New research shows that the full benefits of religion are experienced more by those who actively engage in home-centred practices, in addition to regularly attending public worship. Home-worshippers report higher levels of meaning in their lives, personal happiness and intimate satisfaction with their relationships.
Many previous studies have shown the positive effect that religious practice has on mental wellbeing and life satisfaction. However, it might be claimed that the good outcomes derive not from religion itself, but rather from being part of a community, meeting similar minded people, mutual support, etc. These social factors, rather than the religious element, could explain the positive effects of attending worship.
This new study focuses on those who practice religion at home through prayer, meditation, Scripture studies, etc. It is based on a sample of more than sixteen thousand respondents from eleven countries, including Ireland.
The authors divide the sample into four groups: the “Secular”, who don’t practice religion; the “Nominals”, who might believe but do not regularly attend religious services; the “Attenders”, who go to church weekly but do not practice regularly at home; and the “Home-Worshippers”, who not only attend public worship regularly but are also engaged in some home practice (prayer, Bible study, etc.) at least three times a week.
The study found a strong correlation between home-centred religious worship patterns and measures of positive mental health and individual well-being.
In all the eleven countries sampled, the levels of religious involvement are associated with a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Moreover, Home-Worshippers are much more likely to report high levels of life meaning than any other group.
Its finding about couples said: “Women and men in the Home Worshipper category were significantly more likely to report experiencing a highly satisfied and stable relationship than less religious or nonreligious individuals. Women in Home Worshipper relationships are nearly twice as likely as women in Secular and Attender relationships to report high relationship quality”.
Home-Worshippers who pray together and couples in the Attenders group are significantly more likely to be in a relationship with deep emotional closeness than are women in Secular or Nominal relationships.
The study also suggests that regular home religious practices by couples create spiritual but also physical intimacy between the spouses, which can be measured in terms of sexual satisfaction.
Only 25pc of Secular women report being highly satisfied sexually, whereas 34pc of Nominal and Attender women are highly satisfied sexually and almost half (49%) of Home-Worshipper women are highly satisfied sexually, according to the research.
Overall, this study not only confirms the positive effects of religious practice and public worship, but it highlights how previous studies that grouped participants according to church attendance, underestimated the importance of private home-based religiosity.