The following is excerpted from the Deseret News. To read the full article, CLICK HERE.

The headlines regarding American religion have not been great of late — from sexual abuse to financial scandal. From liberal academics to ex-evangelicals, we’ve been getting many stories of “religious trauma” telling us that religious institutions have promulgated a culture of judgment and shame through their rigid moral structurerepression of female sexuality, legitimization of the “patriarchy” and failure to foster warm and welcoming environments.

Paired with recent scandals, these messages have undoubtedly played a hand in the rising number of young adults who have left behind the faith of their mothers and fathers and embraced a religious identity of “none” as adults.

But do today’s headlines provide us with a fair assessment of the influence of religion on Americans’ lives? If the claims above are fundamentally true, one would expect to see that religiosity has, on average, a negative effect on happiness and other mental health outcomes. Instead, in study after study, what we find is that religiously devout adults are happierless depressed and more involved in their communities than those who attend services less frequently.

“But wait…” you may say, “it’s easy to go to church when you’re happy. Couldn’t it just be that happy people are the ones going to church, not that going to church is making them happier?” And that would be a reasonable objection. However, these studies also control for other happiness-predicting factors, such as age and educational attainment, demonstrating that the impact of religiosity is not based on this sort of selection effect.

But what about the long-term influence of religion on boys and girls who grew up in a religious home? Does the story still hold for them, or is there a developmental “trauma” that these statistics are hiding?

We answer these questions by looking at data from the Baylor Religion Survey, which allows us to see how religious attendance at age 12 is associated with a variety of outcomes in adulthood. Again, the story is positive. 

To read the full article, CLICK HERE.