I recently came across this article in Breitbart.com which describes how recent studies have shown that those who attend religious services regularly are happier than those who don’t. Interestingly the study, as far as I can tell from the article, indicates that the practice of the religious aspects of the faith ie attending church, are critical. It is not just what you believe that is important, but also the practice of the faith and more than anything else the regular attendance at services as a contributory factor to happiness, as measured in this study. (I always wonder whether if these studies have any value, I must admit, wondering how accurately you can measure happiness, but for argument’s sake, I will take the results at face value here.)
The article, presumably reflecting thoughts of the scientists who made the study, goes on to the consideration of why people are happier if the go to services regularly and admitted they found it puzzling. They hypothesized about whether or not it is the fact that those who attend religious services are more likely to be involved in the community and so the additional social support makes people happier. But then point out that that this doesn’t seem to be the reason because they found that those people with a similar level of community involvement reported lower levels of happiness if they did not attend religious services as well.
I haven’t read the full study, only the newspaper article about it, so there may be aspects of this study missing, but based upon what I read, this is what is interesting to me about the analysis. There appears to be an assumption that the reasons must relate to the impact on human relationships only. There appears to be no consideration of the possible truth of what the religions themselves might have to say about why people are happier, or any other based upon the idea that God exists. Always, it seems, it is assumed that he doesn’t and the explanation must be psychological.
There is an alternative hypothesis, that is probably the one the scientists would have been given if they had asked any one of the thousands whom they observed going to the religious ceremonies under consideration. That is that there is some truth in what they believe about God. The religious ceremony is part of the expression of a relationship with God, and it (Read More)