Decline in Americans who go to religious services since pandemic

(Photo: Unsplash/Andrew Seaman)

The number of Americans who never attend religious services has jumped since the start of the pandemic. 

While this was the case for a quarter of Americans before the pandemic, it has now risen to a third, a new study by the American Enterprise Institute reveals. 

According to the study, there was a slight decline among the religiously engaged, with just over a quarter of Americans (26%) reporting that they attended religious services at least once a week, falling to just under a quarter (24%) after the pandemic.

“Twice as many adults decreased attendance than increased attendance, however,” the report said. 

The greatest change in religious attendance was seen among young adults. Before the pandemic, just under a third (30%) of young adults said they never attended religious services. By spring of 2022, this had soared to 43%. 

The percentage of seniors – those aged 65 or older – who said they never attend religious services rose by only three per cent during the pandemic to 23% in spring 2022. 

“No group of Americans has undergone more significant change in religious attendance than young adults,” the report notes.

There was also a steep increase in liberals never attending, from 31% pre-pandemic to 46% in spring 2022.

In contrast to attendance, religious identity has remained stable, with only “minimal evidence of religious switching” during this period and white mainline Christians and white evangelical Christians staying as the two largest religious groups.

According to the report, the findings suggest “a decoupling of identity and experience” over the past two years.

“The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted much of American society, including religious worship. Rather than completely upending established patterns, the pandemic accelerated ongoing trends in religious change,” the report said.

“At least in terms of religious attendance, the pandemic appears to have pushed out those who had maintined the weakest commitments to regular attendance.”

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