By Hilary White

  WASHINGTON, December 20, 2006 ( – If most mainstream media journalists and pundits, including one well-known Oxford professor, are to be believed, religion is the ultimate source of all human unhappiness: war, famine, plague, inequality and injustice.

  Taken as an irrefutable foundational principle, the popular theme goes that religion causes strife and division. In a world free of religious belief – particularly those religions based on the Old and New Testaments – women would be emancipated, children would be raised in peace and universal brotherhood, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, AIDS and the common cold would be eradicated, no one would be racially prejudiced, smoke or drive home drunk and everyone would be good looking.

  The trouble with most of this is that it flies in the face of the actual facts.

  Patrick F. Fagan, a research fellow in Family and Cultural Issues at the Heritage Foundation, contends that religious practice and belief are key to social stability and “lead to an increase in physical and mental health, longevity, and education attainment.”

  In his meta-study titled “Why Religions Matter Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability,” Fagan calls on legislators to do whatever they can to support traditional religious practice for the sake of the common good.

  Regular attendance at religious services, Fagan finds, benefits the poor and is linked to “healthy, stable family life, strong marriages, and well-behaved children.” The practice of religion also leads to a “reduction in the incidence of domestic abuse, crime, substance abuse, and addiction.”

  The study showed, moreover, that the benefits of religious faith and practice are passed down through the generations by grandparents and parents.

  That religious belief and regular church or synagogue attendance helps create social stability, is not exactly news to researchers. The website of the Duke University Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health lists dozens of studies showing nearly universally that belief, coupled with regular religious practice, produces health, happiness, social stability and good grades in school.

  A 1988 report published in the Gerontologist, studied 836 persons ages 55 or older who were church and synagogue members, including some Catholic sisters, found that “organizational religious activity,” non-organizational religious activity (prayer, Bible study, and religious TV or radio), and intrinsic religiosity were all significantly and positively related to great well-being and morale.”

  The research shows those who believe and practice their faith are more likely to live longer and recover faster from illness including depression, the “common cold” of the psychiatric profession.

  Moreover, the studies consistently reveal that it is specifically “institutionalized” religion, the kind most maligned by the anti-religion authorities, that helps the most. Most studies listed by the Center showed that actual attendance at a church or synagogue and not belief alone, increased the benefits of religious faith.

  One study showed that attendance at religious services is related to how long a person lives. Published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, it found that of the subjects who attended religious services “once a week or more in 1986, 22.9% died compared to 37.4% of those attending services less than once a week.” The “relative hazard” of dying for frequent attenders was 46% less than for infrequent attenders, which difference, the study notes, is roughly equivalent to that of wearing vs. not wearing seat belts.

  Taken together, Fagan says, the research shows that religion is good for you and your country. It improves your immune system, lowers your blood pressure, helps your marriage, helps prevent your children from doing drugs, dropping out of school, engaging in premarital sex, divorcing or ending their lives in poverty and/or prison. If they do commit a crime and are incarcerated, the studies show that religious practice in prison will help them cope with their situation and reduces their likelihood of re-offending.

  Read Patrick Fagan’s Report:
  Why Religion Matters Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability

  Duke University Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health
  Research Page:


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