Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: Despite claims of secularists, religion makes for happier people’

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Published: Wednesday, Aug. 17 2011 1:00 p.m. MDT

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OK Dr. Petersen, your opinion piece was fairly reasonable until you started down the cheap and fallacious road of equating atheism with Marxism with Nazism. In the politest possible use of the word, that's garbage. Nazism was a mix of fascism that blended far right and left wing politics, including a number of socially conservative principles. Calling Nazism the only possible outcome of an nonreligious society is rather dishonest and lazy.

In your attempt to fluff up the image of religiosity, you failed to mention the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, and the appalling abuses that religion has forced upon Warren Jeff's polygamous sect. Just to name a few. It seems that even a professor at an accredited university is not immune to cherry-picking facts to fit an argument. He should know better, though.

By the way, I have little issue with people holding religious beliefs. I have a problem with religious people blaming me for the world's ills.

Monsieur le prof
Sandy, UT

@Rand: I think you've done some cherry-picking of your own. You seem to have missed the point of the article. If you've read your history, you know that Catholicism (and, later on, Protestantism) was less about religion and more about acquiring power and wealth. And the 19 people hanged in Salem can't compare with the millions killed during WW II. Furthermore, religion did not force "appalling abuses" on Jeffs' polygamous sect, it was vice-versa. That's why he is in jail.

By the way, your paranoia shows when you say that religious people blame you for the "world's ills." Where was that mentioned?

South Jordan, UT

Ironically, poverty in less-religious areas such as Western Europe is almost entirely eradicated. What does that say about us when the less-religious countries do a better job of caring for their poor than we do?


It is ironic that Denmark is the happiest place on earth in poll after poll (year after year). Additionally, it is strange that religious liberals are far more charitable than religious conservatives (American Grace, 2003). Finally, Utah ranks first in anti-depressant usage and online pornography subscriptions. What is it that Christ said. Judge not that ye be not judged.


Monsieur le prof
"If you've read your history, you know that Catholicism (and, later on, Protestantism) was less about religion and more about acquiring power and wealth."
The same could be said for any entity that comes in to power and wealth. Those who rise to power, yes even those in religious positions (including the LDS Church), cling to their power and attempt to acquire more. This is human nature, it does not matter if it political, religious, . When religions are no longer run by humans, I expect this will change, but not until then.

Mike W
Syracuse, UT

I can only speak for myself, but since I left the LDS church in 1997 I've been happier and more at peace than at any point while I was active. I've also seen plenty of statistics that show atheists and agnostics as happier and having better marriages than religious people... goes to show anyone with the right "sample" group can get a poll result that they want.

Layton, UT


Anti-depressants are used for more than "depression." Anxiety is a biggy, and that is not quite equal to depression. Utah has NO higher percentage than the national average of mental illness, (Depression is considered a mental illness), and yet we do have a high rate of anti-depressants prescribed. It is simple: It is over-prescribed. I know two people who were prescribed anti-depressants here because they were having problems dealing with divorce. Gee, I always thought unhappiness was a part of life, just like happiness.

As far as pornography, the TOP 3 areas in which porn was used is in Salt Lake County (More liberal), Carbon County, (Super high rate of Hispanics miners and their families) and finally, San Juan county, which is 60% Native American.

So should we say that liberal SLC folks, Hispanics and Native Americans have a higher rate of "checking out porn?" I "get" what you're trying to say, unfortunately, I just don't "buy" it. Have a nice day.

Oh, and by the way, the "Mormon Church" doesn't "own" Coca Cola, either.

Huntsville, UT

Personally I believe that religion can instill good ideas and healthy ways of life like taking care of your body and mind.

On the other hand, they can also instill bad things like bigotry, pride (the "I'm better than you because I am religious), and hypocrisy.

I've met people both good and bad from religions. Religion doesn't have a patent on morals, nor is religion the source of morality - even though they like to think so.

Fairfax Station, VA

i would change religious to spiritual to get the manmade aspects out of the equation.concerning who the happy ones are, two weeks ago visiting slc and outside the joseph smith building less than 15 yards from the front door entrance, i sat for 20 minutes and had a conversation/prayer with a white homeless man in his 60's who told me that those "mormons" going in and out give him looks and words of disgust and anger as he sits and waits for handouts. those who do give him $ or take time to sit and even some who pray right there on the concrete pillar with him are 99% non-lds.

in this sample, in this scenario the lds encountering the homeless face to face do not appear "happy". maybe when they go inside and are captured by the 'spirit' of the foyer they are happy!

religion does strange things to people!

Sugar Hill, GA

I think that one reason secularists don't give to charity is because they believe it is the government's responsibility to take care of others and they are relieved of all responsibility. It IS NOT charity when the government takes other people's money to "help" the poor through taxes. Charity is a VOLUNTARY contribution. People who believe in economic freedom believe everyone should have the right to decide what to do with their own money and they can freely give to charity or choose not to.

Utes Fan
Salt Lake City, UT

People criticizing Utah for high rates of anti-depressants might just be giving Utah an unintentional compliment. Utahans seek help more frequently - thus more subscriptions to anti-depressants. Also, Utahans avoid alcohol and illegal drugs more frequently, which some people use in an amateur way to treat depression. Both are good.

moniker lewinsky
Taylorsville, UT

Way to start out with politically undertones. That's not all divisive or hostile, is it?

moniker lewinsky
Taylorsville, UT

I am an atheist. So is my husband. A week ago, I used a gift card to pay for some couch covers at IKEA. The next day, I realized that I had used the wrong gift card. (I had two and I mixed them up.) The card I used had less than a $5 balance on it. Without realizing that the covers weren't completely paid for, I scooped them up and left. The next day I realized my error. I could have let it go. I didn't. I packed up two kids, returned to IKEA, and went through a hassle with the managment so that I could pay. My husband has one of the rarest blood types out there and he regularly adjusts his schedult to donate. We even took a day off our vacation because an infant needed surgery.
We were both raised in religious households and are now atheists. Time will tell how our children turn out. I'm tired of Peterson's divisiveness. Rand and Timj are spot on. If you want respect for your beliefs, don't go out of your way to bash mine.

Provo, UT

Moniker Lewinsky

For many left-wing secularists, their social/policital ideology is their ersatz religion. They have irrational faith in their ideology, even though it has a long history of failure compared with the explosion of knowledge and technology that coincided with the advent of freedom and free markets which emerged in 1776 (See Dr. Peterson's article from last week). Freedom works. Socialism fails.

Rutherfordton, NC

I would prefer it if Mr. Peterson did not assume that because I am religious (Mormon! which will shock anyone reading this in a moment) I share his Libertarian views. I do not. I am a follower of Christ. Therefore, I believe in charity. I want to help others at all times and in any way that I can. I do not care how this accomplished. Advocating withholding help from those who need it simply because you do not agree with the way our current government works is uncharitable. Un-Christlike. All the people I hear advocating this kind of "economic Libertarianism" are so full of ideas supporting ways they can better clutch their money tightly in their fists nigh until they are laid down in the grave, yet so bereft of ideas of how we might fill the needs left by their greedy, selfish schemes. So please, leave me out of this and don't talk for me. I'm capable of expressing my own views and I don't care to have them so grossly distorted.

Idaho Coug
Meridian, Idaho

Why in the world would Dan Peterson feel a need to even make this argument? Any reasonable, intelligent person knows that religion can and does provide charity and service opportunities and the non-religious can and do find other avenues to provide charity and service. And both the religious and non-religious can be selfish as well.

In the end, we all need to improve our level of charity and service regardless of our motivation for doing so.

Farmington, UT

@redhat: Perhaps the experience outside the J.S. Building is a reflection of the fact that Mormons are encouraged to donate to homeless shelters and food kitchens, etc. rather than directly giving money to pan-handlers. There have been plenty of anecdotal stories of citizens offering jobs to homeless people on the street who refuse and say they just want the money. In an effort to give food, shelter, and help in looking for jobs, the LDS Church would like members to donate to the above mentioned organizations or simply give food to those on the street. Stating that Mormons going in and out of the building gave the homeless man looks of disgust is pretty subjective. Mormons aren't only ones going into that building either.

Having said this, I can't see how the author of this article was thinking that "cherry picking" statistics and drawing the conclusions he did would be helpful to readers of the DN. It seems inflammatory and self-righteous. Jesus warned against those like the Pharisees who stand on the corner and pray or give alms, hoping to gain recognition for themselves. He should keep on giving, but keep it to himself.

moniker lewinsky
Taylorsville, UT

As I already said, I have no religion. Having a conviction is not the same as having a religion. I don't know why some people don't get that. I am an atheist. No ersatz religion. Just me.
I don't know why Peterson can't just write an article about how important it is to give. I don't know why he can't say something like: Jesus taught that we should take care of the needy. But even if you don't believe in the Jesus of the Bible, there are still a lot of good reasons to take care of the needy.

Instead, he goes out of his way to alienate people who aren't religious. But he doesn't stop there. He even alienates people like Stephanie (and a lot of LDS friends of mine) who are religious but less politically conservative.

I don't want to debate about socialism. To say I'm socialist is a stretch anyway. I'm just saying that there are ways to make a point that are divisive and there are ways that unite.
I care about the poor. My ideas on how to address the problem might differ from yours. That might never change. But I care.

Salt Lake City, UT

I don't know about anyone else but I was much happier after I stopped going to church and eventually became an atheist.

I hated being pigeonholed into the role of wife and mother. I hated being told that there is one way to happiness and if I'm unhappy that it's MY fault. I hated the idea that the only way to reach ultimate salvation is by following the LDS faith and even the best people of other faiths aren't as good as the hypocrites I went to church with. I hated being taught in seminary that we shouldn't marry minorities because they're "just not as good as us" and having no one protest. I hated being shunned because I was one of the few people in my suburban Utah school that didn't go to seminary. I hated being harassed by neighbors about going to church.

I am honest and charitable not because I'm religious, but because my parents taught me to be the best person I can.

This article proves that many religious people are more charitable than non-religious people simply to toot their own horns but it's all a scam.

Miami Area, Fl

Unusual title for this article.

No where in the article does it even claim that the Religious are happier.

It contends that those who give to charity and volunteer are happier, but never even mentions or supports the notion that the religious are happier.

Now, as far as pets, there are studies that show that pet owners are happier and healthier.

There are however, no statistics on how much pets donate to charity.

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