Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Religious Faith Makes People Happier

Recently I heard a comedian on the radio, and he made a big deal about the fact that he was raised Catholic, but now he is an atheist. After making some snarky comments about the Church, he then said something very interesting. He freely admitted that he wished he could force himself to believe in God, because people who have religious faith are so much happier than he is.

He went on to say a few comical things about church-goers always having smiles on their faces no matter how bad the circumstances (which is not exactly true), and in comparison, how he is usually depressed, even when things are going well for him.

Now, obviously, he was trying to be funny, since that is the main goal of stand-up comedians (Amy Schumer notwithstanding). But there is a lot of truth to what he said. Religious people ARE happier than atheists. It’s just a fact.

Many research studies have proven that church-goers are happier and healthier than non-believers. They live longer and have more friends. And just in case you were wondering, these research studies were not conducted by churches or other religious organizations. In 2018, TIME Magazine (not exactly a faith-based institution) did a big story about the results of a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine (also not biased in favor of religious faith).

The TIME article quoted Tyler VanderWeele, one of the authors of the study and a professor of epidemiology at Harvard (an institution that is profoundly anti-religion, especially in recent decades). The study found that people with religious faith live an average of four years longer than non-believers. VanderWeele said, “Factors related to churchgoing—like having a network of social support, an optimistic attitude, better self-control and a sense of purpose in life—may account for the long-life benefits seen in the study.”

The TIME story also quoted Marino Bruce, a co-author of a different study that found similar results. Bruce is a research associate professor of medicine, health and society at Vanderbilt University. He said, “Having that sense that you’re not in the world alone, that you are part of a power larger than oneself, can give one confidence to deal with the issues of life. Biologically, if that reduces stress, then that means you’re less likely to have high blood pressure or diabetes or things that can increase mortality.”

The bottom line is: faith in God gives people better health, longer life, and greater happiness.

Regarding the fact that religious believers are happier than non-believers, atheists will point out (angrily) that the happiness of faithful people is based on fantasy. Churchgoers are merely soothing themselves, they’ll insist, by clinging to fairy tales about an all-knowing God who promises to give them eternal paradise if they just behave themselves now. And, of course, the comment expressed by the unfunny member of the Marx Brothers, Karl Marx, is often mentioned: “Religion is the opiate of the people.”

Some folks might be tempted to say, “If religion is a drug that makes people happier, then everyone should take a dose.” However, unlike taking a drug, faith is not something you can simply ingest or inhale or inject. You have to really believe that the doctrines about God are true. That’s what faith means: truly believing that God is real and living your life in fellowship with Him.

The great thing about Christianity is that it is, in fact, true. God is real; Jesus really rose from the dead; and eternal joy in Heaven is possible.

Maybe that sad, atheist comedian someday will come to believe in God. For the rest of us, let’s always seek the truth, and be glad that our faith in God is not only true, but it also makes us healthier and happier.

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