Gallup Poll: Americans Are Becoming Less Religious December 27, 2009

Gallup Poll: Americans Are Becoming Less Religious

People are losing their faith and it’s not just a recent fad. It’s a trend that continues to go in our direction.

A new Gallup poll shows a lot of progress on the side of rational thought.

Protestants? Declining.

Catholics? They had been going up but they’re heading back down.

No religion? Steadily increasing.

This is fantastic news.

But wait. There’s more!

How important is religion in your life?

Very Important? Yes, a slight increase over the past couple decades but it’s been relatively steady.

Fairly Important? A slight decrease, but again, it’s fairly steady as of late.

Meanwhile, check out that line for people who do not find it very important! That baby’s going up! 19%!

Also going up? The number of people who are not going to a church/synagogue:

But here’s the kicker.

Is religion old-fashioned and out of date?

People are catching on.

Many of them may still be “spiritual” or they might personally believe in a god, but they are leaving the churches.

As long as the churches hold anti-gay, anti-science views, they are going to continue to lose this battle. Younger people are smarter than the churches give them credit for and they are leaving the churches in droves.

How do we keep these trends heading in our direction?

We have to keep pointing out the damage that churches cause.

We have to continue to lay the blame on religion when anti-gay, anti-science legislation is passed. Church isn’t always the sole culprit, but in America, you know it’s the main source of the misinformation. Not enough pastors are doing their job to combat the lies that their peers are spreading.

We have to keep coming out to our friends and family as atheists and letting the world know we exist.

We have to offer something positive for the people who are thinking about leaving the church but still want tradition and community.

The trends favor our way of thinking but we need to keep working at it if we want to keep the lines going in our direction.

(via Center for Inquiry)

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  • littlejohn

    Before we start popping the champagne corks, please keep in mind that people, especially in years past, have been notoriously prone to lie to pollsters, especially on an issue as ticklish as religion or sex.
    Maybe people are simply more likely these days to admit they aren’t religious.

  • I absolutely agree. i never seek conflict, or confrontation, but I am not afraid to defend my beliefs. The more we are seen as normal, rational, intelligent people, and not outcasts or baby-munching devil-worshippers, the better.

  • I don’t know about you, Athena, but I’m pretty open about my habitual curb-stomping of babies.

  • Leilani

    It’s slowly evolving out of us. :o) I am hoping the 2010 Census shows more Americans are non-religious than in 2000.

    I think this is wonderful even if not 100% accurate. My husband and I walked away from the church last year. I know that a lot of my once zealous friends don’t even go to church anymore. I think this is a trend to be optimistic about.

    I can’t wait for the day when politicians court our vote.

  • DeafAtheist

    I don’t think the US Census will be asking about religious identification anymore since the church and state are supposed to be separate.

  • llewelly

    Judging from those graphs, most of the changes took place prior to the late 1970’s . There appears to be a tiny bit of post-2000 improvement in some of those graphs, but it’s little enough that it could just be a short term fluctuation. There is other research (discussed here in the past) which justifies cautious optimism about the future of atheism – but these graphs do not.

  • Alan E.

    Notice that for the question, “How important is religion in your life?” from 1980 until 2004 it had a slight incline. It looks like Bush 2.0 and conservatives pushed away people and made them reflect on the use or importance of religion in the own lives.

  • Carlie

    Maybe people are simply more likely these days to admit they aren’t religious.

    That in itself is good. It indicates that being nonreligious isn’t as much of a social stigma, or as likely to lead to negative repercussions. I see that as a win.

  • Egoistpaul

    This poll confirms our side’s long term victory against religion. If we keep this up, we can completely eliminate religion from American life within three generations.

    There is a chance that we can do this within one generation if there is an acceleration in growth.

  • Did anyone else notice the complete lack of reference to an error margin? For all we know the error margin could be +/-6%, which could mean much of those gains are illusory, especially in the last 30 years.

  • muggle

    Yay! It’s something to be optimistic about anyway, even with whatever margin of error.

    The second question is ambigious. Obviously, organized religion is something I avoid like the plague but if it was as unimportant as say football which I also hate, I wouldn’t bother (though it does piss me off when any sport goes into overtime and pre-empts “Cold Case” or whatever else I want to watch after). It encroaches on my life too much to be unimportant to me. It should be but we have to fight theocracy so much, it’s not.

  • One could only hope these stats are reflective of the population. I really don’t think they are, though. These polls are notoriously skewed. Who commissioned it?

  • Roger

    Here’s another potential kicker about this poll: I would bet dollars to doughnuts that some Christians will point to this as proof positive that Christians are becoming an oppressed minority as they continue to use the language of oppressed minorities.

  • Diggity

    Why was the last graph so erratically back and forth near the end there? I get that some of it was frequency of polling…but still…

  • @Diggity, look at the correspondence with the no opinion line. My snarky comment would be because people without opinions are like dandelion seeds on the wind, and are just as bad as the hardcore theists. 😉

  • Eoin

    It would be great if these surveys could focus more on ‘belief’ than say church attendence. Many people turn up at chuch, but how many in 2010 believe in miracles as opposed to 1910? It is adherence to dogma that is the issue.

  • How long before the answer is “Religion? What’s that?” or somethign equivalent?

  • Sue D. Nymme


    These polls are notoriously skewed. Who commissioned it?

    I was under the impression that Gallup doesn’t take sponsored or commissioned polls, so as to (endeavor to) maintain their integrity.

  • Rational Being
  • Mark Plus

    I look forward to the “Jesus who?” era, like in those advanced civilizations I’ve read about in science fiction.

  • “the church is the only place that shoots its wounded”

    This one’s for MarkPlus.

    I am a Christian who has been deeply wounded by “the church”. I rarely ever go anymore, because I see so much manipulation and hyprocrisy, which has caused me to struggle enormously in my own faith.

    But I do believe that God never says, “Mark who?” Just wanted you to know that.

    As for the poll, I don’t consider myself religious. If you read the Bible, God doesn’t ask for “religion”, just faith in his Son and love.

  • tbrucia

    As religion is ‘taken over’ by extremists (note: by definition an extreme is a minority at the end of the bell curve) one can expect folks NOT at the extremes (i.e. moderates) to become alienated from religion. It follows that the more ‘radicalized’ religion becomes, the more likely the ‘moderate center’ will reject it. The politicization of religion simply adds to this tendency. So the ‘religious right’ is actually a boon to those of us who are secularists, since they discredit their belief system among the general public…. P.S. I consider myself a Bokononist (cf Kurt Vonnegut, ‘Cat’s Cradle’)

  • TheChristian


    This is exactly the kind of post that will make the fundies in the USA get riled up, and the kind of post that discredits the title of this blog. Cheering over the decline of religion is not a particularly “friendly” thing to do to the religious, and simply reinforces the concept that atheists are not really open-minded towards the religious.

    And again … these data only apply to America. America is not the standard for the world.

    And also, “religion” is a poorly-defined term.

  • Cheering over the decline of religion is not a particularly “friendly” thing to do to the religious, and simply reinforces the concept that atheists are not really open-minded towards the religious.

    That’s a rather odd assertion. Are you telling me evangelical Christians would not be cheering about a similar poll showing a dramatic rise in people adhering to the Christian faith? I rather doubt it.

    I can be perfectly friendly with religious people and respectful of the right they have to hold their beliefs. It doesn’t follow that I think religion is a good thing or that I wouldn’t like for it to decline and eventually disappear. I simply don’t want the decline or disappearance to be the result of force or coercion. If religion is to lose its grip on the human race, it must happen naturally.

  • Aj

    Friendly to religious people does not equal friendly to religion.

  • Narune

    I know this article is old but I found it while skimming late at night. I’m what you’d call a spiritual person, not religious. I do not require being identified with a major group. Perhaps more Americans are discovering you can believe in something without subscribing to a large group. Science cannot explain everything, faith cannot either. A perfect mix of the two can do wondrous things for a person’s mental health. This anti-gay mumbo jumbo must come to an end if we are going to advance as a species.

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