For Most Americans, Religion Is the Answer to Today’s Problems

But 30 percent say religion is “old-fashioned and out of date.”

US Vice President Joe Biden places his hand on the Biden family Bible held by his wife Jill Biden as he takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
National Journal
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Kaveh Waddell
June 27, 2014, 12:09 p.m.

While most Amer­ic­ans turn to re­li­gion for an­swers to the ma­jor­ity of their prob­lems, a grow­ing num­ber of people con­sider it out­dated, ac­cord­ing to a new Gal­lup Poll.

In the 1950s, when Gal­lup first asked about re­li­gion, more than 80 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans be­lieved that re­li­gion can “an­swer most or all of today’s prob­lems.” When the ques­tion came up again in 1975, that num­ber was down 20 per­cent­age points. In the dec­ades that fol­lowed, it re­mained near the 60 per­cent mark. Now, it’s at 57 per­cent.

Since the 1950s, the per­cent­age of Amer­ic­ans who con­sider re­li­gion “old-fash­ioned and out of date” rose from a mere 7 per­cent in 1957 to 30 per­cent in 2014.

Across al­most all demo­graph­ic groups, those who turn to re­li­gion with their prob­lems out­num­ber sec­u­lar Amer­ic­ans. The dif­fer­ence is most strik­ing among tra­di­tion­ally re­li­gious groups, such as people who live in the South, polit­ic­al con­ser­vat­ives, and those over the age of 65. Only among polit­ic­al lib­er­als do those who con­sider re­li­gion out­dated out­num­ber the re­li­gious, 49 per­cent to 36 per­cent.

The Gal­lup Poll sur­veyed 1,028 adults in 50 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia, May 8-11. The mar­gin of er­ror is plus or minus 5 per­cent­age points.

(Gallup) Gallup

On the polit­ic­al land­scape, re­li­gion, es­pe­cially Chris­ti­an val­ues, re­mains im­port­ant to most Amer­ic­ans. Earli­er this month, politi­cians gathered at a con­fer­ence held by the Faith and Free­dom Co­ali­tion, where Re­pub­lic­an law­makers em­phas­ized the role of Chris­tian­ity in Amer­ic­an polit­ics in front of more than 1,000 evan­gel­ic­al lead­ers. Re­li­gion is im­port­ant among Demo­crats, too: Hil­lary Clin­ton cites her Meth­od­ist up­bring­ing as a sig­ni­fic­ant in­flu­ence on her life and polit­ics, and she re­cently called the Bible the book that made her who she is. But ideo­logy aside, re­li­gion is likely to con­tin­ue to fig­ure in Amer­ic­an polit­ics for a long time.

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