Religion Makes People Happier

| 4/16/2008 2:28:36 PM

Tags: Religious and Happiness, Happy Religion, Christian Happiness, Science Happiness, Religion Views,

Happy BuddhaA recent study suggests that religious people are happier than non-believers. The study, reported on the blog The Daily Galaxy, found that religious people are better able to cope with bad situations, including unemployment or the loss of a loved one. Professor Andrew Clark, from the Paris School of Economics, and co-author Dr. Orsolya Lelkes, from the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, began by researching an entirely different topic—the unemployment benefits in different European countries. Eventually, the researchers came to the conclusion that religious people were less psychologically harmed by unemployment than non-religious people. They do admit, however, that a number of other factors could play a roll, including genetics and the familial upbringing.


Bennett Gordon

Image by Brian Jeffery Beggerly, licensed under Creative Commons.

UPDATE: It turns out that religion doesn’t make people happy, money does. In spite of a considerable amount of evidence to the contrary, a recent study, reported in the New York Times, found that “money indeed tends to bring happiness, even if it doesn’t guarantee it.”

Agree? Disagree? Discuss it in the Utne Salons.

3/23/2009 4:28:47 PM

Debates on religion and related matters are always passionate: to have faith that then helps you deal with your issues is no different from paying someone thousands of dollars so you can vent, non? This was a research that started with something very 'unreligious' but just happened to establish that religious people were dealing with their issues better:even if it's a 'social' generalisation, it's findings from a research! I acknowledge those who've suffered at the hands of trusted family members; church leaders; natural disasters, the thousands who die in the annual monsoon rains, etc = however unfortunate these are, that's all part of the package of being alive in this day and age like the unemployment issue that initiated this research.

virginia demers
4/25/2008 12:18:16 PM

Hmmmm . . . 1. I am religious: I go to church, I try to practice spiritual behaviors and awareness. And all that is an important part of who I am. 2. Most of the time I'm pretty happy. For one thing, partly because of my religion (though I realize there are other paths to the same insight)I realize I am blessed and I feel grateful for health, a decent job, a safe neighborhood, a daughter who is both relatively successful and relatively happy (at 28), a great husband, food, shelter, clothes, interests, decent serotonin (sp?) levels, a chance to express myself . . . So here's what I think. Most of the great saints (many at any rate) have come from privilege equal to or greater than my own. Happiness begins with freedom from want. I suspect that, except for people I would call saints, the destitute and the hungry and the seriously and hopelessly ill are not happy. From the basis of health and security, happiness may improve with habits like gratitude and generosity, compassion and community. Those experiences may come from religion but may equally come from somewhere else. Plenty of religious people (churchgoers, proseletyzers) are not particularly happy. Many don't have any spiritual practice (even prayer eludes some). A great many are neither forgiving nor compassionate and fail to be at all grateful. All that detracts from happiness in my book. I believe Buddha is right that desire is the root of unhappiness. I also believe that those who truly seek spiritually are more likely to transcend desires. So, in that sense, they may be more truly happy. That can be done with or without god and with or without religious practice. So it's a draw, in my book. And may be beside the point. I don't seek God because I want to be happy. I seek "god" because it's a built in part of who I am. Following that definitely improves my happiness quotient some of the time and it has been known to bring grief and trouble along t

4/22/2008 2:45:16 PM

I like it Rod. Or a neuroscientist saying, "You're horribly depressed, look at these readings!" That'd take the smile off a person's face.

rod paynter
4/22/2008 9:26:48 AM

Mark - What a box you've got yourself in! How will you ever know if you're not truly delusional? Happiness is an internal state. Self-report, however unreliable, is the only way that we can find out about it. Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I see the day when a neurologist takes her wires off someone's head and says "You are so happy!" to some hapless, miserable subject. :>)

colin kline_3
4/21/2008 7:24:21 PM

Religion makes MOST people happy ? What kind of social statistic is this, that omits the millions that have suffered under the assault of pedophiles, cultish dictators, megalomaniacs, twisted barbarians, sadistic tormentors, psychotic masochists, sexual deviates ... Every one has a duty of care to their fellow man. Religious leaders have that duty multiplied more. Their bishops have that duty increased thrice. Their archbishops in quadruple. The cardinals by a power of five. The pope thus has a responsibility to the power of six, and instead shuffles and hides criminal priests from the law, and wastes others money on legal fees, not his money to embezzle, in defending these parasites. May he burn six times longer and more painfully in hell.

4/21/2008 4:49:46 PM

I'm sorry, but this article is utter bilge and piffle, as is the study that it reports. I see people self-reporting as happy, I do not see any objective measurement of the same. I do not see any mechanism employed to weed out the truly happy from those who are simply delusional about their current situation. I do not see any mechanism to eliminate differences in social assistance programs in Europe and those elsewhere. After all, if you have a welfare system to fall back on in times of economic hardship, unemployment may not be as nearly a cause of distress as in places that have more limited safety nets. I do not see any control groups or double-blind assessments or actual psychological experiments taking place; I see a study that draws a sweeping conclusion from a limited data set. Furthermore, even if it is true that religious people are happier than their non-religious counterparts, does that make the religious people right? If so, which ones? And about what? The self-satisfied smugness of the religiously-liberal/moderate is both arrogant and unjustified. If you want to understand why non-religious people seem to be unhappy, at least here in the U.S., try studying the uncritical acceptance of and deference granted to religious claims by the media and our politicians. Intelligence and wisdom are fleeting; dumb, it seems, lasts forever.

steve andrews
4/21/2008 2:51:59 PM

I've been poor, I am now quite well off. I've been down really hard and up really high. The whole time I've never participated in what we would call a "religion" and I don't believe in God. I was brought up without it. I would say overall I've grown to be a positive, happy person and made the best of what I've lived through. While we have little or no control over many elements of our lives, it is how we deal with the unknown and the adversity that helps us to better understand who we can be. A belief in the strengths of the human will doesn't have to be supported by a belief in a "Greater power".

4/21/2008 12:55:54 PM

I think it's a mainly a matter of people accepting there are things they have no control over. Non-religious people are more oriented towards rationalism - the idea that there's a logical explanation for everything, which may also lead to the belief that if one knows *why* something happens, one can prevent it from happening in the future - or have someone to blame if it does.

4/21/2008 12:41:48 PM

Happy people are mature people, people that can manage their emotions and build their life understanding what makes them happy and what makes them unhappy. In my own personal experience some of the most faithful people I know are also the most malcontent and unhappy same as the most agnostic. The happier people really don't put much importance on idealistic believes .. they tend to focus on the here and now.