The current issue of The Wilson Quarterly has arrived. My eye was caught by a summary of an article from the December 2010 American Sociological Review by Chaeyon Lim and Robert D. Putnam titled "Religion, Social Networks, and Life Satisfaction."
The subject of the article is that religion makes people happy. The researchers reports that "nearly 30 percent of the people who attend religious services report extreme happiness with their lives, compared with less than 20 percent of those who steer clear of religious institutions."
Why? The researchers' conclusion is that "Churchgoers are happier because of the friends they make in the pews."
"People who have close friends from their congregations are more likely to be happy than those who have the same number of close friends through nonreligious affiliations."
What about faith and belief in God? "Any evidence that belief in God by itself leads to happiness is weak and inconsistent."
"What really seems to make people happy is the sense of belonging that comes from a combination of religious identity and religious friends."
The researchers conclude that "it is neither faith nor communities, per se, that are important, but communities of faith. For life satisfaction, praying together seems to be better than either bowling together or praying alone."