Apparently, Christopher Hitchens was wrong. Religion does not poison everything. The jury has still not decided whether atheism poisons everything, but while we are awaiting the verdict we note with J.D. Vance that religion plays a beneficial role in many peoples' lives.
This, from today's New York Times, of all places. Note that Vance quotes research conducted by one Jonathan Gruber. You recall that Gruber was the architect of both Romneycare and Obamacare.
Research suggests that children who attend church perform better in school, divorce less as adults and commit fewer crimes. Regular church attendees even exhibit less racial prejudice than their nonreligious peers. The M.I.T. economist Jonathan Gruber found that for many of these traits, this relationship is causal: It’s not just that privileged kids who attend church skew the data, but that attending services produces good character.
These benefits apply broadly, across a range of faiths, so the phenomenon appears unrelated to doctrine or place. Undoubtedly, church fish fries and picnics help build social cohesion. It was at my dad’s medium-size evangelical church — my first real exposure to a sustained religious community — that I first saw people of different races and classes worshiping together. The church even collected money to help families in need and established a small school and home for single expectant mothers.