Despite the assertive statements of celebrity atheists, national book tours denouncing God and the perennial docket of court cases challenging the presence of religion in the public square, most Americans believe in God and many regularly practice their faith. Heritage research on the newly launched FamilyFacts.org shows that 75 percent of American adults believe in God and another 11 percent in some higher power.
Many Americans take their faith a step further—almost 40 percent of all adults act on that belief by attending religious institutions at least once a week, and over half of adults surveyed say they pray at least daily. These religious beliefs and practices can have a profoundly positive impact on civil society and defend against much of the social breakdown threatening communities.
For instance, regular religious observance has been associated with helping to sustain intact families, raise healthy adolescents, and even maintain good health. Families who frequent religious institutions tend to have higher marital satisfaction and fidelity, fewer incidents of domestic violence, and greater conflict resolution. The religious practice of parents also seems to have a significant impact on how adolescents will view marriage, pre-marital sex, and cohabitation. Likewise, adolescents whose families regularly attend church services are less likely to be sexually active or experience teen pregnancy.
Men and women who frequent religious institutions tend to have lower stress levels, are less likely to die from cancer, and have better psychological health than adults who seldom or never attend religious worship. The effect of familial religious attendance can even impact the health of the next generation, as children and teens from households with frequent observance are less likely to report feeling lonely or having episodes of depression.
The benefits of religious practice to individuals and families are important to maintaining strong communities and a thriving civil society. With four out of 10 children now born outside of marriage and more than half of all families in poverty headed by single parents, the economic and social consequences of family dissolution are hard to ignore. The effects of religion on civil society should not be overlooked when addressing the most pressing problems in American culture.
To learn more about the role of family and religious practice in maintaining limited government and civil society in America, visit FamilyFacts.org.