That was the provocative title of a newspaper article a friend showed me a few weeks ago. Erica Komisar wrote the article, but I am not sure which paper it appeared in or when it appeared. But I was struck by Komisar’s basic point: belief in God is good for children.
A therapist who works with children, Komisar advances an intriguing hypothesis for why depression and anxiety are increasingly common among children: the declining interest in religion.
Her hypothesis is not just a guess. Apparently an article published by Harvard researchers in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that “children or teens who reported attending a religious service at least once per week scored higher on psychological well-being measurements and had lower risks of mental illness. Weekly attendance was associated with higher rates of volunteerism, a sense of mission, forgiveness, and lower probabilities of drug use and early sexual initiation.” Komisar adds that religious belief gives parents a way to talk to their children about death without traumatizing them, and can help to inculcate gratitude and empathy.
Komisar concludes that belief in God is good for children and families; hence the provocative title of the article. Even parents who are not themselves religious might consider raising their children in a Church or synagogue simply for the psychological benefits of the religious community.
I don’t want to reduce religion to its instrumental value. I certainly believe religious faith is good for us. But the reason is not just psychological. Religious faith is good for us because it is true (and good and beautiful). Still, it is nice to know that secular psychologists can agree at least that faith has value.
 The quote is Komisar’s words, not the words of the article she cited.
Fr. Harvey Hill
This blog is my occasional reflections on life, God, Christian faith, and the Church. I hope you find it helpful!