New research shows that attending church at least once a week can lead to longer and happier lives – not only that, it can improve entire communities.
Timothy P. Carney, author of "Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse," writes about what he's discovered in a recent editorial for the New York Post.
Carney references Sioux County, Iowa as an example. The county is known for its strong Christian presence in the state. The Association of Religious Data Archives states the county has the highest portion of evangelicals and mainline Protestants in Iowa. Carney's research reveals the county rates low in problems such as drug overdose.
On the other hand, Carney highlights how areas such as Pottawattamie County – Iowa's least religious county – have the highest rates in the state for violent crimes, overdoses, and disability claims.
Carney reports research from Deseret News and BYU that families attending church at least once a week are "very happy" and are more likely to eat dinner together daily and participate in family activities. The increased family time results in a healthier household.
"Belonging to a church is a crucial element of living a good, happy, healthy life. And this phenomenon ripples out from the individuals into the community," writes Carney. "Places like Sioux Center, or like Salt Lake City, with full vibrant churches, are places with more upward mobility, more marriage, and more family formation."
"The key is churches that deliberately and unceasingly try to build communities and become institutions of civil society, not merely places of worship. These churches teach their followers to live out their faith by serving their neighbors, and they provide the safety net and sense of purpose that only tight-knit communities can provide," Carney added.
Though statistics have proven the church's benefits, Pew Research shares that overall church attendance has been on the decline, with only 36 percent of Americans attending weekly services in 2014. The number is a 14 percent decline from a 1950's Gallup Report.
CBN recently reported on the rising "None" movement. "Nones" are people identifying themselves as having no religious affiliation. Many believe there is a God but have lost the desire to be affiliated with a religion. This mindset reflects the lifestyles of many millennials – over 59 percent have already left the church.
Carney believes shrinking church attendance in the US is clearly connected to societal problems.
"As politicians and social leaders try to pinpoint the root cause of American woe, they should start by looking at the closing churches — and the ones that are bustling," writes Carney.