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Are atheists less happy than believers?

The latest Reader’s Digest (hey, I’m stuck at my parent’s house with nothing to read!) has an article titled “Why We’re Happy,” and of course the #1 reason listed is “faith.” They cite the General Social Survey and claim 43% of religious folks are happy, compared to only 23% of secular ones (along with a bunch of more specific stats). They conclude by saying “it’s clear that faith is a common value among happy Americans.”

As an atheist, this whole argument got my hackles up. I’ve seen other studies (conducted by religious organizations) make similar claims, and I’m familiar with the great analogy about drunks. Still, while I would assume the nonreligious would be more realistic (rather than delusional) and that would have an effect on a study of happiness (the nonreligious might have a more dim view of the future if we don’t act to save the planet, for example, while the religious don’t care since they’re going to heaven anyway), I find it hard to believe as a group we’re all miserable, and I can’t stand hearing someone religious flaunt these “statistics” around. What can we say to refute these assertions? Are there any other studies with more positive results for us?

Posted: June 21st 2008

Dave Hitt www

Why the hell would you ask me that? Who do you think you are? Stop tracking dirt across my nice clean floor, don’t let the door hit you on the way out and get off of my lawn before I call the police. – - –
True Believers need to believe that anyone who has discarded the superstitions they love are miserable as a result. “Happiness” is a subjective term that can be squeezed into any definition you like, then conclude that Group R has more of it than Group A.

Reality is a bit nastier than fantasy, so it’s not difficult to frame questions in ways that make realists look more miserable than believers. But it’s a highly individual thing. In my personal, completely unscientific observations, atheists are better adjusted and more at peace with themselves than most extremely religious people, who are constantly worried about offending their Sky Daddy. Compared with people who have moderate religious beliefs, we’re about the same on the happiness scale.

Posted: October 18th 2008

See all questions answered by Dave Hitt

logicel

Studies at present do show correlation (not necessarily causation) between religion and happiness. No need to fret, because religion does not have a monopoly on such a correlation as health and social activity have as much a moderate connection with happiness as religion does.

However, beating even religion, health, and social activity are love, job satisfaction, and your past (personality and subjective well-being are actively being studied at present) which can have a significant connection with happiness.

So, no need to put all your happy eggs in the religion basket.

“Read more.”:http://www.mymindanswers.com/2008/02/scientific-causes-of-happiness.html“hyperlink“Read

Posted: June 22nd 2008

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Maxx Power www

The most important thing to keep in mind is that, while faith may indeed act as some kind of cathartic way of maintaining one’s own levels of happiness, it doesn’t suggest for a second that it is true in the least. Theoretically speaking a child who sucks a dummy when they are younger could continue this behaviour into adulthood. True they may be “happier” because of this, but most of us would recognise that sucking a dummy in the middle of a board meeting isn’t suitable behaviour.

The major difference of course between having faith and sucking a dummy is that having faith is considered to be socially acceptable. But it’s just as childish to ignore such evidence as the self-contradictory nature of the Bible, scientific evidence of evolution and the illogical assumptions of a God who is at the same time all-loving yet somehow allows His own creations to be subject to an eternity of torture for things as petty as which sexual group they choose to sleep with. It’s the equivalent of our theoretical dummy-sucker pushing his fingers in his ears and refusing to listen to criticism.

As the old saying goes, ignorance is bliss. In my opinion it is probably true that those with religious faith are more happy than non-believers, but at the cost of their rationality. They go through life believing there is an invisible father-figure guiding their every action, and that upon their death they’ll get to live in peace and harmony for eternity. If it is indeed true that the religious are happier, it is because of a false pretense towards an unfounded sense of ignorant happiness brought about by delusions about the nature of the Universe.

Posted: June 22nd 2008

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SmartLX www

First of all, the Reader’s Digest has its own agenda, which is broadly laid out in now-excised portions of the Wikipedia “article”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reader%27s_digest (click the History tab).

Secondly, even if faith were proven beyond doubt to be beneficial, that does not mean the objects of faith are true.

Thirdly, even if all atheists accepted that faith is beneficial, one cannot simply begin to believe for the sake of one’s health. One must actually be convinced by something, and as my second point says, the benefits of faith are not at all convincing in this respect.

Finally, even if it were possible to convince oneself of something for the sake of one’s health, would we want to convince ourselves of something we have no good reason to accept? For all the emphasis we put on facts and evidence, would we willingly swallow what we thought to be a lie…as a multi-vitamin?

Posted: June 21st 2008

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Reed Braden www

Beware of statistics that attempt to map out feelings or opinions. Because our minds are so fickle, opinion polls cannot really be hard data. In the week that the survey was taken, something in the irreligious community may have been bringing people down. Maybe this was the week that Florida looked like it was preparing to pass an anti-evolution bill.

Also, the questions on these surveys can be quite vague.

1.) Are you faithful?

2.) Are you happy?

What does that mean? Am I happy because I don’t have faith? Am I happy with myself? Am I happy about the world in general? This question is so vague that I don’t know what the testers want me to say! Thank Zeus this question is just hypothetical, but I have seen many surveys with questions just like this hypothetical one. Many times on these surveys, they try to make the questions apply to everyone by making them so vague that they ask nothing of substance.

Also, where did they find their faithless people? I’ve only met a small handful of generally unhappy Atheists and agnostics. Most of the faithless people I know are very happy and content with themselves.

But the one thing you must remember, that the whopping majority of Reader’s Digest readers probably won’t even consider, is this: Happiness does not equal correctness. Many Scientologists claim that their “religion” is dedicated to finding true happiness. That doesn’t make their world-view any more correct.

Don’t trust every statistic you read in a magazine. In fact, trust very little of them. I don’t know if Atheists are generally more unhappy than theists, but I’m sceptical of that claim judging by the Atheists I know.

Posted: June 21st 2008

See all questions answered by Reed Braden

 

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