Why Americans go (and don’t go) to religious services


Why Americans go (and don’t go) to religious services

Many cite practical or personal reasons, rather than lack of belief, for staying home.

In recent years, the percentage of U.S. adults who say they regularly attend religious services has been declining, while the share of Americans who attend only a few times a year, seldom or never has been growing. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that the main reason people regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque or another house of worship is an obvious one: to feel closer to God. But the things that keep people away from religious services are more complicated.

Among those who attend no more than a few times a year, about three-in-ten say they do not go to religious services for a simple reason: They are not believers. But a much larger share stay away not because of a lack of faith, but for other reasons. This includes many people who say one very important reason they don’t regularly attend church is that they practice their faith in other ways. Others cite things they dislike about particular congregations or religious services (for example, they haven’t found a church or house of worship they like, or they don’t like the sermons). Still others name logistical reasons, like being in poor health or not having the time to go, as very important reasons for not regularly attending religious services.

By their own description, those who cite reasons other than a lack of belief for avoiding church are a fairly religious group. About seven-in-ten identify with a religion (including six-in-ten who are Christian), and most say religion is either “very” or “somewhat” important in their lives. To be sure, they are not as religious as Americans who report going regularly to religious services. But by several standard measures, they are much more religious than those who say, “I am not a believer.”

Source: Pew Research Center

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