A new study now finds that lonely religious people feel less isolated than lonely atheists because God substitutes as a friend.
Relationships are important for humans to feel motivated, connected, and to give them a sense of purpose and the new research by psychologists at the University of Michigan show that, among those who do feel lonely, those who believe in a religion are less likely to lose the will to live because their faith fills that void.
According to lead author of the study Todd Chan, God comes to be seen quite literally as a friend.
Chan further adds that, however, religion was still hardly enough to replace all the qualities that come from human interaction.
He goes on to say, “For the socially disconnected, God may serve as a substitutive relationship that compensates for some of the purpose that human relationships would normally provide.”
Chan’s conclusion comes after three separate studies involving over 19 thousand people, the last of which was published last week in the Journal of Personality.
Each person was surveyed on their friendships, religious beliefs, feelings of loneliness and sense of purpose.
The study found those that weren't lonely, faith didn't have a significant impact on their levels of happiness, sense of belonging or purpose.
However, the study found those who felt that they didn't have many friends strongly benefited 'from leveraging religion and turning to God as a friend ... when they lack supportive social connections.'
According to co-author Nicholas Michalak, a psychology graduate student, the research suggests, given two people who feel equally disconnected, the individual who feels more connected to God will have a better sense of purpose in life....