Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Religion = Happiness?

Being religious could mean you’re a happier person, according to a study. It seems that religion could provide you with a “buffer” against life’s disappointments and problems.

Obviously I have a tendency to be a little biased here – my religious beliefs have got me through a lot of problems with my sanity (more or less) intact. Of course, I have no way of knowing if I would have got through them in exactly the same way without having religious beliefs – it is an unrepeatable experiment!
However, I would agree that generally, religious people seem to have a more positive outlook on life - a way of smoothing out life’s little ups and downs. I’m not saying that everyone with a religious belief can do that, or even that those without one can’t. And of course, people who believe that the world is damned and that the apocalypse is coming probably are less affected by the minor bumps in the road of life. After all, so long as they’re saved...

Back to my point. I think religion does provide a comfort factor, although I think this varies from religion to religion. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for it.

However, a ‘scientific’ study seems to me to be impossible. How can we quantify happiness? How can we identify what causes it? As people find different things make them happy, how can a study like this ever come out with a sensible answer?!
Equally, religion can be the cause of so much misery. How can religion improve our happiness if it is sometimes the cause of war or persecution?

What do you think?

3 comments:

Richard said...

Perhaps being "religious"* just makes one more inclined to exaggerate one's happiness whilst participating in scientific studies?

* do they really mean religious, or do they mean spiritual?

corfubob said...

Such 'studies' are not always intellectually unbiased. They are expensive and too often a tool to promote someone's agenda. You do nothing Mylissa to promote truth by quoting them even if you are in agreement with the basic finding. Your own comments of the difficulty of defining the terms seem intelligent to me except that defining 'happiness', while hard, is not the issue I take. Suggesting a correlation between two undefined entities is simply dishonest.

Replace either of the two terms with 'simple minded' and see how easy it would be to believe a correlation. As Richard asks 'do they mean spiritual? What they meant is anyone's guess.

Asylum Seeker said...

I love these studies, because they generally get the same results ("religious" people label subjectively label themselves as happy more), but they never seem to worry about the most secondary variable: church. That is to say, being "religious" in Western society is almost synonymous with being an active member in religious social institutions. And, why is this an issue? Because we have, through a variety of methods, determined that social interaction correlates with positive emotion and perspectives on life. Unless they are controlling for the fact that the "religious" in our culture have that extra social network and fully embrace it, then there really isn't a whole lot to say on the matter.