Road to Happiness: How Can Religion Bring Happiness

In the last few articles, I introduced the concept of achieving happiness following the five W’s I have thought through. These are

•      Well-being of ourselves: physical, mental, and personality

•      Working partner/Spouse/Love

•      Work and Retirement

•      Wealth or absence of poverty, Can Money Buy Happiness

•      Well-wishers (Friends, Family, Culture, Religion, institutions)

In this blog, we will look at the evidence, if any, on how being religious brings happiness. We will discuss spirituality in a different section. 

The word religion is from the Latin Religare, which means “to bind together.” Surveys of the general population have consistently found that more than 90% of people believe in a Higher Being.

Does Religion Make You Healthy? 

Religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life (even during terminal illness) and less anxiety, depression, and suicide. Religion and spirituality are among the most important cultural factors that give structure and meaning to human values, behaviors, and experiences. Gallup surveys over the years of the general population have consistently found that more than 92% of people believe in God or higher power. 

What are the reasons that religion brings good health? Some research suggests that being religious promotes healthy behavior if practiced for centuries. Organized religious people have strong social support and belong to a like-minded community. Religious practices like prayers and meditation generate positive emotions like hope, gratitude, contentment, and forgiveness and lessen anguish and anger. 

Does religion make you Happy? 

One study points to the fact that participating in religious organizations brought more happiness than volunteering, taking educational classes, or being part of a political or community organization. Pew Research study stated that actively religious people are likelier to be “very happy.” In a review paper, Koenig reported several high-quality studies proving that religion and spirituality improve Well-being, Happiness, Meaning and purpose, Hope, Optimism, and Gratefulness.

What are some arguments against it? 

Studies also point to the fact that the protective social qualities of religion work best in societies where religion is widely practiced. In a fairly religious country like the U.S., being in the minority is potentially stressful. Religious belief may give you false hope and prevent you from seeking prevention. 

Abuse and restrictions will steal the happiness of those who are being affected. Most of the Nordic countries rank high in happiness while low in religiosity. 

In essence, most studies point to the advantages of religion. However, some religious countries have the most miserable people, and some non-religious countries (Russia, Belarus) have high unhappiness. In nations with low economic development, there is a high correlation between religion and happiness. In developed countries, happiness is more correlated with subjective freedom