Members in the Media

Why Religion Makes Only Some of Us Happy

Religious people tend to feel better about themselves and their lives, but a new study finds that this benefit may only hold in places where everyone else is religious, too.

According to the new study of almost 200,000 people in 11 European countries , people who are religious have higher self-esteem and better psychological adjustment than the non-religious only in countries where belief in religion is common. In more secular societies, the religious and the non-religious are equally well-off.

“The results suggest that religiosity, albeit a potent force, confers benefits by riding on cultural values,” study researcher Jochen Gebauer of Humboldt University in Berlin and colleagues wrote online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.

Many studies have shown benefits to religion, from an increase in self-control to greater happiness among the faithful. But where these benefits come from is still an open question. It could be something related to religion or religious teachings; alternatively, the social side of religion might play a role. For example, a December 2010 study published in the journal American Sociological Review found that it’s the social networks fostered by attending religious services that make religious people more satisfied with their lives.

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A most appropriate study for a large society. A parallel piece of literature is the book entitled “Don’t Sleep there are Snakes” . The self told narrative of an MIT linguistics professor’s experiences with an Amazon tribe of people who have no belief in a god, and find any reference to one to be laughable.

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