Study: Practicing Religion in Church and at Home Brings Meaning to Life

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 13: A woman holds rosary beads while she prays and waits for
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While many studies show the “profoundly positive” impact of religion on people’s lives, practicing religion in the home as well as at church appears to bring higher senses of life meaning and happiness.

Studies on religiosity and happiness in the past have operated by comparing the non-religious, somewhat religious, and very religious, finding an association with the level of religious practice with personal and familial well-being.

Often, the “very religious” group is defined by regular church attendance, but research now suggests that there is a stratification in that cohort — those who attend church regularly, and those who attend church regularly in addition to practicing their religion in their homes.

“Individuals who engage in home-centered religious practices are significantly more likely to report high levels of life meaning and happiness in their lives,” Dr. Jason Carroll and Dr. Spencer James write in a piece for the Institute for Family Studies.

Even studies that show the benefits of religion appear to be “underestimating the full benefits available from religious participation because they do not distinguish between individuals who are receiving a ‘full dose’ of religion and those receiving lower dosage levels.”

One of the issues in research on religiosity is how researchers are defining “highly religious.” It is not just bringing religion home that differentiates persons, but also whether researchers define “highly religious” as monthly or weekly church attendance.

Carroll and James ask whether those metrics are truly how “highly religious” persons would define themselves.

“All world religions encourage their followers to bring religious observance into their daily lives through home-centered religious practices and personal forms of worship,” they write. “Most notably, nearly all faith traditions teach the importance of communing with the Divine through engaging in personal prayer and contemplation, reading scriptures or holy writ, discussing religious teachings in one’s home, and gathering one’s family together for shared family prayers, worship, and devotion.”

“Current practices of measuring religiosity are at risk of underestimating the full effects of religion on followers,” they continue.

“‘Home Worshipers’ are nearly twice as likely as their less-religious peers, and more than four times more likely than Seculars to report a frequent sense of meaning and purpose in their lives,” Carroll and James found.

Men and women who practice religion in the home and at church are significantly more likely to report high levels of happiness, and have a higher sense of life meaning, than those who are less religious — even if they are regular church attendees.

“Home Worshiper women in the U.S. are about twice as likely as Attender women and four times as likely as Secular women to report a high level of life happiness,” they wrote.

The same pattern extends to happy marriages, with “Home Worshipper” couples reporting the highest satisfaction and stability in their marriages.

“Our study also provides clear evidence of the deficiencies in the often-used practice by many public studies of measuring religiosity solely by levels of church attendance,” they conclude. “In fact, combining individuals and families who engage in home-centered religious practices with those who only attend church not only conceals these differences, but also leads to the erroneous conclusion that the potential benefits of religion are smaller than they actually are.”

Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.


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