What to make of all this? First, the associations between religion and health should force us to re-evaluate religion’s role in society and public life. Religion is often perceived negatively today, and at times it’s well earned. But the effects of religious participation are often profoundly positive, a point often neglected or ignored. The health benefits can be added to a long list of virtues found with an active religious life.
Attending religious services has been shown to increase the likelihood of a stable marriage, to elevate one/s sense of meaning and to expand one/s social network. It leads t greater charitable giving and more robust volunteering and civic engagement. The effects are profound across numerous domains of live. This has important implications for the extent to which society promotes and protects religious institutions, the maintenance of their no-profit tax-exempt status and how the contribution of such institutions is portrayed in the media, the academy and beyond.
Second, on a more personal level, for the roughly half of all Americans who believe in God but do not regularly attend services, the relationship between service attendance and health might constitute an invitation back to church. Something about the communal religious experience and participation matters .Something powerful appears to take place there, and enhances health. It is something quite different from solitary spirituality.
All of us benefit from the benefits of church participation that are spelled out in this article. We have been taking them for granted. It is encouraging that a major newspaper in the US would publish such an article and backs up the claims with solid research which you can locate on their website.
We will conclude the article next week.