“Church sets young people right,” a recent article by Paul Wilkinson, highlights data from the UK which suggests just this. The study, conducted by Mark Littler, “implies that the act of visiting a place of worship may trigger a significant reduction in the likelihood of involvement in certain types of criminal and delinquent behaviour.” This claim aligns with U.S. Federal data which has shown an obvious benefit to religious practice for both the private and public good.
The Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) affirms the value of religious practice to society in the research synthesis paper “95 Social Science Reasons for Religious Worship and Practice.” These advantages are specific to the areas of marriage and family, parenting, sexual attitudes and behavior, health, mental health, charitable giving, education, and in regards to divorce as well as addictive behaviors. Not only is religion associated with many societal benefits, but more specifically, religious attendance is also linked with the decrease in many forms of crime and a decrease in the likelihood of engaging in risky actions. For example, the MARRI paper emphasizes that regular church attendance among the population of black inner city youth results in a “57 percent decrease in likelihood to deal drugs and a 39 percent decrease in likelihood to commit a crime.” Religious service attendance also tends to lead to positive changes in work and school attendance of young inner-city residents. It was also found that an increase in religiosity during the college years resulted in 75 percent of those students attaining above average grades.
While the results of the study in the UK determined that religious practice, attendance, and affiliation are correlated with the greater good of society as a whole, it is suggested that religion is not the only way to bring about these results. An interesting statement by Littler shows that he believes that “religious practice is just one way of gaining exposure to the pro-social behavioural norms that are at the heart of this relationship; other, more secular activities may equally serve a similar role.”
Is it merely “gaining exposure to the pro-social behavioural norms” that brings about the increase of societal good and the decrease in crime and delinquent behavior? Perhaps not, as the research that MARRI has conducted specifically indicates that church attendance has been shown to provide these many positive benefits to society. Therefore, maybe worshipping God and learning to live according to His will is the vital element which is key to changing first the individual and then society.
For more information on how religious practice can benefit both individuals and society, visit MARRI.us.