Listening to sermons and reading religious works like the Bible may also invoke a cognitive benefit, Koenig said.
"You're exercising your higher cortical function, thinking about complex concepts that require some imagination."
And while a 2011 study found a shrinking of the hippocampus among people of certain religions, Koenig, a co-author of the study, points out that no one has replicated that work yet.
So where does that leave non-believers?
"Out of luck, I guess," Koenig joked. "Actually, I would suspect that people doing the types of things like religious people do -- socializing, doing similarly complex cognitive tasks, would have similar benefits. But it is interesting that religion provides that whole package of things that people can adopt and pursue over time."
While a January study published in the journal Brain Connectivity identified specific networks of the brain used to contemplate religious beliefs, suggesting that some people may be "hard-wired" to be religious, the opposite -- that religious belief begets a healthier brain -- has not been shown. Research has instead focused on long-term religious activity, not belief.