Are religious people happier than others?


Definition of happiness

The author in chapter 12 makes a distinction between happiness and pleasure with a primitive point of view in a sense that previously happiness was considered as something more good and a highly emotional state, where as pleasure was considered to be related to sensual pleasure. Happiness is respected as a high state of emotion and with this respect, the author finally defines happiness as " a condition of continuous or constantly rec-curing pleasures of whatever class predominating largely over pains." (pg 72). Hence, the writer points that happiness is a state in which pleasures are dominant over pains.

Ward, Lester F ( 1892) pg 71-74.. In The psychic factors of civilization, Ward, Lester F., . Ginn & Company,

Ward Lester F. was the president of American Sociological Association and he completed his education from George Washington university, United states, Washington DC. He was a pioneer to promote introduction to Sociology courses in American higher education. He worked at Brown University as a professor of Sociology.

Rutt Veenhoven defines happiness in a bit more philosophical way saying that "happiness is conceived here as the degree to which an individual judges the overall quality of life favourably." ( pg,2)
What he means by this is that the attitude of an individual towards his life is the ultimate determinant of happiness. Happiness is defined as "life-satisfactory" by the author.

Social Indicators Research Vol.24 "Is Happiness relative?" ,Rutt Veenhoven pg -2 1991.

Rutt Veenhoven is a Dutch sociologist and a pioneer of on scientific study of happiness. he has received many awards such as best annaul SIR paper award in 2000 , best annaul JOHS paper award in 2009

Common conditions for happiness

Happiness varies from mere contentment to inner enjoyment which enables us to conclude that it may be eligible to require several conditions. The common or general conditions for happiness according to Lester are as follows:
1. The first of these is health as he says that " unless the functions of body are in harmonious operation nothing worthy of name happiness can exist." (pg 72, Lester).
2. The second condition is freedom , more or less complete from pain. There are two types of pain; physical and emotional. in this condition the focus is on the emotional pain, as the physical condition comes under the condition of health. Examples of emotional pain include but are not limited to disappointment, grief, fear and regret which may be the possible result of unsatisfied wishes and desires which make happiness virtually impossible to attain.
3. The third condition according to Lester is our social condition. He argues that when we satisfy our needs we are happy. However, our social condition enables our desire for certain additional wants, creating more desires which may not all be satisfied. This ungratification of certain desires caused by social condition is detrimental towards happiness. Complete happiness is possible only when we are experiencing higher emotional pleasure based on our satisfaction of social,aesthetic,moral and intellectual desires.

Ward, Lester F 1892 pg 71-74.. In The psychic factors of civilization, Ward, Lester F., Ginn & Company,

Ward Lester F was the first president of American sociological association. he completed his education from George Washington university,USA,Washington DC. he was a pioneer to promote introduction to sociology courses in higher American education and he was a professor of Sociology at Brown University, United States.

The author in this article says that happiness is not relative, and to explain this he uses an analogy which was used by primitive Hindus and Egyptians. The analogy goes as follows "it has been said that the lotus, the sacred and expressive symbol in the religion of Hindus and Egyptians, that its seeds even before it germinates contains perfectly formed leaves, and the miniature representation of the perfected plant." ( pg-39). In other words, the author is trying to say that the seeds of perfect happiness are already inside of us; they are not external to us. Happiness lies on subjective factors. In Christianity it is said that happiness lies where heaven is and they view heaven as something external and above us. In the science of correspondence what lies above us are interior things. Even Rutt Veenhoven brings a critique to the happiness relativity theory. He argued that if happiness is relied only on material conditions, there is no possibility for permanent happiness because our social conditions consistently provide us with a higher desire of material goods and services.

Evans W F ( 1885) pg 39-46, the primitive mind cure: nature and power of faith " happiness health and where they are to be found" Boston HH Carter and Co. .

Evans W F was a new thought author and philosopher. he was a Methodist from 1838 to 1863.

Social Indicators Research Vol.24 "Is happiness relative?" pg 1-2 Rutt veenhoven 1991.

Rutt veenhoven is a Dutch sociologist and a pioneer of on scientific study of happiness. He has received many awards from International Society for Quality of Life Studies such as the Research Fellow Award in 1997 and distinguished QOL Researcher in 2001.

The Psychology of Happiness

Jonathan Haidth in this video explains the notion of the rider and the elephant to compare our " divided self". Haidth says that one self might approve on one thing but the second self doesn't have to agree with the first one. The analogy of the rider and the elephant helps us to understand it clearly. The first self is your rider that rides on the second self which is compared to the elephant. This analogy is taken from older civilizations who did not use cars but used animals for transportation. While riding on an animal when we order him to turn left or right there is uncertainty that the animal will follow the riders order correctly. Similarly, our second self may or may not follow our approvals and decisions made by the first self. Jonathan Haidth discusses his book " the happiness hypothesis" and provides an equation for happiness which is H=S+C+V.

H= Complete Happiness , S= Biological Set Point , C= Conditions of Living , V= Voluntarily Activities.

1. Biological set-point (S) : as our brain is made of cells and genes happiness in inherited to some degree in us and is changeable. Young people tend to be less happy than older people.

2. Conditions of Living (C) : the second factor addressed for happiness is the conditions in which people live. This factor encompasses material conditions and how much they matter for happiness. In poor countries money does matters for happiness but in the western culture the difference in happiness between rich class , middle-class and the working class is from 0.12 - 0.18. That is to say that happiness more relies on within not without.

3. Voluntarily Activities (V) : Jonathan Haidth being a positive psychologist emphasizes on this section a lot and suggests some ways in which our voluntary activities can increase our level of happiness. He starts with diagnose of our level of happiness on a reliable scale. The next step is to improve your strengths instead of working on your weakness. Improve your mental hygiene by reading optimistic books or by meditation, stop dieting and start doing more exercise and eat healthy food, improve your relations with other people by practising gratitude, having religious experiences increases our happiness to high level and maintains it for long time, spend some time with nature, the last and the most important become a part of a group or something larger than just you, like an organization.

Haidth in conclusion says that happiness comes from within. He mentions that the harmony (in other words having a good mental health) between the rider and the elephant , between you and other people, you and your work and finally the relation between you and something big for example god or a religious group all contribute to increase your happiness. They do this by instilling more meaning, importance and significance in one's life.

aspen ideas ' the psychology of happiness " aspen ideas festival 2011

jonathan david haidth is a social and positive psychologist who teaches ethics in new York university's stern school of business. His two famous writings are : The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006) and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012), which became a New York Times bestseller. he have a BA in philosophy from Yale university and then he did his Phd in psychology from university of Pennsylvania in 1992. he then studied cultural psychology from university of Chicago. Haidt won a Fulbright fellowship to fund three months of research on morality in Orissa, India. In 1995,

THEISM - Belief in God

definition :

theism stands for " belief in god or gods specifically a creator who is intervened in universe."

deism is other type of theism in which belief in god and gods is seen but that creator is not intervened in the universe

//oxford dictionary

Theism and happiness

Louis Pojman in his article " religion gives meaning to life" mentions that people can live an atheistic way of life and can still believe in god. If people believe in god and after life it gives them more meaning to live and to be happy. He says that if theism is true then it is possible for people to be more happy by considering the following things:
1. theism holds the view that good will win over evil and happiness will win over pain. In pain we have faith that god is with us and that faith helps us to reduce pain.
2. we will have a deeper motive for being moral and to have high altruism. As morality and altruism shows unconditional love it helps us to be more happy.
3. there is always a happy ending ( the divine comedy).

The author addresses death as the most important factor in our lives that causes pain and makes happiness in everything highly impossible, so if we believe in theism and life after death the sorrow of death is overcome by our faith in afterlife as death is not the ending itself. Concluding his article, Pojman says that "then it seems clear that the world of theist is far better and more satisfying to us…" ( pg-30).

Louis P. Pojman. (2008). (p. 27-30) " religion gives meaning to life " meaning of life, a reader third edition, E D Klemke and Steven M cham. oxford university press .

Louis Pojman recently retired as a professor in philosophy from U S military academy . he served university of Mississippi as a chair of philosophy department for 9 years. he has received many fellowships and awards some of them are as follows Exxon Fellow in Ethics and Medicine at Baylor Medical College, Houston, TX, 1985.Nominated by the Faculty of UTD for the Piper Award, 1984(A Prize Given for Outstanding Teaching in the University of Texas System)NEH Summer Seminar for College Teachers in Philosophy, 1981, University of Nebraska/Lincoln.Oxford University Fellowship, 1973-74.

This research article gives another outlook of how a theistic approach brings happiness. This study was conducted from a 2005-2009 Gallup World Poll, which a survey of people in more than 150 countries- was provided questions about religion association, respect, social support, negative and positive feelings and life satisfaction. (Diener, Tay & Myers, 2011). An example given is, “Religious affiliation appears to boost happiness and wellbeing in societies that fail to provide adequate food, jobs, health care, security and educational opportunities,”(Diener, Tay & Myers, 2011). This article also reveals that there are also reports in the U.S that more people claim they are religious in poorer states but they have less social support- their religiousness however, boosts their wellbeing and provides positive feelings compared to non-religious individuals. This research concludes that “The differences in religiousness between states is quite pronounced, the researchers found, with Mississippi reporting the highest (88) and Vermont the lowest (44) percent of people reporting that religion is an important part of their daily life.” (Diener, Tay & Myers, 2011) This research provides an outlook on how religion impacts their overall satiation with life. 68 Percent of people that were globally surveyed in this article, revealed that they were religious in some way.

Ed Diener, Louis Tay, David G. Myers. (2011). The religion paradox: If religion makes people happy, why are so many dropping out? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1037/a0024402 DOI:10.1037/a0024402

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2011). World survey links religion and happiness — for some. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from

Edward Diener, born in 1946 is an American psychologist, author and professor. He is one of the leading researchers in studying the topic of Subjective well-being (SWB). He is known for his research over the past 25 years on happiness — the measurement of well-being; temperament and personality influences on well-being; theories of well-being; income and well-being; and cultural influences on well-being. Louis Tay has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has also received a couple grants and has published many books, he is currently an assistant professor teaching an Industrial and Organizational psychology program at Purdue University. David G. Myers, born September 20, 1942 is a professor of psychology at Hope College in Michigan, United States and also the author of 17 books. In addition, he has received grants from the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Science Foundation and is a member of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society and the American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology. He is also the beneficiary of honorary doctorates from three different educational institutions.

The second article analyzes around 2 million tweets from 16,000 twitter accounts and reveals that Christians generally are more positively expressing emotions than atheists. As the article explains, "two independent paths predict differences in expressions of happiness: frequency of words related to an intuitive (vs. analytic) thinking style and frequency of words related to social relationships. These findings provide the first evidence that the relationship between religion and happiness is partially mediated by thinking style. This research also provides support for previous laboratory studies and self-report data, suggesting that social connection partially mediates the relationship between religiosity and happiness." (Ritter, Preston & Hernandez, 2013, p.1). Another example that provides evidence in this article of Christians generally being happier than atheists is, "In a linguistic analysis of nearly 2 million text messages(tweets) across 16,273 users on Twitter, we found that Christians express more happiness than atheists in everyday language. This relation was partially mediated by linguistic markers of social connection and thinking style. Christians were more likely to mention social processes that suggest stronger relationships and support networks. Simultaneously, atheists were more likely to use ‘‘insight’’ words (e.g., ‘‘think,’’ "reason’’) that in turn predicted decreased happiness…"(Ritter, Preston & Hernandez, 2013, p. 4). This article also emphasizes that in most cases religious people tend to be happier than atheists due to the fact that they have stronger social connections that promote well-being, while atheists engage in a more analytic style that abolishes well-being. (Ritter, Preston & Hernandez, 2013, p. 6)

Ryan S. Ritter, Jesse Lee Preston & and Ivan Hernandez. (2013). (p 1-6).Happy tweets: Christians are happier, more socially connected, and less analytical than atheists on twitter. Social Psychological and Personality Science. DOI: 10.7202/301385ar

Jesse Lee Preston has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Winnipeg and a PhD in Social Psychology from Harvard University. She is an assistant professor of psychology at the university of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ryan S. Ritter was a former student of Jesse Lee Preston and he currently has a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and M.A. in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Nevada. Ivan Hernandez was also a former student of Jesse Preston. He has his B.S. from the University of Florida, PhD from Candidate University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and M.A. from the University of Illinois.

This article is titled “The Routledge Companion to Theism”. It talks about the views of theism and how one confides in a supreme being for happiness. This book gives way to better understanding of what theism is, the culture of theism, the socio-political aspect of theism and theism as a way of life. Some key points that are mentioned are the religion-happiness correlation which showcase how individuals confide in religion for any kind of moral support, i.e. any adversities they’re dealing with. Again, this book relates to the other articles because it also shows a correlation between having social support and being happy- since religion is not a solo pursuit, whether it be with guidance from a pastor or finding relationships within religious events. For example, “Religion, it seems, believers’ assessment of how their life is going to a greater extent than it affects their moods and emotions.”(Taliaferro, Harrison & Stewart, 2013, p. 668). This quote reveals that people who confide in religion generally feel at ease and it triggers happy emotions. If they believe that there is a greater being helping them through life it automatically boosts their sense of purpose and belonging. This book highlights different surveys and studies done that show correlations between religious beliefs and happiness and how it directly affects happiness. Another example given is, a study in 1996 by Levin et al, that showed reduced mental illness when participation in religious activities was present. (Taliaferro, Harrison & Stewart, 2013, p. 673). A study done by Friedrich et al in 1988 revealed that mothers who had developmentally challenged children and had religious beliefs, suffered lower chances of depression, also another researcher(McIntosh et al in 1993) found a correlation between religion and the recovery process of happiness following divorce, unemployment, serious illnesses, and death. (Taliaferro, Harrison & Stewart, 2013, p. 673). Although, these studies have found positive correlations between happiness and religion, most have been unable to identify if it is the social support that provides happiness or religion itself. However, either way, religion is the primary source that creates possibilities for social togetherness and makes it possible to achieve happiness.

Taliaferro, Charles, Victoria S. Harrison, and Stewart Goetz. (2013). The Routledge companion to theism. New York: Routledge. Retrieved from

Charles Taliaferro received his PhD. and M.A. from Brown University, M.A. from the University of Rhode Island, his M.T.S. at Harvard University and a B.A. from Goddard College. He is an American Philosopher and he specializes in Philosophy of Religion and Theology. He is a professor of Philosophy at St. Olaf College, a member of the Royal Institute of Philosophy and a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Faithful Research. Victoria S. Harrison has her Ph.D. from the University of London and is currently the Reader in Philosophy and Director of the Forum for Philosophy and Religion at the School of Humanities University in Glasgow, Scotland. Her research primarily focuses on analytic philosophy of religion and problems related to religious diversity. Stewart Goetz is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Ursinus College. His research interests are in the philosophy of the mind and the philosophy of religion. He has also published a few books and is currently publishing another one with Charles Taliaferro called "Naturalism".

ATHEISM - Non-Belief in God

Non-religious people

The first chapter read talks about the issues, concepts, and definitions associated with atheism. In the beginning of the chapter, the author says that there is still confusion today about what atheism really is. The word atheism is derived from the Greek words a for “no/without” and theos for “god”. The author states that the word atheism merely describes a belief in which there is no god(s) in existence. An atheist has no belief in god and to them god is a foreign concept. The author goes on to say that atheists do not oppose religion but are a type of religion. A religion that is based on nature spirits, dead ancestors, and supernatural force that lack gods. The author further states that no human is born with god concepts and thus all humans are natural atheists. Natural atheists can become theists or remain atheists further on in life based on their life experiences. For example, the society and culture an individuals grows up in helps determine if they become atheists or theists. The author then introduces negative/weak and positive/strong atheism. Negative/weak atheism is a claim that an individual does not believe in god, but does not imply that god does not exist. On the other hand, positive/strong atheism claims that he does not believe in god and that there is no god.

Eller, J. D. (2010). What is atheism. In P. Zuckerman (Ed.), Atheism and Secularity (pp. 1-18). Santa Barbara, California: Praeger.

The book, Atheism and Secularity is edited by Phil Zuckerman and the author of chapter one is Jack David Eller. Phil Zuckerman is a professor in sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont California. He has a BA, MA, and PhD from the University of Oregon. His research interests are in Secularity, Atheism, and Scandinavian Culture. He is the author of books such as Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion and Society Without God.

Atheism and happiness

In this article, the author, Bagget reviews and talks about Phil Zuckerman’s book, Society without God: What the least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment. He states that Zuckerman traveled to Denmark and Sweden (Some of the least religious countries in the world) to interview Danes and Swedes on religious topics. Most of the individuals interviewed in the book considered themselves to be non-religious and did not believe in god or an afterlife. The author of the book says that even though the two nations are inhabited by extremely secular (perform activities that have no religious or spiritual basis) individuals, these two nations are still socially well off due to good health care, education, gender equality (more women in workforce with no religious restrictions, which increase happiness), lower crime rate, and the most contented citizens in the world. Basically, indicating that having good health care, education, a steady job, and gender equivalence without any belief in god still leads to happiness. Thus, agreeing with the conditions for happiness that are discussed in the above section.

Baggett, J. P. (2010) Society without god: what the least religious nations can tell us about contentment [Review of the book Society without god: what the least religious nations can tell us about contentment, by P. Zuckerman]. Sociology of Religion, 71(3), 382-384. Retrieved March 25, 2014, from

The author of this article is Jerome Baggett and He is a professor of religion and society at Jesuit school of theology in Berkeley, which is a graduate school of Santa Clara University. He has a PhD from Graduate Theological Union and his research interests are in religion and spirituality.

Spirituality - contemplation of 'higher' things

Difference between religion and spirituality

The web page states that organized religion is a structured belief system and requires that an individual comply with a certain set of rules of the religion. Also, organized religion has a belief in a ‘higher being’ (god). While spirituality is the contemplation of ‘higher’ things like trying to figure out the meaning of life, seeking moral purpose in life, and the use of intellect of the mind or personal belief in a ‘higher power’ that that does not relate to any organized religions. Furthermore, the web page states that when individuals want to explore their spirituality and that is when religious groups are made. Thus, it is necessary to be spiritual to have true religious belief but to be spiritual does not require to be part of a religious group.

What is spirituality (n.d.). Centre of confidence and well-being. Retrieved from

Spirituality and happiness

Psychologist Mark Holder and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia conducted research on children aged 9-12 years old and found that 6.5-16.5 per cent of a child’s happiness is related to spirituality and compared that to only one per cent of a child’s happiness coming from money. Thus, indicating the importance of spirituality in a child’s happiness. The researchers state that spirituality is important for happiness in children due to the link that exists between spirituality and meaning, hope, positive social norm, and a social network. Further research conducted on 8-12 year old children also determined that children who feel their lives have meaning and develop good relationships are happier than others. The researchers see meaning of life and quality of relationships as an aspect of spirituality. The research also determines that religion did not affect children’s happiness. The researcher finally says that maybe increasing personal meaning will help make children happier.

The benefits of spirituality to happiness and well-being (n.d.). Centre of confidence and well-being. Retrieved from

Mark Holder is an Professor at the University of British Columbia and he studies the science of happiness. He leads a research team that is identifying factors that contribute to happiness in children (e.g., temperament, social relations, and spirituality).


Our research team is providing information with respect to our topic " are religious people happier than others?" using scholarly articles from different Authors. Our page is divided into 4 major sections:
1. Happiness
2. Theism
3. Atheism
4. Spirituality.

The first section, happiness, is divided into three sub-sections. The first one, Ward Lester defines happiness as pleasures from an external world and this is contradicted by Veenhoven saying that happiness depends on our perspective of life -giving happiness a subjective context. The second sub-section discusses general conditions for happiness- where Lester Ward again, conceptualizes conditions that are in an external world. For example, health and freedom from physical and mental pain. He also says that our wishes are incorporated into us by our social world- hence, happiness completely depends on our socio-eco-physiological conditions. Evans W. F. presents ancient wisdom here, contradicting Esters point. He uses a metaphor of the lotus seed, where he says that before germinating the lotus seed, it consists of perfectly formed leaves that may be in its genes .. so using a similar idea that happiness is in human nature.

Now the third sub-section " the psychology of happiness", combines both the ideas and formula that are addressed in the book "happiness hypothesis" by Jonathan Haidt. In the video, he mentions that happiness is inherited to a certain extent but it also depends on our cooperation with the external world. He generalizes happiness depending on 3 factors: 1. biological set point, which include genes and inheritance- which is changeable. 2. conditions of living are also important, which include materialistic needs as well as good health conditions. 3. voluntary activities are the major component in our complete happiness. Also, he says that happiness is neither external nor internal completely, but it comes from between. Therefore, he recommends remedies to connect our subjective to our objective, as well as our personal with our social by participating in something that is bigger than us. For example, taking part in a sports competition as a team. All in All, we are taking these hypotheses on religious, non religious and spiritual people and are providing information on how their actions fit into the happiness hypothesis( H=S+C+V).

The second section on Theism, gives an objective perspective on how theistic views impact individuals and society's happiness. Each article brings up different evidence that suggests why theism leads to happiness, but they all come to a similar conclusion- happiness and religion are hand in hand, and one hard hitting fact is that the social aspect of being religious impacts an individuals happiness. Theism suggests that there is a higher power(God or Divine) which is involved within the universe spiritually. These articles reveal that the security of believing in a religion gives comfort and ultimately brings happiness. Each article reveals that within a religious community, social support is encouraged and that leads to happiness because of the need of feeling socially accepted is met- which leads to the question "are religious people happier than others?"

The third section on atheism, is divided into two parts. The first part of the atheism section tries to give an objective answer to the question of what atheism really is and the second part of this section tries to give a perspective on how atheism or atheistic views affect the happiness of individuals and society's. The book "Atheism and Secularity" indicates that atheism is a type of religion that does not believe in a single power (God), but is a religion based on nature spirits, dead ancestors, and supernatural force that lack gods. Furthermore, the article read for the second part indicates that atheistic and secular nations show the same amount or more social well being as more theistic nations due to good health care, education, gender equality and low crime rates.

The fourth and last section on spirituality, gives an objective view on what spirituality really is and how it differs from religion. This section also discusses experiments done on children that has led experimenters to the belief that spirituality is really the stimulus of happiness in children rather than religion. The sources used came to the conclusion that spirituality is the the contemplation of 'higher' things like the meaning of life and it leads to happiness in children because of a link that exists between spirituality and meaning, hope, positive social norm, and a social network.

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