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  19. Victor

    This is a very strange article. If you read the small print it's not saying that the country is actually getting less religious it is saying that Americans perceive the country is getting less religious. It's like saying that people perceving that the country is getting more violent means the country is actually getting more violent when, in fact, the opposite is true. As to people who want to categorically make statements that religiion is bogus, I can only say that religion is one of the main comforts and joys of being human, if you choose to deny yourself that pleasure, that's your choice, but it's a choice that every human needs to make for themelves.

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

      "Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14% of people know that." –Homer Simpson

      May 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • pennockt

      Actually, I don't have to make a "choice" to be non-religious. That's exactly how I started out in this life. You choose to believe in the stories that are told to you by family, community members and church leaders – and written in the Bible. But when all that stuff is shoved at you from the moment you're born, and you're told of all kinds of terrible consequences for not believing, then it usually ends up being forced on you (not much of a choice at all).

      May 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  20. Mathematician

    So many people miss the point on religion and this in turn drives others away. Religion is truly about people all helping each other and not doing things that will harm others against their will. The best way to accomplish this goal is to live a good honest life and be a positive contributor to society. Churches should be teaching this, not focusing on thier interpretation of the Bible. Religion is not about what God says to do or what opinions can be gathered form the Bible. God has not spoken to all of us as a group so their is no exact message to be heard. Sure many people claim to have spoken with God, but those stories can differ greatly from one to the other. Sure many people claim that any event can be the work of God but that is opinion, not fact. There is a fine line between faith and gullible.

    May 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      @Mathmatician-"The best way to accomplish this goal is to live a good honest life and be a positive contributor to society"
      I live a good honest life and am a positive contributor to society. I am an atheist. So, explain to me how being religious or going to Church makes me a better person? Most people I know who go to Church are sanctimonious, holier than thou people I wouldn't associate with in public. How's about all you religious folk, just practice what you preach and quit judging others? It would also be nice if the religious folk would stop trying to legislate morality...
      That would make for an excellent start to the healing of America.

      May 29, 2013 at 5:27 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.