It’s true that happiness can be achieved without having faith but that’s only temporary happiness. You’ll find very few faithless people who are truly satisfied with their lives , and I believe that true satisfaction can only be achieved through faith.
On the other had, a non-believer can sometimes achieve happiness through other worldly things. i.e. For some, happiness is due to the material wealth they obtain, to being able to spend their money as they like, to buying whatever they want and consuming more and more each day.
For people like that, consumption, experiencing every beauty and pleasure, is the greatest source of happiness in their lives.
Yet, such desires are like a bottomless well — they never come to an end. Because of their desires people emerge who are never satisfied with anything they obtain, who always want more and better, and who believe that they will be able to live happier lives if they acquire more things, and better things. However, all their efforts only gain them a temporary happiness.
— An Internet Acquaintance
Every now and then, someone has come along to tell me that, because I don’t believe what he or she believes, I am not as happy as I could be. Sometimes they even tell me I am not happy at all. Now, my first, gut reaction to this “news” is almost always the same: I think they are a lunatic.
That’s my first impression, my gut impression. I think it a modest insight. It says a little, but not much. For anyone who goes around saying, “You are not truly happy because you do not believe what I believe”, is to some extent a lunatic, are they not?
They might be many things besides a lunatic. They might be arrogant. They might be foolish. They might be ideologically intoxicated. They might not know up from down. But we should not be surprised to find they suffer from one psychiatric disorder or another.
Of course, someone can be both a lunatic and, at the same time, right. I know this because I myself am both a lunatic and at least sometimes right. And, since it is possible to be both a lunatic and right about something, we cannot logically reject the lunatic’s notion that, “You are not truly happy because you do not believe what I believe”, on the mere grounds that it is a lunatic who says it.
So, is there anything at all really wrong with that notion? Can non-believers be truly happy? Or is the lunatic right to claim non-believers cannot be truly happy?
Well, my internet acquaintance who I quote above would argue that anyone who fails to believe what he believes cannot be truly happy. As he puts it, non-believers can be happy, but their happiness is only temporary.
To me, that seems to imply he thinks believers such as himself have achieved enduring, constant, or permanent happiness. But is belief or faith sufficient to produce enduring, constant, or permanent happiness?
It would be silly to think so, wouldn’t it?
Who is there among us who does not know at least one believer who is both faithful and unhappy? I myself know several, but I do not know any believers who are both faithful and always happy.
It seems believers can be happy, but their happiness is only temporary. But if that is the case, then in that respect there is no significant difference between believers and non-believers. I think my internet acquaintance has some explainin’ to do!
What are the real causes of human happiness? It turns out the science on this matter is still in its infancy and very little of it seems at this point to be conclusive. Nevertheless, there have been some interesting, but tentative, findings. Among other things, it happens the real causes of human happiness are apparently realizable even by non-believers. What a surprise!
Dr. Alan Carr, writing in Positive Psychology: The Psychology of Happiness and Human Strengths, describes not one but several factors which studies have suggested contribute to or cause human happiness. Among these factors are personality traits such as optimism and self-esteem; cultural traits such as living in a society with a high level of social equality; and so forth. And I recall that other researchers than Carr have found that the quality of one’s friendships is extremely important to one’s overall level of happiness.
As for myself, I rather like something Aristotle once said about happiness, which he identified with well-being, self-flourishing or perhaps self-realization. The relevant passage is difficult to translate, but here is a heavy paraphrase of it: “When choosing your life’s work, you will discover your happiness or bliss at that place where your individual talents and skills intersect with the needs of your society.” Aristotle had much besides that to say about human happiness, but that’s my favorite.
Significantly, none of the science suggests the silly notion that non-believers cannot be truly happy. And even thoughtful sages like Aristotle give no indication that belief or faith is essential to genuine happiness. Those particular notions appear to have been snatched from the clouds that surround the heads of at least a few proselytizing believers, rather than arrived at through research and reason.
To sum: It looks like my internet acquaintance is not only a lunatic, but a BS artist. Of course, it is always fun to be BSed. So perhaps that is the real reason that very many of us non-believers are deeply happy these days — we are happy because we are so often BSed by proselytizing believers such as my internet acquaintance.
At least that’s how I see it. But what do you make of all this?