A group of prominent social scientists from Princeton, Pennsylvania State, Baylor, and other institutions answered that question at a conference on “Religious Practice and Civic Life: What the Research Says.” The conference, held in Washington, D.C., in late October, was hosted by the Heritage Foundation and their research partners Child Trends and the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. . . .Go read the article--and then bring up the actual facts the next time your friends launch on a tirade against "organized religion."
Thus, Smith concludes: “Religious involvement is associated with, and probably promotes, civic engagement. . . . Those participating in a faith community are more likely to vote, belong to voluntary associations, and carry out altruistic acts than the nonreligious.”
The latter claim may seem presumptuous, but according to the 2002–2004 GSS, for every 100 altruistic acts—like giving blood or letting someone ahead of you in the checkout line—performed by nonreligious people, the religious perform 144. . . .
That is not what the data show. For nearly 40 years, psychologists and sociologists have studied the connection between religion and various negative outcomes in adolescents. According to one meta-study (a study of the studies), 97 percent of studies found a negative relationship between religion and sexual activity; 94 percent claimed a negative link between alcohol use and religion; and 87 percent alleged a negative correlation between suicide and religion.
One survey done by the University of Pittsburgh’s John Wallace, Jr., and his colleagues reports that when teenagers are asked whether they have smoked cigarettes, gone on a drinking binge, or smoked marijuana in the last 30 days, weekly-attending religious kids are twice as likely to report not having smoked or drunk heavily and are more than twice as likely to report not having used marijuana.But religion affects behavior, Wallace maintains, not only at the individual level but also at the community level. The moral community in which students are immersed has an impact above and beyond that of personal religiosity.