How religion supports socially disconnected people
Having friends and strong social relationships gives people a sense of belonging and purpose in life. Strong human relationships are vital as they nurture, support and help you thrive. But there are many people who are socially disconnected and feel unsupported in their relationships. So how can they compensate for this lack of meaning and purpose in their lives?
The research suggests that when comparing two socially disconnected people, the individual who feels more connected to God has a better sense of purpose.
Researchers from the University of Michigan analysed the responses of 19,775 people who described their purpose in life, levels of loneliness as well as the quality of their friendships and religious beliefs. The data was analysed in three different nationally representative and longitudinal data sets using moderated regression and cross‐lagged panel analyses.
It was found that religious beliefs provided social comfort and higher levels of purpose in life to those feeling socially disconnected. However, religious beliefs had minimal influence on those who were already socially connected. For them, seeing God as their friend did not provide any additional benefit to their purpose in life. The research also suggests that when comparing two socially disconnected people, the individual who feels more connected to God has a better sense of purpose.
Continuing on previous research that confirmed socially disconnected people see human-like qualities in pets, imaginary things and God, this study further emphasises why a socially disconnected individual will turn to religion and God for a better sense of purpose in life.
The researchers emphasise that although the study shows that religious beliefs compensate for a loss of purpose in socially disconnected people, the level of purpose that it restores is not the same for people who are already socially connected. People can certainly rely on religion for a sense of meaning and direction in life, but it is not a substitute for quality human connections that help to nurture an enduring sense of purpose in life.
Source: Journal of Personality
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