Corwin Smidt considers the effects of social networks and of private religious practice
Many people have argued that the social benefits that are derived from religion is nothing more than a function of their social networks. It’s not religion, it’s the social networks that they develop in religious life.
However, if you were to try to analyse those who both are high in church attendance and then compare those who exhibit a more religious life – say, in a private realm, say, high levels of daily prayer or other forms of religious manifestations – you would find that those who are just church attenders, high levels of church attendance, would exhibit lower levels of these kind of civic goods than would be the person who is a high church attender but is also more personally involved in their religious faith.
So it isn’t just the social networks because the private prayer is not a reflection of that social network. So when you divide the people who are already high in church life and move them into different categories, you’ll find differences as well.