Are Religious People Happier?

by jp1692 45 Replies latest members private

  • jp1692

    Not too long ago a friend and I were discussing various aspects of our recovery from being in and leaving the JW cult.

    As part of that discussion, he asked me a question that I had wondered about several years before (while I was still a kool-aid drinking elder), but had dismissed it because it caused me too much cognitive dissonance. I had seen an article in a magazine (I think it was New Yorker, but can't be sure) that claimed that religious people were happier than those that were not. This was, of course, very confusing to me at the time because I found it hard to believe that people that were in "false religions" could be happier than us. You remember: "We're Jehovah's Witnesses," and we are "the happiest people on earth!"

    So I left it alone for a while, because it just didn't compute. It couldn't compute while I was still trying to believe WT theology.

    Fast forward to the present ... when my friend brought the subject up more recently ... and I was not only ready, but actually eager to consider and discuss the subject, this time at some depth.

    The question is this:

    Are Religious People Happier?

    Since my friend and I had the discussion I have done quiet a bit of research, contemplation and self-reflection on the subject. For those that are interested, I am linking an essay which I have written on the subject:

    Although I would appreciate any and all that read my essay--and I welcome your comments, feedback and suggestions, don't feel like you have to read my essay to post on this thread. I'm just curious to hear your thoughts on the subject. That alone would make me happy.


  • scratchme1010

    Thank you. I scanned through the essay, read a few portions, but plan to read it completely later. Seems like a very interesting topic an essay.

    Did you include anything on people who are not really happy or that feel forced to give the appearance of being happy? I read a book on spiritual abuse and one of the signs of misuse and abuse of spirituality and religion is showing a glazed happy face to the world. it'l,be interesting to explore that angle too (maybe to give more context to people who have a more genuine sense of joy).

    Either way, thanks for sharing.

  • jp1692
    Scratch: Did you include anything on people who are not really happy or that feel forced to give the appearance of being happy?
    That's a great question!

    Although this was not the main focus of the essay, it is an important element.

    I do address the issue of religious bias as an important thing to take into consideration when evaluating claims made by religious people regarding how happy they are. Besides the point that "happiness" is fairly subjective and difficult to measure scientifically, it also should be obvious that self-reported levels of “happiness” are always of questionable validity.

  • NewYork44M

    I don't know about "people," whoever they are. But I know I am much happier without religion. Having a religion as a chain around my neck was dreadful.

  • David_Jay

    I am a Jew, and I say "no." But those without aren't any happier either.

    Religion in and of itself does not guarantee an extra amount of happiness or bring any extra amount of sadness to anyone.

    Like anything else, joy and sadness can't come from things. Religion is no more or less an object than is money. Many religious people are miserable and make others miserable. I have been made very miserable by religious people. My people, the Jews, were made very miserable by Catholics during the Spanish Inquisition, for example. There you see religion causing great sadness and pain, suffering, torture, even death.

    Atheism can't make people happy either. It can make people sad. I am an adult survivor of child abuse, and my parents were secular Jews. They didn't believe in anything in particular. In their lack of belief in God they were miserable people who used drugs, were often drunk, slept around, argued with one another, and beat their child black and blue. It didn't bring them any freedom to have no religion in their life. One might argue they might have been worse off for it.

    But people can be happy, whether they are religious or non-religious. The fact that they have a religion or don't have one may or may not have anything to do with how happy or sad of a life they lead. It's what they do with their lives and the things that make up their lives, including their religion or lack thereof, that matters.

    Blaming religion or a lack thereof, or crediting religion or lack thereof I think has to do with the person. Christians want to make disciples, some anti-religious people want to discourage people from choosing religion. So Christians will credit their religion, and anti-religious people will discredit it.

    But I think happy people know how to be happy with what their lives are made of, and unhappy people will be unhappy regardless with what they do or do not have in life.

    And people with an agenda will be biased and bend the truth in order to sell you their bill of goods.

  • never a jw
    never a jw

    drunkards tend to be happier when they are drunk, drug addicts are happier when they are high. Yeah, it makes sense, religious people are happier than non religious. But I want none of that happiness from drugs, alcohol or fantasy.

  • JRK


  • snugglebunny

    JW's would like to think that others think they're happier than them.

    I've noticed how they switch into a sort of "Hail fellow well met" mode when they see one another. Other times they're just like anyone else.

    A sort of "I'm considerably happier than yow" thing. Sorry brummies, no offence.

  • Ruby456

    humans are strange complex creatures who seem to find it necessary to escape this life - hence the need for something more than this life. So I think it part of life to be both happy and unhappy. For myself just knowing this - that I am a complex person is enough to motivate me to find what things make me happy (JP I agree about mindfulness).

    but I know for sure that we all have a sense of justice and knowing that people in other countries are unhappy because of their conditions is enough to rob most people of some of their happiness. Religion with its focus on justice for all tends to alleviate such feelings. However, a sense of spirituality could help one develop a sense of justice for all but as you say JP it will take much hard work.

  • Luo bou to
    Luo bou to

    Is the pig with the gold tooth happier than the pig that has not got one


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