Monday, September 24, 2018

Does Religion Make one Happy? Is That the Point?

Image result for happiness

Over on the Secular Outpost Blog Bradly Bowen is at it again. He's got another 76 part argument. He's only on part 3.1 so that's all I'll discuss today. He thinks he's attacking the roots of religion by questioning the ability of religion to make one happy.[1] He quotes some studies that would seem to indicate that religion's happy making potential is limited.
The correlation between religion and happiness thus appears to be a weak correlation, measuring somewhere between .06 and .18.  As pointed out above that is about the same as the correlation between being physically attractive and being intelligent (correlation = .14).  Obviously, there is only a weak correlation between being physically attractive and being intelligent. There are plenty of physically attractive people who are not very intelligent, and there are plenty of people who are not physically attractive who are very intelligent.[2]

the source he;s citing is a pretty bad source: Todd B. Kashdan Ph.D. Psychology Today.[3] Kasjdan is qualified but psychology today is not a very scholar source,I*t;s time magazine for  psychology, The study in question  relays upon meta analysis. Now meta analysis a gimmick used a lot of late.  It can be a way to hide the flaws of certain studies amid the cacophony of avast array of data from many studies,It might be thought of as similar to  grading on a curve.[4] My analogy. Kashdan;'s account of the research is minimal as he is writing for a popular level of knowledge, He does not discuss any specifics of methodology. One thing that is important to note the body of cowrie he draws  upon-- this goes for Bowen as well--does not deal with religious experience in the sens of charismatic or mystical experiences.

There are studies on happiness and religion that show a high degree of  happiness produced by religion.[5] 

Many people expect religion to bring them happiness. Does this actually seem to be the case? Are religious people happier than nonreligious people? And if so, why might this be?Researchers have been intrigued by such questions. Most studies have simply asked people how happy they are, although studies also may use scales that try to measure happiness more subtly than that. In general, researchers who have a large sample of people in their study tend to limit their measurement of happiness to just one or two questions, and researchers who have fewer numbers of people use several items or scales to measure happiness.
What do they find? In a nutshell, they find that people who are involved in religion also report greater levels of happiness than do those who are not religious. For example, one study involved over 160,000 people in Europe. Among weekly churchgoers, 85% reported being "very satisfied" with life, but this number reduced to 77% among those who never went to church (Inglehart, 1990). This kind of pattern is typical -- religious involvement is associated with modest increases in happiness.[6]

Bowen actually alludes to this fact. He plays with the figures to try and minimizes the importance. This unwittingly hints at the fallacy in his argument, Why should happiness be the sellim point any way? 

Niether Bowen nor Kashdan discuss the nature of happiness, there is no attempt to sort out different levels of happiness,My contention is that more important  than happiness is a more sophisticated concept breaking down elements of happiness  that being life transformation, this is the goal of religion and the reason for it;s existence and this cannot be reduced to a simplistic concept like "happiness," In my view he point of all religion is to resolve the human problematic with ultimate informative experience. That is finding and realized in religious experience.

This research on happiness crosses paths with research for my book the Trace of God, at one specific point. My research shows that there is a vast body of scientific work proving that a certain kind of religious experience is informative,that is it tends to change one;s life dramatically for the better in almost all categories. Of course the difference is I did not research just generic happiness as related to any and every kind of religious belief. It was limited to one specific kind of experience, But it was world wide and the data base was far greater than Bowen's. He;s not even scratching the surface, There are literally hundreds of studies correlating many of kinds of religious experiences with happiness and other positive states. He';s only dealing with a couple of studies and no reason given as to why they are representative.

My own research consists o 200 studies,m of many different methodologies gathered over a 50 year period, They are all all peer reviewed and published in academic outranks.
Bowen doesn't supply enough information about what he is measuring. What level and what approach to religion makes you happy? happy in what sense? How was this measured? Why is being happy a guide to truth?
Does he mean people who say:I believe in God? at some point feel happy at some time in some way or not? What level of belief? What kind of belie? I don't believe the rear great wines,I think all the talk about vintage and good year all just hype, There are not experts who taste wine so deeply, I base that on the fact that I tasted some wine once,it tasted like salty furniture polish. Some guy who goes to church every once and a while and answered questionnaire saying he believes in God although he he's not sure, is not too happy,.Religion does;t make you happy, It doesn;t make that guy happy.
In my search there are two classic studies on mystical experience their findings have been summed up.The point is to merely indicate the specificity of research categories, this is a summary of findings of these two:
Research Summary
From Council on Spiritual Practices Website
"States of Univtive Consciousness"
Also called Transcendent Experiences, Ego-Transcendence, Intense Religious Experience, Peak Experiences, Mystical Experiences, Cosmic Consciousness. Sources:
Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.
Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184.
Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.
Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.
Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. (Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.)
Long-Term Effects
*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is 
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style.[7]
*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion[8] [9]

My point is just talk about "happiness" does not tell us enough, What is happiness and why is it an index to truth content? In terms of my theological orientation the point of religion is to mediate an ultimate transformation experience in answer to the human problematic, that is what we see happening in mystical experience, "Happiness: is not a good translation for this deeper sense of transformation,
Now mind you,I found in by work many studies on religion and happiness and they all suggested great off scale happiness,I wasn;t really collecting that data,

Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. (Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.)


[1] Bradly Bowen, "Skeptcism about Religion--Part 3:More Caveats and Qualification," Secular Outpost (Sept. 20,2018) (accessed 9/23/18)

[2] Ibid.
[3] Paul T. Kashdan, "Does being Religious Make Us Happy?" Psychology Today (Oct 7,2015)
(access 9/24/18)

Todd B. Kashdan, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at George Mason University and the author of The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self–Not Just Your 'Good' Self–Drives Success and Fulfillment.

[4] Sander Greenland, "Invited Commentary, A critical Look At Some Poplar Meta Analytical Methods."American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 140, Issue 3, 1 August 1994, Pages 290–296, (access 9/24/18)
from the abstract: "A good meta-analysis will highlight and delineate the subjective components of these processes and vigorously search for sources of heterogeneity. Unfortunately, these objectives are not always met by common techniques."

[5] John Bingham,  "Religion can make you happier Official Figures Suggest." The Telecgrapoh (feb 2, 2016) (accessed 9/24/18).

[6] Michael E. Nielsen,  in Hinman, "Mystical Experience" Doxa, 2004.
(access 9/24/18)

Nielsen was professor of psychology I think at Georgia. I met him a long time ago when I first started doing apologetic. He had a very high quality academic research site on religious experience and psychology. He was one of the researchers I use in my book,I knew him pretty well we were friends,he was not a Christian but he did not hate religion, I realize his data is out of date here I think his perspective should be heard.

[7] Wuthnow, Robert . "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3),(1978) 59-75.

[8]Noble, Kathleen D.  ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4),(1987). 601-614.

[9] the research summary council   on Spiritual practices.see Trace of God

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