Merry Christians: Religious People Are Happier?

A new study (that recapitulates a 2004 study of the same kind) indicates again that religious people, especially those who regularly attend religious services, are twice as likely to consider themselves “very happy” as those who do not:

The correlation between religiosity and happiness is clear, but explanations of the connection and possible causal relationship are less clear. One theory suggests that the social support that religious communities can provide may be a key factor contributing to increased happiness, since “religious Americans are more apt to be involved in their communities.” Yet even here, the study found “that those who attend religious services often are happier than their peers with similar levels of involvement in the community.”

Just why religious people consider themselves happier is unclear. Surely, some “unbelievers” will say this has something to do with “rose-colored glasses” and a lack of realistic perspective. When faced with the grim realities of a godless universe, irreligious people are more willing to take it on the chin without making up “fairy tales” to make themselves feel better. That’s one explanation.

But the most straightforward explanation is that religious people who go to church often have greater hope in their lives and more cause for gratitude and contentment. It would be interesting to see how this survey would play out in a country where Christians are more heavily persecuted. What would Chinese or Iraqi Christians say? Likely the same things. The power of the Christian narrative is that happiness is not as dependent on circumstances. Even when things are grim, and they are often rather grim, believers have a hope that God actually watches over history working things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

It makes sense then, that if you believe your life to have no intrinsic cosmic purpose, you would be less likely to be happy, no matter how good your circumstances might be. So, all else being equal, which it never is, Merry Christmas merry Christians!