Ah, a bit of good news for those of us who feel guilty because we only go to church on Christmas (or, um, never)! You can skip going to church and just get together with your girlfriends from now on. You'll be just as happy.
No offense to those who enjoy their Sunday services, but the 41 percent of Americans who regularly attend some sort of services at a church, synagogue, or mosque have held this mystical power over the rest of us for too long. They're happier, they claim, because they're spiritual. Which always made the mom who couldn't get three kids to sit still for an hour-long Mass feel like they're big fat failures.
Now a new study out of the University of Wisconsin claims it isn't about the spirituality at all. It's the chance to get together with friends at church that makes churchgoers happier. Says a Business Week report on study:
Respondents who said they experienced "God's presence" were no more likely to report feeling greater satisfaction with their lives than those who did not. Only the number of close friends in their congregations and having a strong religious identity predicted feeling extremely satisfied with life.
On the other hand, the researchers found churchgoers who had few close friends were no more satisfied with their lives than the heathens who sleep in on Sundays. Their religious identity did little to improve their happiness quotient.
That sounds about right to me. I spent every Sunday in church as a child, and my favorite moments were the before and after, when we'd meet and greet with the other folks in our community. Being a Catholic, the actual Mass required me to sit quietly, only spitting out memorized responses to the priest at certain points. I hated it.
You can blame my boredom on my age, but you'd only be half right. I'm a talker. Talking is therapeutic to me, not sitting in silence. Fast forward to adulthood, and I no longer attend church services. Neither do a bunch of my more religious friends because trying to juggle three kids makes it hard to get anything spiritual out of what the pastor is saying.
We get our therapy through our monthly (well, attempted anyway) girls' nights out, where there are no kids to juggle, and we're anything but silent. It gets our butts moving and out of the house -- which is one of the benefits to that Sunday morning outing, don't deny it. And we're not blasted by guilt over not tithing or our little howler drowning out the choir.
I'm happier because I'm having fun. So go to church if that's your thing. But don't knock my night out.
Image via PhillipC/Flickr