Friday, March 21, 2008

The Sty in Socrates' Eye

We've heard this kind of crap before, but recent "research" claims that "people who believe in God are happier than agnostics or atheists." It seems that religious people are "better able to cope with disappointments such as unemployment or divorce than non-believers." And that's not all! These people "become even happier the more they pray and go to church"!

On the flip side, however, it seems also that these happy-go-lucky folk tended to be both more socially conservative and "less likely to look for a new job if they were out of work."

Now, if that doesn't paint a clear enough image your mind, consider the following, from "A proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder":
It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder and be included in future editions of the major diagnostic manuals under the new name: major affective disorder, pleasant type. In a review of the relevant literature it is shown that happiness is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, is associated with a range of cognitive abnormalities, and probably reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. One possible objection to this proposal remains--that happiness is not negatively valued. However, this objection is dismissed as scientifically irrelevant.[*]
RP Bentall
Department of Clinical Psychology, Liverpool University.

Clearly all that remains is a bit of empirical research to sort out "chickens" from "eggs," that sort of thing, followed by a general culling of happy fools from positions of power. Then maybe the rest of us can get some fucking work done.

[*] If anyone knows whether this went beyond the stage of "proposal," please let me know!


  1. Yeah, I have the same irritation about these claims.

    In the first place, there's the reality that most people, when asked by a stranger, "Do you believe in God?", will say "Yes," no matter how vague they might be about it. Certainly, here in the US.

    Second, I don't know how you measure the state of happiness, but I suspect such surveys rely on self-reporting, which is always dubious.

    Third, there's that whole "opiate of the masses" thing, which I believe was said by Groucho's brother, to keep in mind. Short version: happy idiots vs those of us in the reality-based community. The latter group tends to be more honest in appraisals of the current state of affairs, and less likely to resort to pap such as "Give it up to God" or "my reward will come in heaven."

    I could go on like this all morning, so I better stop here.

  2. Brendan,
    I've got nothing, really, against "happiness" as something that adds a few exclamation points to our lives. Perpetual happiness, well, we already have stuff for that, right? Cocaine, heroin, etc. Anyone who's always happy is going to be about as productive as a dope addict.
    I also found a nice irony in the connection between religion/happiness and conservative/laziness (in the first article). Not what we're usually lead to expect.