There is a report out suggesting that religion makes people happy because of the social component. The common assumption was that religion made people happier because the notion of G-d played an important role in life. However,
“We show that [life satisfaction] is almost entirely about the social aspect of religion, rather than the theological or spiritual aspect of religion,” Lim told LiveScience. “We found that people are more satisfied with their lives when they go to church, because they build a social network within their congregation.”
In considering this a bit, I find the concept to be quite accurate. The social aspect of religion is less threatening that the spiritual and theological. A relationship with G-d can tend to have many ups and downs. However, having a set routine in which we come together in prayer and common cause can create a lifelong steadiness which would increase one’s satisfaction in life. Furthermore, in reflecting on life, most of the people I am friends with are those with whom I pray. Part of that has to do with the hustle and bustle of the week cutting into social networking. Thus, when the weekend arrives, we then choose are place of socializing, which for many is the faith institution. The happiness that comes from the synagogue or church probably relates to the less stressed out nature of attending services on non-work days.
Yet at the same time, as the researchers also theorize, any social group in which there is common cause such as charity tend towards being more cohesive as well:
Theoretically, Lim said, belonging to a secular friend group that engages in meaningful activities and shares a social identity might also boost life satisfaction. The researchers plan to carry out a third round of surveys with the same group of participants in 2011 in which they hope to gather data on secular friendship groups.