Saturday, December 11, 2010


WASHINGTON - While the positive correlation between religiosity and life satisfaction has long been known, a new study in the December issue of the American Sociological Review reveals religion’s “secret ingredient” that makes people happier. “Our study offers compelling evidence that it is the social aspects of religion rather than theology or spirituality that leads to life satisfaction,” said Chaeyoon Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the study. “In particular, we find that friendships built in religious congregations are the secret ingredient in religion that makes people happier.” In their study, “Religion, Social Networks, and Life Satisfaction,” Lim and co-author Robert D. Putnam, the Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, say that 33 % of people who attend religious services every week and have three to five close friends in their congregation report that they are “extremely satisfied” with their lives.

While friends in general cause people to have greater life satisfaction, friends at church serve as “super-charged” friends, with an even stronger impact on life satisfaction than secular friends. It’s not clear exactly why close friends at church have such strong power. Lim and Putnam speculate that these church friends anchor “a strong sense of belonging in these religious communities” and provide parishioners with “morally-infused social support”. In other words, if one seeks life satisfaction, it is neither faith nor communities alone that are important, but communities of faith. For life satisfaction, praying together seems better than either bowling together or praying alone.

Researchers Lim and Putnam have tried to elucidate if going to church really make people happier. “One of the functions of religion is to give people a sense of belonging to a moral community based on religious faith,” Lim said. “It is not really going to church and listening to sermons or praying that makes people happier, but making church-based friends and building intimate social networks there,” he added. Their sociological answer may be correct; however, there are many more things involved in a religious community that Sociology is unable to understand. They should study the Vedic literature in order to discover the relevance of sadhu-sanga, or the company of saints for the spiritual advance towards God realization.

The rishis who were hearing the Bhagavata from Suta Gosvami, declared that they cannot estimate the value of the kind of association that bestows such hari-katha, what to speak of the association of one who has in fact embraced such katha within his heart. Saunaka Rishi says: “The association of a bhagavadbhakta - that is to say, of one who has attained the direct association of Bhagavan – is very rarely achieved in the course of the jiva’s destiny.” ... “We performed yajna for thousands of years with no result, but what we have attained in the very first instant, through only a moment’s association with Suta Gosvami, cannot be compared to the attainment of svarga and moksha.” ... “Sadhu-sanga is the sādhana of bhakti. Whatever is achieved by sadhu-sanga for a very little time cannot be compared against even the complete fruits of karma and jnana. ... They are kimuta, truly incomparable. Even if bhakti-sādhana in the form of sadhu-sanga is momentary, it has no comparison.”

Śrīla Bhakti Srirupa Siddhanti Mahārāja :
“The Glories of Sadhu-sanga”
“Sadhu-sanga: A Wealth Beyond Compare”
Bhaktivedanta Memorial Library -

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