A new study has found that religious people are better adjusted and feel better about themselves than non-believers, but this may be in societies that are deeply religious themselves.
Researchers for this study got their data from eDarling, a European dating site affiliated with eHarmony. Like eHarmony, eDarling uses a long questionnaire to match clients with potential dates. It includes a question about how important your personal religious beliefs are and questions that get at social self-esteem and how psychologically well-adjusted people are.
Jochen Gebauer of the Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin, Constantine Sedikides of the University of Southampton, and Wiebke Neberich of Affinitas GmbH in Berlin, the company behind eDarling, used 187,957 people's answers to do their analyses.
As in other studies, the researchers found that more religious people had higher social self-esteem and where psychologically better adjusted. But they suspected that the reason for this was that religious people are better in living up to their societal values in religious societies.
The people in the study lived in 11 different European countries, ranging from Sweden, the least religious country on the planet, to devoutly Catholic Poland. They used people's answers to figure out how religious the different countries were and then compared the countries.
On average, believers only got the psychological benefits of being religious if they lived in a country that values religiosity. In countries where most people aren't religious, religious people didn't have higher self-esteem.
"We think you only pat yourself on the back for being religious if you live in a social system that values religiosity," Gebauer was quoted as saying.
"So a very religious person might have high social self esteem in religious Poland, but not in non-religious Sweden," he said.