Friday, March 21, 2008

Religious Believers Happier than Atheists and Agnostics: Study

By Hilary White

LONDON, March 18, 2008 ( - Another study has found that sincere and active religious belief makes people happy, the Daily Mail reports.

Statistical analysis has shown repeatedly that church attendance, family life and stable marriages are the building blocks of a happy life.

Prof. Andrew Clark of the Paris School of Economics, and Dr. Orsolya Lelkes of the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research presented their research at the conference of the Royal Economic Society in Coventry. They said that religious believers are happier overall than atheists or agnostics. More than this, regular church attendance and an active prayer life make people even happier than passive belief alone.

Data gleaned from thousands of Europeans and British people say that religion can help people cope with life's disappointments and difficulties including the most stressful, such as the death of loved ones, divorce and unemployment. Religious believers have higher levels of satisfaction and suffer less psychological damage from life's troubles.

Meanwhile, church attendance in Britain and elsewhere continues its decades-long decline. Recent figures show a 500,000 fall in typical Sunday attendance in Britain since the last comparable research in 1998. Although these numbers can be seen most clearly in attendance at the Church of England and despite what is being called the "anomalous" and probably temporary rise in attendance at Catholic churches caused by an influx of eastern European immigrants to the UK, Catholic church attendance has also plummeted since the high point of the early 1960's.

But the numbers of people who believe is falling even faster than attendance at weekly church services. People who identified themselves as members of the official state religion have dropped by 40 per cent since 1983. A 2005 study said that only 50 per cent of children are likely to retain the religious faith of their upbringing. The report suggested that the decline in religious belief through the generations is already too far gone for any reversal.

The author one study, Dr. David Voas, said the loss of faith in Britain "is not temporary or accidental, it is a generational phenomenon - the decline has continued year on year. The fact that children are only half as likely to believe as their parents indicates that, as a society, we are at an advanced stage of secularisation." In 2000, a survey found that half of all adults in the UK say they have no religious affiliation, a 13 percent increase from 1983.

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