Defending the Faith: Despite claims of secularists, religion makes for happier people

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  • christoph Brigham City, UT
    Aug. 25, 2011 11:37 a.m.

    What is Arthur C Brooks opinion on his own Catholicism and it's effects on Europe and the USA? Mr. Peterson (whose articles I enjoy) makes money off secularism (as do most teachers and universities)------ teaching economics and finance and how to make a profit is not for everyone. People are more important than things.

  • Hank Pym SLC, UT
    Aug. 21, 2011 2:52 p.m.

    re: Cats | 7:04 p.m. Aug. 18, 2011

    If someone doesn't agree with you or post something critical of the state's dominant sect then they are an atheist?

    Its that "its black or white mentality" that turns alot of people off of organized religion.

    Since embracing a chimera of Deism/Gnosticism/Taoism, I have never felt better.

    re: Pagan | 10:33 p.m. Aug. 18, 2011


  • Idaho Coug Meridian, Idaho
    Aug. 19, 2011 4:17 p.m.

    The bottom line is that all people receive a measure of happiness through charity and service. There are many different ways to do that including through religion or through secular opportunities.

    I think we each need to ask ourselves what our motivation is for providing service and how we can increase that aspect of our lives?

    I would assume the more selfless and pure the motivation the more happiness will come from it.

    Do you give and serve because you believe you have to or you are not worthy? Is it so you can have the TR signed? Do you do it out of guilt? Do you do it for the tax break? Do you do it so others will see it? I would assume that these kind of motivations result in less happiness from giving and serving than we otherwise could gain if we do it because we want that to be a part of who we are.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    Aug. 19, 2011 2:48 p.m.

    Good article. Lots of silly comments following it, though.

    Most of them seem to be reading into the article things that, so far as I can tell, it doesn't actually SAY.

  • Maryquilter Farmington, UT
    Aug. 19, 2011 1:44 p.m.

    Of course people can be spiritual or religious AND be happy, and of course people can also not be particularly religious AND be happy. Of course some people who may have been an atheist and were unhappy can "find religion" and become happy. The opposite is also true.

    Each person individually has his or her own concept of happiness. To me, the key is to allow others to find their own keys to happiness without judging them and for those people to allow me the same privilege. I cannot know the experiences of a commenter on this site to understand why they may have left their church and then become happier in their mind. Likewise commenters do not know what lead me to find more happiness after joining the LDS church.

    It seems pretty impossible that some writer can look at particular polls then publish an article stating that "religious people" are definitively "happier" than those who are not. This only leads to the kind of judgmental accusations being thrown around on this web page.

  • Joggle Clearfield, UT
    Aug. 19, 2011 12:29 p.m.


    If your finding of religion makes you happy....that's great....but you can't assume all people are the same or have the same needs. Personally, I KNOW that religion would make me unhappy! What may make one person happy does not necessarily make another person happy!

    It's common for religious people to be incredulous at the idea that a person could not just live, but enjoy life without believing in any gods and without following any religion. Because of this, religious believers also often make all kinds of assumptions about irreligious atheists/agnostic/etc. and the sorts of lives they must lead. These assumptions are rarely, if ever, true. Religious people must learn that neither their theism nor their religion are necessary to living a satisfying, fulfilling, and happy life. Religious people may place their religion and their belief in a god at the center of lives, but the fact that they cannot imagine living a good life without that religion and that god doesnt mean that it's impossible and that others cannot. There are plenty that do!

  • Maryquilter Farmington, UT
    Aug. 19, 2011 11:15 a.m.

    I don't see what is "wrong" with making charitable contributions to an entity of your choice who then in turn takes part of your contributions and those of all it's donors and spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to feed, clothe,give vital medications to, teach self-sufficiency to, dig wells for, build schools and hospitals for and much more-- all to needy peoples around the world? I am speaking of the LDS Church who does all these things with part of the tithing and contributions of it's members. No tithing dollars go to pay salaries of those running their humanitarian services.

    People are free to make charitable contributions to organizations (who possibly unbeknownst to their contributors) that pass most of the contributions along to their administrators and advertisers and little on to the actual needy. (poor syntax I know) I don't criticize them for claiming their contributions on their taxes since it is legitimate to do so. I don't want to discourage charitable contributions in this world.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Aug. 19, 2011 11:01 a.m.

    22ozn44ozglass - do you mean that sjv is doing the same cherry picking that mormons do in regards to what their leaders have said in the past? I think the answer is yes. Cherry pick a statement by Brigham Young, then ignore racist statements made by him. It is rampant throughout the church so I guess you could say even religious people cherrypick information to support their arguements.

  • full disclosure Providence, UT
    Aug. 19, 2011 8:34 a.m.

    Mormons appaear to be happy because they have been told many times (almost weekly) that they have the "Plan of happiness." Tell someone something enough times and they start to believe it.
    I have talked to many LDS women in their early 30's- to mid 40's who feel overwhelmed and have hard time coping with the expectations that they have to live up to as LDS Moms

    Aug. 19, 2011 8:04 a.m.

    22ozn44ozglass you are wrong. Using those controls and target demographics (devices that scientists have to use very often) Utah does lead the nation in online porn subscriptions. Don't fault the scientists. Clearly you do not understand the scientific method very well. After all the scientific method is all about trying to control for all variables except the one that is being tested. Therefore the conclusion Utah has an abnormally high subscription rate to online porn stands. That is, until you prove it wrong. Isn't science great. This finding comes across as hypocritical.

    To your second point, 12% of the population is a very good sampling size. It probably gives a pretty good representation of the average sales of anti-depressants. Utah has an abnormally high rate. I can't say that people are using their prescribed meds but it would seem rather silly to purchase them and not use them. So I stand by what I've said. It is wrong for Dan Peterson to point fingers and claim hypocrisy.

  • raybies Layton, UT
    Aug. 19, 2011 6:15 a.m.

    I think religious folk are more willing to give when nonreligious persons might think they can't afford it. It's not just a matter of pragmatism with religious folk, and I think that makes a difference--especially in times of economic downturn. For them, it's a matter of faith. A "true" atheist doesn't live on faith (though atheists actually DO live by faith, they just don't call it that, but that's beside my point).

    I know a lot of atheists get on here and talk about all the great things they've done--that's really not the point of this article. He's not arguing that nonreligious are incapable of giving, he's pointing out longterm statistical data does not hold for nonreligious populations.

    That's troubling because it demonstrates a fundamental flaw in society that becomes too secular. Like it or not, unless you can somehow organize and convince all the atheists to start giving, you'll simply continue this downward spiral into socially selfish nihilism.

    Furthermore, Government programs cannot be claimed by atheists--because everyone pays into those, regardless of our personal feelings towards them. That's not charity--that's forced upon everyone. There's no personal accountability there. Again, the atheists fail to persuade.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 19, 2011 5:21 a.m.

    "Why did your parents teach you to be the best person you could? Were they religious and did their religious beliefs animate their lives? "

    Seriously? Non-religious people can have basic human decency you know... that's why when you think of hotbeds of crime New Hampshire doesn't come to mind (lowest crime rate, highest percentage of atheists in the US... btw I'm not claiming that atheists are more moral... just using an example to disprove the claim that atheists are less moral).

    "It's been my experience that most people who are unhappy with their church are not living the precepts that the church teaches."

    Or they just don't believe in the Joseph Smith story (if it's someone leaving the LDS church).

    @monsieur le prof
    "And Europeans are not very generous. They expect the state to take care of the needy.

    But they support the tax increases on themselves to pay for it. Here everyone just whines that taxes (lowest rates in half a century) are too high even though we have massive deficits.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 19, 2011 5:10 a.m.

    So... religion makes for happier people, except that the very atheist Scandinavian countries are the happiest in the world. Religion makes people donate more... but those secular nations have lower poverty rates and affordable healthcare access provided to everyone (thus rendering donations less necessary).

  • Jim987 West Jordan, Utah
    Aug. 19, 2011 2:55 a.m.

    Naziism was all about religiosly based. Hitler was a strong Christian and blamed Jews for the World's problems. Thousands were murdered in the name of God (Hitler believed he was doing God's will). It seems like Most wars are fought over religious difference. I am non-religious but I have 3 children in Africa that I donate to monthly. Maybe the title of this article shoud be renamed "Charitable people are more happy than non-charitable.".

  • 22ozn44ozglass Southern Utah, UT
    Aug. 19, 2011 2:00 a.m.


    "Finally, Utah ranks first in anti-depressant usage"

    This deceptive and false claim is based upon the Express Scripts 2002 Prescription Drug Atlas.

    sjv et al have you ever read this study?

    Once again, the media, some with benign intentions and others with prejudice, cherry picked quotes/findings from a study without taking the time to or wanting to understand what it really said.

    As Medicaid & Medicare prescriptions for antidepressants were not even examined in this study(actually a review of sales trends for Express Scripts customers)and as Exress Scripts only suppled 12% of the total US population covered by health plans in 2005, they could not and did not make the claim that Utah was #1 in antidepressant use. All Express Scripts could say is that Utah had the highest Express Scripts sales/distribution of antidepressants in their network of distribution/sales.

    I have no doubt that UT has a high number of Rx for antidepressants, but the study you refer to does not and can not support your claim.

  • 22ozn44ozglass Southern Utah, UT
    Aug. 19, 2011 12:43 a.m.


    "Utah ranks first in anti-depressant usage and online pornography subscriptions"

    Your second claim is not accurate. In the infamous Edleman "study", Utah was NOT ranked first in online porn subscriptions. If you were to actually read Edlemans "study" and not just cherry pick headlines, you would know that Edleman had to manipulate his data via very specfic controls which allowed him to target certain demographics in order to reach his conclusion.

    All Edleman can say with any degree of intellectual honesty and scientific integrity is this: after manipulating the data through various controls which targeted certain demographics, Utah had the highest rate of online pay per use porn subscriptions to the SINGLE provider he sampled. If you take Edleman to task, he will admit that he could not and did not confrim that his sample was representative of the whole porn subscription market.

    To those whose intent is to smear Utah and thus the LDS, the quality, integrity and motivation behind the "study" as well as learning what it actually says is not important. Instead of honestly reviewing & critiquing the actual study, too many people have cherry picked misleading quotes from articles because it suits thier agenda

  • Pagan Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 10:33 p.m.

    Religion makes me happy.

    The religious people told me so.

  • Schwa South Jordan, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 9:44 p.m.

    I wonder if they count contributions to one's own church as charitable contributions. Because that doesn't really seem like it should count to me.

  • Schwa South Jordan, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 9:41 p.m.

    Ignorance is bliss.

  • defibman Syracuse, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 7:51 p.m.

    I just have to laugh at all the people who are commenting on an article about religion when they say that they are atheists. Maybe they really are not atheists, but just people who are still looking to find happiness.

    I know that before I joined the LDS faith, I was not happy and had no meaning in my life. After I joined and followed the commandments, I felt complete joy. It is only when I keep the commandments and give of myself to my fellowman that I feel the most joy and happiness.

  • KJB1 Eugene, OR
    Aug. 18, 2011 7:49 p.m.

    Articles like these go a long way towards explaining why I no longer consider myself "religious." What arrogance...

    "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
    Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5

    Aug. 18, 2011 7:46 p.m.

    Spikey,isn't religion supposed to make one less anxious? Why the anxiety problems. Your future is secure, right? Anti-depressant usage is high in Utah because Mormons are no happier than any other segment of the population. In fact it is more likely that they are depressed trying to be as good as the Jones. Second, are you really going to claim that the porn issue in Utah results from minorities, liberals, and poor people? Isn't that a little bit bigoted?

    Bigred1,yes people are happier in Denmark. And yes, a higher suicide rate is found to correlate with happier people (oddly enough even here in America). It doesn't take much to google it. The real point of my post was that for Daniel Peterson to call secularists hypocritical is well... like the pot calling the kettle black. He should really stick to just "defending" the faith instead of making silly attacks.

  • KJB1 Eugene, OR
    Aug. 18, 2011 7:37 p.m.


    What's your evidence that what they're saying is "completely false"? Because there's no way that anyone who disagrees with you could possibly be happy, right?

    Presumptuous much?

  • Wally West SLC, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 7:14 p.m.

    Some of you say religion makes people happy. So does laughing gas. -- Clarence Darrow

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 7:04 p.m.

    This is so interesting. Reading all these comments by atheists (and those who have rejected faith) that are trying to convince the rest of us that they are so happy reminds me of the fact that anyone can write anything they want to on these posts even if it is completely false.

  • VocalLocal Salt Lake, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 6:47 p.m.

    @Maryquilter. Secularism is not finding happiness by 'smoking, drinking, using recreational drugs, etc.' People who confuse secularism with 'doing anything and everything religious people say to not do' not surprisingly find little satisfaction outside of religion.

    And whoops. 'Sighted' should be 'cited' in my last post.

  • Maryquilter Farmington, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 6:27 p.m.

    @Bigred1: I completely agree with you, except I don't understand why you say this propaganda is from liberals?

    @LValfre; Please read my entire comment on page 1 of comments section. Then I must add that I am a convert to the LDS church of 36 years and I "explore, succeed and fail, try new things, experiment, and am an independent self thinking being" AND happy and do not feel repressed at all.

    In all my experimentation with being non-religious and smoking and drinking and using recreational drugs, and having premarital sex, etc. I did not find lasting happiness. I completely disagree with Bro. Peterson's article and find it divisive, but also disagree with your emphatic statements that members of an organized religion cannot choose for themselves what doctrines to follow and be independent thinkers AND be happy. Look at Orson Scott Card for example. I am a happier and more peace-filled person now regardless of your inflammatory statements or what others may think. Seems to me it would be difficult for your walking around every day with that giant chip on your shoulder.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 5:59 p.m.

    Religion Pluses .. There is an after life, you can pray and God will help you with your needs and requests.

    Religion Minuses .. The myrid of rules that one must follow or be made to feel condemned by God.

    Conclusion. The best religion is one that focuses on the golden rule, personal growth, the gift of prayer and the after life, and doesn't have a lot of nit picky rules.

  • VocalLocal Salt Lake, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 5:48 p.m.

    I am amazed the sighted study showed secular Europe as reporting less happiness than religious America. Virtually every study on happiness I have reviewed shows secular Euoropean countries rated higher than the United States.

    I don't dispute that religious people are very charitable and good people and I'm not surprised research demonstrates that reality. However I am also confident that if we rely on the magical thinking that all this is caused because of the underworkings of invisible spirits we will get no closer to understanding how religion gives people those benefits and to applying them better to our lives. Similarly if we still assumed mental illness was caused by demon possession and disease was an invisible of angel of death sent by God (yes, that IS in the Bible) we wouldn't have an understanding of sanitation, vacciness, antiobiotics or a host of other benefits science, not religion, has endowed us with.

  • Bigred1 SAN DIEGO, CA
    Aug. 18, 2011 5:33 p.m.

    sjv | 7:05 p.m. Aug. 17, 2011

    "It is ironic that Denmark is the happiest place on earth in poll after poll (year after year)."

    Get your facts straight. It isnt a poll, it is an organization (i think a newspaper) that looks at several factors to determine which country is the "happiest" according to the ridiculous factors that the organization chose. Have you ever lived in Europe? I have. Let me tell you something, Europe is not a happy lollipops and sunshine place. That statement doesnt even pass the straight face test.

    This line or reasoning is typical propaganda from liberals who constantly have the attitude that the grass is greener on the other side of the field when they have never even been to or seen the other side of the field.

    Poverty in Western Europe has not been virtually eradicated (another argument from people who have never lived in Europe but fantasize about it). Jobs and entrepreneurship are scarce in the Europe economic model. Europe is no model for the US. Sorry, nice try though.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 5:17 p.m.

    You just gotta buy into the right one. Religion might make people happier, but there are a lot of churches that don't.

  • Palintram Holladay, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 4:51 p.m.

    religion makes for happier people. . .

    and snails and single-cell crustaceans feel no pain

    the truth hurts but it doesn't mean delusion is healthy

  • LValfre CHICAGO, IL
    Aug. 18, 2011 4:39 p.m.


    Of course they wont look at the facts of atheism vs happiness. That's anti-mormon literature! : )

  • Faithinfacts Brisbane, QLD
    Aug. 18, 2011 4:34 p.m.

    The most religious states and nations seem to also be those places where people are least happy if you care to look at facts on atheism vs happiness. I'm not sure where Bro Peterson gets his information. Perhaps the editor mat wish to check his assumptions before he offends to many more people.

  • LValfre CHICAGO, IL
    Aug. 18, 2011 4:23 p.m.

    "This is a fluff piece. If his statement is true, then beer, marijuana, and other good stuff makes for happier people too. I don't know if I agree with religions taking credit for happiness. "

    Absolutely. Marijuana, beer, food, taking a nap .. heck there are tons of things that make people happy. Religion makes religious people happy. That's it. To claim it is the true source of happiness is ignorance at its best.

  • Joggle Clearfield, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 4:16 p.m.

    Peterson seems to be perpetuating the "we are better than you because of our religion" perception that seems to be popular with the LDS population in Utah! Is that really necessary?

  • defibman Syracuse, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 3:47 p.m.

    @moniker lewinsky, So tell us again why you read his articles since you don't like his articles?

    "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."

    So did you go to seminary or not? Or is the name "fibby" telling us more about you than you realize?

  • dusty Nampa, ID
    Aug. 18, 2011 3:25 p.m.

    This is a fluff piece. If his statement is true, then beer, marijuana, and other good stuff makes for happier people too. I don't know if I agree with religions taking credit for happiness.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 3:12 p.m.

    Or in other words, if one thinks like Peterson, Mormonism makes them happier (?). If one does not think like Peterson, it's a very mixed bag.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 3:09 p.m.

    RE: TMR "Peterson plays a sleight of hand in the first paragraph by creating the construct that people who are religious are also economic libertarians." Yes, exactly so. If you want to get along in LDS society you are very conservative or libertarian. It goes with the territory. If you are left of center, as am I, there is no place for you. This is reenforced over and over again in the LDS culture, and I don't think this is pure accident.

  • LValfre CHICAGO, IL
    Aug. 18, 2011 2:37 p.m.

    @ Mondsieur le prof,

    "years of research have proven: that religious people (on the whole) are happier and that they tend to be more generous"

    What research? I read the article and only heard about giving to charity, nothing about being happier. Does giving to charity mean you're happier? And I'd rather give to charity than a church who spends large sums of that money doing marketing and pr campaigns, investing in real estate, building expensive temples, and denying gays and others their rights.


    You're a free spirit that's religious. Then tell me this. Do you do everything your religion tells you? I mean everything ... and if you're affiliated with the majority religion on this board ... i mean EVERYTHING including garments, abstaining from everything you're told, not accepting you know who from priesthood till '78 .. i mean it all.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    Aug. 18, 2011 2:32 p.m.

    Utes fan - are you suggesting that because Utahns avoid alcohol and illegal drugs, so it is ok for them to go on anti depressants and abuse legal drugs? I did't quite get what you are saying. The reason I ask is because I have several friends who hold temple recommends, they don't drink but they DO abuse legal drugs. Just thought that was odd.

  • Free Agency Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 2:30 p.m.

    I don't think secularists have ever "preened themselves on their superior compassion." Rather, they've insisted that as humanists, agnostics and/or outright atheists, they can be every bit as compassionate as religious people. In short, they don't need a belief in God in order to care about their fellow humans.

    As Dr. Petersen points out, the ancient Christians *were" extremely compassionate, and that helped spread Christianity, for there were so many people in those times who were considered "the lowest of the low." It was only the Christianity of that time which valued these people. But that Christianity got taken over and institutionalized by power brokers until it became nothing like what had moved the ancients. So Dr. Petersen's pointing to that isn't convincing for his current argument.

    Finally, I think Dr. Peterson needs to consider a third category of people: in addition to the religionists and secularists, there are also spiritualists, who have a deep sense of God, but not from within any religious story. To us, God is an ongoing discovery as we live, not a movie director who's assigned us a certain part and demands that we play that part throughout our lives.

  • Sasha Pachev Provo, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 2:22 p.m.

    I feel I need to say something to counter the statements of the "happy" people that have left the LDS Church. I joined it in 1992 and my happiness increased by a great deal.

    To support the point of the article, before joining as an atheist I was very reluctant to give and to serve. In the LDS church I learned that you serve not only when it is convenient or when you feel so inclined but rather that you need to be where the Lord needs you and when He needs you.

    As far as the fruits of Karl Marx, I've experienced those growing up in the Soviet Union. My grandfathers were imprisoned by Stalin. The economy of USSR stagnated and was in shambles before the final collapse.

    I recall a conversation I had with a Russian hotel security guard. He found out I was religious and honestly told me - "I cannot live like this, if a man stands in my way I kill him". Shocking as it is, with my upbringing and without a religion to correct it I would feel the same way.

  • Monsieur le prof Sandy, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 2:15 p.m.

    @Timj: Commenters on this article cite "statistics" that they think they've read to show that their point of view is correct. Timj said that poverty in Western Europe is "almost entirely eradicated," which is patently false. Having just returned from there after 2 years, I can state with assurity that they have a major problem with the poor and homeless. Danes rate themselves as happy, but their suicide rate is higher than ours. And Europeans are not very generous. They expect the state to take care of the needy.

    Hateful comments that call others hypocrites can be dismissed because they obviously are speaking with prejudice. I can attest that no seminary teacher would teach that the LDS are better than others. That's just self-rationalization for leaving the church.

    Mr. Peterson was just pointing out what years of research have proven: that religious people (on the whole) are happier and that they tend to be more generous. Comments on anything else is just nit-picking. If you are not religious, but give generously, then good for you! You are among the minority.

  • Clarissa Layton, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 1:46 p.m.

    @LValfre: It is rude of you to assume that because I am religious that I am some sheep that follows the herd. I pray about doctrine and come to my own beliefs on the subject. I am happy because of my religion. This article uses data collected to prove the hypothesis that those who are religious are happier. Just because you don't like the results of a study is no reason to say it is untrue. Also, if you met me you would definitely know that I am far from represssed. I'm a free spirit who is religious. I see no conflict in this.

  • ronnie sandy, utah
    Aug. 18, 2011 1:36 p.m.

    It is a slippery slope when we make generalizations like the author has, especially in the aftermath of the Warren Jeff's trial. If people are happy in religious ignorance and intolerance is that really desirable from our standpoint? I hope not.

  • LValfre CHICAGO, IL
    Aug. 18, 2011 1:34 p.m.

    Religion does not always lead to happier people. Ignorance is bliss. Sometime's its easy to 'go with the flow' and 'not think for yourself' ... for people who prefer to just do as they're told so they don't make mistakes ... then yes religion will make them happier.

    For those who like to explore, succeed and fail, try new things, experiment, and be independent self thinking beings ... religion is the opposite of happiness. It's repression of your own freedoms.

  • sushirocks8 SLC, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 1:19 p.m.

    Maybe we should all stop placing such a high value on happiness and learn how to embrace and control all of our emotions.

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    Aug. 18, 2011 1:01 p.m.

    I agree that the downsides to socialism exceed the upsides, but Peterson clearly isn't at all familiar with the subject. Even if one can argue that the Nazi's borrowed central planning from Marx, I don't think you credit the holocaust or invasion of Europe to that thinking.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    Aug. 18, 2011 12:05 p.m.

    (1) Touting the benefits of "religion" generally doesn't necessarily advance the interest of a Church that emphatically teaches that *what* religion you follow, matters a great deal. If making people happy were the critical thing, and mere, general "religion" sufficed to make people happy, then why on earth should any religion brand the others' creeds an "abomination"?

    Also, the truth may set you free, but it won't necessarily make you happier. I recall there being studies that showed that a strong personal need to know and accept truth was often negatively correlated with personal happiness.

    That said, I absolutely agree with the idea that people who are conspicuous with their ideological compassion, are often, personally, complete jerks.

  • sushirocks8 SLC, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 11:52 a.m.

    @ REDHAT. Don't let the homeless fool you. The reason that 60-something man gets "disgusted" looks from the "Mormons" is probably because he has been there day in and day out for years. I worked downtown and during the 4 1/2 years that I was in Utah I saw the same homeless people nearly every day. One stood outside of the temple gates almost every day, asking every person he could for money, it was his career. Mormons and non-Mormons alike are disgusted by that sort of behavior. Why? Because if he were truly homeless Utah is one of the best places to live to cure that due to how much assistance there is. When I was having a hard time finding a job it was church employment that helped me even though I was not a member. The people who see him everyday are onto him and his tricks, it's the people that are just visiting that don't get it. Instead of sitting and praying with him maybe somebody needs to point out that the doors are already open from religious and non-religious sources.

  • pleasethinkalittle Springville, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 11:44 a.m.

    Wow! Can we all calm down? Why do you all feel the need to bash each other? That isn't exactly charitable. Everyone makes their own path and follows it, why is it that all of you must condemn each other for that?

  • merich39 Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 11:33 a.m.

    JoeBlow... I read exactly the same as you. the title equates being religious with being happy. but the actual article equates being charitable with being happy. the moral of the the article is to skip church but give to charity.

  • TMR Los Angeles, CA
    Aug. 18, 2011 11:05 a.m.

    Peterson plays a sleight of hand in the first paragraph by creating the construct that people who are religious are also economic libertarians. Yes, I know that Peterson's religious and economic preferences are stated in two separate sentences, but the balance of the opinion and all of the assumptions made by Peterson link the two without consideration as to the relationship or lack thereof. Like Stephanie4202, this tactic bothers me: it is presumptuous, polarizing, and intellectually lazy. For whatever reason, it is commonly used by so-called "economic libertarians" in the LDS community. It is tiresome. Please stop.

  • nick Provo, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 10:46 a.m.


    Why did your parents teach you to be the best person you could? Were they religious and did their religious beliefs animate their lives? It's been my experience that most people who are unhappy with their church are not living the precepts that the church teaches. They need to simply admit that they don't believe in those teachings any more. Instead, they try to justify their actions by finding fault with the members of their former church. They need to simply say that they want to live their life in a certain way and that they have a difference of opinion with their former church.

  • JoeBlow Miami Area, Fl
    Aug. 18, 2011 10:26 a.m.

    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.

  • Fibby1123 Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 10:21 a.m.

    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.

  • moniker lewinsky Taylorsville, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 10:08 a.m.

    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.

  • Maryquilter Farmington, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 10:03 a.m.

    @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.

  • Idaho Coug Meridian, Idaho
    Aug. 18, 2011 9:47 a.m.

    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.

  • Stephanie4202 Rutherfordton, NC
    Aug. 18, 2011 9:44 a.m.

    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.

  • nick Provo, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 9:37 a.m.

    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.

  • moniker lewinsky Taylorsville, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 9:32 a.m.

    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.

  • moniker lewinsky Taylorsville, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 9:21 a.m.

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

  • Utes Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 9:01 a.m.

    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.

  • myopinion Sugar Hill, GA
    Aug. 18, 2011 8:57 a.m.

    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.

  • redhat Fairfax Station, VA
    Aug. 18, 2011 8:56 a.m.

    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!

  • RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 8:19 a.m.

    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.

  • Spikey Layton, UT
    Aug. 18, 2011 7:27 a.m.


    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.

  • Mike W Syracuse, UT
    Aug. 17, 2011 10:22 p.m.

    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.

  • cavetroll SANDY, UT
    Aug. 17, 2011 8:35 p.m.

    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.

    Aug. 17, 2011 7:05 p.m.

    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.

  • Timj South Jordan, UT
    Aug. 17, 2011 6:15 p.m.

    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?

  • Monsieur le prof Sandy, UT
    Aug. 17, 2011 6:00 p.m.

    @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?

    Aug. 17, 2011 4:25 p.m.

    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.