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Religion—good for our health and well-being By Megan Brandsrud

R 14 JUNE 2016

eligion’s necessity and relevance is up for grabs more than ever

with the religiously unaffiliated (“nones”) now the second largest religious demographic in North America. According to National Geographic, U.S. nones have overtaken Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants and followers of non-Christian faiths over the past decade. This has had a major impact on how people see the world and live their lives.

But all is not lost. Several recent studies have cited the benefits of

living a religious life, including one from the Pew Research Center that said 40 percent of religious U.S. adults say they are “very happy,” compared to 29 percent who are less or not religious. How can religion and happiness be connected,

what are the benefits of living a religious life and what influence does it have on people? With more people saying “no thanks” to religion, Living Lutheran took a look at the potential benefits for those who have kept the faith. While the relationship between well-being and

religion is dependent on how religious experience is understood, Thomas S. Taylor, an ELCA pastor and certified psychoanalyst and clinical social worker with the Lutheran Counseling Center on Long Island, said positive correlations between the two are “no accident.” “Think about it,” he said. “How many other

social groups and institutions are involved in someone’s life from cradle to grave? For many, religious experience is unique, maybe with the exception of family, among social institutions and groups in having the potential for a lifelong involvement and influence.”

Taylor said those who are introduced to

religion at a young age start to build faith at a key developmental phase—often when they are at the peak of seeing their parents as all-knowing and caring. This creates a space for idealized authority and caregivers. “This early childhood foundation of believing in

an idealized and gracious caregiver—God—stays with us as an anchor throughout our lifespan,” he said. “But as our faith life develops, it expands in our realization that just because I’m a person of faith, I am not immune to bad things happening to me and my loved ones.” Taylor said recognizing that reality can

determine if someone continues to mature in their faith life. “When religion is seen as a key element to health and sustained happiness throughout life, it’s because it isn’t a static type of faith life, but one that is in flux, adapting and expanding to integrate the slings and arrows life offers.” Tori Saunders, a member of Our Savior Lutheran

Church, Milwaukee, knows firsthand about having a faith in flux. Before her son’s birth, Saunders and her husband struggled for seven years to get pregnant. The situation was painful and challenged their marriage, but their faith kept them strong.

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