There are lots of studies which show the benefits of religion (like the ones below). But are the benefits due to something supernatural, or to how religion brings people together to help each other? Maybe it’s both. After all, challenges are more bearable when a burden is shared. And as church historian Martin Marty pointed out about the downside of being spiritual but not religious: “Spirituality doesn’t bring you a casserole when you are sick.”
Despite what some American televangelists like to say, having faith is no guarantee that life will work out perfectly.
Like everyone else, people who believe in God have bad things happen to them, too—they lose their jobs, get cancer, die in accidents or suffer any of the other maladies and afflictions that arise from simply being alive.
But if having faith doesn’t prevent these things from happening, it seems to help when problems and challenges come our way. At least, that’s what some recent studies are showing.
According to a German study, people who lost their jobs but attend church frequently reported they were more satisfied with their lives than non-attenders.
“This study asked whether religious attendance buffers the psychological impact of unemployment. The answer is yes,” researchers from the Center for Applied Developmental Science at the University of Jena, Germany, and the University of Amsterdam reported in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.
A study in Poland found a similar result. That study of 1,600 workers who faced uncertain future employment discovered that frequent church attendance and having strong religious beliefs were related to fewer symptoms of depression and higher life satisfaction.
According to the study, by University of Jena and the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities, highly religious individuals reported fewer signs of depression in the face of work and financially-related stress.
For the researchers, the study shows that “religiousness acted as a protective factor.”
When it comes to money, a U.S.reported by the July, 2010 issue of the journal of Social Science and Medicine found that going to church regularly and belief in the afterlife were related to lower levels of psychological distress for people experiencing financial hardship.
The reasons people of faith feel less stress, the study suggests, include belief in a loving God who cares for their well-being, and the belief in a rich and rewarding afterlife. This world isn’t all that there is, in other words.
Additionally, the study points to how religion often provides people with a supportive community. Not only does a faith community offer friendship and practical help, but people who are have lost their jobs or are facing money troubles feel their self-worth is validated by the community—it doesn’t matter if they have a job or a lot of money in the bank.
But faith isn’t only helpful to those who are in the workforce or worried about work; it can also be a benefit to people who are retired and aging.
That’s what a study by Lydia K. Manning of Duke University ’s Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development found.
According to Manning, people who are spiritual have a tool that can promote and maintain health and resilience in later life.
The benefits of increased spiritual activity ranged from “battling loneliness through personal faith and church, synagogue and mosque attendance to reducing death anxiety through religious music,” she says, adding that spirituality “serves as a promoter of healthy aging.”
The role religion plays in combating loneliness is echoed by a study by Sunshine Rote and Terrence Hill of Florida State University and Christopher Ellison of the University of Texas at San Antonio .
“We find that religious attendance is associated with higher levels of social integration and social support,” they wrote.
“Taken together, our results suggest that involvement in religious institutions may protect against loneliness in later life by integrating older adults into larger and more supportive social networks.”
Getting a benefit from religion isn’t limited to being part of a faith community; apparently just listening to religious music can help.
Research by Christopher Ellison, Matt Bradshaw and Collin Mueller of Duke University and Qijuan Fang of Bowling Green State University found that listening to religious music is associated with increases in life satisfaction, a greater sense of control and a decrease in anxiety about death.
“This study shows that listening to religious music may promote psychological well-being in later life,” the researchers say, although they don’t say what kind of religious music may be best.
So there you have it; if being religious won’t protect you from problems and suffering in life, it seems to help people weather them better.
From the Sept. 19, 2015 Winnipeg Free Press.