Friends Who Pray Together

Article excerpt

IN STUDY AFTER STUDY, RESEARCHERS have found that religion makes people happy. Nearly 30 percent of people who attend religious services weekly report "extreme" satisfaction with their lives, compared with less than 20 percent of those who steer clear of religious institutions. Why? Is it because churchgoers feel loved by God? Is it because they sleep easy at night, knowing where they'll go after they die? No and no. A new study finds that the answer may be much closer to hand: Churchgoers are happier because of the friends they've made in the pews.

Two sociologists, Chaeyoon Lim of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Robert Putnam of Harvard (author of Bowling Alone, a seminal 2000 book about Americans' declining social connectedness), find that people who have close friends from their congregations are more likely to be happy than those who have the same number of close friends through nonreligious affiliations. People who regularly attend church and have three to five close friends from their religious community are 50 percent more likely to be "extremely satisfied" with their lives than non religious people who have the same number of friends. …