It has always been my belief that those who have a strong religious faith and attend some form of worship on a regular basis, in general, have lower stress levels in life. I’ve witnessed people handle major life issues without religion in their lives and with religion and I’m much happier being part of the latter group. In bad times I know I can turn to God to ask for help if things get over a level that I can handle. Luckily, over the years I’ve built up a spiritual arsenal of biblical quotes, stories and heroes of the Bible on which I can rely for those times when I need a check-up from the neck up. Plus, if you’ve been making those positive deposits all along in your life, the odds are far less of you “losing it” when life throws you a curveball. Knowing that you will be dealt some heavy blows in life a short, great prayer you can ask of God is this: “God give me the strength to handle whatever comes my way.” That eleven-word prayer should cover everything that life could possibly give you. The prayer isn’t asking for God to help you win the lottery, ace a history exam or cure your aunt’s cancer. It is merely asking God to give you the fortitude to carry that burden in your life.
Academic Studies of Religion
The primary purpose of religion, in my opinion, includes the following: recognizing the existence of a higher, surpreme Being; gaining insight and enhanced spirituality from a priest, rabbi or minister on a regular basis; cultivating a faith-based community of like-minded individuals from which support and strength can be gained; and learning the teachings from the origin of your religion and applying it in your everyday life. Even if my opinion is ignored one may ask “do concrete examples exist out there that show actual studies quantifying the effects of religion on one’s life?” They absolutely do and here are some:
One study by Frank Toney and Merrill Oster highlights the goal-achievement, profitability and social benefits of faith-based CEOs:
The study investigates the relationship between the exercise of religious faith by the leader, and goal achievement, self fulfillment, and community good. Results support the premise that entrepreneurial Chief Executive Officers who “always” consciously apply the teachings of their religion during the daily decision making process, attain superior goal achievement results over those CEOs who “never” apply the teachings of their religion.
This one particular sentence really stood out for me:
Practices of the CEO of faith are characterized by emphasis on service to others, faith that everything will turn out for the best, and the view that the company is simply a vehicle to carry one to their personal goals.
How amazing is that? If we all took that philosophy that everything will turn out for the best imagine how much stress, headaches and worrying would be reduced in our lives? A lot.
In another study Kenneth I. Maton researches the The Stress-Buffering Role of Spiritual Support in a scholarly article found here. Taken from the abstract of his article two key points stand out:
- With demographic variables controlled, regression analyses indicated that spiritual support was inversely related to depression and positively related to self-esteem for high life-stress (recently bereaved) parents which I interpret to mean that the higher your spiritual support the lower your chances for depression.
- In a prospective (longitudinal) analysis with pre-college depression controlled, spiritual support was positively related to personal-emotional adjustment to college for high life-stress (three or more life events), first-semester college freshmen. The interpretation I gather here is that kids going off to college who just experienced major life-stress events adjust much smoother if they have spiritual support.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of research done showing the effect of religion on one’s stress-level, happiness and accomplishments in life. I encourage you to check out Google Scholar for more academic studies on the effects of religion in life.
The bottom line of Why Religion Matters is that ultimately it will ensure your entrance into Heaven, it makes you a better person while here on Earth and it helps you cope with the viscissitudes of life that cause some to collapse while others excel.
I personally was raised and continue to be a practicing Catholic. I was a third-generation student at this Catholic university where I met my wife who by no surprise was also Catholic. Our children attend a Catholic grade school and a Christian pre-school and we believe it benefits them in myriad ways including service to others, knowledge of their religion and helping them succeed in life.