Why Religion Makes People Happier (Hint: Not God)

Religious people are more satisfied with their lives than nonbelievers, but a new study finds it's not a relationship with God that makes the devout happy. Instead, the satisfaction boost may come from closer ties to earthly neighbors.

According to a study published today (Dec. 7) in the journal American Sociological Review, religious people gain life satisfaction thanks to social networks they build by attending religious services. The results apply to Catholics and mainline and evangelical Protestants. The number of Jews, Mormons, Muslims and people of other religions interviewed was too small to draw conclusions about those populations, according to study researcher Chaeyoon Lim, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"We show that [life satisfaction] is almost entirely about the social aspect of religion, rather than the theological or spiritual aspect of religion," Lim told LiveScience. "We found that people are more satisfied with their lives when they go to church, because they build a social network within their congregation."

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catman on 12/12/2010 16:31

Makes sense to me. My grandparents' entire social group was at their Sunday school. Without that, they would have been almost completely isolated.

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