At least according to a December Gallup poll:
Two-thirds of U.S. adults today perceive that the influence of religion in American life is waning, while just 27% believe it is rising. This represents a sharp decline in the image of religion compared with only three years ago, when 50% thought its influence was on an upswing, and marks one of the weakest readings on the influence of religion in Gallup’s five-decade history of asking the question.
Of course, it’s easy to see the limitations of this poll at a glance, Just because people think they know what the rest of the country thinks doesn’t mean that they do, and from a functional standpoint, “losing influence” can coexist quite peacefully with “still a powerful force.” The fact that Boston has only about 75% of its all-time peak population of over 800,000 doesn’t mean it’s not a crowded place.
Also, keep in mind that fundies, who presumably formed a considerable fraction of those polled, are never satisfied; anything less than a reorganization if U.S law around Levitican mandates would be sufficient to lead some of them to respond with
As the pollsters note, “this measure of public perceptions about religion has been quite volatile over the forty-plus years of its existence, with shifts in perception often corresponding to major political events.” I wonder what would happen if this poll–conducted before Barack Obama picked Rick Warren to serve as the inaugural’s evil clown– has taken place more recently.
The “bottom line,” according to the poll analysts:
At the close of 2008, few Americans perceive that religion is thriving in U.S. society, and a relatively small majority believe religion is relevant to solving today’s problems. These perceptions may stem in part from the political climate — characterized by a weakened Republican Party and the incoming Democratic administration — as well as from the overwhelming consensus that the main problems facing the country today are economic.
At the same time, a solid majority of Americans (56%), largely unchanged from recent years, say that religion plays a very important role in their own lives. Also, Gallup Poll Daily tracking data shows no decline in the percent of Americans’ self-reported church attendance this year.
The Freethinker out of the U.K. has a story about the poll and what it suggests.