Does belief in God improve one's self-image and sense of meaning?
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That was the key question at the heart of a recently released study that found that Christians' belief in God's intimate involvement in their lives gives them a greater sense of meaning, Deseret News National reported.
Purdue University graduate student Jong Hyun Jung, whose paper, "Sense of Divine Involvement and Sense of Meaning in Life: Religious Tradition as a Contingency," was recently published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, believes that people are social creatures who thrive on personal connections -- and that those connections can transcend the earthly realm.
"Close relationships provide human beings with a sense of meaning because [they] are fundamentally social creatures," Jung said. "That relationship can extend to relationships between humans and the divine."
Jung used data from a 2007 survey from Baylor that asked 1,648 adults questions about religion, exploring how people responded to the statements, "My life has a real purpose"; "God is concerned with my personal well-being"; and "God is directly involved in my affairs." The first statement about purpose was the study's dependent variable.
Respondents were also asked, "Based on your personal understanding, what do you think God is like?"
After exploring the results for these questions, Jung said that he found connections between religion and mental health, including how beliefs about God impact one's perception of purpose.
The study concludes by noting that "divine involvement increases sense of meaning in life, which in turn may possibly promote psychological well-being."
"The positive association between sense of divine involvement and the odds of having a sense of meaning in life is observed only among Christians — evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, and Catholics — but not among other religionists and those without religious affiliation," he wrote.
Jung said that this might be due to Christianity's focus on God's involvement in believers' lives, though he admitted in the text of the article that this could be "speculative," adding that these ideas pave the way for additional research.
"Non-Christian religions may differ from Christian faiths in terms of concepts of God, the extent to which beliefs about divine involvement play a central r ole in religious thought and practice, and the relevance of religious beliefs to mental health," he wrote.
Read Jung's work in its entirety here.
(H/T: Deseret News National)
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