J. Ben O’Neal: Religion’s role

January 1, 2013 

Religion’s role

Rick Martinez’s recent column cited studies showing people who attend religious services are happier, healthier, more altruistic, better citizens, less depressed, etc., than those who don’t. They also live longer.

These are some of the most robust findings of psychology and have been known for a long time (e.g., William James, 1901: “Life, more life, a larger, richer, more satisfying life, is, in the last analysis, the end of religion”). In addition to these advantages that accrue to individuals and their families, religion has had an immense impact on our institutions.

The first public schools in Boston and New York were started by religious organizations and only later provided by government. University education in the U.S. was established by Christian churches for the education of ministers. Most (maybe all) orphanages in N.C. were started by religious organizations, as were many hospitals. Education was at the forefront of religious practice because it was so important for people (first priests, then after the reformation, everyone) to be able to read the Bible, “The Word of God.”

No society has ever become a major civilization without a religion.

J. Ben O’Neal

Raleigh

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