Does theism make people happier

Lucky Charms Faith Does God Make Us Happy?

From Sabrina Becker

Can Faith Make You Happier? (dpa / picture alliance / Arno Burgi)

People who believe in God should be happier and more stress-resistant. At least that's what scientific studies say. But what does that mean in everyday life? Are priests and religious happier than everyone else? And how does happiness work through faith?

The smell of home-baked apple pie, a touch, a kiss, the raise, the birth of your own child, having time, the luxury yacht, a good conversation or passing the exam. Happiness - what is it actually? First of all, just one word. A term that is as vague as it is ambiguous, somewhere between euphoria and satisfaction. "Everyone wants to live happily", wrote the Roman philosopher Seneca almost 2000 years ago. But never before in human history was the longing for happiness such a big topic as it is today. Psychologists, philosophers and sociologists are on the trail of his secret. Women's magazines and guides have apparently already unraveled it. There is the school subject "happiness", happiness cafés and perfumes that smell of happiness. Gina Schöler also works in the happiness industry. During her studies she founded the "Ministry of Happiness and Wellbeing" - an initiative for conscious living. What began as an art project at the university became a sure-fire success: As the "Minister of Happiness", the 28-year-old communications designer is now traveling through Germany, giving seminars and workshops on the subject of joie de vivre. How do you define happiness, Ms. Schöler?

"I am reluctant to give a fixed definition, even if I am always asked for it. But I say: out there there is an individual definition of happiness in every single head. Of course there are certain basic requirements that promote happiness, but I can Don't stand in front and say: This and that is luck. And you have to do this and that in order to get there. Rather, I can only give or tickle a little nudge or motivate you to answer this question yourself. "

There is no binding, uniform definition: everyone has their own idea of ​​what happiness is. But how people become happy - sociologists have now researched well. Your result, among other things: Religion - to put it bluntly - makes you happy. A strong belief has a positive effect on happiness in life, say the scientists. God - a good luck charm? David Hassenford was ordained a priest in 2011. The 33-year-old is currently working as a chaplain in the St. Marien parish in Berlin-Spandau. Did he become a priest in order to be happy?

"Oh no, I definitely didn't become a priest in order to be happy. Maybe because of the motivation to make others happy or to point out the happiness of my life to others, namely that I found my happiness in God."

Finding happiness in God - or believing in him. At least that's not how it is literally in the Bible. The term luck rarely appears there. Only a few times in the Old Testament, not at all in the New Testament. But that does not mean that the Bible does not contain stories of happiness; for example, the story of the prodigal son or the Beatitudes tell of a successful life. The church still has a bit of a problem with the term happiness, says David Hassenford. Also because coincidence always resonates with this word.

"'Lucky' instead of 'Thank God' - for me both belong together: If I was lucky, then I can also say: 'Thank God'. Because in the Bible - especially in the Old Testament - there are the few passages , in which the word happiness occurs, always related to God. It is God from whom happiness comes, who gives us happiness, who adds happiness. The Church has difficulties with the word. I personally work with it, To make it understandable that faith means joy, meaning, hope, confidence and consolation. And for me all this is happiness, happiness in life. "

So is our happiness just a scaled-down version of bliss in heaven?

One of the first Christians who wanted to understand how God and happiness are related is the church father Augustine. In the year 386 AD he wrote a little book entitled De beatavita - Of the happy life. The topic occupied him all his life. Man could never find perfect happiness on earth. Happiness comes after death at the earliest, explains Augustine. Blissful - that exceeds "normal" happiness. That means heaven to be with God. In the Middle Ages, the theologian Thomas Aquinas dared to take a more secular look: perfect happiness can only be achieved in the hereafter, but everyone can achieve imperfect happiness on earth. So is our happiness just a boring, stripped-down version of bliss in heaven?

"Now it's going to be very pious. Because we, as Christians, believe in the physical resurrection. That is very difficult for some people to understand. We are made with our body, so with flesh and blood, not only with the soul and as spirits, resurrect, have eternal life and go to heaven. And for me this bodily resurrection includes that what I experience in this life, what is given to me, also what I go through, that it has a meaning and is also canceled That means, my happy moments will also be resurrected. And so I actually believe that the happiness that happens to me in this life is actually a foretaste of heaven and also helps me to practice this perfect happiness, to move towards it looking forward."

Happiness on earth - from a Christian perspective a foretaste of heaven? If so, it still doesn't always taste the same. Scientists differentiate between different "fortunes": On the one hand, there is chance fortune that can bring wonderful moments. It suddenly falls to you like winning the lottery. Even in antiquity, people worshiped the randomness of happiness as a goddess: Fortuna, pictured as a young, capricious woman with flowing hair who turns the wheel of fate. If people strive for happiness today, they first and foremost understand that they are doing well, that they are healthy, have fun, and feel good. "Happiness consists of a pretty bank account, a good cook and an impeccable digestion," said the French philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau. The problem with this happiness is that it tastes sweet and intense, but only for a brief moment. The priest David Hassenford knows that too. His last moment of happiness of this kind came during his move.

"It was when all the moving boxes and all the furniture were in the apartment and I was able to collapse into an empty armchair in all this chaos. And then I actually lit a cigarette and said to myself: That would be done now! That was Well. I think that I will quickly forget this move when the next, even more strenuous, move comes. But those moments of happiness that are not forgotten are, for example, when my father had a major operation and it turned out to be there I happy, you don't forget that, or when my godchild was born. Or my own ordination as a priest. That was also a very happy moment. "

Happiness is more than a cozy, good feeling that only lasts for a short moment. Constanze Bode knows that too. In 1997 she entered the order of the Sisters of St. Catherine. Today the 49-year-old is on the road as a pastor in the Sankt Gertrauden Hospital in Berlin. What does happiness mean to you?

"For me, this means that things happen in life where I feel in the course of the process: It fits together like a puzzle. That results in a whole that I hadn't expected before. And then I realize that I'm satisfied and happy with it. That is then for me a moment when I am happy. "

I can't just create my happiness in life like that

Happiness - for most people that is the deep satisfaction that they feel when they are at peace with themselves, when they recognize the connections. When suddenly everything makes sense in retrospect. It is this happiness that faith can give. At least that's what the happiness researchers say. Christians believe that they are connected to something higher, with someone who accompanies them through all the adversities of life. They believe that they fit into a larger whole, that they know the answer to the questions that all people ask: Where do we come from? Where are we going?
"You make your own luck." You just have to "grab it by the head" or help it a little.

If we believe these proverbs, the thing with happiness is very simple: Just as I only have to follow the instructions for use to screw together a closet, I will be happy when I become active and act myself. But that only works to a certain extent: The quick happiness that gives me nice feelings for a moment is feasible. Eating ice cream, walking barefoot across a meadow, listening to my favorite song. But the deeper happiness, my happiness in life, I can't just create that. Just as I cannot free myself from unhappiness. The boring days, illness, suffering - all of this is part of life. Happiness always includes unhappiness, says the philosopher Wilhelm Schmid. He even speaks of the "paradox of happiness": A life can only be perceived as happy if a person accepts its tests and sees them as opportunities for development. As a hospital chaplain, Sister Constanze encounters other people's suffering on a daily basis. She says: Faith in God can help you in difficult hours.

"It is an opportunity to give your life a direction, to give it a special hold. A possibility to reflect on different situations, deal with them, and then draw from them and shape life.So that things that initially appear to me as failures, but then can change through his spirit, which goes with me, or in retrospect is such that it was good the way it came then - although I would like to do it differently would have had."

Happiness researchers confirm: Believers are also happier because they are better able to deal with crises, such as illness, separation or unemployment. Faith assumes a certain emotional buffer function for them. Suspecting yet another dimension to which everything that goes wrong can be entrusted can be a great relief, says David Hassenford.

"Most of the moments of happiness, if I remember now, were always those where I thought: You won't be able to do it on your own. If things come together and everything doesn't turn out as bad as expected, that's for me a happy moment, and then I can thank you too. For me, happiness and gratitude belong together, and I know that I can also thank God for many things that I am allowed to experience. "

Enjoy your life instead of just brooding

Christians are not automatically happier than everyone else. They are neither more beautiful, healthier, richer, nor smarter than non-Christians. That is why agnostics and atheists also consider the studies of happiness researchers to be meaningless: Non-believers cannot simply turn to faith in order to become happy, they argue. True: I have to be convinced of some things in life, otherwise I can be the same to let. Half-hearted belief must remain powerless and joyless. Believe a little? Or believe only for the purpose of being happy? It does not work. Neither does it work to pick the "raisins" out of faith. Please only what you like. The author Markus Spieker warns of the "poison of the prosperity gospel": Especially in the USA, Christian prophets of happiness incited their audience not to simply accept suffering and privation. Instead of mere confidence and hope, they demand unconditional optimism. Constant grin, instead of an expression of suffering. But the other extreme does not make you happy either: Anyone who permanently only feels like a sinner, is afraid of divine punishment or is plagued by a bad conscience, makes faith cross-miserable. So what did Jesus mean when he said:

Do not worry about your life and that you have something to eat, nor about your body, that you have something to wear. Isn't life more important than food and the body more important than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: they don't sow, they don't reap, they don't gather supplies in barns; your Heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you worth much more than they are? Who of you, with all your worry, can prolong your life for even a small period of time? But for you it must first be about the kingdom of God and about his righteousness, then everything else will be given to you. So don't worry about tomorrow: for tomorrow will take care of itself. (Mt 6,25f, 33f.)

Enjoy your life instead of constantly brooding over what might be different tomorrow. Stop chasing happiness! That's what Jesus says here. And: Those who believe do not have to realize all their dreams in this world if they can hope for the hereafter. He can live entirely in the here and now. "Being in the flow" is the saying today: If I am "in the flow", my feelings, my thoughts and actions are in line with one another. "Give your life more flow!" Advises Jesus. It's a kind of abandonment that he advertises. Surrender to life, to something bigger, instead of your own selfish pursuit of happiness. Because the happiness of finding meaning in life is not a question of self-optimization. It is not or not only up to us whether we will be happy: our genes, our talents, the social conditions, the time in which we are born - all of these determine whether we will be happy. And believing in God is not a ticket to an all-round fulfilling life. Nowhere does the Bible promise: Believe and you will be happy. Faith is not a subscription to beautiful feelings and happy endings. It can be an orientation - like a GPS signal that always shows me the way if I break down or if I am completely off the road. Does god make happy? Certainly not as we can understand it with our earthly standards. It may not make us happy, but it makes us blissful.

Used literature:

Klaus Douglass: Happiness is now. Asslar: adeo 2011.

Christiane Hagn: Glück togo. 20 uncompromising self-attempts to find the daily dose of happiness. Berlin: Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf 1012.

Wilhelm Schmid quotes from:
Wilhelm Schmid: Luck. All you need to know about it and why it's not the most important thing about life. Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig: Insel Verlag 2007.

Markus Spieker quotes from:
Markus Spieker: God makes you happy. And other pious lies. Holzgerlingen: SCM Hänssler 2013.

Gina Schöler and the "Ministry for Happiness and Wellbeing"