Searching through a pile of papers, I came across a little book today that I haven’t seen for quite a while: Paul McFate, 52 Good Reasons to Go to Church, Besides the Obvious Ones (Chicago: ACTA Publications, 2004). It’s a lot of fun, and I’m going to share some notes from it as I read it through.
The primary reasons for going to church are, of course, to worship God and give thanks to him, to learn and teach about the faith, to hear the Gospel, to reflect on the path that we’ve been taking and on where we want to go, and, for Latter-day Saints, to renew our covenants with God. But here are some additional potential benefits worth considering:
- Reduced Blood Pressure (p. 11). According to a 1989 study, smokers who did not attend church were seven times more likely to suffer from abnormally high blood pressure than the average person. On the other hand, church-attending smokers had lower blood pressure, resembling that of non-attending nonsmokers. So, advised the principal author of the study, “If you are going to smoke, make sure you go to church.” [D. W. Larson, H. G. Koenig, B. H. Kaplan, R. S. Greenberg, E. Loge, and H. A. Tyroler, “The Impact of Religion on Men’s Blood Pressure,” Journal of Religion and Health 28/4 (1989): 265-278]
- Happier Marriages (p. 13). A study published in 1990 tested 228 married Seventh-day Adventists. The authors took into account private religious practice (e.g., Bible reading, and personal and family prayer), “intrinsic religiosity” (i.e., how the person actually feels about religion), and public religious practice (e.g., attending church, public witnessing, giving financial support). After controlling for several relevant factors, the authors of the study found that the best predictor of a happy marriage was consistent religious practice — including church attendance and personal and family devotions. [M. G. Dudley and E. A. Kosinski, “Religiosity and Marital Satisfaction: A Research Note,” Review of Religious Research 32 (1990): 78-86]
- Better Behaved Teenagers (p. 14). In a bid to examine religion’s possible role in lowering rates of high-risk behavior among high school students, a major 1998 study looked at a random group of 5000 teenagers across 135 American high schools. The authors of the study looked at interpersonal violence, bringing a weapon to school, driving under the influence of alcohol, smoking cigarettes, using marijuana, binge drinking, and the use of seat belts. They also included such lifestyle issues as diet, exercise, and patterns of sleep. “The researchers found that church attendance was associated with fewer deliberate, potentially injurious behaviors, less substance abuse, and better lifestyle choices” (14). Moreover, teenagers who said that religion was important to them were far less likely to have brought a gun to school. [J. M. Wallace and T. A. Forman, “Religion’s Role in Promoting Health and Reducing the Risk Among American Youth,” Health Education and Behavior 25 (1998): 721-741]
These all seem to me excellent candidates for inclusion in your Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File.