There are several personal and practical reasons for this decline. Many young people say they cannot find the time, while the older generation says their health often prevents them from being able to consistently worship.
A large percentage of non-attendees – 37 percent – find fault with local congregations or religious services in some way. Either they say they do not feel welcome (14 percent), or they are still in search of a church, synagogue, mosque or another house of worship that’s a good fit (23 percent).
Of the 4,729 adults surveyed, 37 percent of those who said that they do not attend religious services claim they still continue to worship and practice their faith in other ways. Another 28 percent say they are simply nonbelievers.
Those who are religious on a regular basis and actively attend services say that is important for them to do so in order to become closer to God (81 percent), as well as to provide a moral foundation for their children (69 percent).
Meanwhile, 16 percent of regular churchgoers – mostly men – say they only go to please their family, spouse or partner, according to the study which was conducted in December 2017.
Some of those surveyed gave no specific reason for skipping services, while others claim logistical aspects such as not having the time, being in poor health or not being close to a congregation as their reason for being absent, the survey says.
“People who rarely or never attend religious services are younger, on average, than those who attend more regularly,” the researchers said, adding Democrats are less likely than Republicans to attend worship services regularly.
“I don’t frequent Mass anymore but I still go to the church to pray and light candles – it just feels more reverent when I go by myself,” said Joni Bernstein of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, who converted from Judaism to Catholicism over a decade ago.
Bernstein said she quit attending Mass after parishioners were given a list of political candidates in favor of and against abortion and how they should cast their votes.
“That was the final straw; I go to church for spiritual guidance and comfort, not to be politically influenced,” she said, adding that Pope Francis is one of the few rays of hope during today’s tumultuous times.
“He is much more progressive and open minded than many spiritual leaders and is very brave,” she said of the pope, who recently made headlines for his declaration opposing the death penalty in all cases.
According to a Gallup survey published in April, fewer than 4 in 10 Catholics attend church in any given week and attendance is down six percent over the past decade. But most of those who remain faithful say they usually feel God’s presence at services, find comfort in times of trouble and want to be part of the faith community.
A smaller number say they go to church to continue family traditions, feel obligated or want to socialize and meet new people.