Do Godly Men Act Happier Than the Non-Religious?

“Happiness” by Guilherme Oliveira

A good friend of mine, Stephanie, went to a pottery class earlier today with her son; her son, 8½-year-old Carter, sat between two pastors,* and remarked that he wished all men could be as happy as them. It occurred to Stephanie that “Godly men ACT happier than non-religion men,” and she asked me why.

As a bit of background, i first encountered the idea that Christians are happier back in the early 00s when i was first starting out as a Christian. I ran a moderately-successful message board called The Fellowship Hall, and a user by the name of MikeR, whom i’m still in contact with via Facebook, mentioned that i surely had a shine or a glow in my eyes. I forget the exact way he phrased it, but he spoke of it as an actual physical difference between Christians & non-Christians.

As time went on, i received a lot of comments from folks i worked with as well about how happy i always seemed, that i never seemed to have a bad day. During the earliest couple of years, i often wore a wooden cross pin on my work uniform as well, and it was obvious from the comments i received that folks associated my positive attitude with my religion.

When i was a Christian, i believed that i shouldn’t complain. I took to heart what Philippians 4:11 taught: to be content in all things. Whatever trouble i may have been facing, whatever stress i may have had in my life, i did my best not to allow that to effect me. I believed there were big problems in the world than my own personal issues, and so i wore a smile, perfectly content. I won’t lie: the belief that my smallest cares fell into the providence of a loving God certainly made me feel good and added to my happiness.

One thing i noticed, though, is that most other Christians i knew didn’t seem anywhere nearly as content or happy as i was. I know that’s entirely subjective and doesn’t mean anything to anybody else but me, yet it was an observation of mine over several years.

To the point of Stephanie’s question, though, if it does seem as though Christian men are happier than non-Christian men, why would that be so?

I offer the following suggestions:

“Hope” by DieselDemon

Christianity offers hope. A world without the supernatural is depressing for many; hell, i’ll be the first to admit that naturalistic death scares the shit out of me. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the concept of the cessation of existence since my grandmother died nearly two decades ago, and anytime i think about it, i feel terror. Crippling, paralyzing, mind-chilling terror at the thought that some day, i’m going to no longer be.

Christianity, like most religions, offers hope in that area. Christians need not think about depressing things like that: For them, all of the worst aspects of life on the planet are handled happily by a loving God. That’s a load off of their shoulders and certainly could make them seem happier.**

“Innocence/Guilt” by ~fyrfli~

Christianity offers absolution of guilt. Humanists, atheists, adherents of karmic religions, and so forth have to live with the guilt of any wrong they may do; Christians, however, believe that the guilt for all of their wrongdoings was taken up by Jesus and that his blood provides the propitiation and absolution for their sins. While they may feel guilt, it’s a guilt tempered by the knowledge that they are secured a place in Heaven, which is sure to make them feel tons better. That may certainly account for any extra happiness seen in Christians.

“Christian Student Fellowship” by Jeremy Wilburn

Christianity offers fellowship. Another biggie here is that Christianity is very communal. Spending time with like-minded individuals is a boon for happiness, whether it be at church, a Superbowl party, or a World of Warcraft raid. Spending time with others doing what you love is a great cure for bad attitudes. Christians believe their fellowship is global, and they may exhibit their enjoyment of that anywhere where they may run into others with whom they share faith.

All of that said, i don’t believe that the happiness level of Christians is any sort of proof that Christianity has any sort of merit. If happiness was proof of merit, then why are a variety of recreational drugs still illegal? What about adherents of other religions who find joy? What about the happiness, peace, and joy i’ve found since freeing myself from the yoke of Christianity?

Today, i have friends who are happy. I have friends who are unhappy. I have friends who seek to uplift those around them. I have friends who spend their time focused on negativity, especially in regards to politics.

And what i’ve noticed is that it doesn’t matter whether these people are Christian or atheist, guy or girl, gay or straight, which leads me to believe that there isn’t one right way to find fulfillment or happiness in life. Everyone’s path is going to be different. Obviously, i encourage others to give up the false hope of religion in favor of intellectual freedom, but at the end of the day, so long as their superstitions aren’t being turned into laws to govern me, they are free to believe what they want.

I wish we could all be a little better about giving the world a smile, though. We need more joy. Perhaps desperately.

* My opinions of religion notwithstanding, i think every pastor should take pottery classes, if only to fully appreciate the potter/clay symbolism used in the Bible on an experiential level.

** It is my opinion that honest Christians ought to be most miserable: How can the live joyfully at all with the thought that the majority of folks whom they know and love are going to die and burn for an eternity in Hell? In one book i read which dealt specifically with how folks would be able to find joy at all in Heaven in light of that, the author suggested that in Heaven, there will be no memory of those in Hell! What a farce!

3 thoughts on “Do Godly Men Act Happier Than the Non-Religious?

  1. Bill Uhrich says:

    Rick,

    I found your blog again after several years and see with some surprise that you are an atheist.

    Did you write a specific blog entry about the tipping point away that occurred in favor of atheism? I’d like to read about that journey.

    Bill

  2. i aint judgin nobody confused just tryna keep my head up says:

    yeah rick what it do? you seemed so gung ho on the jesus train now YOU the pilot drivin in anotha lane….. some might say the broader lane…… that we’re taught leads to eternal pain……what gives ? u no longer believe He lives? how u went from marchin on the proper route to satan pimpin and turnin you out???? i can relate let me make that clear…..done fell for that brimstone breath game in my ear….as for moi i thought i was blind and could see….but the more i saw the less God made sense to me…..

  3. Michael Wong says:

    Hi, Rick! It’s been a few years since our phpBB debates, and I was curious to see the new atheist version of you. I have to say that I prefer the new you over the old Bible thumping version :)

    As for the actual content of this post, I have some ideas to offer:

    1) Regarding death, Christianity does offer hope. But what’s the difference between the false joy of the “ecstasy” drug and the false hope of an imaginary afterlife? Is it not better to accept that the universe is capable of getting along just fine after we’re gone?

    2) Christianity does offer absolution of guilt. But is it real absolution? Christianity says “you are utterly irredeemable, but I forgive you anyway”. Is that really as good as the kind of absolution you get when you actually make up for the bad things you’ve done? Frankly, I think the absolution offered by Christianity is not even remotely satisfying, and that Christians in fact feel perpetually inadequate, because they’re always comparing themselves to an idealized super-altruist. In many ways, Christians are taught to despise their own humanity.

    3) Christian fellowship can make some people very happy. But it can also make some people very unhappy. The flip-side of a tight-knit community is that if you’re on the outs with that community, you have nowhere to turn. It feels like the whole world is against you. So there is a powerful pressure to conform, agree with everyone else, do what they say, etc. Consider how the evangelical community in the 1970s was overwhelmingly liberal, and supported programs for the poor. And today, that SAME community has almost entirely shifted to right-wing politics, hating welfare, discouraging immigration, etc. How can millions of people all change their minds at the same time, in the same way? The answer is simple: the “fellowship” of the Christian community is NOT free; it comes with a price tag, and the price tag is conformity.

    Let me just leave with one final thought: if Christians are so happy, why do so many of them rant so angrily about “family values”? And let’s face it, the way they use it, “family values” is a wonderfully clever term for “let’s manufacture an excuse to treat certain people like crap even if they’ve never hurt anyone”. Any group which tries so hard to harm the interests of other people can’t be considered collectively “happy”.

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