18 Factors Making People Turn Their Backs on Church

SharePinEmailReligion is a big part of many Americans’ lives, but it seems that fewer and fewer people each year are subscribing to the belief that regularly attending church services is essential to the act of being religious. In fact, recent studies have shown that church attendance has declined in most U.S. religious groups, from Protestants…

Religion is a big part of many Americans’ lives, but it seems that fewer and fewer people each year are subscribing to the belief that regularly attending church services is essential to the act of being religious. In fact, recent studies have shown that church attendance has declined in most U.S. religious groups, from Protestants to Catholics to Hindus to Buddhists. Jews and Muslims, on the other hand, have slightly increased their attendance. Here are 18 reasons people have cited as being why they no longer feel the need to attend a regular church service. 

Change in Beliefs

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A shift in the fervency of one’s religious beliefs could lead them to either completely leave their church or just to become less devout. In this instance, an individual may decide to prioritize other things over going to church, like spending time with family, getting chores done, or focusing on hobbies.

Distrust of Institutions

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With so many horror stories emerging about institutional environments and swept-under-the-rug practices within them, many people are opting to keep their faith more individual or family-based versus getting involved with people they don’t know or trust. The Catholic priest scandals have opened many people’s eyes to the dangers of organized religion and those tiers of power.

Political Polarization

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Since the year Donald Trump was elected, political polarization in this country has been incredibly intense and bleak. There is a pretty diverse range of political ideations within different U.S. religious groups, so the split is likely quite stark in a lot of church environments. People may not want the drama or tension of being around others who have such differing views from them.

Busier Lifestyles

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Hustle culture is alive and well, and with capitalism as it is, there is hardly any downtime anymore for the middle class. For people who don’t find church to be an essential, they may opt to spend that time running errands, completing chores, or catching up with friends and family. 

Greater Focus on Spirituality

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Many people now are more focused on spirituality than organized religion, perhaps feeling an individual connection to their god(s), nature, or something else. It is more fruitful for many to spend time connecting with spirituality in a natural environment or through meditation. 

Decline in Social Pressure

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The rise of social media has changed so much. It has allowed people to communicate whatever they want to whomever they want, and although that is not always a good thing, it has helped people see that they are not alone in their experiences. It is much more widely accepted now to be more flexible and open, and in many communities, people will not be outcasts in society for skipping church. 

Shifting Demographics

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With urbanization spreading throughout the nation, more secular groups are moving into more rural areas that may have been previously populated with more religious folks. This demographic change has likely impacted church attendance in those urbanized areas.

Broadening Definitions

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The meaning of “religious” in many communities is broadening to become more forgiving and accepting of different lifestyles and family types. This means that people are also inherently feeling the freedom to make choices about whether or not to attend church based on what they truly want, and not what they are made to believe they should do.

Disillusionment

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Individuals who have undergone internal conflicts between their personal beliefs and religious expectations might decide to step away from organized religion and correlated rituals like attending church services. There might be a special way they once felt about their church that, over time, corroded due to those conflicting belief systems.

Feelings of Irrelevance

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Truthfully, many people simply feel that attending organized religious services is no longer necessary to their livelihood. This may mean they still practice a faith but no longer attend church, or it could mean they excise religion from their lives altogether.

Increased Influence of Science

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Most religions are in direct contrast with science (Big Bang versus God creating the universe in seven days). The more that science becomes backed by research and widely accepted as the truth of the universe, the harder it becomes for many people to ignore it. Some are able to accept both science and religion into their lives, but many can’t combine the two.

Broader Cultural Secularization 

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A lot of societies are going through a broader trend of secularization wherein religion carries less of a weight in community and individual life. This leads to lower numbers in attendance

Focus on Individualism

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There has been a general societal increase in focus on individualism and personal autonomy, which much of organized religion directly suppresses. With more people thinking about themselves and their own happiness, they may be less likely to attend church services for distaste around being told what they can and can’t do.

Generational Differences

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One contributing factor to the decrease in church attendees could be younger generations choosing to opt out of such rituals, whereas their parents and grandparents remain heavily involved. 

Poor Past Experiences

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Unfortunately, many people associate church with judgment, ostracization, and other forms of mistreatment. This is one of the dark sides of organized religion and has understandably pushed many people out, especially LGBTQ+ folks and liberals.

Cultural Shifts

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The culture is changing so much in America, and those shifting norms have led to less people practicing religion in any form, including organized religion. 

Financial Restrictions

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Many people want to go to church but don’t have the financial freedom. For many people, it could include taking a day off work that one cannot afford, paying for gas and parking, or other expenses we take for granted. Some people just can’t afford to take the time to go to church regularly. In Mormonism especially, people are expected to pay tithing, and many cannot afford to do so.

Convenience of Virtual Alternatives

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During the height of the pandemic, tons of people were attending church through Zoom to avoid getting sick. Just like how remote work has become widely popular since the remote church has grown as well. Many people have realized they don’t need to leave the comfort of their homes to be preached to, and they prefer that convenience.

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