I'm truly convinced that you do not have to go to church in order to have a strong relationship with God and Jesus Christ. A lot of people actually have really busy lives and almost never get a break, not everyone can make it to church. Is God really going to punish someone for not going to church? Probably not. God is very loving and understanding and always has open arms to anyone no matter how bad the person might be. Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we could be forgiven. It actually bothers me when people think they're better than others because they go to church. That's also another one of my points. A lot of people end up feeling uncomfortable because church is not about judging someone and discriminating on certain things. However, most people in this time of age do. It's quite sad. All you need to do is truly believe in God with all of your heart and soul, pray to him and let him be there to help and guide you. A lot of people who can't go to church or find it not so interesting usually read parts at a time of the bible. Some people also view church on a person in standing up there and is saying what is right and wrong to believe in etc. when in fact every pastor is different and they may not like the feeling that someone's telling them how they should feel towards God and on what to think and/or believe.
I don't know what denomination you are, but I'm a roman catholic. In our religion, we believe that in order to get close to God, we must eat his body and drink his blood. (It's not cannibalism) When we celebrate the mass, we not only listen to the word of the LORD and learn from it, but after communion we actually have Jesus living in us. I'm not saying that if you don't go to church that you're going to hell. I'm just saying that you are less prone to making bad choices if you have Jesus dwelling in you when you make those choices. Jesus is merciful, but He also gave you free will. This means that you can make the choice to be close to Him or not. You can make the choice to go to church or not, and if you chose not to, it does NOT mean that He hates you. It just means that you've pulled yourself so far away from Him that it's hard for you to find Him again. You're just lost without him.
Catholics believe that there is a place called purgatory and that if you aren't ready to go to heaven, you go there. If you go to purgatory, you CANT go to hell. This is just a cleansing period to prepare for you to go to heaven. If you go to church as often as possible, you may be able to knock off a few years of purgatory.
I am a non denominational Christian. It's where we aren't tied down to one specific theory. We believe certain things that some other religions do as well. We are open-minded to different beliefs. My great uncle goes to a catholic church and wanted his daughter (my cousin) to get baptized. However, he had to pay for it to be done in the church. Where I know some people go to other churches and believe in getting baptized in a lake because that's how they used to do it back in biblical times. A lot of churches also take in the body and blood of Jesus Christ, yet you need to be a certain age. I understand where a little itty bitty not be able to take it because they don't get the full concept yet but I think an 11-12 year old could. They can grasp that concept, most churches don't allow that though. You're right n that god wont hate you if you go to church yes, but I don't believe that if you go to church you're closer to god. Actually, a lot of church goers think they're better than other Christians because they go. God doesn't judge you on how much you love him etc. based on if you do or don't go to church. Someone can be just as close to god if they don't go to church just as how close one who goes to church can.