Religion and Happiness

Dear writer,
our group of researchers has searched for and compiled several sources that we believe will be useful in writing a paper on the topic of religion and happiness. We have gathered necessary definitions as well as a history of the science of religion and the science of happiness. We have also brought forth articles on the relationships between people in different social and financial classes and their views on the relationship between happiness and religion. Furthermore, we have found articles on religions relationships with health and the connection that has with an individuals happiness as well as arguments against the tie between happiness and religion.
Best of luck,

R, V, and K.


The Oxford English Dictionary provides definitions for the words located below.

  • Satisfaction: Fulfilment of one’s wishes, expectations, or needs, or the pleasure derived from this.
  • Intrinsic: Belonging naturally; essential.
  • Extrinsic: Not part of the essential nature of someone or something
  • Religion: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.
  • Happiness: Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.
  • Islam: The religion of the Muslims, a monotheistic faith regarded as revealed through Muhammad as the Prophet of Allah (one true God).
  • Christianity:The religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, or its beliefs and practices.
  • Judaism: The monotheistic religion of the Jews.
  • Buddhism: A widespread Asian religion or philosophy, founded by Siddartha Gautama in NE India in the 5th century bc.

The Sciences of Religion and Happiness

Paquette, M. (2006). The Science of Happiness. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 42, 1. PsycINFO

In Mary Paquette's article, The Science of Happiness the idea of happiness being a physical and inducible state of the brain that occurs in the pre-frontal lobe. Kubzansky, Sparrow, Vokonas, and Kawachi's 2001 study showed that happiness and related mental states may reduce the risk of multiple life-threatening diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Her article also states that religion can cause an individual to be subject to less mental illness such as anxiety and depression. Paquette's research shows that people with strong ties to family and friends exhibit the highest levels of happiness, whereas individuals who are isolated tend to show lower levels of happiness, though this is not always the case.. Happiness can be increased by ignoring things that cannot be changed or that one has no power over, like physical beauty, and cultivating things that can be changed, like valour and originality, which are referred to as "signature strengths."

Nelson, J.M. (2011). A History of Psychology in the West: Implications for Theory and Method. Pastoral Psychol, 61, 685-710. PsycINFO

Nelson's article addresses many key topics on the psychology of religion; most importantly he focuses on the hermeneutic-phenomenological (HP) research program. The HP research program focuses on an individual's experience with religious phenomenon, as opposed to group views on the subject. The article stresses that a religious experience must elicit a positive ethical result in order for the religion to increase overall happiness. Another key approach to the topic that Nelson wrote about was Positive Naturalism (PN). Positive naturalism focuses more on the spirituality of an individual, opposed to a organized religion within a community. This makes the study of PN very difficult because it is so unique to every individual. Religious Integration (RI), focuses on relieving bias from religion within the psychological community. Historically, western science has neglected and exhibited hostility towards religion, RI works to relieve that by addressing their separate concerns and acknowledging that religion and psychology may have conflicting views.

Happiness Within Main Religions

Association of Christian religiosity and happiness

Ellison, C. G. (Mar., 1991). Religious Involvement and Subjective Well-Being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 32(1), 80-99. PsycINFO

The research illustrates the relation between well-being and the level of the religiosity. It includes a survey in order to prove that the level of happiness is directly related to the level of the religiosity. The data retrieved from the research was obtained by doing survey that denominational preference is measured by a set of dummy variables identifying conservative Protestant respondents (28% of the sample), moderate Protestants (16%), liberal Protestants (8%), Catholics (26%), members of non-Christian traditions (6%), Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses (3%), and nondenominational Protestants (4%). Approximately 9 percent of the respondents reported no religious preference. Moreover, there are also two tables showing the information according to categories divided into religion, sect, religious attendance, age, gender, race, life condition, the level of education, social status, relationship and location. As a result, the research shows that the level of religiosity matters to the happiness that most of 450 people reported that their happiness is related to their religious attendance.

Association between happiness and Muslim students

Sahraian, A, &Gholami, A, & Javadpour, A, & Omidvar, B. (2013). Association Between Religiosity and Happiness Among a Group of Muslim Undergraduate Students. J Relig Health 52, 450–453. PsycINFO

The main focus of the research is the correlation between a religious attitude and behavior and the level of happiness. Specially, the aim of the current study was to test link between religiosity and happiness among a group of undergraduate Muslim students. Two hundred and seventy one health-related students agreed to participate and completed Oxford Happiness Index and a religious belief questionnaire. The results are shown at table 1 which presents the Pearson correlation coefficients between scores of OHI and RAQ. As a conclusion, the result confirms that individuals with a more religious attitude experience more happiness.

Buddhist perspectives on Happiness and Religion

Ekman, P. , & Davidson, J.R., & Ricard, M, & Wallace, B.A. (2005). Buddhist and Psychological Perspectives on Emotions and Well-Being. Current Directions in Psychological Science 14, 59-63.

The psychological report was produced in order to examine the relationship between Buddhism, which is a kind of a religion, and happiness. The report also was based on two issues: the achievement of enduring happiness and the nature of afflictive and non-afflictive emotional states and traits. The perspectives presented in the report also belong to a Buddhist. As a conclusion, according to the report, Buddhist practices offer a therapy for all who seek to improve the quality of their lives. Conceptually, Buddhists raise issues that have been ignored by many psychologists, calling on the field to make nuanced distinctions in thinking about emotional experience. Methodologically, they proposes practices that can help people report on their own internal experience and such practices might thereby provide crucial data that is much more detailed and comprehensive than that gathered by the techniques psychologists now use to study subjective emotional experience.

Association Between Religiosity and Happiness in a Sample of Muslim Students

Abdel-Khalek, A.M., & Lester, D. (2009). A Significant Association Between Religiosity and Happiness in a Sample of Kuwaiti Students. Psychological Reports 105, 381-382. PsycINFO

In a sample of 162 Kuwaiti undergraduates (33 men, 129 women; M age = 20.1 yr., SD = 1.9), self-ratings of happiness were significantly and positively correlated with self-ratings of religiosity and strength of religious belief as well as scores on Hoge’s Scale of Intrinsic Religious Motivation. As a result of the report, the present data provides evidence that among a sample of Kuwaiti Muslim undergraduates, religious people are happier.

The role of religiousness in anxiety, depression, and happiness in a Jewish community

Rosmarin, D.H., & Pargament, K.I., & Mahoney A. (2009). The role of religiousness in anxiety, depression, and happiness in a Jewish community sample: A preliminary investigation. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 12(2), 97-113. doi: 10.1080/13674670802321933
This research is conducted in Jewish community because Rosmarin, Pargament, & Mahoney (2009) noticed that majority of psychological investigations about the role of religiousness in anxiety, depression and happiness have been conducted with Christian samples. This article suggested that a positive relation between religion and the three aspects of mental health: anxiety, depression, and happiness, might exist across different religious groups. They created a self-report measure of trust in God and evaluated the information about its reliability and validity, and yielded two reliable and valid subscales: trust in God and mistrust in God, using factor analyses. They found out that “higher levels of trust in God were associated with less anxiety, stress, worry depression, and greater personal happiness, while mistrust in God was inversely related to these variables” (Rosmarin,& Pargament, & Mahoney, 2009, p. 13). This is experiment/study is done in exclusive Jewish community. It would be interesting to study the psychological relevance of trust in God among Christians, Muslims and other types of religion, and compare the predictive validity of trust in God among different religious groups around the world.

Age, Gender, and Location

Comparison of level of American and Singaporean happiness based on materialism and religion

Swinyard, W.R., & Kau, A.K., & Phua, H.Y. (2001). Happiness, materialism, and religious experience in the US and Singapore. Journal of Happiness Studies. 2, 13-32. PsycINFO

This research examines the relationship between three basic concepts that are Religion happiness and materialism. The two countries, which are the United States and Singapore, are chosen as samples. The study measures materialism which was operationalized as the three sub-scales of possession-defined success, acquisition centrality, and acquisition as the pursuit of happiness, and religious experience by using three scales measuring intrinsic religiosity, extrinsic religiosity, and religion as quest. Moreover, happiness is found to be negatively related to the materialism in both the USA and Singapore. Adults in Singapore were found more materialist and les happy. Conversely, people in the USA are found less materialist and happier. The expectation of the research was based on that happiness would have a positive relationship with intrinsic religiosity and extrinsic religiosity, but a negative relationship with religion as quest. “Though our results largely support these hypotheses, they produce some unexpected differences between the two countries and across the three religiosity dimensions.” (Swinyard; Kau & Phua, 1) The research concludes that the materialism is not associated with the happiness of people; however, the happiness is associated with people’s perceived inner world. Additionally, people reported happy see their religion as something they are, but something they do. As a conclusion, religious people are happier than materialists.

Comparison of influences of gender and religion on happiness

Mookerjee, R, & Beron, K. (2005). Gender, religion and happiness. The Journal of Socio-Economics 34, 674–685. PsycINFO

In the research, a sample of 60 countries, which are industrialized and developing, interesting findings were attained. The hypothesis of the research is that both religion and gender have important linkages to the level of happiness in a country. In the research, there are two tables that the first table shows the level of happiness according to the level of country’s development. Also, the second table includes the data categorized into conditions of 6 equations’, which represents the continents and categories such as constant, religious fragmentation, HDI (the human development index), Gastil index, economic freedom, female participation in parliament and so on. Furthermore, the study has two charts also showing the level of happiness according to percentage of religiosity in the first chart, and level of happiness according to the percentage of women in the parliament in the second chart. As a result, the research documents that greater levels of religious diversity, as measured by an index of religious fragmentation, reduces the level of happiness. However, results of the research strongly support a finding that greater participation by women in politics increases the level of happiness in a country. Additionally, the results show that quality of life variables are important in determining the level of happiness within a country, and that the impact of these quality of life variables on the degree of happiness are remarkably similar in industrialized and developing countries. Needless to say, the study documents that income levels are not related to happiness levels in both rich and poor countries.

Spirituality, Religiousness, and Happiness in Children Aged 8–12 Years

Holder, M.D., & Coleman B., & Wallace J.D. (2008). Spirituality, Religiousness, and Happiness in Children Aged 8–12 Years. J Happiness Stud, 11(2), 131-150. doi: 10.1007/s10902-008-9126-1

In this article, they discussed about the relationship between spirituality and happiness in children. The researchers used emotionality, activity, and sociability temperament survey. The children rated their own spirituality, while their parents rated their children’s happiness. The found out that they can predict children’s happiness base on the personal and communal domains of spirituality. They talked about theoretical approaches of Edward Diener in understanding the processes that influence happiness which includes top-down and bottom-up formulation. In top-down formulation, the emphasis is on internal characteristics of individual like personality traits, while the focus of bottom-up formulation is the role of external factors like past experiences. Moreover, they talked about the difference between spirituality and religiousness, which are example of internal characteristics, and their relation to happiness. Spirituality means “inner belief system that a person relies on for strength and comfort” while religiousness means having belief in a God or deity and having religious practices, beliefs and rituals. Francis and his colleague (2000) found out that “the domains of church attendance, religious commitment, overall spirituality, satisfaction with church activities, religious beliefs, and attitude toward Christianity” (Holder, & Coleman, & Wallace,2008, p. 132), all have positive correlation with happiness. Likewise, Cohen (2002) discovered that “six scales of religiousness (religious coping, congregational support, religious identity, spirituality, religious practice, and religious belief) all positively correlated with happiness” (Holder, & Coleman, & Wallace,2008, p. 132). Moreover, Edison (1991) stated several ways on how spirituality and religiousness may promote happiness and subjective well-being in adults. In this research, they found out that there is a strong relation between happiness and spirituality in children, but there is no positive relation between frequency of religious practice and happiness. This is very important because it suggests that religious practice and spirituality can be studied separately in the future. Studies do not always report positive correlation between happiness, spirituality and religiousness because of methodological limitations and different types of questionnaires used. Several questionnaires that are used only assess specific religious groups. Tests, methods, procedures and questionnaires should be valid and reliable to get the best result.

Happiness and Religion: General

Happiness, Health, and Religiosity: Significant Relations

Abdel-Khalek, A.M. (2006). Happiness, health, and religiosity: Significant relations. Mental Health, Religion & Culture 9(1), 85-97. PsycINFO

Abdel-Khalek's research helps clearly demonstrate the differences in happiness and religiosity between males and females. The study looked at 2210 individuals, 1056 male and 1054 female, and analyzed the grades of happiness and religiosity that each individual prescribed the his or her self. Each individual was made to grade his or her self on a scale of 1-10 for overall happiness, physical health, mental health, and level of religiosity. Males scored significantly higher on happiness and mental health, whereas females scored significantly higher on the scale of religiosity. The level of physical health was about the same between males and females. The study demonstrated that the biggest precursor to happiness was mental health, representing about 60% of happiness, compared to only 15% of happiness coming from religiosity. Physical health did not appear to influence religious activity or overall happiness. This study would indicate that, though religion can lead to a more happy and fulfilled life, other factors can have more influence on an individual.

Consensus and contradictions about the association of religion and happiness

Lewis, A.C., & Cruise, M.S. (2006). Religion and happiness: Consensus, contradictions, comments and concerns. Mental Health, Religion & Culture 9(3), 213–225.

The relationship between religion and happiness is the area this research concentrate on. This research asks the probability of the compatibility of religion and happiness. Therefore, it includes two tables comprising two tables about the relationship between happiness and religion. The attendants are varying from late teenagers to university students as well as adults who are the members of the universities. The number of the attendants is considerable that five thousands one hundred nine from five different countries, which are the UK, the USA, Northern Ireland, Germany and Israel, attended to the survey. Additionally, in the survey, the measurement was based on the evaluation of Francis Scale of Attitude toward Christianity, Katz-Francis Scale of Attitude toward Judaism, Religious affect composite measure and age-Universal I-E Scale brief RCOPE. As a result of the survey, on the basis of the findings reported in Tables I and II, two opposing conclusions have found consistent support. Research with the Oxford Happiness (table 1) Inventory has consistently found religiosity to be associated with happiness, while research employing the Depression–Happiness (table 2) Scale has consistently found religiosity to not be associated with happiness. Some of the attendants that said that there is no relationship between religion and happiness argued that religion may have an opposite effect, which is unhappiness. For example, religion has been found to be associated with anxiety fear of death and guilt. On the other hand, with respect to a positive relationship, religion may provide a mechanism for gaining social support from the church community, provide a purpose in life, provide hope and provide existential certainty, and indeed the experience of religion may itself make individuals happy.

Tasting freedom: Happiness, religion and economic transition

Lelkes, O. (2006). Tasting freedom: Happiness, religion and economic transition. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 59(2), 173-194. doi:
The researcher used Hungarian survey data to investigate the impact of religion and economic transition on happiness. She found out that economic transition has different effect on level of happiness in European countries, specifically in religious people and self-employed. Religious people were less affected by the economic change because money is not their main source of happiness. Religious people have higher level of satisfaction that makes them happier than nonreligious people and entrepreneurs. Religious people who participate in religious activities have higher level of experience utility and subjective well-being during economic change. There is a positive correlation between religious involvement and life satisfaction that will lead to greater happiness. Ellison (1991) showed that “religion contributes positively to subjective well-being, including life satisfaction and personal happiness among people in the US” and found out that “strong religious faith makes traumatic events easier to bear” (Ellison, 1991, p. 90). It is interesting to know that religious people uses their faith in God or divine power to cope with traumatic and stressful events. Moreover, it is stated in this article that money can buy happiness and satisfaction, but different level for everyone. Money and economic change have less influence on religious people compared to entrepreneurs and nonreligious people.

Religious Experiences and Their Relations with Happiness and Personality

Argyle, M., & Hills,P. (2009). Religious Experiences and Their Relations with Happiness and Personality. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. 10(3), 157-172. doi: 10.1207/S15327582IJPR1003_02

In this article, the Argyle and Hills show the relationship of religious experiences to happiness and personality traits. They found out that ordinary religious members have mild experiences and greater frequency of mystical/religious experience that non-members, which makes religious people happier. They also talked about the General Mysticism, which is related to a relationship between God or divine and self, and Religious Interpretation, which is the awareness of a higher power, has two subfactors called “religious insight” and “a sense of the holy.” Also, the researchers want to discover the influence of social and sensory element to religious affect. They used three factors to analyze the effect of religious experience on happiness and personality. The first factor was composed of all immanent items, like “contact with God” and “being at peace with God”. The emotional responses that are associated with Factor 1 are “feeling loved” and “feeling supported and helped.” Factor 2 was composed of socially related items, like “being part of a family” and “opportunities to help others.” Factor 3 is composed of three transcendent items and two sensory items. The first two factors showed the characteristics of church membership while the last factor(factor 3) are the characteristics of religious experiences. They found out that members, who have religious experiences, live a more positive and happy life and gain a sense of well-being. Moreover, they discovered that church members are less neurotic(less anxious) and less psychotic (more tender-minded) than non-members, which is contrary to the belief of other psychologists like Spilka and McIntosh. There was no evidence “found to support the suggestion that some form of psychological distress is a precursor of mystical experience” (Argyle, & Hills, 2009, p. 171). This study (to some degree) disputes the statement of William James (1902) that religious people are “induced by some kind of psychological disharmony” (p. 158).

Religiosity and its association with happiness, purpose in life, and self-actualisation

French, S., & Joseph, S. (1999). Religiosity and its association with happiness, purpose in life, and self-actualisation. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 2(2), 117-120. doi: 10.1080/13674679908406340

This article tested the association of religiosity with happiness, purpose in life, and self-actualization, using Francis Scale of Attitude Towards Christianity, the Depression-Happiness Scale (DHS), the Oxford Happiness Inventory (OHI), the Pulpose in Life Test (PIL), and the Index of Selj-Actualisation (ISA). They found out those students who got higher scores on Francis Scale also have higher scores on DHS, PIL, ISA and OHI. These scores provided evidence on the positive correlation of religiosity and subjective well-being. These data also supports the idea/hypothesis that religious people are happier than non-religious people. Different operational definitions of happiness and differences in the measurement of religiosity are the reasons of inconsistency in the scores from Francis Scale and DHS. It is very important to have the same the operational definition of happiness and same measurement of religiosity in finding the relationship of religiosity, happiness, self-actualisation and purpose in life. French and Joseph (1999) stated that the data that they have collected confirmed that religious people are happier than non-religious people whatever way used to measure happiness. Moreover, they found out that happiness is associated with purpose of life. Religious people have greater sense of purpose in life than non-religious people.

This Emotional Life: Why Does Religion Make People Happier?

Borchard, T. (2010). This Emotional Life: Why Does Religion Make People Happier?. Psych Central. Retrieved from

In the third episode of the documentary, This Emotional Life, Borchard had a chance to interview Dr. Edward Diener. Diener studied happiness across cultures and identified some universal factors for happiness. One factor that he stated is religion. He said that on average, religion people are happier than nonreligious people, but not all religious people are happier. People and psychologists need to search which aspect of religion will increase happiness or subjective well-being. In Diener’s book on happiness, he stated that “positive spirituality, feeling emotions such as love, awe, wonder, respect, and gratitude that connect us to others and to things larger than ourselves” (Borchard, 2010). Religious people focused on other people than their selves, that gives them purpose and meaning in life, and stops them from worrying about themselves. Religious people support and help each other. Religion provides optimism for an afterlife and gives guidelines on how to act and how to have a moral life that will help them to communicate and get along with other people. Diener found out that most people turn to religion when they have problems ad when their society or country are full of conflict and poverty. These suggest that people in poorer countries or society are more religious, happier and have more positive emotions. Furthermore, Diener (2010) stated other reason or sources of happiness. He said that having supportive relationship, being supportive and helpful to others, having purpose and meaning in life, and participating in activities that will enhance someone’s talent and strengths will make people happy. These things can usually be found in religious groups, which may be the reason why religious people are happier.

Is Happiness Connected to Religion?

HP Live Segments (2014). Is Happiness Connected to Religion? Retrieved from

This video produced by the Huffington Post serves to demonstrate the activities within religion that contribute to an increase of overall happiness, and stresses that even those who live secular lives can increase their overall happiness through employing these methods. The video starts with an interview with Revered Paul Raushenbush who talks about what religious activities contribute to happiness. He describes happiness as contentment, sense of place, and meaning behind our lives. Religious groups offer a community of people who's main interest is bettering themselves while better their peers, this makes religious groups very beneficial for individuals that have come upon hard times, these groups offer support. Religious texts can also offer messages to individuals looking to better themselves. Rev. Raushenbush stresses that secular people are not necessarily doomed at all, they're just forced to find other means of acquiring these forms of support, supports that help them live more fulfilled lives. The is also host to psychologist David Myers and his study on 'Religious Engagement and Well-Being.' Myers' research assessed the population that regarded themselves as 'very happy' from 1972-2008, then crossed that with those individuals rates of religious service attendance. Myers' research showed a direct correlation between the two; of the individuals that said they never attend religious services, only 26% said they were very happy, 46% of those who attended several times weekly said they were very happy.

Religious close friends make people happier

Sohn, E. (Dec. 17, 2010). Why Are Religious People Happier?. Retrieved from

Emily Sohn writes about the study of the relationship between happiness and religion. According to the study, religious people are happier than people reporting themselves as non-believers of any religion. Religions also give more happiness to people who go to the worship places such as Mosque, Church, Synagogue and so on. Eventually, the frequency of attendance to religious services matters to level of happiness. In addition, the study also asserts a striking point that it is the close friends gained through religion makes people happier. Chaeyoon Lim, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin, supports this idea by saying that “people who say they go once a month or less and say they have a couple of close friends in the church they attend tend to be happier than people who say they go every week but have no close friends” (Sohn, 2010). As a result, the Church only itself is not the source of happiness, but it is the strong sense of trust and belonging that makes people happier through spending time with close friends gained with the contribution of religion. Thus, religion makes people reliable, well-being and better citizens who care more about the friends, community and people; then, religious people become happier.

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