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November 10th, 2011
05:10 PM ET

Study links regular religious service attendance, outlook on life

By Gabe LaMonica, CNN

(CNN) - A new study shows that attending religious services regularly can mean a more optimistic, less depressed, and less cynical outlook on life.

In a follow-up to its 2008 report that found that attending services increases life expectancy, the Women's Health Initiative observational study based this report on a survey of 92,539 post-menopausal women over 50. The participants made up an ethnically, religiously, and socioeconomically diverse group.

According to the report, to be published this week in the Journal of Religion and Health, those who attend services frequently were 56% more likely to have an optimistic life outlook than those who don't and were 27% less likely to be depressed. Those who attended weekly were less likely to be characterized by cynical hostility, compared with those who did not report any religious service attendance.

"We looked at a number of psychological factors; optimism, depression, cynical hostility, and a number of subcategories and subscales involving social support and social strain," said Eliezer Schnall an associate professor of psychology at Yeshiva University in Manhattan, who headed the initiative.

"The link between religious activity and health is most evident in women, specifically older women," he said.

The research focused on an important group, because "as they are living longer," Schnall said, "seniors are a growing group, and women have longer lifespans than men."

The study, funded by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute, National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "unlike many other previous studies," said Schnall, broke down the idea of positive social support into subcategories.

Emotional support and informational support, such as sitting down with a priest or a rabbi to speak about difficulties; tangible support, like someone driving a participant to a doctor; affectionate support; and positive interaction were all examined in the initiative.

"There's evidence from other studies to suggest religious involvement may be particularly important in enhancing social interaction," Schnall said.

But a "relatively new thought in the field," according to Schnall, called "social strain," encompasses negative social support. The hypothesis is that, "though some studies have suggested that attending religious services is beneficial in a host of ways, there also comes with it a social strain."

Though there has been much discussion around this "new area of inquiry," Schnall said, "I certainly believe, or to my knowledge, we are the first to look at this construct," social strain.

The researchers identified social strain by asking questions like:
- "Of the people that are important to you, how many get on your nerves?"
- "Of the people who are important to you, how many ask too much of you?
- And, "of the people who are important to you, how many try to get you to do things that you do not want to do?"

"We did not find that those who attend religious services where characterized by additional social strain," Schnall said.

To identify optimism, he said, participants were asked to rated the following questions on a five-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree:
- "In unclear times I usually expect the best,"
- "If something can go wrong for me, it will,"
- "I hardly ever expect things to go my way."

Optimism is "about perceived control ... positive expectations ... empowerment, a fighting spirit, lack of helplessness - those are general definitions," Schnall said.

He conceded people could take a different message from the survey's results. "Someone who really wanted to take issue with the study" could say the results came out the way they did "maybe because optimists are drawn to believe in the divine."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief

soundoff (708 Responses)
  1. Doc Vestibule

    Last one like this- and then I'll go back to into debate mode.

    During the first Gulf War, in a desolate and godforsaken part of the world, Isikveren, in the mountain that divides Turkey and Iraq there was an encampment of 160,000 Kurdish refugees. They fled Iraq and crossed into Turkey to escape the genocidal revenge of Saddam.
    There was a team of 6 members of the 1/10th Special Forces and 2 US Air Force Para Rescuemen.
    They were overwhelmed by the desolation.
    They set up a tent and said we would provide medical aid to children under one year of age. The infants were dying of dehydration. The water was foul causing nausea and diarrhea and thus dehydration. They could not be rehydrated. Water by mouth caused choking. They tried starting IVs but the children were so terribly dehydrated, veins could not be found.
    That night, 40 infants died in a single tent, but the soldiers did not quit.
    Thanks to largely American military efforts they were able to bring in oral rehydration salts to add to clean water dropped by air...they immunized every child under 5 yrs against measles (which is the biggest killer in these circ.umstances).
    As the coalition moved Iraqi forces south of the 36th parallel, the Kurds started to come home into northern Iraq. It was almost 2 months since that night in Isikveren and a medical needs assesment in Sw Iraq was underway. The troops operating there were 42 Commando, British Royal Marines.
    Riding in a Land Rover with a Capt of the Royal marines and a medic Major from the Canadian forces.
    Eventually, they came on a family camped by the road. It was mother, father and 2 children, boy and girl, about 8/9 yrs old.
    The father had strung a rope from a tree with an old tire on it as a swing.
    The kids were swinging away and laughing.
    The soldiers stopped and watched...I had not heard children laugh since their arrival in Iraq.
    Both men, hardened combat veterans, had tears streaming down their faces.
    They realized then that what they did, the soldiers on the ground, made a difference.
    No soldier supports war after they have been exposed. They do support their Regiment...their buddies. Men do not die for god, queen or country or all the glorious propaganda...in the end they do what they do, including some extraordinary feats of heroism and sacrifice, for their comrades.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • hippypoet

      wow, that is all i have to say – wow! i wish people were more caring like that today...it might be a better place to live. The fact that they stayed and helpped not for country's glory or for god, but for the betterment of mankind is what i think is lacking in this world... i don't hope for such evils ever again, but i wish for the same courage, love, and comp@ssion for all under any circu-mstances of hardship. truly a moving post Doc!

      November 11, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  2. Mirosal

    I'll have to post this again up here for Pablo ... Then please sit down. Oh.. better drink your OJ. Your little yellow school bus will be arriving soon. You said "god logically explains why we exist." All I want to know is HOW does god logically explain it? ... and "not proof but solid evidence" ... you're an idiot ... solid proof IS evidence, and you have neither. What's next from you? The Earth is only 6000 years old, and horoscopes are real?

    November 11, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  3. PhotoMaineAC

    The article is basically saying......let the TV do gods works and shut up while we rob your wealth and property!

    Most of the slaves throughout history act much the same way as described in this article!

    You have the right to remain silent, which has gotten the US to this point of political corruption.

    So sit back, shut up, and let the TV keep guiding you down the hill!

    Freedom was a privilege!

    November 11, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @PhotoMaine

      The majority of people are quite happy to trade freedom for the illusion of security and/or convenience.
      How else do you think the abhorrent Patriot Act was passed?

      November 11, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  4. Pen

    Can anyone tell me why "happiness" is some sort of a goal? Does "happiness" and optimism lead us anywhere in particular as a species?

    November 11, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      I think happiness is a personal goal. I am happy living my life the way I do but not everyone would agree with that. It's no different than the addict who is happy with their life.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  5. Pablo

    Mirosal, I just explained all this. Read everything carefully. No absolute proof.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      STFU...have some respect for the freedom people like Mirosal have enabled you to have...without these men and women you'd be living in oppression...so for one day give give credit where credit is due-to the soldiers who fight for you.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      I will apologize for my rudeness but you come on here and spew on about stuff that has no verifiable evidence to back it to a person who has been able to give evidence that is backed by facts. Today of all day's is not the appropriate time to attack someone who has fought for your freedom willingly without the need for god but instead the desire to ensure you remain free. It is the men and women who use their hands and minds to ensure you have the freedom to believe as you wish, no god required.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  6. Doc Vestibule

    For remembrance day – a message to believers and unbelievers alike.
    Can it be that our generation is so ignorant of the lives of our grandfathers that we would even for a minute question why we must remember?
    In our wealth we have grown complacent and we forget.
    As the number of survivors from the so called "great wars" dwindles, their sacrifices are rendered abstract to those who have seen war only through media representations.
    In North America, it is our blessing and our curse.
    We do not see the endless killing fields of nameless white crosses that teach humility.
    We do not touch the human abattoirs that remind us of how easily the hearts of men are turned against their brothers.
    We do not hear the echoes of the atom bomb that deafen hubris.
    We can never wane in teaching our children that the relative peace in which we find ourselves was purchased with the heavy coin of countless brave lives.
    What war buys us as a race is a simple lesson, often repeated and frequently forgotten:
    Violence and aggression are a part of human nature and only through vigilance can they be kept from coming to the fore.
    Violence begets violence and it takes only a single act to ignite the flames of hatred.
    Never forget.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Doc: Are you by chance Canadian? I ask because you say Remembrance Day and not Veterans Day.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Truth
      I am indeed Canadian.
      I prefer "Remembrance day" to "veterans day" as I feel it is important to remember and pay homage not only to the veterans, but to all the innocents who suffer in war.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Doc: Nice to see that AtheistSteve and I are not the lone Canadian's on here. What part of our wonderful country? We're on the East Coast in beautiful New Brunswick.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I was born in Edmonton and have lived in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Victoria, Petawawa, and Borden but have settled down with my family in Toronto for the past 10 years.
      I haven't yet visited the east coast, but know some folk in Gander and Halifax who I really should visit soon. 🙂

      November 11, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  7. TruthPrevails

    Hey Everyone, as we sit here today arguing the dynamics of belief and disbelief, we are readily forgetting those who gave their lives so we can enjoy the ability to speak freely. These men and women do not go to war for anything other than our freedom, so for one day could we at least pretend to be tolerant of each other please? This day represents our freedom and personally I give credit where credit is due...to the men and women of our Armed Forces who without the help of god go out there and fight for us using their own hands, guided by their own minds.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      We remember because it is the soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press
      It is the soldier, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech
      It is the soldier, not the ca.mpus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
      It is the soldier, not the lawyer who has given us the right to a fair trial
      It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag and whose coffin is dra.ped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag
      Why did these magnificent young men make the ultimate sacrifice?
      For the patriotic slogans?
      For the beat of the drum or the call of the bugle?
      For the sk.irl of the pipes?
      For God, King and country?
      No, no, a thousand times no.
      They did it for their comrades. They would not let their buddies down.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Doc: Thank you.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ Doc, you did a very nice thing .. thank you. As a veteran (U.S. Navy) I can say we do it for our comrades, we do it for our team. We do our utmost to never let them down, and to never leave them behind.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  8. Mooner

    Correlation is not the same as causality!

    November 11, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • tom bodett

      What I'm trying to say to SteveAtheist is that he's trying to compare apples to oranges and tell us which one is better. The subjective nature of flavor makes it impossible for you to rationally convince us of the truth of your message.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  9. AtheistSteve

    OK...Let's simplify things. I have one question.
    Who or what is God?
    Please give a concise non-rambling answer and I will reply to demonstrate any fallacy.
    Anyone?

    November 11, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Nothing huh...why am I not surprised.
      Ok how about an example.
      Who is AtheistSteve?
      Answer: Adult male, human, age 48, height 6'2", weight 190lbs. <==description
      Not
      That guy who built my kitchen cabinets. <==resume

      November 11, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      And thus I've demonstrated the entire problem in a nutshell. If God is indescribable then it follows that nothing describable can be attributed to God. There exists no correlation between God and perceived reality. If God existed then he/she/it would be as obvious as the fact that the universe exists.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • tom bodett

      All that you can do is use one system of belief (logic) to refute another system of belief (intuition). You have no rational foundation to claim superiority of belief or, worse, "absolute truth". While logic may induce more predictable results than intuition, logic is fundamentally unable to resolve questions of belief and truth regarding potential forces beyond the natural world. At best, logic is a narcissistic tool used to convince ourselves that there is ultimately purpose and meaning within the universe in the absence of powers beyond obvious perception.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Kevin

      There are things about God that people cannot see—his eternal power and all that makes him God. But since the beginning of the world, those things have been easy for people to understand. They are made clear in what God has made. We cannot see the air we breathe; does that too mean it does not exist? It seems it would take much more faith to believe that a tornado can go through a junk yard and assemble a 747, than to accept that God created all we have today.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Darmok

      Too funny...but nice try.
      So you claim logic is a system of belief. That's about as idiotic as saying Atheism is a religion.

      Here is what logic actually is....please tell me where it states logic is a belief system.

      "In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science. It examines general forms which arguments may take, which forms are valid, and which are fallacies. In philosophy, the study of logic is applied in most major areas: ontology, epi.stemology, ethics, metaphysics. In mathematics, it is the study of valid inferences within some formal language. Logic is also studied in argumentation theory."

      November 11, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Too funny...but nice try.
      So you claim logic is a system of belief. That's about as idiotic as saying Atheism is a religion.

      Here is what logic actually is....please tell me where it states logic is a belief system.

      1.the science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference.

      2.a particular method of reasoning or argumentation: We were unable to follow his logic.

      3.the system or principles of reasoning applicable to any branch of knowledge or study.

      4.reason or sound judgment, as in utterances or actions: There wasn't much logic in her move.

      5.convincing forcefulness; inexorable truth or persuasiveness: the irresistible logic of the facts.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Sometimes you just need another cup of coffee.
      I kept checking to see if my post had appeared while expecting to see my regular handle...lol
      My bad.

      Kevin
      Air can be tested for. Air is real. Air is comprised of matter.
      Not being able to visually see something isn't the same as not being able describe, in any fashion whatsoever, the slightest tangible quality of your God.
      Try again.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • tom bodett

      Proselytize baby. Give me an A-T-H-I-E-S-M. Go Team Atheism.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • tom bodett

      Steve, atheism is is a belief system because it relies on the implicit assumption that pure logic is infallible. Alternately, most Christians make the implicit assumption that the existence of an infallible God is unadulterated truth.

      I initially posted this in reply to the wrong thread:

      "What I'm trying to say to SteveAtheist is that he's trying to compare apples to oranges and tell us which one is better. The subjective nature of flavor makes it impossible for you to rationally convince us of the truth of your message."

      November 11, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      I also notice neither one of you even attempted to answer my initial question.
      Can you describe even the tiniest detail about your God?
      No?
      Yet still you insist he is real. Astonishing. Absolutely ZERO facts to support your claim. I call that gullibility.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      "tom bodett
      Steve, atheism is is a belief system because it relies on the implicit assumption that pure logic is infallible. Alternately, most Christians make the implicit assumption that the existence of an infallible God is unadulterated truth."

      No... Atheism is the rejection of Theist claims. Spin it however you wish ...the truth is still that the Theist proposes the existence of a God or gods and we simply don't buy into it. For my worldview or belief system I am a secular humanist. Atheism is only and just the answer to one single question. Does God exist?

      November 11, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • tom bodett

      Nobody has tried to answer your initial questions because they're obviously loaded questions. To the point: G_d is a very personal concept and is something different to everyone.

      One point of contention I'd like to see humanists address is the supposed superiority of non-theism when non-theism is a reflection of theism in the belief that in the Big Bang "nothing exploded into everything" (equivalent to the logic defying notion that God exists and has always existed) and modern quantum theories predict random and illogical [seemingly supernatural] qualities. I fault logic simply because it cannot answer some obvious questions such as "what is the meaning of life?" while religions deftly define the meaning.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      "G_d is a very personal concept and is something different to everyone."

      In other words it's all in your head. Thanks for proving my point.

      Further in regards to the Big Bang...this one kills me...Since we have no answer for the cause then somehow your uncaused cause makes more sense? If an unknown natural cause is less likely than your unknown supernatural cause then all you have done is regress he question by one step. Claiming that God is the cause begs the question of what caused God? If you respond that God always was then you are no different than me saying the natural state of whatever lies outside our universe leading to the universe always existed and in either case no real truth is revealed.

      Finally
      " I fault logic simply because it cannot answer some obvious questions such as "what is the meaning of life?" while religions deftly define the meaning."

      OK so your religion provides pat answers to those types of questions but by what criteria do you determine if they are true? Personally I would say that life has no inherent meaning beyond that which we make for ourselves. Thus if you want your life to have meaning , then do something meaningful...make your mark to be remembered.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • tom bodett

      Steve, thanks for proving my point about the loaded question. It doesn't matter if God is in my head – reality is a supremely fragile construct. Your reality is also in your head (hence the reason we can self-deceive).

      Your refutation to my claims about the big bang are assuming that I'm asking from the typical creationist viewpoint. Wrong. I'm equating the "unknowable" in widely accepted scientific beliefs to concepts of God (the unknowable). Atheists/Humanists accept one logic defying theory on the nature of reality but not another. Unadulterated atheism is quite a narrow minded intellectual proposition.

      There is no meaning in a meaningless universe. Any meaning is therefore manufactured (meaningless) and a delusion of vanity. Surviving without the prospect of life after after death is illogical and reeks of contrived essence (the absence of free will as anything but illusion).

      Regarding truth:

      The only real reason to believe in anything whether it be systematic religion or a system of disBelief is for personal satisfaction. I think and do what has the potential to satisfy my physical needs and minimize psychic conflicts. I believe what I find comforting on faith as long as I'm aware that my belief system is not causing undue harm to the universe within the scope of my reality.

      November 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • tom bodett

      @Darmok

      The assumption inherent in philosophy is that logic is infallible. However, the ambiguous nature of perception (analysis of the whole by a part of the whole) is the indelible weak link in the assumption that logic is inherently perfectly capable of describing/defining the universe.

      November 11, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • tom bodett

      ...contd

      Thus the atheist position is contingent on the assumption that logic has [some indefinable] value. Assumptions naturally require belief. Belief, upon consensus, is systematized and taught to others. Therefore, logic is a component of a belief/disBelief system (in this case atheism). Overall, I am saying Logic is the atheistic equivalent of a God.

      November 11, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      "Steve, thanks for proving my point about the loaded question. It doesn't matter if God is in my head – reality is a supremely fragile construct. Your reality is also in your head (hence the reason we can self-deceive)."

      Correct. All we can say about reality is limited to our perceptions. Additionally extremely sophisticated technology has expanded our fidelity to ana.lyse our reality a thousand fold. But our reality however elusive in our perception still actually exists and isn't just in our head.

      " Your refutation to my claims about the big bang are assuming that I'm asking from the typical creationist viewpoint. Wrong. I'm equating the "unknowable" in widely accepted scientific beliefs to concepts of God (the unknowable). Atheists/Humanists accept one logic defying theory on the nature of reality but not another. Unadulterated atheism is quite a narrow minded intellectual proposition."

      First my atheism speaks to my belief. "I don't believe a God exists". My agnosticism speaks to my knowledge " I don't know if a God exists". I don't accept or have any beliefs with regard to "the cause" of the Big Bang, scientific or otherwise. Without information anything proposed is mere conjecture. And equating unknowns in science with God is still "God of the Gaps Fallacy".

      "There is no meaning in a meaningless universe. Any meaning is therefore manufactured (meaningless) and a delusion of vanity. Surviving without the prospect of life after after death is illogical and reeks of contrived essence (the absence of free will as anything but illusion).

      Meaning is subjective. The universe is not. Your assertion is unfounded.
      No reason to expect a soul or afterlife exists.

      "Regarding truth:
      The only real reason to believe in anything whether it be systematic religion or a system of disBelief is for personal satisfaction. I think and do what has the potential to satisfy my physical needs and minimize psychic conflicts. I believe what I find comforting on faith as long as I'm aware that my belief system is not causing undue harm to the universe within the scope of my reality."

      Truth has nothing to do with what you believe.

      "The assumption inherent in philosophy is that logic is infallible. However, the ambiguous nature of perception (analysis of the whole by a part of the whole) is the indelible weak link in the assumption that logic is inherently perfectly capable of describing/defining the universe."

      Yet logic, reason and evidence are the only means we have to determine what is real. Philosophical mysteries are just that, mysteries, and if logic, reason and evidence fall short of explaining them then any explanation is again conjecture.

      "Thus the atheist position is contingent on the assumption that logic has [some indefinable] value. Assumptions naturally require belief. Belief, upon consensus, is systematized and taught to others. Therefore, logic is a component of a belief/disBelief system (in this case atheism). Overall, I am saying Logic is the atheistic equivalent of a God."

      Good luck having them include your definition of Logic in dictionaries.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • TR6

      @tom bodett: “All that you can do is use one system of belief (logic) to refute another system of belief (intuition). You have no rational foundation to claim superiority of belief or, worse, "absolute truth"

      No, logic is superior to intuition in areas involving the real world. In algebra tests I got a much better score by logically working through the problems then by intuitively choosing the answer.

      I have no use for “absolute truth” Newton’s equations of motion work just fine in my world. I don’t have to wait for the “absolute truth” in equations of motion in order to drive my car.

      “logic is fundamentally unable to resolve questions of belief and truth regarding potential forces beyond the natural world.”

      Yes; but, your just stating the obvious in fluffed up words. You are just saying that logic cannot solve questions of fantasy or the supernatural which by definition have no logical solution

      November 12, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  10. Kiza

    “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe.” Albert Einsteine.

    November 11, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  11. Dyasmi

    Reality, can you see love, touch it? What about truth? Fidelity? But you accept the existence of those things. You accept the flesh of Jesus, but fail to mention or explain the miracles performed by him and witnessed by thousands. There are far too many things in this world that cannot be explained by science. It seems like anybody with an open mind must admit there are still mysteries we do not understand and until we do, why not allow for the possibility of God?

    November 11, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • Mirosal

      Miracles witnessed by THOUSANDS?? and yet not a single person saw fit to write them down? Why? Oh, and remember, if you're going to start spouting new testament at us, you need to know that not ONE author of in that book ever saw, met, or talked to jesus. The first of those books wasn't written until at least 40 years AFTER he died. They weren't there, they didn't see a thing. Apparently this jesus wasn't important enough to write about during his own life

      November 11, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.-Carl Sagan

      November 11, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Why not wait for an answer to be discovered before inserting an untested conclusion?

      November 11, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • warmesTghosT

      I love this argument. “There are far too many things in this world that cannot be explained by science…why not allow for the possibility of God?” What you’re basically saying is “I don’t know, therefore GOD.” What atheists are basically saying is “I don’t know.”
      Theists just can’t seem to wrap their heads around [a lot of things] the fact that most atheists DO accept the possibility of a deity, we just refuse to hold blind faith in YOUR deity. Christianity paints god as a disgusting genocidal bi-polar monster and then tries to sugarcoat that image with “Jesus.”
      Fact of the matter is that there is 0 (zero) evidence that an ancient Arabic Jew named Yeshua ever existed. No contemporary historical accounts of his life or actions. No works of carpentry purportedly created by him. Nothing till almost a hundred years after his supposed death and rebirth.
      The ONLY thing Christians have to point to as evidence is the Bible, and frankly I take issue with any book that claims bats are birds or that rabbits chew their cuds. And that’s not even getting into the talking snakes and unicorns.

      November 11, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • tom bodett

      OP, very well stated. You know you've made an important (if not irrefutable) point when subsequent responses are in unrelated diatribes.

      November 11, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • tom bodett

      Walms, my only contention with atheism is that atheists (like any bigots) cannot as a whole wrap their head around the concept of "I don't know". Agnostics are the only ones who, in my opinion, get it consistently right. However, in America it's hip to have polarizing opinions – it's not considered "cool" to be a rational fence sitter (agnostic).

      November 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • TR6

      “It seems like anybody with an open mind must admit there are still mysteries we do not understand and until we do, why not allow for the possibility of God?”

      Because no mystery, in the entire world, for all of time, that man has solved, has required god as part of the explanation. So far he is batting zero and I expect him to continue to

      November 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  12. Dyasmi

    I'd like to know why it troubles atheists so darn much that other people believe in God. Also, regarding scientists...the first rule of science is that one must keep an open mind. Now if you are absolutely closed to the existence of God, then how is that an open mind? Which brings us all back to the question: what is the nature of God?

    November 11, 2011 at 7:27 am |
    • Reality

      The nature of god and Christianity via a prayer:

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
      Jerusalem.

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      Amen

      November 11, 2011 at 7:30 am |
    • R. Tam

      I think it troubles some atheists (not me) that people believe in God for the same reason it troubles many theists that people do not. We want our beliefs to be the right ones. It bothers us to see that our beliefs can be rejected, and the people who reject them can lead fulfilling lives when they are so obviously wrong. So we call each other crazy or stupid. It's easier that way.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • Mirosal

      Throughout human history, man has worshipped thousands of gods to explain that which he did not understand. In those thousands upon thousands of years, not one shred of emprical evidence has shown there to be even ONE of those thousands of "gods". With science, we are able to determine the how and why (cause and effect) of our world. The babble holds no real historical data, I wish you luck in finding reference to anything in the old testament using anything else than that book. You'll find parallel myths, but nothing more. Science begs you to prove itself wrong, and no real scientist will get mad if you can prove him wrong. The minute you go against a church's "teachings" with legitimate science,they get mad. Why is that? No religion will ever want you to prove itself wrong. You won't find any science in that book either, yet NOW X-tians want to use it in the classroom.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • R. Tam

      On your other point: I think that if science has a first rule, it is skepticism. You make a hypothesis (usually based on common sense), and then you try as hard as you can to disprove your own beliefs. To keep an open mind, you have to be skeptical. Otherwise you wind up repeating the things people tell you without questioning them. That's closed-minded.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • Pen

      Atheists don't care what you believe until your beliefs are used to make rules in society that impact rational people. The study was done at Yeshiva University. What do we know about Yeshiva? Is it surprising anyone when we look at the factors that were tested? "Cynical Hostility"? I could understand if just "Hostility" were tracked, but they are asserting that hostility in the non-religious stems from cynicism. That is fraught with bias...

      November 11, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  13. anonymous

    *dyslexia* typo

    November 11, 2011 at 6:14 am |
    • Jon Wilbeck

      The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more relevant than the fact that a drunk man is happier than a sober one.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:15 am |
  14. anonymous

    @Mirosal, sorry, my dyslesia kicked in and I copied Einsteins's name wrong. I was reading (because I can't seem to sleep tonight) and I came across this statement that he had made, and it blew me away, because almost everyone says he was an atheist. That doesn't appear to me as though he was an atheist. So, since he had wrote it, it seemed to be a statement worthy of discussion. I read a simular statement made by a person who I knew was a Christian. I don't remember where I read this, and I don't know if I can quote it correctly, but it was something like: True science is the work of God, and all should study it with that in mind.

    November 11, 2011 at 6:12 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      As much as I understand that wikipedia is not the most reliable source for information, you are partially correct as the following article proves: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein%27s_religious_views

      It appears that he was not an Atheist nor a theist. He rode the middle ground always looking for answers and not settling.

      If you look further in to his history he was born to secular jewish parents.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:22 am |
    • Mirosal

      Einstein was not an atheist, but he certainly had his doubts. He did not put a religious spin on his work. He never said "god did it let's find out why". Science is not the work of ANY god, and science has killed off every god associatesd with natural phenomena.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:22 am |
    • Mirosal

      Oh, and as far as your Christian friend who is a "scientist", look st the headlines and see just what it is that X-tians are trying to do in our science classes today.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:24 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Christian scientist usually equates to pseudo scientist.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:26 am |
    • Mirosal

      Hey, I'm waiting for them to start using astrology instead of astronomy, and the classes on palm reading, tarot, phrenology, and bio-rhythyms lol

      November 11, 2011 at 6:33 am |
    • Pen

      You are conflating Einstein's reverence for the elegance, and power of our physical reality, with some sort of religious zeal or faith. If you think that Einstein followed some version of an Abrahamic God, then you are not well versed in the man or his life...

      November 11, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I think one could describe Einstein as a pantheist.
      Collectively, all that exists makes up "god".

      November 11, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • tom bodett

      Doc got it right as far as I'm also aware. Einstein did not believe in any single or popularized notion of God. Instead, he seems to have found a sense of reverence at the mysteries of nature that he equates with "God".

      Regardless, I think that Einstein's religious preferences are irrelevant here. You can find plenty of examples of brilliant religious men and almost endless examples of ignorant religious men. The same can be said of atheism. In other words, I doubt his intelligence strongly dictated his religious inclinations. Religious belief seems more to be the product of upbringing and environment. I think we have a larger proportion of atheists in the United States (not because people are smarter or happier) than in past generations because the atheist message is more vocal and widely disseminated than ever.

      November 11, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Einstein was never clear about his beliefs. At best he was an agnostic with atheistic leanings.

      November 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  15. TruthPrevails

    Interesting study but no pertinence whatsoever. It is solely USA based and does not give enough data on a whole to say what other parts of the world feel. It focuses on those over the age of 50, not a broader age group.
    While I fully accept that the church gives way for social interaction, I do not believe it is necessary. As an Atheist who is happy, healthy and doing well in this world I do not need to go to church to find any enlightenment. I am quite content with life without the need for fairy tales to be shoved down my throat.

    November 11, 2011 at 6:04 am |
    • R. Tam

      I don't think this study contradicts any of those assertions.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:56 am |
  16. rebelco

    Persons that attend church have a higher number of interluken 5 molecules, transcription and communication molecules that
    take part in antigen presentation, BOOSTS IMMUNE SYSTEM. Ken

    November 11, 2011 at 5:50 am |
    • Mirosal

      And where might one find your pharmacology or immunology sources for this?

      November 11, 2011 at 5:58 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Mirosal: Good morning...I tried to research this and found nothing...it looks like they copied and pasted from various articles and made up their mind as to what sounded correct and posted it in an attempt to look intelligent...typical christard.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:24 am |
    • Mirosal

      And hello to you m'lady 🙂 So far I have a thumper throwing verses at me, and a dyslexic trying to tell me Einstein was a religious scientist. And here I thought he was so well-known that everyone knew he escaped Nazi Germany because of his Jewish name and background. He was Jewish by birth, but not by practice. He was certainly no X-tian lol

      November 11, 2011 at 6:30 am |
    • tallulah13

      Do christians have a higher mitochloridian count as well?

      November 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  17. Emeritus

    Im sure that adults who believe in Santa Claus are more optimistic than those who don't.

    November 11, 2011 at 4:53 am |
    • dbb

      LMAO. Good one.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:26 am |
  18. Happy with realism

    Ignorance is bliss, and now science has proven it.

    November 11, 2011 at 4:33 am |
    • Mirosal

      If you think about that statement, it's actually pretty deep. Almost worthy of a debate in a philosophy class. Remember, philosophy is all about questions you may never find answers to. Religion is all about their answers that you may NEVER question.

      November 11, 2011 at 4:37 am |
  19. Pablo

    As someone who attends church on a regular basis, my outlook on life being more optimistic, less depressed, and less cycnical is not due just to the attendance of church, but truthfully it is the result of faith in God and His message that Jesus is the Son of God. Realizing He is the way, the truth, and the life. I attend church to join together with the many millions of real people who hate their sinfulness and truly worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Waiting for the end of this evil age, where His kingdom of true righteousness and holiness will bring an end of all evil and sin, and where death will be eliminated.

    November 11, 2011 at 4:10 am |
    • Peter

      Amen...from India....And this would be the response from millions of people from every part of planet earth.

      November 11, 2011 at 5:09 am |
    • Mirosal

      You do realize there are 6 billion people on this planet who do NOT share your "faith". Are they doomed simply because they don't believe as you do?

      November 11, 2011 at 5:15 am |
    • Pablo

      Of course Christians realize that. John chapter 3 explains this issue:

      For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

      November 11, 2011 at 5:29 am |
    • Mirosal

      ok so let me get this straight... "god" made 7 billion of us... 1 billion are "saved", and the 6 billion who don't follow jesus are just thrown away into this "hell" of yours? If this god is so loving, why throw away 85% of them? No one had even heard of this "hell" until X-tianity came along.

      November 11, 2011 at 5:41 am |
    • Pablo

      We will all give account to God. It is His world. Please carefully read the above considering this passage from the book of Acts chapter 17:

      26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:01 am |
    • Mirosal

      Pablo, if all you're going to do is throw verses at me, you have a VERY weak argument. You are offering me no emperical evidence as to why 85% of the planet's population is destined for eternal suffering. Your "god" is really no different than the thousands of other "gods" throughout human history. No one has seen them either, and .... suprise ... suprise.. they are all gone now. In time yours will be also.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:17 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      No...we are all accountable to each other. Your book of lies has deceived you and all believers into shifting your responsibility away from where it really belongs. Quoting Bible scripture as authority gets you no where. You can't assign attributes to something that doesn't manifest in reality. Unless you can demonstrate the mere existence of God then it makes no sense to say anything else about him. You can't assert what he did or said, what he wants, what he expects without first showing that he is real. If the true nature of God(his actual appearance or location) is unknown then what justifies your assertion to say anything about his abilties? You say God created the universe as undeniable fact but have no idea "how" he accomplished this. You say God inspired men to write the Bible but what evidence do you have to show this is true? Cause and effect are paramount. If you cannot define the cause it is fallacious to attribute it to the effect.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:44 am |
    • Pablo

      Mirosal, your first question "Are they doomed simply because they don't believe as you do?" is explained strongly by the verses and many others. Millions of others also agree that the approx 3000 year Bible explains world history, and the one true God.
      Yes, other gods have faded away because they play out to be false, but this One has not faded away and continues to prove true.
      I consider the empirical truth and reality that this world contains the full range from extreme evil to perfect love. When the times are complete, and His kingdom comes, God promises to remove the source of evil (satan) and multiply the good for eternity for those who choose to embrace the truth.
      The true God provides the simplest way thru a free will choice to simply turn from evil and believe in God. God has certified Jesus thru resurrection. The empty tomb is a fact of history, his resurrection verified by multiple eyewitness testimony.
      Others will also read these posts and can decide if they agree or disagree.

      November 11, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • MyOpinionMatters

      I do not attend church, and am more optimistic, less depressed and do not hold a cynical outlook on life. Regular church attendance would probably shorten my life and make me miserable. (I am a woman over 50.) If religious services and all that float your boat, I am happy for you, and you are where you belong. I am not a member of any religious group, nor am I an atheist, but I have a belief-system that supports me very well. That is really what it is all about.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • Mirosal

      wait wait wait ... you're telling me that your book is historical??? it is?? really??? so two naled people and a talking snake really hapened? a worldwide flood did occur? Please tell me, just where did all that water recede to after the flood? Oh, and the exodus ... care to tell me why NO Egyptian records exist about that? We've found the tomb of Ramses II, and have found many heiroglyphs about him, and not one about Jewish slaves .. why is that? Using your book for a history lesson is as bad as using it as a sceince book.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:09 am |
    • Pablo

      Ok Mirosal, now your disagreement is abundantly clear. Logical answers to all your statements are available by searching these topics. Please respect my opinions, because I respect yours and others.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:23 am |
    • Mirosal

      I am using logic. You're using that book. And never the twain shall meet.

      November 11, 2011 at 7:25 am |
    • dbb

      @pablo – Studies have shown that the human brain can be stimulated in a specific area to which the subject experiences a "god like precense" or a "religious experience". Each indivudal tested, from difference faiths and backgrounds, had difference results. Christians saw and spoke to their "god" while Muslims, Hidus, etc all experienced their own belief manifested as a "presence". Is there really a god? I have yet to see any evidence which shows one exists and for those who say "you can't measure, test or see god unless god wants you to do so, pthttpd!

      November 11, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • Pablo

      dbb, Absolute proof does not exist, I believe by design to test our mettle. These studies themselves show the evidence of God because our brain is shown to have the ability to realize him. Life, elements, and the universe have a precise and delicate balance that allow us to exist. God logically explains why we exist at all.
      Most important evidence exists in the real person known as Jesus Christ, who existed in reality, and who's empty tomb is a historical fact, still empty, and multiple eyewitness accounts are recorded that he rose from the grave after being killed for claiming he was the Son of God.
      Again not proof, but to me plenty of solid evidence exists.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • Mirosal

      If it isn't proof, how can it be evidence? Oh, and tell us HOW "god" logically explains why we exist, but do it WITHOUT your bible? Can you do that for us? Also, that experiment only shows how the brain reacts to stimuli in specific areas. Nothing more nothing less. No deity is required for that. So, just HOW do physical studies of the brain PROVE this "god" exists?

      November 11, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • Pablo

      Mirosal, I just explained all this. Read everything carefully. No absolute proof.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Mirosal

      Then please sit down. Oh.. better drink your OJ. Your little yellow school bus will be arriving soon. You said "god logically explains why we exist." All I want to know is HOW does god logically explain it? ... and "not proof but solid evidence" ... you're an idiot ... solid proof IS evidence, and you have neither. What's next from you? The Earth is only 6000 years old, and horoscopes are real?

      November 11, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Pablo

      Marisol is now resorting to personal attacks, insults, and namecalling. Interesting change of tactic to refute someone. I really do like to drink OJ though, good guess. God can logically explain why we exist as first "Cause". Please realize you cannot Prove where you woke up today, or Prove your own existence. I have shown solid evidence and historical evidence.
      Get your last word in, but please show respect for other's opinions.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • Mirosal

      What solid evidence? Be specific, and don't use your little book of fairy tales. And just exactly HOW can "god" logically explain why we exist? Be specific on that point as well.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Pablo

      Evidence exists like the fact that life, elements, and the universe have existence and a precise and delicate balance that must all be in place to allow us to exist. This is "evidence" that there is an intelligent force of some kind. I never claimed this is Proof. A God existing as that intelligent source, outside all that exists physically, is completely logical.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Pablo

      Ample evidence exists, the amazing complexity of the world we live in from the largest things down to the smallest is very strong evidence as explained in Romans chapter 1:
      18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
      Reasons for a lack of absolute Proof of God include this explanation in Hebrews chapter 11:
      6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

      November 12, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • TR6

      @Pablo: “The empty tomb is a fact of history” An empty hole in the ground proves nothing. The empty cage in my back yard does not prove I had bigfoot in there

      “his resurrection verified by multiple eyewitness testimony.” Nowhere in the bible does it say anyone saw Jesus rise from the dead (plenty of before and after stories; but, no direct witness). There are thousands of eyewitness testimonies that people have seen UFOs

      November 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • TR6

      @Pablo: “Most important evidence exists in the real person known as Jesus Christ, who existed in reality, and who's empty tomb is a historical fact, still empty, and multiple eyewitness accounts are recorded that he rose from the grave after being killed”

      If multiple recorded eye witness accounts are acceptable evidence of existence then everything from the abdominal snowman to the lochness monster must exist and our word is populated by thousands of magical, mystical, supernatural and extremely shy beings

      November 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Pablo

      People have seen flying objects they could not identify. I saw something flying that I couldn't identify today.

      Acts chapter 1 says this about the eyewitnesses:
      3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

      Jesus said to Thomas in John chapter 20:
      24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

      26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

      28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

      29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

      Remember evidence exist but not Proof. See previous post "Without faith it is impossible to please God."

      Loch-Ness creature might be a surviving dinosaur creature of some kind. Para-normal spiritual activity could be real and probably is demonic. There are logical answers for those seeking the truth.

      November 15, 2011 at 3:29 am |
  20. anonymous

    Mirosal, sip your tea a little longer. What was Einstine saying?

    November 11, 2011 at 4:09 am |
    • Mirosal

      I won't take you very seriously until you can learn how to spell the man's name properly.

      November 11, 2011 at 4:19 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.