Religion, Gratitude, and the Meaning of Life

Two-thirds of those who say religion is “very important” in their lives (67%) also say they regularly think about the meaning and purpose of life, compared with 38% of those who say religion is “not too” or “not at all” important to them.

To explore other aspects of spirituality, the 2014 survey included two new questions that were not asked in the 2007 Religious Landscape Study. The first question asked respondents how often they feel a strong sense of gratitude or thankfulness. More than three-quarters of adults – including 82% of Christians – say they feel a strong sense of gratitude or thankfulness at least once a week. Large majorities of those belonging to non-Christian faiths (including 77% of Muslims, 73% of Buddhists, 70% of Jews and 62% of Hindus) also report regularly feeling a strong sense of gratitude, as do two-thirds of the religiously unaffiliated.

Graditude and Meaning of Life

Graditude and Meaning of Life2

The study finds that regularly feeling a strong sense of gratitude is most common among those who are highly religiously observant. Fully 90% of those who say they attend religious services at least once a week also say they feel a deep sense of gratitude at least once a week, as do 88% of those who say religion is “very important” in their lives. But gratitude also is experienced regularly by many people who are not very religiously observant. For example, two-thirds of people who say they seldom or never attend religious services say they regularly feel a deep sense of gratitude (67%), as do 62% of those who say religion is “not too” or “not at all” important in their lives.

In addition to asking about feelings of gratitude, the new study also asked respondents how often they think about the meaning and purpose of life. Slightly more than half of Americans (55%) – including 59% of Christians, 53% of members of non-Christian faiths and 45% of religious “nones” – say they think about the meaning and purpose of life at least once a week. Regular contemplation of life’s meaning is most common among those who are religiously observant in a variety of ways. For example, two-thirds of those who say religion is “very important” in their lives (67%) also say they regularly think about the meaning and purpose of life, compared with 38% of those who say religion is “not too” or “not at all” important to them.1

References