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Sliding Spirituality

Two-thirds of Americans believe religion is losing its influence on daily life in our country, while only 27 percent believe it is gaining ground, according to the latest Gallup poll. That’s a drastic difference from only three years ago, when one out of two people thought religion’s influence on our society was increasing.

Gallup has asked the same question since 1957, and although the current weak image of religion is not as low as it was during the late 1960s and Vietnam War (when 75 percent of Americans thought it was losing influence), it marks one of the lowest times statistically.

Interestingly enough, the shifts in perception about religion have almost always coincided with major political events. One outstanding exception to that were the events on 9/11, which prompted 71 percent of Americans to say religion was on the upswing. Also noteworthy is who believes religion’s influence is sliding: 74 percent of those who said it was losing ground attended church weekly, in contrast to 63 percent who agreed but rarely if ever attend church.

Not surprisingly, the percentage of Americans who believe religion can answer society’s problems is at an all-time low (53 percent). By contrast, 82 percent of Americans in 1957 believed it was the solution. Today, almost 30 percent believe religion is “largely old-fashioned and out of date”—another record since the poll began more than 50 years ago. [gallup.com, 12/23/08]

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