Although Americans’ church attendance is declining and they believe its importance in national life is dwindling, nearly three-quarters of them maintain that faith is important to them.
After one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, Gallup is reporting that a large majority of Americans (72 percent) say religion is important and 51 percent say it’s very important.
But even more (78 percent) admit its influence in national life is declining.
A record low percentage (46 percent) believe religion can answer even most of society’s problems and a record high proportion (39 percent) say such beliefs are old-fashioned.
The new survey taken earlier this month found views on religion’s effects also differ by faith. Fully 63 percent of Protestants believe religion can answer most problems, while only 46 percent of Roman Catholics agree.
Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of those who do not identify with a specific faith say such beliefs are old-fashioned and out-of-date.
That’s sharp change from 1957 when only seven percent felt religion was out-dated while more than eight-in-ten (82 percent) said religion was relevant in addressing society’s problems then.
Those of faith and those without are in agreement, however, that religion’s influence on America’s national life is declining.
Church attendance has been steadily declining in recent years. In 2017, Gallup found only 38 percent of adults reported attending religious services weekly or almost every week. When Gallup first asked this question 10 years ago, that figure was 42 percent.
While much attention for the decline has focused on the perceived relevance of faith in daily life, another factor Gallup speculates is a decline in the quality of religious leaders, causing their congregants to drift away over time.
Polls began asking Americans to rate religion’s importance in their lives back in 1952. At that time three-quarters said it was very important and another 20 percent said fairly important.
Those numbers stayed fairly steady through the 1960s and into the 1970’s. But by 1978, the very important category had dropped to 52 percent while only fairly important had climbed to 32 percent.