Get Your God On! Part 2 – “When Things Go To Hell In A Handbasket…”

Maybe the cause for decreasing church attendance can be found in the latest research from a study done by Ed Diener, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Illinois. People who are religious are happier and outnumber their nonreligious counterparts in societies under stress, a new research has found.

Where peace and plenty are the norm, however, religious participation is lower and people are happier whether or not they are religious, the researchers found.

Lead author Ed Diener explains:

Religious happier during bad times
(UPI) — Religious are happier and outnumber the non-religious in societies under stress but their numerical edge diminishes during peace, U.S. researchers say.

“Circumstances predict religiousness,” Diener says in a statement. “Difficult circumstances lead more strongly to people being religious and in religious societies and in difficult circumstances, religious people are happier than non-religious people. But in non-religious societies or more benign societies where many people’s needs are met, religious people aren’t happier — everyone’s happier.”

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, finds religious affiliation appears to boost happiness and wellbeing in societies that fail to provide adequate food, jobs, healthcare, security and educational opportunities.

Around the world, 68 percent of people surveyed said they were religious. These findings are also relevant in the UnitedStates. It seems that Mississippi reported the highest (88 percent) and Vermont the lowest (44 percent) portion of people reporting that religion is an important part of their daily life, the study says.

Diener, Ed; Tay, Louis; Myers, David G.

As we estimate here, 68% of human beings—4.6 billion people—would say that religion is important in their daily lives. Past studies have found that the religious, on average, have higher subjective well-being (SWB). Yet, people are rapidly leaving organized religion in economically developed nations where religious freedom is high. Why would people leave religion if it enhances their happiness? After controlling for circumstances in both the United States and world samples, we found that religiosity is associated with slightly higher SWB, and similarly so across four major world religions. The associations of religiosity and SWB were mediated by social support, feeling respected, and purpose or meaning in life. However, there was an interaction underlying the general trend such that the association of religion and well-being is conditional on societal circumstances. Nations and states with more difficult life conditions (e.g., widespread hunger and low life expectancy) were much more likely to be highly religious. In these nations, religiosity was associated with greater social support, respect, purpose or meaning, and all three types of SWB. In societies with more favorable circumstances, religiosity is less prevalent and religious and nonreligious individuals experience similar levels of SWB. There was also a person–culture fit effect such that religious people had higher SWB in religious nations but not in nonreligious nations. Thus, it appears that the benefits of religion for social relationships and SWB depend on the characteristics of the society. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved)

More of the Story:

This Emotional Life – The TV Series: Premiered January 2010 

The Emmy Award-winning team of  Vulcan Productions and the producers of  NOVA have created a three-part series that explores improving our social relationships, learning to cope with depression and anxiety, and becoming more positive, resilient individuals. The series was produced by Kunhardt McGee Productions.

Harvard psychologist and best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness, Professor Daniel Gilbert, talks with experts about the latest science on what makes us “tick” and how we can find support for the emotional issues we all face.

Each episode weaves together the compelling personal stories of ordinary people and the latest scientific research along with revealing comments from celebrities like Chevy Chase, Larry David, Alanis Morissette, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and Richard Gere.

From an interview with Dr. Diener:

“Many studies find that religious people on average are happier. But since not all religious people are happier, and not all religious beliefs seem to lead to happiness, we have to search for the “active ingredient” in what aspect of religion might increase feelings of well-being. In our book on happiness, my son and I argue that one key ingredient is positive spirituality, feeling emotions such as love, awe, wonder, respect, and gratitude that connect us to others and to things larger than ourselves. That is, spirituality can focus us on larger causes than our own personal welfare, and this can give us purpose and meaning. Also, this broader focus on others and purpose can help us quit worrying so much about ourselves. And it can help us connect to others.

Religion has been associated with happiness for other reasons. For instance, religion often gives people social support and (more here)”


2 thoughts on “Get Your God On! Part 2 – “When Things Go To Hell In A Handbasket…”

  1. Hope comes with faith, now if only some faiths would worry about living and making this world better while letting the powers beyond us worry about a person worthiness to move beyon here to a better world, peace might have a chance. Posted today on Tsiha Ba. Thank you for your post.

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