The social aspect of religion, rather than theology or spirituality per se, is what makes religious people happy. That is, if you believe the news stories about the recent research reported in the American Sociological Review.
However, if you look more closely at the study, led by Chaeyoon Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it’s clear that the researchers (and reporters) make the common erroneous assumption that positive correlation or association is the same as cause and effect.
It’s like my saying that whenever it rains, I notice a lot of umbrellas around; therefore, umbrellas must cause it to rain.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a surprise if people who report high levels of life satisfaction often enjoy friendships with people in their faith community. After all, humans are highly social beings with a fundamental need to belong. But this study doesn’t prove what researchers want you to believe it does.