Apr 1, 2024 - Culture

The Bay State's below-average religiosity

Share of adults who say they never or rarely attend religious services
Data: Household Pulse Survey; Note: Adults who say they never attend or attend less than once a year; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

If the church pews seemed emptier than usual for Easter yesterday, it wasn't just your imagination.

Why it matters: 57% of Boston-area adults say they never or seldom attend church or religious services, compared to the national average of 49%, per a new analysis of Household Pulse Survey data from Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng.

By the numbers: 14% of Greater Boston residents attend services 1-3 times a year, 4% attend 4-11 times per year, and 13% attend 12 or more times.

Zoom out: Our New England neighbors in Vermont (75%), New Hampshire (66%) and Maine (66%) have the highest share of adults who say they never or seldom attend church or religious services.

  • The church-skipping rate for Connecticut (53%) and Rhode Island (57%) are closer to Massachusetts' statewide number of 56%.
  • Mississippi (32%), Alabama (36%) and Louisiana (37%) have the lowest shares.
Share of adults who say they never or rarely attend religious services
Data: Household Pulse Survey; Note: Adults who say they never attend or attend less than once a year; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

The big picture: More than three-quarters of Americans say religion's role in public life is shrinking, per a recent Pew Research Center survey — the highest level since the group first started tracking such sentiment in 2001.

  • Many Americans are unhappy about that, with about half of adults telling Pew both that "religion is losing influence and that this is a bad thing."
  • About 57% of adults say that religion has a positive impact on American life, per Pew.

Friction point: Nearly half of U.S. adults say they feel at least "some" tension between their religious beliefs and mainstream culture, Pew found.

  • That's up from 42% in 2020.

Zoom in: A separate Gallup survey published this week found that Latter-day Saints are the only religious group wherein a majority say they attend services weekly, at 54%.

  • 30% of Protestants say they attend services weekly, compared to 28% of Muslims, 23% of Catholics and 16% of Jews.

Yes, but: Religious service attendance has been dropping for decades, per Gallup, driven largely by "the increase in the percentage of Americans with no religious affiliation — 9% in 2000-2003 versus 21% in 2021-2023."

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