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Many Skip Religious Services to Practice Faith in Other Ways

Practicing faith in other ways is the leading reason U.S. adults do not attend religious services regularly, according to a Pew Research Center report released on Aug. 1.

This was cited as the basis for non-attendance by 37 percent of respondents, followed by “I am not a believer” (28 percent), “I haven’t found a church / house of worship I like” (23 percent), “I don’t like the sermons” (18 percent) and “I don’t feel welcome” (14 percent).

Practicing faith in other ways was even more common among self-identified Christians, with 44 percent saying this was the basis for lack of regular attendance.

Catholics (47 percent) and evangelical Protestants (46 percent) were more likely than mainline Protestants (39 percent) to give this response.

A majority (59 percent) of those who practice faith in other ways said religion is “very” or “somewhat” important in their lives, and daily prayer was reported by 48 percent of this group.

Religious service attendance correlated to higher engagement in community service and charitable work, with 63 percent of regular attendees engaged in these activities compared to 50 percent of those who don’t attend because they “practice faith in other ways.”

“Women, adults ages 50 and older and those who identify as Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party are more likely than other groups of infrequent churchgoers to say they don’t attend religious services because they practice their faith in other ways,” the report said. “Meanwhile, men, younger adults, college graduates and Democrats are more likely to cite a lack of belief as a very important reason they do not go to religious services.”

Among respondents who attend a religious service at least monthly, the leading reason for doing so was “to become closer to God” (81 percent), followed by “so children will have a moral foundation” (69 percent), “to make me a better person” (68 percent) and “for comfort in times of trouble / sorrow” (66 percent).

The influence of sermons on attendance was mixed. Overall, among participants who attend services at least monthly, 59 percent said they do so because they “find the sermons valuable.”

Significant differences between Christian traditions were found, with 71 percent of Protestants citing sermon value as a basis for attendance, compared to 36 percent of Catholics.

The full report is available here.