Who is happier, a religious believer or a nonbeliever?
New analysis shows that it's not quite so simple. Luke Galen has found that the convinced non-religious are also quite happy, but people who are uncertain are the ones who are dissatisfied. Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, a social scientist at Harvard, has analyzed data from the World Values Survey and found some more interesting details.
Uncertainity leads to dissatisfaction
Previous studies have tended to find that religious people are, on average, happier. But simple 'average' levels of happiness hide a lot of detail - convinced non-religious people are quite happy while those who are uncertain about their beliefs are dissatisfied with life.
Religious people are both happier and unhappier.
In other words, they tend to be found at either extremes of the happiness scale. A higher percentage of religious people say that they are extremely happy, compared with convinced atheists. But a higher percentage also say that they're extremely unhappy. Atheists are more likely to report being somewhere in-between.
Religious service-goers tend to be happier.
Teasing apart the data shows that people who go to religious services and belong to religious organisations are happier.
Non-believers tend to be happier.
In the same analysis, people who believe in god are much less happy. In other words, the happiest people are those who take part in the social side of religion but don't take all the religious doctrine and god stuff too seriously.
The effect depends on how religious the country is.
The more religious on average the country is, the happier believers are. In countries that are not very religious, non-believers are happier than believers.
This suggests that the reason non-believers are generally found to be less happy is because the studies have usually been done in countries where they are the minority.
In other words, being among like-minded people makes you happier. Also, it might simply be that people who want to fit in are happier. In religious countries, these kinds of people are religious. In non-religious countries, they're non-religious.
Religion alleviates the effects of unemployment
This only applies in rich countries. Okulicz-Kozaryn showed that being unemployed makes you unhappy, and that this effect is stronger in rich countries compared with poor ones. Unemployed people who are religious are happier than the non-religious unemployed, but only in rich countries.
He speculates that there is greater social stigma to unemployment in rich countries, and that religion alleviates the misery that this causes.
Religions cause extremes
All this seems to confirm that the religions cause extremes - both high happiness but also high unhappiness. Plus, happiness is mostly linked to social activities. This study seems to explain why atheist countries, like Scandinavia, are amongst the happiest. Atheists are happy when among like-minded people, and the societies in which they predominate are also rich in the other factors that make people happy - freedom, justice, and equality.
Confusion of Terms
There seems to be confusion between the meaning of atheism and agnosticism. Agnosticism deals with your knowledge on a subject; atheism describes a lack of belief in deities. These terms are not mutually exclusive.If you don't know whether gods exist, you are agnostic. It simply means "without knowledge."
You can be an agnostic atheist (I don't know, but I don't believe in gods).
You can be an agnostic theist (I don't know, but I do believe in god/s).
You can be a gnostic atheist (I know that god/s do not exits).
A gnostic theist claims, "I believe in god and I know he exists".
For a much deeper analysis of the different belief/epistemological combinations and a very useful graphic representation see tha Free Thinker.
Launching our Blog of Yoga & Health
I am proud to announce that we have finally launched our very own blog. As I headed our founders page with Heraclitus' wise words -"You can not step into the same river twice", I want to say that we at 'Yoga Center' Madrid are now stepping into a 'new waters' with our blog.
Bilingual Yoga Blog
I am launching it in two languages, Spanish and English, not only to keep you all better informed of the what is happening in the international community of Yoga, health, well being and spirituality; but, also because I can write to you more openly and freely in English and I believe that I can contribute much more if you let me speak to you in English as well as Castellano.
The Yoga Movement
I propose to share with you my opinions about Yoga, its practices, teachings and traditions. I hope sometimes to surprise you and perhaps challenge some of your favourite myths.
The Yoga community started out as a counter-cultural movement, that claimed to be above dogmatism, prejudice, exploitation and excessive consumption. It had faith in individual transformation and development, personal discipline and altruism. If, as we enter the 21st century, we don't stand up for our form of ethical humanism then we will have failed our original mission to assist in bringing global peace and universal brotherhood a bit closer for all.
I will share with you many of my personal interests and pet peeves related to our global predicament and the modern assaults against humanism.
Some of our senior teachers will also be blogging their experiences regarding teaching and practicing Yoga. Look for their blogs in the coming weeks. I have also invi¡ted important teachers and Swamis from around the world to participate.
'Yoga Center' Madrid Web Dialogue
I hope that you enjoy this web conversation. As the beginning of a new adventure, I look forward to discovering more about what Yoga and holistic health mean to you.