church

The steady decline in the percentage of Americans who attend religious services is no secret, but a new survey casts light on the reasons for it, and a plurality say it’s not because of a lack of belief.

The survey by the Pew Research Center found that while about 30 percent of those who attend no more than a few times a year say they’re not believers, a larger share cite practical reasons.

Some dislike particular congregations, haven’t found a place of worship they like or dislike the sermons. Others cite logistical factors, such as being in poor health or not having the time to attend.

Pew noted that those who cite reasons for avoid church other than a lack of belief are a fairly religious group.

About 70 percent identify with a religion, including about 60 percent who are Christian. Most say religion is either “very” or “somewhat” important in their lives.

More than half of those who do not attend church or another house of worship for reasons other than nonbelief are women, Pew said.

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, according to Pew, those who refrain from attending religious services because they are nonbelievers are more highly educated and largely male, young and Democratic.

The new survey was conducted via the internet Dec. 4 to 18, 2017, among a nationally representative sample of 4,729 adults on Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.

Pew found that, overall, the most common answer cited for not attending religious services is “I practice my faith in other ways.” Some 37 percent of those who rarely or never attend services selected it as a very important reason.

About one-in-four simply say they have not yet found a house of worship they like, and about one-in-five say they dislike the sermons.

About 14 percent say they do not feel welcome at religious services.

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