Want to live longer and happier? According to two Canadian studies, it’s a matter of being “spiritual” and “religious”—although not necessarily both.
Researchers at the University of Manitoba recently found that attending worship services can lower the potential for suicide. Results from a study of 37,000 Canadian adults revealed that those who did not attend church or go to a synagogue were twice as likely to have attempted suicide. Those who simply considered themselves “spiritual,” however, were just as likely to have tried.
Oddly enough, a separate study of children showed a converse outcome for those considered either “religious” or “spiritual.” In this report, researchers from the University of British Columbia found that children ages 8 to 12 who are more spiritual tend to be happier, while kids who are simply religious aren’t. Led by Mark Holder, the study defined being spiritual as relying on an inner belief system for strength and comfort, and being religious included such things as attending church and participating in rituals.
“Our finding of a strong relation between happiness and spirituality in children, but not between happiness and frequency of religious practice, suggests that spirituality and religious practice can be empirically separated,” Holder said. “It is somewhat surprising that the relation between happiness and spirituality reported in the present study with children was stronger than that typically reported in adults.” [washingtontimes.com, 1/16/09; christianpost.com, 1/15/09]
QUOTE: “You can’t express views that were common currency 30 or 40 years ago. Arguably, the parameters of what you might call ‘right thinking’ are probably closing. Sadly, along with that has come the fact that it’s almost socially unacceptable to say you believe in God. … It’s difficult if you talk about religious faith in our political system. If you are in the American political system or others, then you can talk about religious faith and people say ‘Yes, that’s fair enough,’ and it is something they respond to quite naturally. You talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you’re a nutter.” —BBC Radio personality Jeremy Vine, on how Christians are increasingly becoming social pariahs in Britain. The longtime host, who says he is a practicing Anglican, believes that talking about his personal faith on-air would be “destructive” because of the increasing intolerance toward expressing religious views in the U.K. “One of the things that I think, which may sound bizarre, is that Christ is who He said He was. [But] I don’t think I’d put that out on my show,” Vine says. “I suppose there’s a bit of a firewall between thinking that and doing the job I do. … Clearly we live in a secular society and that has increased, but I don’t get a sense of being persecuted. There’s a problem for people who are active in their faith in feeling that the society around them ignores them.” [telegraph.co.uk, 1/19/09]
QUOTE: “It’s just part of a 200-year working out of ideas about personal autonomy and equality that are sort of built into the American experience. The notion that someone is going to burn in hell because they have their own beliefs is just not resonant within our larger political ideals.” —Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, responding to the cultural shift toward an individualized, a la carte Christianity—as indicated in Barna’s recent study that showed American Christians are increasingly unwilling to believe their non-Christian neighbors will go to hell [csmonitor.com, 1/14/09]
It’s no secret that Christianity’s influence upon American culture has waned in recent generations. Yet the most recent Barna study offers further proof: Half of all Americans now believe Christianity isn’t the country’s default religion, but is instead one of many options of faith.
Two weeks ago the Ministry Report highlighted a Gallup poll showing that two-thirds of Americans believe religion is losing ground in this nation. Yet Barna’s new report indicates just how far Christianity has fallen in comparison to other religions. Most convinced of this shift are evangelicals—64 percent of whom believe Christianity is no longer the religion Americans automatically accept as their personal faith—and Hispanics (60 percent).
Interestingly enough, this comes at a time when a greater number of Americans (74 percent) believe spirituality is more important to them than it used to be. That may explain why Americans—by a whopping three-to-one margin—are more likely to develop their own personal set of beliefs than accept those taught by a church or denomination. Even among born-again Christians polled, 61 percent adopt an a la carte approach to their faith. Not surprisingly, the group most likely to customize their faith is those under age 25 (82 percent). [barna.org, 1/12/09]
QUOTE: “If you’re going to come out and begin a new life, why would you choose an HBO documentary, then meet with the liberal Hollywood press? The fact that he’s attacking the church or New Life Church, when they did so much to help him and his family, is below the belt.” —Focus on the Family executive H.B. London, on the recent tactics of former New Life Church pastor Ted Haggard, who last week held a press conference in Los Angeles to promote the upcoming documentary The Trials of Ted Haggard. Produced by Alexandra Pelosi (daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi), the HBO special follows Haggard in the months after his fall and includes him ranting against a church that “has said go to hell” and “chose not to forgive me.” London was involved in counseling Haggard through a restoration process, which the high-profile minister prematurely broke off, according to multiple sources. Haggard is scheduled to tape a show with Oprah Winfrey later this week that will air later this month. [AP, 1/10/09]