Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Church is About Friendships, NOT God: Study

"Our study offers compelling evidence that it is the social aspects of religion rather than theology or spirituality that leads to life satisfaction," Sociology assistant professor Chaeyoon Lim of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the study's lead author, explained.

-- From "Study: Happiness is having friends at church" by Michelle Healy, USA TODAY 12/7/10

Numerous studies have shown that religious people report a higher level of well-being compared with the non-religious, says Chaeyoon Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lead author of the study. But what aspect of religiousness — church attendance, prayer, theology or spirituality — accounts for this level of life satisfaction has been unclear.

Lim says that "90% of the correlation between church attendance and life satisfaction can be explained if you have these close interactions."

Lim notes that the study's findings cut across all the main Christian denominations, as well as Jews and Mormons. The sample size of other religious groups was too small to draw conclusions.

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From "Why religion breeds happiness: Friends" by Elizabeth Landau, CNN.com Health Writer/Producer 12/7/10

Many other studies have argued that the happiness gleaned from being religious is about spirituality and theology - for example, your belief in a higher power and your engagement in the rituals of your tradition. But in this study, factors such as prayer, holding religious services at home, and strength of faith do not appear to be related to life satisfaction.

But people who go to a place of worship and have few close friends there are not any happier than people who never go to services, the study authors found.

Religious identity is also important, Lim said. People who say that religion is a very important part of self identity tend to be happier. And that also goes back to the friendship issue: It’s not simply the presence of friendship, but also the fact that you share this sense of religious identity with this particular social network, that makes you more satisfied with life, Lim said.

Friendship in congregation also appears to make people volunteer more, even outside of the religious setting, and donate more often to both religious and nonreligious causes, Lim and Putnam found.

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