Monday, April 15, 2013

Who Is Happier; Fundamentalists or Atheists?

Most people assume that the fewer restrictions one has in life, the happier a person will be. Yet, Dr. Sheena Iyengar, professor at Columbia University conducted some research that showed some surprising results. She interviewed over 600 people from nine different religions. She writes, "These faiths were categorized as fundamentalist (Calvinism [Yes, she calls considers Calvinists to be Fundamentalists], Islam, and Orthodox Judaism), which imposed many day-to-day regulations on their followers; conservative (Catholicism, Lutheranism, Methodism, and Conservative Judaism); or liberal (Unitarianism and Reform Judaism), which imposed the fewest restrictions. In fact, some branches of the liberal religions don’t even require their practicing members to believe in God, and the largest percentage of Unitarian Universalists described themselves as secular humanists, followed by those with an earth- or nature-centered spirituality."

Here is what she found: "To my surprise, it turned out that members of more fundamentalist faiths experienced greater hope, were more optimistic when faced with adversity, and were less likely to be depressed than their counterparts. Indeed, the people most susceptible to pessimism and depression were the Unitarians, especially those who were atheists. The presence of so many rules didn’t debilitate people; instead, it seemed to empower them. Many of their choices were taken away, and yet they experienced a sense of control over their lives. This study was an eye-opener: Restrictions do not necessarily diminish a sense of control, and freedom to think and do as you please does not necessarily increase it."

Here is to being a happy "Fundamentalist!"

Iyengar, Sheena (2010-04-01). The Art of Choosing (p. 27). Hachette Book Group. Kindle Edition.


Thesauros said...

That's no surprise to me. My life really only began after becoming a follower of Jesus at 30 years old. That was 32 years ago. I can honestly say that while difficulties abound, suffering comes on a regular basis and loss and pain can be expected in the future, because of my relationship with Jesus, every year since becoming a Christian has been better than the year before. I see no reason why that trend should ever stop. To say that I am a fundamentalist (my definition) evangelical Christian would be bang on.

God Bless

Anonymous said...

Years ago I read a book entitled "Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish" by Sue Bender. It is a great read and the author discuss this very concept. Her discovery was that boundaries, while being restrictive in one sense, also can allow for great freedom and creativity within the boundaries, perhaps in part by limiting distractions. While the author did not become Amish, nor other fundamentalist for that matter, she came away from her experience with a great lesson on the benefits of healthy boundaries in life.