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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Benefits of Faith

Many posts have discussed the role of religion in American public life.  Though religion has been on the decline, it remains valuable to the country.

Samuel J. Abrams at AEI:
Data from the Survey Center on American Life’s May 2021 American Perspectives Survey provides compelling evidence about the benefits of being part of a faith, exposing strong relationships between faith, sociability, and mental health.

As the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, we now know that religiously affiliated Americans maintained more robust friendships during the crisis. Over half of those who report being part of a faith (54 percent) report remaining in regular contact with their friends over the past year, compared to 44 percent of agnostic or atheist Americans.

Moreover, the data reveal that the density of friendship networks varies significantly based on faith. Just 10 percent of those who have a faith state that they have no close friends; the number almost doubles for those who have no faith, such that one in five (19 percent) Americans who have no religion have no close friends either. When looking at quantities of close friends, over half (53 percent) of religiously affiliated Americans report having four close friends or more whereas 39 percent of unaffiliated Americans report the same; these are nontrivial differences. While it is possible that more social people also gravitate to religious institutions, the fact remains that those who are members of a faith have more friends than those who do not.

Beyond differences in number of friends, the data show that socialization patterns between the affiliated and unaffiliated are dissimilar as well. With the COVID-19 pandemic putting increased mental strain on many Americans, being able to lean on the love and support of others has been crucial for many. Forty percent of religious Americans report having recently told a friend they loved them, compared to just 29 percent of those without faith. Fifty-seven percent of those with faith report talking to their friends on the phone in the past week, compared to 46 percent of those without.