They learn well, make good citizens, and are invariably pleasant company.
It turns out that the practice of religion has a significant effect on happiness and an overall sense of personal well-being.
Is the decline of religious influence part of what is happening to us?
Is it not just possible that anti-religious bias masquerading as religious neutrality is costing more than we have been willing to acknowledge?
The beneficial effects of religious worship on family stability clearly indicate one way to help accomplish this. Young people see love as the central aspect of the meaning of life; they believe that religion is still important in helping form judgments and attitudes." Their conclusion: "family and religious institutions need to be studied simultaneously in our efforts to understand the human condition better." "Middletown," one of the century's classic sociological research projects, studied the lives of inhabitants of a typical American town, first in the 1920s and for the third time in the 1980s.
Based on the latest round of follow-up research, Howard Bahr and Bruce Chadwick, professors of sociology at Brigham Young University, concluded in 1985 that "There is a relationship between family solidarity -- family health if you will -- and church affiliation and activity.Some 78 percent pray at least once per week, and 57 percent pray daily.Even among the 13 percent of the population who call themselves agnostics or atheists, some 20 percent pray daily. When policymakers consider America's grave social problems, including violent crime and rising illegitimacy, substance abuse, and welfare dependency, they should heed the findings in the professional literature of the social sciences on the positive consequences that flow from the practice of religion. For example, there is ample evidence that: The overall impact of religious practice is illustrated dramatically in the three most comprehensive systematic reviews of the field. Some 81 percent of the studies showed the positive benefit of religious practice, 15 percent showed neutral effects, and only 4 percent showed harm. Each of these systematic reviews indicated more than 80 percent benefit, and none indicated more than 10 percent harm.Divorce and Cohabitation Regular church attendance is the critical factor in marital stability across denominations and overrides effects of doctrinal teaching on divorce.For instance, black Protestants and white Catholics, who share similarly high church attendance rates, have been shown to have similarly low divorce rates. Furthermore, when marital separation occurs, reconciliation rates are higher among regular church attendees, and highest when both spouses have the same high level of church attendance. Findings on the other end of the marital spectrum reinforce the point: A 1993 national survey of 3,300 men aged 20-39 found that those who switch partners most are those with no religious convictions. Significantly, cohabitation before marriage poses a high risk to later marital stability, and premarital cohabitation is much less common among religious Americans.Religious practice appears to have enormous potential for addressing today's social problems.As summarized in 1991 by Allen Bergin, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University, considerable evidence indicates that religious involvement reduces "such problems as sexual permissiveness, teen pregnancy, suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism, and to some extent deviant and delinquent acts, and increases self esteem, family cohesiveness and general well being....Some religious influences have a modest impact whereas another portion seem like the mental equivalent of nuclear energy....More generally, social scientists are discovering the continuing power of religion to protect the family from the forces that would tear it down." Professor Bergin's summary was echoed two years later by nationally syndicated columnist William Raspberry: "Almost every commentator on the current scene bemoans the increase of violence, lowered ethical standards and loss of civility that mark American society."The cohabitation rate is seven times higher among persons who seldom or never attend religious services compared to persons who frequently attend," writes David Larson of the National Institute of Healthcare Research."Women who attended religious services once a week were only one-third as likely to cohabit as those who attended church services less than once a month." Furthermore, "If the mother frequently attended religious services, both sons and daughters were only 50 percent as likely to cohabit as adult children whose mothers were not actively religious." Rockford Institute President Allan Carlson summarizes the pattern: "Social scientists are discovering the continuing power of religion to protect the family from the forces that would tear it down." The fact is that too many social scientists have failed to appreciate the significance of research on the relationship between family and religion.