The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality. – George Bernard Shaw
Theists often contend that a belief in god is justified because theists are so happy – far happier than non-theists, they claim. Studies have indicated that those most satisfied with their religion are often happier, more at peace with their lives, because they feel their lives have a sense of purpose. The popular perception is that religion and happiness go hand in hand. The statistics set forth in my prior post tend to give the lie to that. If Christians are so happy, why are many of them in a perpetual state of movement in and out of their particular sect of religion, or religion itself? If Christianity holds the truth, shouldn’t we all be in a perpetual state of stasis and bliss?
Actually, though, the Shaw quote points to a certain irrelevancy. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that, in fact, all Christians are deliriously happy. All Christians have found the truth in their bibles and that truth is Jesus Christ. Their lives are just one big party, filled with merriment and exultation. The reason for their existence is certain, and this certainty brings a peace of mind unknown to non-Christians.
Lets take all of that as a given.
What if Christianity is not true? What if Jesus was merely a mythical figure, wrought within the minds of the early Christians, such as Paul and Eusebius, and bolstered by an inability of the human mind to find explanations for existence without resort to myths and superstitions, simply because of the relative infancy of advancing civilization and thought? What if, contrary to popular opinion, god does not exist, yet Christians continue to believe he does, and go on blithely ignoring the evidence to the contrary, while feeling happy about it all the time? In short, what if their beliefs are based on a lie?
It could be argued that if you assume that life has to have some meaning, or some purpose, and that elusive sense of meaning is important to you, if you think you’ve found that meaning, then ipso facto, you should be happier. But if life isn’t supposed to have a purpose, if life just IS, to then superimpose a need for purpose and meaning is a form of self delusion. It is the artificial creation of a psychological need. And if that’s the case, then the invention of religion to satiate that yearning is akin to taking a drug. Perhaps Marx had it right all along?
I can’t seem to find any Christians who are bothered by this quandary. If there are any out there, please leave a comment. Even if you feel supremely happy because of your belief in god, what if you’re wrong? Doesn’t it bother you that your happiness may be based on nothing, or at best, a delusional approximation of truth? That you are convincing yourself that something is true when you have no basis for doing so, in order to feel good? Doesn’t the truth of your beliefs count for something?
I guess not. Christians can point to the same thing we point to, the finality of death, and say, “If I’m happy all my life, why should I be concerned about the source of my happiness? If what atheists say is true, then when I’m dead, I won’t know whether my happiness is based on falsehood or delusion, nor will it matter. If they are wrong, I’ll have been happy in this life, and the next. So, why worry?”
The possibility that religion helps them to be happy does not diminish the sense of fulfillment I get from atheism, though I suspect the opposite does not hold true for them. If it did, they wouldn’t be so insistent on proselytization and conversion. It almost seems as if they can’t be happy unless they know I’m happy for the same reasons they are. To have a separate but equal happiness inducing existence based on a completely different world view is anathema to them.
I am much happier knowing that I am the maker of my own destiny, as limited in time as that may be. I’m much happier knowing that some arbitrary super being hasn’t already decided my destiny, in the process creating really good odds that I will burn in hell, or be consigned to some equally deplorable place for all eternity. For that matter, I am much happier knowing that I won’t exist for eternity, for an infinite period of time (that alone would be a reason to snuff out one’s existence). I’m also much happier knowing that life has an explanation, (even though I may not fully know how it works) that the natural order of things is THE order of things, and that I can depend on the natural order to be consistent, without the occasional, unpredictable and arbitrary intervention by god. I don’t have to wonder why the universe is as it is, and I can simply accept the fact that it is, and stand in awe of it.
Christians may be happy, but so am I.
And you know what? More power to them. What ever floats their boat (insert more trite clichés). Me, I want to know what’s true, and base my happiness on that. As long as Christians keep their beliefs out of my life, and stick to the truths of this world, I’ll be happy too.
However, when their happiness comes at the expense of mine, that’s when their happiness becomes cheap and dangerous to mine.