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Devoutly religious people are repressed and depressed, with pursed-lip visages and censorious attitudes they cannot suppress. Just ask Hollywood or the establishment media — they’ll tell you so. And the more devout, the worse, until somebody becomes like the mother of the title character in the 1970s horror flick “Carrie,” so wigged out by boys asking out her daughter that she locks Carrie in a tiny closet with a kitschy statue of Jesus.

It’s all balderdash, of course. The Pew Research Center released a major survey on Jan. 31 showing that actively religious people are the happiest in the United States. Oh, and in Japan, too. And also in Australia, Singapore, Peru, Germany, and indeed all but six of the 26 nations from which Pew compiled data.

In the United States, Pew reported, “36 percent of the actively religious describe themselves as ‘very happy,’ compared with 25 percent of the inactively religious and 25 percent of the unaffiliated.” Also, the actively religious are significantly more likely to show “civic engagement (specifically, voting in elections and joining community groups or other voluntary organizations).”

Religious observance in the United States remains higher than in many other countries, but, alas, it is declining. Pew reported that places with “declining levels of religious engagement, like the U.S., could be at risk for declines in personal and societal well-being.”

So, forget the idea that faith is a sign of maladjustment. Instead, it’s more likely, here as in other lands, to be an indicator of someone who is content, outgoing, and engaged. And, as Pew notes about the difference in perspectives, “The gaps are often striking: In Australia, for example, 45 percent of actively religious adults say they are very happy, compared with 32 percent of inactives and 33 percent of the unaffiliated. And there is no country in which the data show that actives are significantly less happy than others.”

Next time the media paints parochial school students as evil or a faith-based school as bigoted, or the next time a senator treats Catholicism or evangelicalism as a disqualifier for public office, remember the Pew survey. If part of the American dream is the “pursuit of happiness,” don’t forget that an attachment to faith helps make a person happier and thus more likely to be quintessentially American.



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