Does religion make you happier? Or does it simply amplify what you already have? For those of us, like me, who have chosen not to belong to any specific religion, there’s a definite curiosity imposed by these two questions. What’s the answer?
Religion has two important things going for it. The first is a sense of community with others who share the same belief system. Out of this community comes a social connection that can be helpful and supportive in many ways. It is a positive sense of belonging we all seem to look for in our lives. So, in other words, you don’t need religion to have a social life, but for some people it is a necessity.
The second is a firm conviction that you’re not alone in this life. The idea that there is a loving, caring Supreme Being to whom you can go for guidance, coupled with a belief that life doesn’t end after death, is comforting. This can only add to your happiness. It affects personal happiness, living successfully, and individual growth. That I can understand. Feeling alone can be uncomfortable at times.
If you have a religion, it can be good for you. Looking at people who truly believe in their faith and a benevolent God, you will find those who see themselves as worthy of happiness. God loves them, what could be better than that? They generally attract like-minded individuals into their lives because that is what they are subconsciously looking for every day. They don’t allow themselves to be made to feel less than what they know they are worth. Their religion confirms who they are and what they achieve in life. Happiness is a by-product of faith.
But, cautions my friend and colleague, Rabbi Ben Elias, religion can also be bad for you.
“If you had a religious experience that made you feel miserable and fearful then religion affects your happiness in adverse ways. You can’t feel a strong connection to a punishing God.”
This statement is seconded by Bill Taylor, an Episcopal priest, who adds,
“Religious experience is everything. While religion doesn’t guarantee you’ll be happy, a good experience can be a catalyst that ups the odds for happiness in life; a bad one has little value. ”
Believing in a higher power does seem to be a happiness factor for many people. We seem to go on spiritual, if not necessarily religious, searches to find the right match for our needs. Perhaps that is why some people are willing to change beliefs. We are looking for a feeling of belonging and peace that is comforting as well as comfortable.
One of the constants of personal happiness for all people is the achieving of your goals. Religion is a great help in this instance because you do not feel as if you are alone in your quest. There is help and hope available from someone or something greater than yourself. It takes the worry out of making decisions when you know a powerful force is looking out for you.
Can you be happy even if you’re not religious? The answer is a definite yes. As Bill Taylor said, religion doesn’t guarantee happiness. Happiness is created from both inside and outside forces in your life. Successfully combining both is the key.
Maybe religion doesn’t make you happy but perhaps it does enhance what happiness you do have. The connection seems to affirm this.
© copyright 2019 Kristen Houghton all rights reserved
Kristen Houghton is the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, a book of essays, and a children’s novella. The first four books in her best-selling series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation, is now available in a special boxset. She is also the author of the Horror Writers of America award-winning Quick-Read, Welcome to Hell.
She has covered politics, news, and lifestyle issues as a contributor to the Huffington Post. Her writing portfolio includes Criminal Element Magazine, a division of Macmillan Publishing, Hartford Woman, Today, senior fiction editor at Bella Magazine, interviews and reviews for HBO documentaries, OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, and The Style Channel.