According to a recent Gallup poll, 77% of American believe religion’s influence in society is declining. But when asked if the country would be better off if more Americans were religious, nearly as many said yes.
Gallup has been asking questions on religion’s influence in the U.S. since 1957. This year’s number represents the highest percentage ever of American’s who believe religious influence in America is declining.
This year’s percentages nearly reverses the 1957 poll in which 14% believed religion was losing its influence (compared to 77% today) while 69% believed religion’s influence was actually increasing (compared to 20% today). According to Gallup these recent opinions on religious influence have little to do with a persons personal beliefs, as both religious and non-religious people polled about the same.
The turbulent 60’s marked by the sexual revolution, social upheaval, drugs and the Vietnam war also witnessed a dramatic shift in American thinking on religion’s influence in society. By the end of the decade, 75% of Americans (similar to today) believed religion’s influence in American society was declining.
There have been brief moments since then when Americans believed religious influence in America was actually increasing. This occurred briefly during the 1980s when President Reagan held office and in 2001 immediately after 9-11 when 71% of Americans believed religious influence in America was increasing — the high point for this opinion in Gallup’s polling. Polls in 2002 and 2005 also revealed the majority of Americans believed religious influence in society was increasing.
Is America better off with increasing secularization?
But in the recent poll, Americans also indicated they were concerned about the country’s increasing secularization. When asked if the U.S. would be better off if more Americans were religious — 75% agreed this would be a positive thing. Though this opinion was strongest among individuals who stated religion was important to them, Gallup noted over half of the people who rarely or never attended church and 30% of Americans who said religion was not important to them also believed more religious influence would be a positive thing in America.
This begs the obvious question. If 75% of Americans believe the U.S. would be better off if more people were religious, then who is driving the push towards secularization?