culture

culture

Will Our Concern for Health Eliminate our Moral Values?

Christianity, conscience, culture, pro-life, social institutions No comments

By Maria Reig Teetor, Intern
 

On November 6, voters in Massachusetts and California decided – by a close margin in both states – not to legalize assisted suicide. This was a victory for life. But what if Massachusetts and California had followed the states of Washington, Oregon, and Montana, along with a number of countries in Europe, in legalizing assisted suicide?
I have to question the implications of the fact that these bills were even proposed to the voters. Why is our society pushing for the legalization of voluntary death, when there are so many advances in medicine?
For centuries pain was part of life, assumed, accepted, and never questioned; but now we can go to the hospital to prevent infections, cure a sickness, recover from an amputation, have a heart transplant…even eliminate a headache. So why are we concerned about ending life because of suffering when, supposedly, medicine gives us the power to relieve suffering?
The key to this discussion is to acknowledge that when we eliminate religion from a culture, when we deny moral values and human dignity, we’re left with our own self-preservation as our only ethical guiding light.
When justice and human dignity are no longer a priority, we go to every length we can to prevent suffering and to create comfort. As with numerous other areas of life, like education, sexuality, marriage, friendship, and leisure, our culture teaches us that it’s all about our personal satisfaction. When there is no ultimate respect for human dignity, it’s natural for men to elevate health to their highest goal in life.
But how is health related to death? A recent essay from First Things gives an explanation for the relation between the two: “When eliminating suffering becomes the overriding purpose of a society, people can easily come to perceive that it is proper to accomplish the goal by eliminating the sufferer.”
The author continues,
Elevating “health” to the ultimate purpose of society turns it into something other than health. The original definition of the term is elasticized to include a hedonistic sense of entitlement to obtain whatever our hearts desire. Health becomes understood as a prophylactic, if you will, against suffering.
With this mindset, it seems normal to want to end a life because it’s causing pain. But will this legalization turn into an open passage to suicide? What is the difference between someone who wants to die because his physical pain is too much to handle and someone who no longer wishes to live because life is too hard or the sadness of losing a loved one is too painful? Who will determine what level of suffering is necessary in order to apply for legal death?
Let’s take the question further. What if a person has the power to decide for someone else that his or her life is filled with pain or distress, as was the case with Terri Schiavo in Florida in 2005? Or to decide that someone else’s life is causing him or her to suffer, so he or she has the right to eliminate that suffering by eliminating the other person? (This is an argument used to support abortion, when an unborn baby causes financial or personal inconvenience to the mother.) Has our society drifted so far from ethical moorings that we would legalize murder on demand?
The author of the First Things essay describes our moral situation:
In such a milieu, ethics become transitory because we justify our behavior by feelings rather than robust principles of morality—which after all, sometimes require us to eschew what we want and what feels good in order to do what is right.
It is obvious that when there is no religion in a society there is no respect for life. MARRI research in 95 Social Science Reasons for Religious Worship and Practice explains many more consequences of the decline of religion. How long will we allow this decline and its consequences, all in the name of “health” and “freedom from suffering,” to go on?

Marriage: “I Do,” Not “Maybe You’ll Do”

Christianity, cohabitation, culture, divorce, marriage No comments

By Sharon Barrett, Intern

I love having theological discussions with a particular friend of mine. One topic we explore frequently is the nature of human relationships, particularly marriage. Why does the Creator place such a premium on marriage? Why does He insist that a man and woman make a public commitment to each other before they live together as husband and wife? What is so special about declaring, “I do”?

Of course, social science research supports the importance of faithful married love. Couples who are married rather than single or cohabiting report better health, less stress and depression, and more positive family relationships; they are less likely to suffer or commit domestic violence; and they are more likely to pursue a regular spiritual life. Married couples even enjoy greater sexual fulfillment than cohabiting couples.

One might think a cohabiting relationship would carry benefits similar to marriage, if the partners are committed to each other; but the truth is that most couples who cohabit are notfully committed. This type of relationship tends to value independence more than interdependence; for instance, cohabiting partners often have separate bank accounts. As these couples proceed toward marriage, only 60% end up at the altar, and they are 46% more likely to divorce than those who marry without cohabiting first.

Those who do not meet at the altar have only a ten percent chance of staying together longer than five years. This statistic reflects the fact that most couples who cohabit do so to “test their compatibility” before they commit for life. In the words of one young woman,

“We liked to be together, so it was cheaper and more convenient. It was a quick decision but if it didn’t work out there was a quick exit.”

In fact, nearly half of 20-somethings surveyed in 2001 by the National Marriage Project agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.” Clinical psychologist Meg Jay concludes,

A life built on top of “maybe you’ll do” simply may not feel as dedicated as a life built on top of the “we do” of commitment [of] marriage.

Commitment is a key ingredient of marriage that cohabiting relationships often cannot achieve. Standing before the altar to say “I do” has a profound effect on how partners approach a relationship; it takes courage to make one’s commitment public and, by implication, invite other members of the community to hold one accountable. It takes courage to offer one’s whole life to a partner, with no guarantee other than that person’s word that he or she will be faithful. Most of all, it takes courage for a fallible human being to make a vow in God’s hearing, trusting in His saving help to fulfill it.

But that is the nature of marriage, this most intimate of human relationships. Partaking in a commitment that transcends our natural abilities, while it may seem intimidating, is actually designed to strengthen our faith. According to the Bible, faith is a decision to be confident in God’s promises (Heb. 10:35-11:6); and the promises of the Great I AM are never “yes and no,” but always “yes” (2 Cor. 1:20) –never “maybe,” but always “I do.”

Charitable Pornography?

abstinence, culture, pornography No comments

By Sarah Robinson, Intern 

I was flabbergasted last week after reading an article titled “Pornography for a Better Tomorrow.”  This article introduced a non-profit pornography organization that allows its users to upload videos and link them to the charitable organization of their choice.  Every time an individual watches one of these pornographic videos, money is donated to that specific charity.  
According to the article, this concept was developed in order to “rethink, critically, the relationship between the internet and sexuality” and “foster a healthy culture that ‘reflects the natural plurality of human sexuality.’”  There are so many fallacies in this article that it is honestly difficult to pinpoint just one.  This idea crosses the threshold of moral relativity into dangerous territory that debases the value of human beings and sexuality.  How do you place a price tag on sexuality?  No charitable organization should receive money made by degrading human beings who were created in the image of God. 
The degrading nature of pornography makes it imperative that we address the harmful effects ofpornography on individuals and marriages.  Men who view pornography can become addicted, and can even become desensitized to the type of pornography they use and seek more dramatic and perverse forms. Men who view pornography regularly have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality, including rape, sexual aggression, and sexual promiscuity. Using pornography encourages men to view women as commodities or “sex objects,” and engenders greater sexual permissiveness, which leads to an increase in out-of-wedlock births and STDs. Child sex offenders are more likely to view pornography regularly or to be involved in its distribution. 
Regarding marriage, married men who are involved with pornography feel less satisfied with their sexual relations with their wife and also feel less emotionally attached to their wives. Pornography increases the chance of infidelity and divorce. A spouse is addicted to pornography is likely to experience a loss of interest in sexual intercourse and even a loss of interest in good family relations. 
There are very few laws regarding pornography in our country, with the exception of child pornography. Knowing the harmful effects of pornography on individuals and marriages, how can we justify any furtherance of this activity?  Specifically, how can we condone a pornography organization that attempts to hide the obvious evils of pornography under the cover of charitable donations?  

We Live in a Polyamorous Society

abstinence, culture, divorce, family, monogamy, Pat Fagan No comments

By Maria Reig Teetor, Intern 

It’s common to hear complaints of how horrible it is that in certain cultures and religions, polygamy is respected and normal. We hear an outcry that it attacks woman’s dignity and reduces them to objects. But have those who are raising this outcry ever stopped to question whether their own sexual behavior may be reducing their human dignity?
Where is the difference, when men and women in Western society embrace sexual activity with whomever they please, whenever they please, leading to multiple sexual partners by the time they are thirty? The difference between the culture of the traditional family, based on a lifelong sexual relationship with one person, and our present culture is in the way sexual conduct is viewed, practiced, and taught. My question today is this: Have we ever considered that we might be living in a polygamous society?
  
As Pat Fagan points out, in the Western culture of polyamorous sexuality, family life is just one option among many other lifestyles. This culture treasures sexual freedom, meaning whatever is desired by the partners (two or more partners, as the case may be). It wants to eliminate religion and suppresses its public manifestations, attacking religious freedom. One’s moral code is individual and consequently relative; anyone should do as he or she pleases, not only sexually but in any arena of life (so if I need to kill an unborn child, I should have that right). In short, the idea of freedom is to have no constraints imposed on you, to have a carefree life.
The consequences of this misguided view of “freedom” range from HIV and unwanted pregnancies to child depression and adolescent suicide. Yet they are never seen for what they are: the results of sexual license.
On the other hand, a monogamous way of life defends marriage to one person of the opposite sex for life. In this culture, family life benefits not only the spouses but the children and community. Couples who are married report being happier; children who grow up in intact families are more likely to grow up mentally stable, to finish college, and to delay sexual activity, as MARRI research explains in 162 reasons to marry.
The monogamous culture also treasures the worship of God, which strengthens relationships, education, and psychological wellbeing. In addition, the culture of monogamy defends universal moral norms, the freedom to pursue the good, and the defense of human life.
So what kind of society do you want to live in? What kind of culture do you want your children to grow up in? I would like to live in an environment where my moral code is protected and defended, where education in virtue is present in our schools, and where the defense of life and marriage is unquestioned. I encourage you to take active part in this lifestyle and become an example to others who have never acknowledged the importance of marriage and commitment. The monogamous culture does far more than our Western polyamorous society to uphold human dignity.

What Kind of Man Do You Want?

children, culture, family, feminism, marriage, men, social institutions, women 2 comments
By Sharon Barrett, Intern
It’s an eternal question: What do women want?
 
Last week, I came across this blog post on manhoodthat offered a partial answer:
 
Men in American society seem to fluctuate between two extremes….It seems barbarians [à la Han Solo of Star Wars, or Tom Doniphon in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance] are the kind of men women fall for from a distance, and then despise when they get close – the “bad boy” image. Wimps [like tenderfoot Ranse Stoddard, opposing Doniphon’s gun-slinging version of justice] seem to be the kind of men women despise from a distance and then get to know and start to care for as good provider, “beta males.”

But neither barbarians nor wimps are fully men.

 
What barbarian and wimp alike are lacking, the writer argues, is balance: an Aristotelian “golden mean” between tough and tender. Where one man excels in physique, business savvy, or rugged individualism, another may have aesthetic sense, intelligence, or a reputation for being “good with kids.” By implication, the man who balances these traits not only will achieve manliness in the eyes of other men, but will increase his attractiveness to women.
 
Can a “golden mean” between barbarian and wimp give women what they want? Yes – with this addition. Manhood is more than a middle way that combines ruggedness and gentleness for the sake of balance; it is a third way that employs a man’s abilities in the pursuit of a goal outside himself. Masculine strength is best defined in one word: commitment, the decision to give one’s word to another and stand by for the long haul. Men who embody commitment to a wife, family, job, and community are the ones who can reverse the current trend of fatherless families, broken marriages, and child poverty.
 
Unfortunately, the sexual revolution has taught women they don’t need this kind of man. In the words of feminist writer Hanna Rosin (author of The End of Men), “Women no longer need men for financial security and social influence. They can achieve those things by themselves.” (Nor do they need a man for help in raising children, since full-time daycare is only a phone call away. With the advent of Artificial Reproductive Technology, they no longer even need a man – other than a sperm donor – to conceive children.)
 
According to Ms. Rosin, the sexual revolution gave us “the ability to have temporary, intimate relationships that don’t derail a career.” Because career is (in her estimation) most important to women in their 20s and 30s, she continues,
 
No one is in a hurry to get married, and sex is, by the terms of sexual economics, very cheap. When sex is cheap, more men turn into what the sociologist Mark Regnerus calls “free agents.” They sleep with as many women as possible basically, [sic] because they can.
 
Men don’t need to strive for a “golden mean” when women pursue them for short-term pleasure without asking for commitment. Women perpetuate the hookup culture by allowing men to expect to take any woman to bed, no strings attached, as long they take her out for “a nice time” first (as Maria Reig Teetor reported last week). Women may suffer emotional pangs, but men are taking the real hit: since the 1960s, a “persistent ‘gap’” in employment has existed between married and unmarried men. Employment rates for single, divorced, and cohabiting men consistently plummet faster than rates for married men – in or out of a recession. A culture of marriage, on the other hand, by demanding commitment, actually makes men more employable.
 
When sex is cheap, commitment has no value whatsoever. When women live as if they don’t need men, real men disappear. And the economy and the family suffer equally.
 
In the end, women’s expectations set the bar for manhood. The question is still before us: Women, what kind of man do you want? The men are waiting for your answer.

May I have this [politically-correct, gender-ambiguous, tolerance-driven] dance?

child well-being, culture, education, family, gender, single parents 1 comment
By Lindsay Smith, Intern
By now you have probably heard the story: a single mom felt her daughter was being excluded from a school function, and voilà, no more father-daughter dances or mother-son baseball games in Rhode Island’s Cranston school district.  According to the superintendent, these events violate gender discrimination laws.  This mom, this superintendent, these lawyers were probably just trying to prevent kids from getting hurt, at least we will give the benefit of the doubt to their motives.  However, I am all too concerned about what research reveals: banning events like these harms the entire student body. 
Parents are important. Not surprisingly, abundant research supports this truth, especially in education.  On average, children from intact married families earn higher test scores, have higher high school GPAs, are less likely to drop out of school, and have better behavior than their peers.  In addition, “adolescent children of single-parent families or stepfamilies reported that their parents had lower educational expectations for them, were less likely to monitor schoolwork, and supervised social activities less than the parents of children in intact biological families.”  Based on these findings, one can see parental involvement directly correlates with academic success.  
 
Sadly, Cranston’s ruling reduces parental involvement, which at its core is fruitful to the district.  Cranston removed events which promote positive interaction.   I have never been employed as a teacher, but I would imagine most educators are thankful for engaged and helpful parents.  While I am not a teacher, I was a student, and can verify that involved parents, whether my own or another child’s, positively impacted my classroom experience.    The student body benefits when parents invest in education, in the school, and in the school’s activities.  The mayor of Cranston summarizes these findings well when he said, “[The events] contribute to the well being of our children as a whole.”Fathers taking their daughters to a school dance is positive.  Mothers taking their sons to a school baseball game is good, not because it promotes a child’s exclusion, but because it encourages parental participation. 
I do believe every child should have the chance to benefit from these activities.  I do believe every child can have an equal opportunity to attend – not by minimizing the traditional family (gender roles included) but by promoting it.  I heard it said once, “The problem is not that we have too much of Christ in our marriage; it’s that we don’t have enough.”  The same principle applies here.  People are not excluded because there is too little family love but because there is not enough.  Let me put some concrete words to this theory. 
Growing up, both sets of my grandparents lived over 10 hours away.  It wasn’t practical for them to attend my school functions.  However, when it came time for “Grandparentslunch day” at my elementary school, our sweet, elderly neighbor or my friend’s grandmother would always show up to eat with me.  Would I have liked my biological grandparents to be there?  Absolutely, but that doesn’t negate the wonderful times I had with these women who sacrificed their time for me.  I felt special; I felt loved; I felt included.    I propose a better solution is not to eliminate the event, but rather to embrace the child.  Allow traditional families to show what love and support look like and invite a child whose mom or dad can’t attend, whatever the reason.  Surely there are fathers, grandfathers, uncles, mentors in this community who would gladly take this young girl to the dance.  I bet there are mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, who would gladly take another boy to the baseball game with their family.  Support the family, and support these traditions not in spite of the students but for their betterment.  When the family is stronger, education is stronger, and that’s something that should make us all get up and dance. 

Put Your Money Where Your Marriage Is

culture, human capital, marriage, mothers, poverty, religion, teen pregnancy No comments
Lindsay Smith, Intern

“16 and Pregnant,” “Teen Moms,” and countless other reality shows have popularized and perhaps even glamorized the lives of unmarried mothers in our society.   In addition, the trend of popular female celebrities becoming single mothers furthers the attention.  While Hollywood portrays this family structure as desirable and even empowering for women, the true hardships of single motherhood are not always given their just time in the spotlight.  Let me be clear, I applaud single and unwed mothers for choosing life for their babies, a valiant decision in a culture which all but hands them a “get out of motherhood free” card.  No, the solution to the plight of the single mother does not come from abortion, but rather from Marriage. 

The Houston Chronicle recently released an article titled Figures show struggle worsening for single mothers,” which shares the stories and struggles of several single moms straining to make ends meet.  According to the article, “41 percent of households headed by single women with children live in poverty – nearly triple the national poverty rate, according to 2010 census data.”  This percentage alone should seize our attention.  However, combine it with the fact that more than half of single mothers over age twenty rely on public assistance, and these statistics don’t softly whisper for concern.   They deafeningly cry for action – or should I say results.  Many in government have championed action through the years: job training, GED programs, welfare.  These actions seem to only create a treadmill – lots of movement but no upward mobility – and find many of their recipients in the same place year after year.  At the article’s conclusion, Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation summarizes it best: “The welfare state has been about picking up the pieces from non-marital births, and it’s not working. The reality is that you can’t create a substitute father.”
MARRI’s studies confirm Mr. Rector’s assertion.  An intact married family has the highest average income and net worth and experiences less poverty than other family types, all of which carries over to their children’s well-being.  On the reverse side, according to these studies, “A non-intact family background increases by over 50 percent a boy’s odds of ending up in the lowest socioeconomic level.”  Family structure has not only immediate effects but also intergenerational effects on a child’s economic status.  Females who grow up in an intact married family are far less likely to have a non-marital pregnancy than those who were raised in an always single-parent family.  In case anyone is tempted to think this only applies to single mothers, studies also show married men have a higher rate of employment than single men.   Let’s not forget that God’s design was to give Adam both a job and a helper, who was Eve.  Speaking of God’s design, learning about His plan for marriage and family appears to significantly affect this female demographic.  The Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Survey reports that “urban mothers who attend church frequently are at least 70 percent more likely to be married when they give birth or to get married within one year of a nonmarital birth than are urban mothers who do not attend church frequently.”
As one of the moms in the Chronicle article poignantly expresses, “Sometimes I think I’m in a big hole and I can’t see the light, but then I know God is big and there’s something big for me.”  And she is right.  Perhaps we should all stop asking people what their temporary aid for single mothers would be, and remind ourselves of God’s unchanging, perfect (and big) plan for the family.

“I had a nice time. Let’s have sex.”

culture, marriage, sexuality, youth 2 comments

Maria Reig Teetor, Intern

“We must try before we make a commitment.” “Are you sexually compatible?” “How good is he/she in bed?” “Have you had sex yet?”These have become normal questions asked when you meet up with friends, go out to a bar or dinner party…abstinence is not in the vocabulary.

We live in a sexualized society, where life is measured by our emotions, feelings and sexual behavior. You only have to flip through the pages of Cosmopolitan or turn on your TV and watch L.A. Complex or Gossip Girl to understand that sex is what’s expected of you when you go out on a couple dates. 
When talking about abstinence or waiting for marriage to have sex, you think of your high school counselor, who talked about abstinence because as a teenager you aren’t ready to take up the consequences of what sex may entail, but once you’re in college or in the labor force, you’re immediately expected to sleep with your dates. 
This recently hit me, as I was sharing a drink with this attentive young man I met through a mutual friend. We were sitting at a bar enjoying a casual happy hour, talking about work, hobbies, siblings, aspirations…when as the evening was coming to an end he mentioned, “Where to next, your place or mine? Don’t worry, I’ll let you sleep over afterward.” As if letting me sleep at his house after we had sex was the chivalrous thing to do. The young man was stunned with my polite answer: “No thank you, I don’t do that.” At that very moment I was so thrown off I did not have a solid explanation to why I was not going to have sex with him.
 
I then understood that a lot of factors went into this assumption he made – it wasn’t that he was some abnormally forward or disrespectful young man. Rather, it is what society, peer pressure or his upbringing has taught him is the normal way of conduct.  But he was so stunned he called me for a whole week to try and go out again. He was searching for an answer to my no: Is it that you don’t like me? I am weird? Unattractive? I thought we had a good time? And we truly did. 
The only consequences of sleeping around that people dare to mention are unwanted pregnancies and sexual transmitted diseases, like HIV; but those are soon resolved with the notion of “as long as were safe we’ll be fine.” Which means that as long as one uses the pill, condoms or any other contraceptive method, we’re all free to sleep with whomever we desire.
I went on to wonder, besides these more obvious facts, have young people ever thought of our emotional vulnerability or the psychological damages that sleeping around might have? And the advantages of creating a solid long lasting relationship  when you wait for marriage?  
So today I wanted to skim through a few reasons why we shouldn’t give in to new era of “I had a nice time, let’s have sex” that we may have to deal with as soon as we’re on a date. 
First of all, this over sexualized culture backfires as it confuses the true meaning of love with lust. It induces people to marry for the wrong reasons. The emotional bonding that sex brings to the relationship creates a false impression of closeness between strangers and it can blind their judgment, inducing them to believe that this emotional and psychological bonding is caused by their love for one another when it’s mostly induced by their sexual activity.
Once you engage yourself in an active sexual relationship without a strong commitment, it tends to overtake the vast majority of the relationship, which means that you end up learning how to express  your emotions and feelings through your body and don’t strive to create a personal and intimate friendship which is the solid base of a good marriage. On the contrary, when there is no sexual activity, the couple is forced to spend quality time with one another, learning about their hobbies, desires, aspirations. They also learn how to verbally communicate and express what they are feeling or thinking. This will help them build up the base of their relation and when hard times come, they will not “fix the problem” by sleeping together, but by communicating. 
Another reason worth mentioning is that this culture of “fun and sex” reduces the value of our human sexuality, because it uses it as an exchange of products: we exchange our bodies for pleasure. This type of behavior reduces human dignity to a more animal way of acting. This is not the purpose of our sexuality, which is there to express our capacity of love and self-giving. 
And finally I wanted to note how by living out abstinence you are loving your future spouse, even if you haven’t met him or her yet, because you’re saving not only your body, which is an expression of yourself, but all that defines you as a person, your unique self being. Once you give yourself to that one special person, the fulfillment will be far greater than expected because it will not only be an act of pleasure but an act of complete surrender, self-giving and spiritual bonding. 
So when asked that question again, we could say, “No, I will not sleep with you, as my sexuality is not there to give, just out of mutual understanding, affection or desire. But to preserve for one person who is going to acknowledge it for its final purpose, the surrender and the total self-giving out of love and for love.” This type of surrender reaches its meaning within a profound commitment such as marriage.

“Cootie Contagion” and choosing marriage

culture, MARRI, marriage, social institutions No comments

MARRI Interns

Nostalgia for the middle school years gone by rarely rushes into the mind unaccompanied by a twinge of regret birthed by memory of our regrettable social ineptitude.  Awkwardness abounded at school social events, when the hermetically isolated genders were thrust together onto the middle school dance floor.  Those are days to which few would happily return.  Yet recent polling of young singles in Americasuggests that many in their 20s have not yet overcome their fear of the “cootie contagion,” and are therefore worried about commitment to marriage and relationships.
USA Today reports that in a poll of 5,541 adults who are either never married, or widowed, divorced, or separated, only 34.5% of the respondents answered affirmatively when asked “Do you want to get married?”  27% answered no, and 38.6% were uncertain whether they wanted to enter into a marital commitment. 
These findings illustrate broader trends, as Americans tend to view marriage as a nonessential social institution, and consequently neither desire nor pursue it for themselves.  Instead, sexual activity is increasingly detached from marital fidelity, as 55% of respondents report having a one-night stand, and 56% of respondents report having suffered infidelity.
But apart from these issues of sexual exclusivity, marriage confers numerous salutary benefits upon those who choose to engage in it.  Indeed, these benefits are some of the most unassailable and verified findings in all of social science.  Drawing on an abundance of social science research, the Marriage and Religion Research Institute has compiled some of these benefits into the convenient 162 Reasons to Marry in order to educate the public about the desirability of marriage.  If the polls cited above confirm that marriage is on the decline among young Americans, the social science data from numerous sources confirms that those who flee from marriage forfeit its numerous benefits and do themselves a disservice.  If we would avoid this preventable development, it is worthwhile to reevaluate our analysis of the marital bond.  In short, marriage deserves another look.  

Gallup on Well-Being and Religion

culture, MARRI, religion, social institutions No comments
MARRI Interns
The incisive social critic H.L. Menken famously described Puritanism as “the haunting fearthat someone, somewhere, may be happy.”  In the eyes of a not insubstantial portion of the population, this sentiment has been mass-produced and broadbrushed across the entire landscape of religion.  Surely it is by now axiomatic that religious people are little more than repressed, uptight, morose discontents with personal vendettas to search out and destroy any wayward vestiges of amusement that might be illicitly had. 
But, as is often the case, a large body of research suggests otherwise.  A February 16, 2012, headline by the Gallup organization declares “Religious Americans Enjoy Higher Wellbeing.”  Gallup drew upon a massive sample of 676,000 interviews conducted over the course of two years to declare decisively that “the statistically significant relationship between religiousness and wellbeing holds up after controlling for numerous demographic variables.”  In six out of seven categories, including Life Evaluation Index, Emotional Health Index, Healthy Behaviors Index, Work Environment Index, and the Basic Access Index, very religious Americans score higher than nonreligious or moderately religious Americans (the exceptional category is the Physical Health Index). 
This research confirms earlier research conducted by MARRI, including studies detailing the Benefits of Religious Attendance and Religious Practice and Educational Attainment.  These and other studies demonstrate that the side effects of religious practice are unequivocally desirable and beneficial both to the wellbeing of the individual and the strength of the society.  Given this social science data, it would seem that the wit of Menken and the general suspicion against religion that his comments represent might be in need of revisitation and revision. Despite these popular misconceptions, the data demonstrate that religious people are undeniably, but perhaps not inexplicably, happy.