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Average Joe's Corner

Do “Very Religious” People Score Higher in Well-Being?

By Joe Aguirre - February 29, 2012

What do you think of this survey? Given that Gallup took two years to make the phone calls and that the number of people surveyed is substantial (676,000), one would think it’s robust. Here’s what the poll revealed.



Very religious


Moderately religious




These kinds of surveys can leave one with a sense of uncertainty. Chief among the complaints is what exactly is meant by the terms? According to the survey the respondents were asked a couple of questions to help determine their level of religiosity, but how valid are such methods? (Yes, I realize this is Gallup and they’ve been around a long time.)

What is meant by “very religious,” “moderately religious,” “nonreligious,” and “well-being”? Many evangelicals (at least in the US) disdain the term “religion” or “religious.” Therefore, since many Americans might identify themselves as Christians rather than as religious, could they be among the “moderately religious” group and, hence, the lowest-scoring on the well-being index?

Also, where do you put all the people who prefer the term “spiritual”? How about the many liberal Christians who don’t embrace essential doctrines of the faith? They might be faithful church attendees—would they identify themselves as “very religious”? If so, then perhaps they could be among the highest in the well-being category.

Are atheists, agnostics, religious skeptics, and other people who identify themselves as not tied to a religion better off than moderately religious folk? Based on the results it seems so. (As a side note, according to another survey, 22 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 29 fall into this “Nones” category—some might sneer that it’s a result of higher education indoctrination.)

How do you really know what someone believes, how they live, etc., without spending a LOT of time with them? Your thoughts?

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