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 responses to “Do Godly Men Act Happier Than the Non-Religious?”

  1. Bill Uhrich Avatar
    Bill Uhrich


    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.


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

    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 Avatar

    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”.

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Use your Gravatar-enabled email address while commenting to automatically enhance your comment with some of Gravatar's open profile data.

Comments must be made in accordance with the comment policy. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam; learn how your comment data is processed.

You may use Markdown to format your comments; additionally, these HTML tags and attributes may be used: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Rick Beckman