Make New Friends, Keep the Old—Especially in Church

What's the secret ingredient in religion that makes people happier?

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In a study released earlier this week, researchers say that they have found “compelling evidence” that the “secret ingredient in religion that makes people happier” is not theology, ceremony, sacraments or prayer but friendships.

According to this study, 33 percent of people who go to church every week AND have three to five friends in the congregation reported high levels of satisfaction with their life. Nearly a quarter of those who only attend services occasionally but still have ties to the church said they were “extremely satisfied” with their lives. Among those who attend church but do not have close ties, only 19 percent said they were “extremely satisfied” with their lives.

Lead researcher, Chaeyoon Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said: “One of the important functions of religion is to give people a sense of belonging to a moral community based on religious faith. This community, however, could be abstract and remote…. The friends in one’s congregation make the religious community real and tangible and strengthen one’s sense of belonging to the community.”

What do you think? Is happiness based on friendships and a sense of community? And if so, where does God fit into the equation?

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