Religious Believers Happier than Atheists and Agnostics: Study

Prof. Andrew Clark of the Paris School of Economics, and Dr. Orsolya Lelkes of the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research presented their research at the conference of the Royal Economic Society in Coventry. They said that religious believers are happier overall than atheists or agnostics. More than this, regular church attendance and an active prayer life make people even happier than passive belief alone.

Data gleaned from thousands of Europeans and British people say that religion can help people cope with life’s disappointments and difficulties including the most stressful, such as the death of loved ones, divorce and unemployment. Religious believers have higher levels of satisfaction and suffer less psychological damage from life’s troubles.

Meanwhile, church attendance in Britain and elsewhere continues its decades-long decline. Recent figures show a 500,000 fall in typical Sunday attendance in Britain since the last comparable research in 1998. Although these numbers can be seen most clearly in attendance at the Church of England and despite what is being called the “anomalous” and probably temporary rise in attendance at Catholic churches caused by an influx of eastern European immigrants to the UK, Catholic church attendance has also plummeted since the high point of the early 1960’s.

lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/mar/08031807.html

I do not look at that website, but I found it while reading a story from that site someone linked here.

“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question.” - John Stuart Mill

I prefer to read papers from the Brookings Institution instead of going to Mass. I rather be a discontented wonk than a happy religious person.

It’s easy to be happy when you live in make-believe land.

I guess we all get to make our own choices in life, so you are certainly free to do what you want.

Now, my question is: why is it better to be a discontented wonk?
Obviously, there must be something else going on that would cause you to be a discontented wonk over a happy religious person. What is it?

I am asking this, because as an economist, I assume that people make decisions in order to maximize their well-being. If you are willing to trade-off happiness (which is a good thing), that would only be rational if you got something else in return. What would that be?

The truth. Perhaps religious people are happier than nontheists, but that doesn’t make their religions true.

I can’t speak for the OP, but I’d don’t see how my believing in a religion that I can’t accept intellectually would make me happier. That would be like trying to make Murphy’s Law work in reverse: I can’t wash my car just to make it rain.

While ignorance may be bliss, ignorance isn’t generally considered desirable. Similarly, people with certain mental deficiencies seem to be happy, but I don’t have any desire to lose cognitive capacity. It’s the same way with religion from my perspective.

Of course, I never addressed the isse of the truth of religion. I was addressing the point made by the OP that he would be miserable as a wonk than to be happy and religious. Clearly, happiness is a good thing, so I wanted to know what he expects to get in return for giving up happiness? Why is giving up happiness a good deal for him?

I can’t speak for the OP, but I’d don’t see how my believing in a religion that I can’t accept intellectually would make me happier. That would be like trying to make Murphy’s Law work in reverse: I can’t wash my car just to make it rain.

Of course, that is not what the OP said, and so that is not relevent to the discussion. The reason you claim you don’t believe in God is that you don’t think it would make you happy. That at least is consistent with my claim that happiness is desirable, and that one shouldn’t give it up unless one got something in return.

While ignorance may be bliss, ignorance isn’t generally considered desirable. Similarly, people with certain mental deficiencies seem to be happy, but I don’t have any desire to lose cognitive capacity. It’s the same way with religion from my perspective

Are religious people ignorant? Do you have evidence of this or is this just some idle speculation?

I won’t speak on behalf of the OP either, who appears to have trouble writing (“I rather”?) but if he/she wants to remain discontented, that is, of course, a choice. I wouldn’t call it a good choice. And there are those that would classify certain “wonk” characteristics as a religion of sorts. So maybe what we have here is an unhappy religious wonk :smiley:

Religious people are not ignorant. Some of the most brilliant, intelligent, and educated among us are religious. Religious people, specifically Catholics are happy, I think, because they are truly free. Speaking only for myself, I have experienced both being away from God and not being away/being closer, and closer is better and is a happier place to be.

I would agree that just because someone is happy does not make their religion true. Our religion is true, period. Practicing our religion does produce happiness. Let’s not confuse cause and effect.

My challenge to those who doubt is to “try it”. Those that choose to remain on the sidelines and simply critique never experience the reality of faith. It’s too easy to be doubtful about something you truly know nothing about.

You’re basically asking if I’d buy a new car for $20K when I have a serviceable beater and only $10 to my name. The new car has lots of cool-sounding features – some of which I know for a fact are nice, like being a part of a community, and some of which I don’t know if the salesman is even telling the truth about, like going to heaven – but features or no features, it is not within my grasp. I’m broke.

And faith does not come on loan.

[quote=MelanieAnne]My challenge to those who doubt is to “try it”. Those that choose to remain on the sidelines and simply critique never experience the reality of faith. It’s too easy to be doubtful about something you truly know nothing about.
[/quote]

What about those of us who have tried ‘it’? And are you going to reciprocate and try out skepticism and see how it fits you?

Been there, done that. Back home where I belong.

But it’s good of you to ask. :slight_smile:

Now it’s your turn.

[quote=stinkcat_14]Are religious people ignorant? Do you have evidence of this or is this just some idle speculation?
[/quote]

Well, we’re all ignorant of something. I, for one, know precious little about economics, amongst other things. My point wasn’t to call religious people ignorant any more than it was to call them mentally deficient. It was intended more as an analogy.

Some could be called ignorant, although mistaken would probably be a better term. Some are mistaken because they believe the Earth to be roughly 6,000 years old (while this isn’t the typical opinion among Catholics, it is still embarrassingly common among some Christians). Some are mistaken because they believe there is evidence for something there is not.

Even still, ‘mistaken’ isn’t a label I think I need to apply to most Christians. They simply believe in something that I (for numerous reasons) cannot.

[quote=MelanieAnne]My challenge to those who doubt is to “try it”.
[/quote]

I’ve tried it. I was once quite a fervent Catholic. I prayed the Rosary every day. I went to Mass daily. I prayed the Divine Office often. I read most of the well-known theological and spiritual writers frequently.

Through a long process I’ve described elsewhere on this forum, I came to realize that Christianity was improbable at best. And so my current status which can probably be best described as agnostic.

Your case is interesting to me. Especially since on this board you see so many who can say they took an path almost exactly opposite than what you describe.

None of my business, of course, and I haven’t yet found your story, but this may not be a permanent destination you have arrived at, just part of your journey. Sounds like a real dessert to me, but Mother Theresa apparently lived decades without feeling the presence of a God.

As for Christianity being improbable, that’s my favorite thing about it. :wink:

Much like you – been there, done that :slight_smile: And I’m much happier and more comfortable now that I’m honest with myself and with others about my lack of any kind of faculty of faith in the supernatural.

No, that is not what I was asking. The OP said that he would rather be an unhappy wonk, than a happy religious person. He did say that he is unhappy because he cannot believe, he said that of the two choices, he would prefer the outcome with less happiness.

In my opinion, the only way it would be rational to prefer less happiness is if there is something else he values more than happiness. I was just asking what that was.

Faith is opening one’s heart and mind to God. This is how you can experience Him.

You are happy now, but I challenge you to find joy.

If you describe yourself as an agnostic, then I would suggest that it would be inconsistent to label religious believers as ignorant or mistaken. Because, for all you know, they might be right.

Ah, I see. I am happy as an unbeliever, and was miserable trying to believe, so I guess I can’t really answer that.

[quote=buffalo]Faith is opening one’s heart and mind to God. This is how you can experience Him.
[/quote]

What good is an opened door when no guests show up?

You are happy now, but I challenge you to find joy.

I just walked over to the bedroom for a moment and watched my spouse sleeping peacefully. Challenge accepted and thoroughly fulfilled.

Happiness is like icing on the cake: sweeter and more colorful, but the real substance is in being at peace with oneself and the world, loving with all one’s heart, and having every evening the satisfaction of being another day along in a life well-lived. Perhaps God is a part of this as well; perhaps not. I’m just reporting what I see from here. Perhaps the real recipe for the ‘cake’ has some ingredients my copy doesn’t – but then, I’ve always loved flourless cakes :wink:

I am happy believing in God. I am unhappy following all these rules dictated by the Church.

What rules are those? What specific rules did the Church make up by herself?

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