“If it bleeds it leads” is an axiom of television news. Therefore, if one regularly watches the nightly newscasts, you come away feeling that our country is going to hell in the proverbial hand-basket. This is particularly true of the cable news channels, which are filled with shootings, car chases and stories of racism, sexism, violence and hate-filled rants directed at our president, our elected representatives and anyone with whom the host or network happens to disagree.
Facts don’t seem to matter. Even the major networks often run stories without verification. Sadly, many get their news from opinion shows where the participants hurl outrageous charges that have no basis in fact.
This emotionally charged rhetoric has turned neighbor against neighbor. Some family members are no longer speaking simply because they aren’t on the same page politically. How does one keep one’s head in this deeply divided country?
Just look around. Many of your friends and neighbors are sporting big smiles as they go through their daily activities, helping their friends, neighbors and perfect strangers as never before. What makes them so happy in the midst of all this chaos?
The secret to true happiness, is as old as the universe itself. It’s taking your mind off creation, as messy as it has become, and putting it on the Creator. As if we need more proof, a recent Pew Poll conducted in the U.S. and 25 other countries has confirmed it, again.
Regardless of one’s race, ethnicity, health or circumstance, those who are actively religious are happier than their religious but inactive counterparts and the unaffiliated. In fact, the more actively religious were happier in 19 of the 26 countries surveyed. In the few countries where this did not hold true, the difference was not significant. South Africa, Spain and Belarus were outliers.
Here in the U.S. a full 36 percent of the actively religious (defined by Pew as attending services at least once a month) define themselves as “very happy,” compared to only 25 percent of the less active religious or the unaffiliated. These results mirror similar polls that have been conducted over the years.
What part does one’s economic status or a stress-free environment play in happiness? Apparently not much as Mexico, our poorer neighbor to the south, scored significantly higher, 71 percent, on the happiness scale, more than any other country.
In addition to happiness the actively religious maintain better health habits as it pertains to smoking, drinking and exercise.
So is this group simply tuning out politically? Is this how they are able to keep their sunny disposition? Not at all. This group is much more likely to vote in elections. Sixty-nine percent of the actively religious in the U.S. say they always vote, compared to 48 percent of the unaffiliated. This group is also much more likely to take part in other charitable or civic activities. Here in the U.S. the difference is really dramatic: 58 percent to 39 percent.
It’s also a good bet that those who are happiest are selective about where they get their news. Is it balanced? Is it true? Is it edifying?
No one can escape bad news, but the difference is those who know God are not overwhelmed by it. They pray about it and ask for divine direction. Then, they get up and do something. The non-religious may be out marching in protests, but they aren’t as likely to be working to make their country and their community a better place.
In addition to being happier, religious people are more likely to marry and stay married than their non-religious counterparts. It is interesting to note that overall those who marry in a religious service are only slightly less likely to divorce. However, for those who attend church regularly with their spouse, the difference is dramatic.
A recent study at Harvard School of Public Health reveals that couples who regularly attend church reduce their risk of divorce by 47 percent. Similar studies have shown a 30-50 percent reduction in the divorce rate.
Now everyone – whether married or single, religious or nonreligious – loves their children and wants the best for them. Studies have shown that children in intact families do better in school, are more likely to succeed and stay out of trouble. Also, they are unlikely to grow up in a poor household.
So if you want to buy an insurance policy for your kids, better take it up with the Creator. It costs nothing and its fireproof.