I am not religious. Merely, I oppose to it often. But now that I look into the life of my great-grand mother, I discover what a hard life it must have been. Large families, poverty, uncertainty about jobs and income. A lot of children died young, there were a lot of diseases people could die of. Mothers that give birth year after year to yet another child, not enough food for everyone, failing hygiene... Death never was far away, the fear of it was big and very real. I can image you need more than just your family to get you through life. Family that also had very hard lifes. You need something that explains it all, that you don't do it for nothing. Because what can you do? When you lose four out of your eight children in just one year and also your wife... when you have to work hard en bring your children to family, so you lose your complete family.... How do you go on? How do you cope? I can imagine it helps if you can think it is 'God's will', that they are in God's hands, that it may be a test of God, that you get the load you can carry. Especially this last one must help: He knows that you can handle this.
The alternative is to get very mad at this God, the God that took your wife and children. The church was very powerful back than and merely everybody believed, so it was not common to step out of it. On the other hand, the church took good care of his people. People from the same church helped each other. Church was more or less family. For this reason only you kind of had to take part in the church, you could lose your church family and your own family if you said church goodbye. A lot of religious people act like that: if you're not with us, you're against us. The different beliefs lived strictly apart from each other.
Church was big and powerful, live revolved around church in those days. You were born within one believe and married within this group. Going to another church was not done, not without changing your whole life and separating from your community. There already were a lot of farewells in those days, with lots of people dying young. Religion was something completely organic back than. It was a help, gave you power. I hope it helped them in the hard lifes they lived.