Uproariously Good News: Religion is Good for You!

Jamey Brown - Good News


Recently, I got this shot in the arm of uproariously good news from listening to an interview with author Rodney Stark on September 2 Kresta In The Afternoon radio show on Ave Maria Radio.

They were discussing Stark’s newest book entitled America’s Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists. Dr. Stark is a Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, and his analysis of polls and data shows that Americans are more religious now than ever, despite the avalanche of news to the contrary from the secular media.  By  “religious”,  Stark is referring to those individuals who regularly attend a religious service—Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other.

Religion Percentages

Stark finds that most Americans believe in God, and that 70% belong to a local parish. (An odd fact to note here is that during the American Revolution the figure was only 17%)   The number of professed atheists is 4% and that number has remained steady since 1944 when the first polls started.  However, the media and educators would lead you to believe that percentage is soaring because many of them are irreligious.

The reason the media touts that religions are declining is that they are perverting the data.  While more and more people are checking “non-affiliated” in the religious questionnaires, this assessment simply means they do not participate in the traditional churches—Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.  This data does not indicate that these respondents are all atheist.  Of the 20% who respond “non-affiliated” Professor Stark says, “Most say they believe in God and pray regularly.”

To date, Christianity remains the predominant religion in the world.  While it has declined significantly in past decades both in the US and Western Europe,  Christianity is experiencing a surge in growth worldwide.   Its growth Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America has been phenomenal.  It is important to note that Islam is not growing nearly as fast worldwide and the Muslim birthrate in Europe is declining significantly due to modernization.

The Benefits of Religion

Professor Stark’s research reflects that religious people live 7 years longer than irreligious people.  Religious people are happier, have more stable marriages, more children, better mental health, make more money, have happier sex lives, and are better educated. They read more books, are more charitable, commit less crimes, are more civic minded, and their children do better and get into less trouble in school, because they are better behaved.  Overall, the US has a much lower crime rate than Western Europe, with half as many burglaries and other crimes, because of the more religious culture.

The benefits of living a religious life benefits everyone in society—even atheists. Living in a religious culture where  your home is not likely to being burglarized is a good thing for you and your family whether you believe in God, or “The Force” or random chance.

In debunking the myth that religious people are merely superstitious, Professor Stark  finds that religious people rank lowest among believers in Bigfoot, psychics, and astrology, etc. He says if you want to find believers in those things you’ll find them in the faculty lounge.

This question still remains:  if we are a more religious nation, why has the bottom dropped out of our culture?

Stark’s research finds that this cultural shift is because of the powerful influence  of the often irreligious in the media and academia.  The standards for educators fell greatly in the post war era when millions of baby boomers clamored for college and there was a shortage of teachers and professors. Standards for instructors were lowered—not requiring the classically trained Profs of yore.

Hope for Humanity

One final point that Stark made that brightened my whole outlook  on this subject is that while Europe is experiencing a demographic winter and US birthrates are declining, religious families are certainly larger than secular families.  The data indicates that in a century, or a century and a half or so, the European populations will replenish, and they will be from the religious families, as the secularists die off.  Professor Stark refers to these demographics as a “religious revival based on fertility.”

Taking all aspects of this topic into consideration, even with the encouraging message of Professor Stark’s research, we still have our work to do.  Perhaps, if we focus on spreading the Gospel more fervently, we can convert a few of the irreligious before they return Home.

© 2013  Jamey Brown.  All rights reserved.


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13 thoughts on “Uproariously Good News: Religion is Good for You!”

  1. I enjoyed your article, and really got a laugh from your ‘About the Author’ (now I use the big bucks I make writing Catholic blogs to finance my dream of driving a cab in New York City).

    I am not as optimistic as you are. Most of the churches folks seem to be turning to are churches that tell you what you want to hear. Dress as you are, do as you want, love each other mega-churches. Of course you are right in that religious people are out producing atheists who are generally just looking for a good time (relationship wise). The problem I see is that with the media and education controlled by the atheists, they are bringing more and more young people over to their side. The people populating the ‘churches’, are generally us older folks. More and more ‘religious’ people are contracepting themselves into extinction as well. Our Catholic church has an average family size of about six to eight children but thirty percent of those leave the Church (I believe the rate is about 70% leave for most Catholics but I go to a very traditional Catholic parish)

    1. “Build the church, bless the nation,” is Al Kresta’s motto. He ads, “It’s a great time to be Catholic in America.” There are many hopeful signs: a seminary in the Boston area that was in danger of closing a few years ago because of low attendance is now reporting the highest numbers of new students since the mid sixties. While many Catholics are leaving the Church to go to Bob’s Ultramodern Coffee and Donut Huggie Bear Church we can strengthen our own catechesis and evangelize them and others. Kresta says of his station Ave Maria Radio that its purpose is catechesis. “Get out into the streets. I prefer a Church that is bruised, hurt and dirty because it has been in the streets,” exhorts Pope Francis. Church attendance is slowly inching back but you will not see that headline. I saw a TV show on the Church in Brazil and the people there are just jumping and sambaing with enthusiasm. Maybe Latin America can teach us with the help of Pope Francis a lot of new things.

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  3. Good article, except for a couple of points. Mainly, the United States has a much much higher murder rate than Western Europe; which seriously hurts one of the claims here. Though this is probably because of the relative lack of firearms in Western Europe… If you have statistics supporting Prof. Stark’s claim here it would be great to see them.
    All the best,

    1. Yes you’re right about the higher murder rates in the US, although for whites it is about the same as Europe. Unfortunately for blacks it is much higher. But in overall crime the US is substantially lower than Europe. Prof. Stark sites a volume called “Uniform Crime Report” indicating that in 2008 burglaries per 100, 000 shows Denmark with 1715, UK 1068 and the US with 713. Assaults: Sweden 918, UK 769, US 267. Theft: Sweden 4255, UK 3012, US 2134. He says that the myth is that the US because it was always known as the frontier country with the Wild West stereotype just doesn’t pan out with the data. He further states that Interpol the international crime fighting organization stopped keeping statistics in 2006 because it was making Europe look bad for tourism and other industries.

    2. One reason for the high murder rate in the US is because of guns. 80% of murder attempts result in death. While in Europe it is much lower. Thanks for your interest and your valid point that I knew would come up. I asked myself the same question.
      Have a blessed and joyful Christmas.

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  6. Hi Jamey, I thought I would let you know, I went with the Fathers of Mercy, (10 brothers and three of the priests), to The Carmel Home, in Ownesboro, Ky to sing with them. .http://www.carmelhomeky.org/ I sang “Jamey Brown” for them. They loved it. OH, by the way, my grand kids say it’s their favorite! Would you like to go on the Journey Home? I hope so, I already started the ball rolling. I got contacts man! Love Ya Brother, John

    1. You are just too kind, John. Father Wade Menezes and Father William Casey are two the finest speakers I’ve ever heard. I wish I was as good as that mythical guy in the song but you do inspire me to be more like him. The Journey Home? I’m sure I would scare more people away. I’m just a scatterbrained country boy who like a blind man stumbling around in a forest chances upon a treasure worth more than the whole world–Christ and his Church.

  7. You have done it again! Well chosen and well written about insights with a generous sense of humor. Keep up the good work of the Lord.

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