A new Gallup poll released today reports that more than nine in 10 Americans believe in God. The number of believers has remained largely unchanged since the 1960s, with 91 percent of respondents affirming a belief in a higher power and almost three-quarters of adults firm in their belief in the existence of God.
When this belief translates to action—and it does so with great frequency—the benefits can be significant for civil society. According to Heritage’s Web site FamilyFacts.org, almost 40 percent of Americans attend religious services at least once a week and more than 50 percent of adults say they pray daily. These religious practices can have a profoundly positive impact on marriage and family and defend against much of the social breakdown threatening communities.
Regular religious observance can have a profound impact on maintaining stable, intact families and help parents raise well-adjusted adolescents. Families who frequent religious institutions are more likely to enjoy lower levels of conflict, increased martial stability, and greater parental involvement. Likewise, teens who grow up in religious households and regularly practice their faith are at a decreased risk of using illicit drugs and engaging in sexual activity or experiencing teen pregnancy. Young adults who regularly attended church during their teen years are also more likely to hold a favorable view of marriage and more readily acknowledge the drawbacks to premarital sex and cohabitation.
Religious faith and observance can also impact individuals’ health and mental well-being. Men and women who regularly practice their religion tend to have lower stress levels, are less likely to experience major depression or anxiety, and are at a decreased risk of dying from cancer. Similarly, children and teens raised in an observant household are less likely to report feeling lonely or experience major depressive episodes.
The benefits of religious practice to individuals and families are important to maintaining strong, healthy communities and a thriving civil society. With four out of 10 children born outside marriage and more than half of all families in poverty headed by single mothers, family dissolution and the collapse of marriage pose significant threats to communities’ economic and social well-being. The role of religion in helping to maintain intact families and promote individual flourishing should not be overlooked when addressing social breakdown.
To learn more about the role of the family and religious practice in maintaining limited government and civil society in America, visit FamilyFacts.org.