A Dubious Generality

Maybe religion makes some people happier and others less so. All religions have moral codes and have beliefs about the results of abiding by or of disobeying those codes. Consider the Ten Commandments of Christianity, one of which strictly forbids misusing the name of the deity. Bertrand Russell in his essay “Why I Am Not a Christian” suggests that this commandment has caused many people unhappiness because they think they have disobeyed it, and are doomed in consequence. In fact most people do not even understand what the commandment is forbidding, which is the misuse of the divine name in ritualistic cursings and blessings. Other people find great comfort in the religious doctrines, particularly in cases of the death of a loved one, who is believed to have moved on to a better state of being. Overall the claim that “Highly religious Americans are happier” seems like a dubious generality.

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