If you don’t have many friends, an imaginary one named God could make you feel better.
That’s the takeaway from a recent paper published in the Journal of Personality by researchers at the University of Michigan.
They said that people who are “socially connected” (i.e. have friends) generally feel like they have a purpose in life. Believing in God doesn’t increase that feeling.
But what about people without friends? That’s where thinking you have a friend somewhere up there helps:
“Our 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,” said co-author Nicholas Michalak, a psychology graduate student.
That doesn’t suggest God is real or religion is good, but rather that having a connection with someone, even if that someone isn’t real, gives you a greater sense of meaning. Just about everyone wants someone looking out for us, and someone we can please in return. Being a lonely atheist can be all kinds of depressing.
The researchers noted, however, that belief in God didn’t make up for having actual human friends.
‘These results certainly do not suggest that people can or should rely on God over people for purpose,’ said co-author Oscar Ybarra, professor of psychology and faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research. ‘Quality human connections still remain a primary and enduring source of purpose in life.’
Human contact is great. But if you don’t have it, ignorance is bliss.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)