If you like listening to podcasts and have never encountered “Research on Religion,”I encourage you to give it a try. My father told me about it a few months back, and I’ve learned a lot about what is going on in the social sciences with respect to religion. Each week the host interviews an author of a recent article or monograph on some aspect of religious research: demographic trends, social and political views of members of particular denominations, etc. I know you’ll be shocked to learn that the results of these studies don’t always follow the impressions we get from media reports on religion.
This week’s episode featured an interview with G. Alexander Ross, a sociologist at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Arlington, VA. The discussion centered on Ross’s recent article, “The Impact of Church Attendance on the Decline in Female Happiness in the United States.” Ross compiled survey data confirming the results of other sociologists that show women to have lower self-reported levels of happiness than in prior decades.
Ross went further than this, though, and found that the lower levels of happiness track with lower levels of church attendance. This is not just a correlation, either. The data set he used gave him enough information to conclude that not attending church actually has a causal effect on reduced happiness. Moreover, church attendance had a “protective effect,” where churchgoers were not exposed to as many of the harmful influences elsewhere in life leading to reduced happiness.
You may have to register to view the full article, but it’s free and worth every penny.