Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Unigeek and the Wasp

This is sort of a geek post but sort of a what, a political one I guess, too. A segue, so to speak.

Back at the beginning of November, I wrote about an article describing a psychological study that supposedly demonstrated that right-wingers are "happier" than left-wingers.

One of the standard, almost cliché, tenets of the happiness patrol is that religious faith is a key to happiness, demonstrated by the fact that people who attend church regularly report being happy more than those who don't.

However, a new study published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review challenges the assumptions inherent in that finding: that religious belief is measurable by church attendance and through that, that it is the belief itself that is the source of happiness.

In fact, sociologist Chaeyoon Lim of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-author Robert Putnam of Harvard found no connection between church attendance and self-reported happiness. The difference, they found, was in the social connections people established in the congregation.
Ac­cord­ing to the stu­dy, 33 per­cent of peo­ple who at­tend re­li­gious ser­vic­es eve­ry week and have three to five close friends in their con­grega­t­ion re­port that they are “ex­tremely sat­is­fied” with their lives. “Ex­tremely sat­is­fied” is de­fined as a 10 on a scale rang­ing from 1 to 10.

In com­par­i­son, only 19 per­cent of peo­ple who at­tend ser­vic­es week­ly, but who have no close friends in their con­grega­t­ion call them­selves ex­tremely sat­is­fied. On the oth­er hand, 23 per­cent of peo­ple who at­tend ser­vic­es only sev­er­al times a year, but who have three to five close friends in their con­grega­t­ion are ex­tremely sat­is­fied with their lives, the re­search­ers re­ported. Fi­nal­ly, 19 per­cent of peo­ple who nev­er at­tend ser­vic­es say they’re ex­tremely sat­is­fied with their lives.

“To me, the ev­i­dence sub­stanti­ates that it is not really go­ing to church and lis­ten­ing to ser­mons or pray­ing that makes peo­ple hap­pi­er, but mak­ing church-based friends and build­ing in­ti­mate so­cial net­works there,” Lim said.
That is, the people who have friends in the congregation and thus feel they are part of a community are the ones who are the happiest. It is the community, not the religion, that matters.

I posted something about the value of community it was not quite two years ago now. I argued that "community" was a concept in which the right does not believe but that it's value was such that that our relentless cry, relentless as the right always is about their latest slogan, should be "Justice. Compassion. Community." Nice to have the value of that notion given some confirmation.

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