Americans See Religion as a Force for Good Despite Waning Influence

November 18, 2019 Updated: November 18, 2019

A majority of Americans have a favorable view of religious organizations despite their declining influence on society, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center.

Fifty-five percent of Americans say that churches and religious organizations do more good than harm in U.S. society as opposed to 20 percent who say the opposite, according to the poll released on Nov. 15.

Meanwhile, 53 percent of Americans say religious organizations strengthen morality while 50 percent say it brings people together. This is compared to 12 percent of people who say it weakens morality and 21 percent who say it pushes people apart. It also found that 78 percent of Americans say religion is losing influence in American life, with 42 percent of people saying that this is a bad thing.

This comes after Pew released polling data in mid-October that found the number of people who identify as Christian was facing a rapid decline across the country. It found the number of Americans who identify as Christians fell 12 percentage points over the past decade, while the number of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular” is at 26 percent, up 9 percentage points from 2009.

Similarly, a Gallup poll in July found that Americans’ confidence in religious organizations is continuing to fall, with the number of people who say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence hitting a new low of 36 percent since 1974.

In October, Attorney General William Barr raised concerns that religion was facing a rise in hostility in the United States during a speech at the Notre Dame law school. Barr has linked the increasing attacks on religion over the last 50 years to a “growing ascendancy of secularism.”

Meanwhile, Luke Goodrich, an attorney at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty who recently released his book “Free to Believe: The Battle Over Religious Liberty in America,” told The Epoch Times in a previous interview that he believes religion is facing growing conflict in America because of several cultural shifts, particularly in the areas of life, sexual autonomy, and the belief in absolute truth.

He said that the longheld religious understanding of these crucial issues is increasingly pitted against the values of modern society, leading to friction between the two sides.

The attorney also added that a contributing factor to the increased hostility toward people of faith is due to religion playing a less important role in the daily lives of Americans.

“Fewer people describe religion as important in their lives,” Goodrich said. “And thus fewer people feel like they need religious freedom, and fewer people are willing to take out their necks to protect it. And that’s causing increasing pressure on religious freedom.”

The new poll also found that 63 percent of Americans think houses of worship should keep out of political matters, while 76 percent of Americans say houses of worship should not come out in favor of one political candidate over another.

The survey was conducted with 6,364 respondents between March 18 to April 1, 2019. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

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