Don’t let anyone call Vridar an anti-religion blog anymore. Having just listened to the podcast Does religion make you happier? on the ABC God Forbid program I have seen the light.
In the program the PERMA model for happiness was discussed. I can understand religious people meeting the PERM of that model:
- P – Positive Emotion
- E – Engagement
- R – Relationships
- M – Meaning
In addition to those, here are three possibly more immediately practical reasons religion makes people happier and live longer:
1. Religion teaches self-discipline, self-control, self-restraint, giving up the immediate pleasures for a longer term benefit. And people who have higher self-esteem and are more content with life are those who achieve success and success is generally related to one’s self-discipline in life.
2. Religion teaches that there is someone watching you 24/7 and that makes it easier for you to exercise self-control and be good. The aim is not always fear of Big Brother (recall that totalitarian states have less crime) but also the desire to please that Big Eye in the Sky, the loving father, or mother, watching over you for your good. And by pleasing that Big Meaningful Other in your life you feel good. And the self-discipline … see #1 above.
3. Religious affiliation generally provides a person with a far wider network of friends, companions, supports than they might otherwise have. Recall Rodney Stark’s argument in this book on the growth of Christianity that Christians attracted positive attention when they were found to be far more likely to survive the plagues. The Christian networks provided care and soup for the ill so they were more likely to recover than many others.
This is not the first time I’ve said nice things about the religious experience. I’m sure I’ve posted before about the stats indicating the happiest people are those who believe in God and enjoy watching soap operas. But more seriously I’ve also posted a serious list of positives that I took out of my own cult experience. I think it is important to recognize the positive in ones experiences, not just the negatives, to assist with a healthy response and recovery.
So let no one say I try not to be fair.
Now. If only I could bring myself to believe . . . . .