Oct 7, 2020
Following the turn of the century, sociologist Chaeyoon Lim, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin at Madison, and his associate, political scientist Robert Putnam, Ph.D., Harvard University, demonstrated that religious people are more satisfied with their lives than nonreligious people. Surprisingly however they found that it’s not the relationship with God or spiritual factors, like Bible reading, that makes the devout happier. Instead, the satisfaction boost comes from closer ties to others who are sharing the experience. The social aspect of religion, rather than the theological or spiritual aspects of religion, is what made people more satisfied with their lives, because of their social networks within their faith community.
As congregational affiliation [“attendance”] plummeted in the U.S., Lim and Putnam followed up their initial study with another study that went even deeper. The results of that study is reported in "American Grace: How Religion Divides Us and Unites Us" (Lim|Putnam Simon & Schuster). That study found that the deepest life satisfaction could not be attributed to spiritual factors like going to church, Bible reading, individual prayer, the strength of belief, or subjective feelings of God's love or presence. Instead, the deepest life satisfaction has to do with the fact that you meet with a group of close friends on a regular basis and participate in shared activities that are meaningful to the group, sharing a certain social identity, and have a sense of belonging to a moral faith community.
Belonging to a secular group of friends that engages in meaningful activities and shares a social identity also boosts life satisfaction, but not as much as within the context of a moral faith community.
As life becomes more digitally-rooted, the need to connect with others and have what we at the DXM™ Institute have called AHIs [authentic human interactions] grows exponentially. Small groups where people come together and connect over all kinds of things are one of the largest social movements ever.
A central outcome of our BCX for participants will be to make possible life’s deepest satisfaction through meeting with a group of close friends on a regular basis [“belonging”], participating in shared community service activities that are meaningful to the group [“meaning”], sharing a common social identity [e.g. “Midtown Village Changemakers”], and having a sense of belonging to a moral faith community.
According to another Harvard study, the social pleasure of shared experience outweighs the joy of doing something extraordinary on your own.