Why Religious People are Happier
Research shows that religious people in America are happier than non-religious people. Since many people will be celebrating Easter or Passover this week I thought it would be a good time to explore this issue. I think there are three main reasons why religion leads to increased happiness; they are people, peace, and purpose.
Belonging to a religious community gives people a sense of group identity and social support, providing them with a large network of friends and acquaintances. Happiness increases when we spend time with others who are supportive. Also, most religions encourage people to treat others in ways that increase happiness. For example, they teach us it is important to forgive and to help others.
People who believe in God find a source of comfort in knowing they are unconditionally loved and valued. This gives us a sense of calm and security. It also provides us with a source of hope when bad things happen. When facing the death of a loved one, divorce, a health crisis, or job loss the belief that God is in control and that things will get better helps us to cope.
Finally, religion gives people a sense of purpose and we are happier when we feel that our life has meaning. The fact that over 30 million copies of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life have been sold shows the strong desire that people have to discover what they are here for. The belief that God has given us all gifts and that he wants us to use our gifts to serve others helps people to experience greater meaning in their lives. Religion can teach us how to view our lives as part of a broader divine plan.
So religion provides people with a sense of connectedness, security, and meaning. The fact that all three of these are strongly correlated with happiness helps to explain why religious people are happier.