Happiness and Religion

Religion has been described as the opiate of the masses. A recent study finds that religious people are much happier than others. Those “others” are all of us non-believers not going to church and not talking to a powerful imaginary friend. Are we missing out on a good opiate that increases happiness in our lives?

The study doesn’t give a clear answer:

The correlation between religiosity and happiness is clear, but explanations of the connection and possible causal relationship are less clear. One theory suggests that the social support that religious communities can provide may be a key factor contributing to increased happiness, since “religious Americans are more apt to be involved in their communities.” Yet even here, the study found “that those who attend religious services often are happier than their peers with similar levels of involvement in the community.”

I always assumed it was the common bond and support of a community that added to their happiness. The study has been repeated and still holds true so there must be something to it. It obviously doesn’t prove religion is right but it does show religion provides an extra something to people’s happiness that simply not being religious doesn’t replace. It’s something to think about during religious holidays with our secular observances. The article ends with:

One could almost predict that many of those celebrating Christmas will be merry, those observing Hanukkah will be happy, but those only recognizing the “holidays” will have a little less cause for rejoicing.

I’d like to see a study that delves into those that simply drop religion and ground themselves in humanity and atheism. I like to think I’m not just that kind of person. I still live in awe of the universe and the mystery of our existence.

Where atheism tears downs the wonder and miracle of it all, agnosticism simply says we don’t understand it. The human described gods aren’t the answer but no god at all isn’t necessarily the answer either. I just don’t know. Freethought should allow for all of us to believe as we choose as we’re all just trying to figure it out.

I marvel at the mystery of it all during winter solstice, Yule, Christmas, or whatever this season is to me. I’m thankful to be alive and have my family and friends. I hope that whatever makes you happy with religions or no religions isn’t hurting anyone else and that you all are free to be yourselves. I wish for freethought and joy for everyone during this winter season!

winter happiness

6 thoughts on “Happiness and Religion

  1. What an excellent blog, happy to have found it.

    I would be interested to see a study that explores the relationship between happiness and certainty/uncertainty.

    Are the religious, or committed atheists, happier because their conclusions give them a sense of order, a sense of having satisfied the incurable human need to know?

    Or, do the conclusions and certainty tend to strip out some of the also needed mystery much as say, decades of marriage may do?

    Perhaps the meaningful boundary line is less between theism and atheism, than it is between certainty and uncertainty?

    Thanks for this place, looking forward to future articles.

  2. I’m also happy to have found this blog. I’d like to stick around.

    A lot to think about here, though I doubt I’ll ever know it in this lifetime.
    There are so many angles on happiness and religion…
    For example, are people more likely to exit from religion if they don’t feel happy? To me, that seems like a probable factor.

    It should possibly also be noted that people who are happy generally believe that they chose, created, or are otherwise “worthy” of their happiness, while the unhappy generally don’t feel like it’s their fault.
    I don’t know who’s right (and it may change from scenario to scenario), but people do like to see themselves in whatever light makes themselves seem best. The same goes for the rich and the poor, but situations like that are too complicated for me to pretend I have all the answers.

    Perhaps all that feeds into the religious being happy, somehow.

    I’m not sure I have a point here…I’m just rambling.

  3. The unbeliever is often he/she who can’t believe what he/she finds. Any type of persecution for a belief or for the lack of one is backwards and uncivilized. To argue religion with intent to sway to one’s own creed is a waste of words: that’s why people take to the sword.


  4. Most of us, in the West, were raised fearing God. We’re free men and women but It takes some thinking to overcome such “education.” A great many of those we know will never stop fearing.

    It’s difficult to attain freedom from the religion of Jesus. Yet, we’re fortunate that religion was acquired by our culture from the East, not issued by our very development. To think out of the religious box is a lot harder for Muslims and Jews, whose culture is their book.


  5. Jack, the unbeliever AND believer are both people who don’t believe what others claim. It’s not just the unbeliever who “can’t” believe. I agree that any type of persecution for a belief or the lack of one is backwards and uncivilized. Arguing about religion with intent to sway to one’s own creed can be a waste of words with anyone entrenched to their viewpoint. Otherwise a dialog could be useful. People taking to the sword where words fail are horrible and I would consider them to be the definition of evil.

    I didn’t struggle too hard with attaining freedom from the religion of Jesus. There was some fear of God I had to overcome as I challenged “him” to reveal anything to help prove itself. Instead, my prayers and reading of the Bible revealed silence and contradictions. In my heart I now believe we truly don’t know the cause of existence if it was caused at all.

  6. Jeff:

    When I read the Bible, I found tales of incredible “History” written in retrospective to help primitive tribes make sense of their present and give government to their brethren by fear. The books are also x-rated.

    According to Indian poetry, “The purpose of life is living and the only wisdom is happiness.” Even the model of the atom is poetry, an image, because nobody has seen the electrons revolve around anything; yet, it works for us: we can only continue to observe and theorize.

    I can honestly say that I don’t know. If anything, Time will tell.


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