“Compared with fathers who had no religious affiliation, those who attended religious services frequently were more likely to monitor their children, praise and hug their children, and spend time with their children. In fact, fathers’ frequency of religious attendance was a stronger predictor of paternal involvement in one-on-one activities with children than were employment and income -- the factors most frequently cited in the academic literature on fatherhood.”
Couples are far more likely to stay together if they’re religiously active, Fagan found. Indeed, the risk of divorce more than doubles for couples who stop practicing their religion. Religiously active couples also report greater happiness and satisfaction with their marriages. The incidence of domestic violence drops, too. Men who attended religious services at least weekly were more than 50 percent less likely to commit an act of violence against their partners than were peers who attended only once a year or less.
How about adolescent sexual behavior? Good news here, as well. Fagan notes that traditional values and religious beliefs were among the most common factors teens cite to explain why they are abstaining from sex. And religion affects out-of-wedlock childbearing: Compared with those who consider themselves “very religious,” those who were “not at all religious” are two to three times more likely to have a child outside of marriage. In addition, the use of cigarettes, and the abuse of alcohol and drugs, drops significantly among those who are religiously active.
Religious is also a great help to those who never marry or have children. “A review of the research shows that religion significantly affects the level of an individual’s happiness and overall sense of well-being,” Fagan writes. “In the vast majority of the studies reviewed, an increase in religious practice was associated with having greater hope and a greater sense of purpose in life.” In addition, people who are religiously active are at a much lower risk of depression and suicide. They also tend to live longer.
None of this would surprise our Founding Fathers, who knew that no people could be self-governing without religion. In his Farewell Address, George Washington referred to religion and morality as the “great pillars of human happiness” and noted: “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
As you head to church this Christmas -- and, I hope, in the weeks that follow -- remember the indispensable role that religion plays in free society. We’ve been told by the highest authority, after all, that if we seek first the kingdom of God “all these things will be given to you as well.” In a way, Jesus was telling us -- almost 2,000 years before John Lennon wrote a single note -- how to achieve a true “brotherhood of man.” Imagine.