Attention urbanists: Religion matters to the health of cities

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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What is it that makes people cling to where they’re from? One factor, I’d wager, is old time religion. And now there’s a very interesting article in New Geography on how urbanists are coming to realize the deep impact religion can also have on city life.

Among its suggestions:

[U]rbanists should take religion much more seriously than they often do. That’s because it plays a much bigger role in the city and civic health than currently believed, and because many urban congregations have mastered the art of outreach and conversion in a way that transit and density advocates can only dream out.

It also suggests that cities would have a tough time surviving without religious institutions:

Churches have always been important institutions in cities. Even today, the only reason many families with children are confident enough to stay in the city is because they can enroll their kids in Catholic or other religious schools. I can only imagine what a place like Chicago would look like if its religious school network wasn’t there. Religious institutions are also heavily involved in poor relief and other social service activities that help reduce the tax burden. And regardless of what you personally think about any particular religion, if someone is able to use faith to help them get over serious personal dysfunction like criminal behavior or alcoholism, more power to them.

Whether it is schools, hospitals, charities — or a slew of other civic organizations — religion is often the bedrock of a community.

This, of course, is also true in small towns and rural communities — but it’s particularly easy to miss in cities. As this article points out, cities, too, can benefit from some of that old time religion.

Matt K. Lewis