I’ve written several posts citing research showing that spirituality is associated with improved outcomes in life. I expect more of them to follow. Each of these has come from science news reports issued since I began blogging in October 2004.
(This is the granddaddy of all these studies: a model of excellent research methodology, with a large sample size, predominantly Christians.)
- November 1, 2010: Very religious Americans have higher levels of well-being
- April 3, 2007: RAND study finds religiosity can be an important tool in preventing the spread of HIV-AIDS
- February 9, 2007: “Study recommends greater attention to spiritual needs of people with advanced cancer”
- January 31, 2007: “Spirituality plays role in breast cancer information processing for African-American women”
- November 29, 2006: “Go to Church and Breathe Easier” (I did not write a blog entry on this, because the possible confounding variables are so many. Nevertheless it tends to support at least the limited conclusion I summarized below.)
- October 7, 2006: Religion and Cancer Mortality
- June 8, 2006: “Study Finds Greater Religious Involvement Associated With Lower Mortality Risk”
- November 21, 2004: More “Benefits” Of Faith: Shorter Hospital Stays, Better Recoveries
- June 20, 2009: “BBC NEWS | Health | Religion ‘linked to happy life’”
- December 29, 2008: Religion and Self-Control, or Could Going to Church Help a Heathen?
- June 30, 2008: Is Religion an Answer? Marriage, Fatherhood, and the Male Problematic
- April 3, 2008: Religion, other factors contribute to successful African-American marriages
- March 31, 2008: Further Effects of “Child Abuse:” Spirituality is Major Contributor to Children’s Happiness
- December 21, 2007: “Church-going Christians Less Likely to Commit Adultery”
- November 24, 2007: “Can Religion Offset the Effects of Child Poverty?”
- April 24, 2007: “LiveScience.com – Study: Religion is Good for Kids”
- January 3, 2007: Praying Online Helps Cancer Patients
- December 8, 2006: Church-going Christians Have Happier, Stronger Marriages
- November 18, 2006: “Religious Conservatives Donate Far More Than Secular Liberals“
- November 2, 2006: “Faith-Based Youth Groups Stand Out In Fostering Teens’ Growth Experiences”
- March 16, 2006: Spirituality Associated With Emotional Health Of Resident Physicians
- April 27, 2005: Religion and Health Again
- December 29, 2004: Still More “Benefits” Of Belief: Fewer Suicides
- November 2, 2004: USA TODAY: “A Spiritually Inclined Student Is A Happier Student”
These studies are not about spirituality per se, but relate to negative effects of living contrary to Biblical principles.
- November 23, 2007: “The Dark Underbelly of Cohabitation”
- March 7, 2007: Cohabitation before marriage is correlated with violence in marriage
- February 26, 2007: Early sex may lead teens to delinquency, study shows
- February 24, 2006: Abortion and Mental Health
- September 29, 2005: Religion is Bad For Your Country?
- July 16, 2005: “Prayer’s Effect On Health Called Nil By Duke Study” (see also the follow-up, and a contradictory article on March 14, 2007)
The Exception That Really Does Prove the Rule:
- October 31, 2006: Intelligent Believers
Other counterexamples will be posted here if any appear.
Do studies like this prove Christianity is for real? No: for one thing, they involve far too many other variables (including other religions included in the study groups); for another, they are all correlational studies that do not show causation. The real value of studies like this is that they refute the view that religion is a scourge on society, a sign of weakness or poor mental health.
For decades, social scientists’ thinking about religion was dominated by Freud, who considered religion to be the universal neurosis, and by Schopenhauer, who reduced it to mere wish fulfillment. Marx famously called it the opiate of the people, a means of deadening oneself to the realities of life. If that were true, though, religious attitudes should be generally accompanied by other evidence of neuroses (to stick with Freud’s dated term) or of socio-emotional weakness. The opposite is the case. Freud, Marx, and Schopenhauer were wrong.
We can also say confidently that the Bible’s predictions of joy, peace, direction, satisfaction, and so on are supported through studies like this.