A very real conspiracy.
We live in an incredibly hostile culture where conservatives and liberals not only disagree about things, they are at war, trying to eliminate the opposition. Both sides slant data and circulate conspiracy theories to exalt their side and sow suspicion about the other. Social media and polarized online news use algorithms to stir up outrage because more eyes on their sites mean more money in their pockets. In the wake of this, conspiracy theories abound.
What kind of conspiracy theories would arise in light of the following statistics from published peer-reviewed research? Especially if organizations existed to keep these findings out of the public eye, public education, and the political process?
- Only one group improved their mental health and had less suicidal tendencies during the shutdown.
- One group engaging in one practice a week are happier and healthier than the rest of society.
- Twenty years of research revealed that a weekly practice reduced mortality by 20-30%, reduced depression and suicide, increased mental health, produced happier and more fulfilled marriages, had greater family stability and satisfaction, resulted in children doing better in school, and had better overall health.
What is the group and what is the practice that produces a better life? Research continues to reveal that people who attend or are a part of religious institutions, namely the church, fare much better than the general population in areas of physical, emotional, family, and mental health. The conspiracy is that darkness hates light and ungodly people attempt to keep Christianity and His church out of the public arena.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Despite all the church’s mess, research and God’s word reveals she is still the best![/perfectpullquote]
A small selection of recent research.
In January, 2022 a paper published in the “Journal of Religion and Health” revealed statistics indicating that people who were part of the church had a greater sense of psychological wellbeing than those unaffiliated with religion.
“Psychology Today” in 2021 revealed research showing that people who attend religious services at least weekly are 16% less likely to become depressed and show a 29% reduction in smoking and a 34% reduction in heavy drinking.
An extensive study released in 2020 by “The International Journal of Epidemiology” ( a peer-reviewed journal for empirical research findings related to health and disease conditions in the population), revealed that accumulated research over the last 20 years shows “that religious service attendance is associated with better physical and mental health.”
A 2019 study from “Pew Research Center” (a nonpartisian think tank used by government and both conservative and liberal organizations) found that statistically, people who attended church were both happier and healthier in all areas of life.
Research from a 2016 study was published by “The Journal of the American Medical Association” revealing that “Frequent attendance at religious services was associated with significantly lower risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and cancer mortality… Religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that physicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate.” The research showed that frequent attendance at church meetings “reduced depression, suicides, and increased lifespan.”
A revealing conversation with my atheist college advisor.
Over 43 years of serving Jesus, I have made it a point of looking at and noting these types of studies. My interest in these things was spawned by a conversation with my college academic advisor, a devout atheist. I had become a follower of Jesus the previous year, and my advisor had a guest lecturer in one of his classes. He referenced faith-based organizations’ success in criminal corrections and rehabilitation services. They have better results in helping substance abuse and criminal activity than their secular counterparts.
I later privately approached my advisor to question him about this and other research. He told me something profound, “I do not believe in God or all this religious stuff, but I can’t ignore the statistics. Faith-based groups are far better than non-faith-based groups in helping people with addictions and criminal recoveries.” Wow, I was amazed at his candor!
It is easy to point out all the mess and imperfections in the church. The public loves to do this. Despite all her imperfections, statistics and God’s word declare the truth, “God and His ways produce a better life.” This is why Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world” (Matthew 5). He was referring to truth God had already revealed in passages like Psalms 48:1-3 (see passage above).
What does it mean, “the joy of the whole earth?”
Some translations say “the reason the the earth has to rejoice in.” Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Psalms 48 said it well when contrasting God’s dwelling place/the church with the rest of the world,
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“This is the privilege of the church of Christ that it is a holy mountain, a peculiar people…This earth is, by sin, covered with deformity, & therefore justly might that spot of ground which was thus beautified with holiness be called the joy of the whole earth, that is, what the whole earth has reason to rejoice in” – Henry.[/perfectpullquote]
Of course, the church has problems. Imperfect people are associated with her. Some who claim membership are “Christian” in name only and not authentically serving Jesus. But still God and statistics don’t lie. I have kept track of research on this over my 43 years of serving God, confirming the truth God has already declared. When you see the church’s imperfections that people love to highlight, you still can say, “EVEN WITH WHAT SEEMS TO BE A MESS, HIS LIFE AMONG HIS CHURCH IS STILL THE BEST!” Serving Jesus and living life with His family, really does lead to a better life.
When peoples’ lives are falling apart due to sin and dysfunction, God wants His people, even in an imperfect state, demonstrating God’s solution through Jesus. Instead of their lives falling apart, they are being put back together through Jesus Christ, which gives the world hope that there is something better.
I love a quote from a great man of God back in the 70s that echoes the cry of culture seen in Romans 8:19-23 and why Jesus is building His church.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“You must bring the sheep into a community of power and compassion and concern that will attract the world to an alternate society and a counter-culture and a way of life that they’re looking for. The people of the world have run out of options! They’re threadbare! They’re worn out! They’ve got nothing left! Their economy’s on the rocks! Their politics are all torn up! Their society’s a shambles! The world has no options left! We are the world’s last hope! They’re looking this way saying, “Is there a people that have got it together? Is there a man that doesn’t need a psychiatrist? Is there a couple that doesn’t need marriage counseling? Is there a family that can get it together? Is there a community of men and women that can interrelate in joy and peace and hope? Where is it? Give it to us!”[/perfectpullquote]
FOR ADDITIONAL INVESTIGATION: Do you believe in Compassion, Consent, Equality, Science, Freedom, and Progress? Our current culture champions these ideas/causes. Yet many do not realize that Jesus and His church were the main drivers in history to see these things come into our western society. Check out Glen Scrivener’s video which brings out the historical research on these facts.