Friendship is the answer to your prayers

8 Dec

Published in the Metro Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Friendship is the answer to your prayers

By Aidan Radnedge

FORGET exploring the aching of your soul or the meaning of life – what really makes us happy is the chance to have a cuppa with friends and sing some songs, scientists say.

Being part of a church congregation surrounded by like-minded friends is more important to happiness than prayer, a study has found. The sense of ‘belonging’, rather than the religiosity, is what made people ‘extremely satisfied’ with their lives. Of those that went to church every week and had three to five close friends in the congregation, a third were ‘extremely satisfied’ with their lot. Of those who went to church several times a year but had up to five close friends there, the proportion fell to about a quarter.

However, only a fifth of those who had no close friends at church were extremely satisfied, which is the same proportion as for those who never go to church. Belonging was ‘the secret ingredient’ in religion that made people happier, said US researchers.

‘One of the important functions of religion is to give people a sense of belonging to a moral community,’ said Asst Prof Chaeyoon Lim of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. ‘This community, however, could be abstract and remote unless one has an intimate circle of friends who share a similar identity.

‘The friends in one’s congregation thus make the religious community real and tangible and strengthen one’s sense of belonging to the community.’  The findings applied to the three main Christian traditions but researchers said they found ‘similar patterns’ among Jews and Mormons.

Friendship is the answer to your prayers

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