In a conversation I recently had with some spiritual skeptics they asserted that people who were religious were unhappy due to a sense of guilt that faith unfairly pushed on them. I challenged their assumptions based on my own life experiences but they insisted they were right and said they had "facts" to prove their claim. Despite their adamant insistence, they failed to cite a single scientific study or survey that backed up their outrageous claim. So I decided to do some research on my own. I discovered a report on WebMD that said that "people who attend religious services, or who feel they are spiritual, experience lower levels of depression and anxiety; display signs of better health, such as lower blood pressure and fewer strokes; and say they generally feel healthier."1 That same website revealed that not only are religious people healthier, they also live longer. In a study of over 4000 people, Dr. Harold G. Koenig, of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, reported that "people who attend religious services at least once a week are less likely to die in a given period of time than people who attend services less often."2 I found a number of other studies that said similar things and a simple Google search will reveal them to anyone interested in checking those claims out on their own.
But does being healthier and living long actually make religious people happier? In February 2009, Andrew Clark, from the Paris School of Economics, and Dr. Orsolya Lelkes, from the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, analyzed a variety of factors among Catholic and Protestant Christians and found that life satisfaction seems to be higher among the religious population. The authors concluded that religion in general, acts as a buffer that protects people from life's disappointments.3 The connection between happiness and faith is not just true for our European friends. The highly respected Pew Research Center discovered that in America "people who attend religious services weekly or more are happier than those who attend monthly or less; or seldom or never. This correlation between happiness and frequency of church attendance has been a consistent finding for years."4
People who are deeply religious don't need a survey or study to tell them they are happier than their non-religious counterparts. They already know this because they experience that happiness on a regular basis. That does not mean that religious people don't have bad days or have periods of life in which they feel depressed, but it does mean that as a general rule, they do live happier lives than those who are not religious. This may not be politically correct in today's pluralistic culture, but it is scientifically accurate. Though some people may not like religious faith, there is simply no denying that faith improves a person's quality of life. We may all be entitled to our own opinion on the subject, but we are not entitled to our own facts. Facts are facts regardless of what our opinion is. And the facts are clear, religious faith makes us healthier, happier and results in us living longer. Perhaps it's time for more people to get back into church and discover what they are missing!