A new Pew Research Center survey asked Americans why they do or do not regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque, or another house of worship. The overwhelming reason why people attend such services is to feel closer to God.
But their reasons for staying away are more complicated.
Less than one-third (28 percent) say they don’t go because they are unbelievers. Among non-churchgoers who self-identify as Christians, the predominant reason offered for not attending worship services is that they practice their faith in other ways. Almost half of evangelicals in this category (46 percent) say this is a very important reason for not going to church more often. The next most common reason evangelicals give for not attending services is that they haven’t found a church or house of worship they like (33 percent).
Twenty percent say they dislike the sermons, and 11 percent say they do not feel welcome at religious services. About one in four (26 percent) cites logistical reasons for not going to religious services, such as not having the time or being in poor health.
As Pew notes, more than half of those who do not attend church or another house of worship for reasons other than non-belief are women, and they tend to be older, less highly educated, and less Democratic compared with those who do not go because of a lack of faith. Meanwhile, those who refrain from attending religious services because they are non-believers are more highly educated and largely male, young, and Democratic.
What is the significance of this research?