NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

Happy and religious – Why?

Anne Birgitta Pessi

The quest for happiness, contentment, and the experience of good life is at the heart of human nature, being what people want for themselves, their children, and their fellow citizens. The search for happiness and research on it is both extremely timely and timeless.
Are we happy then, according to the latest empirical inquiries – and how happy? Indeed, most individual are happy; people experienced happiness (i.e., they scored over 5 on a scale of 1-10) in 37 countries out of the 43 countries that Diener & Diener (1996) surveyed. What then makes us happy? No single factor predominates. Most international research (e.g. Layard 2005) indicates that the most crucial elements are health, family and human relations, as well as spirituality. The effect of religion on happiness and other aspects of well-being is found even after controlling variables such as education, age, and occupation (Argyle 2001, 164; Witter et al. 1985).
My paper investigates the role of altruism in religion-happiness –link. My empirical analysis draws on both qualitative and quantitative analysis and focuses on the following questions:
- How religious are Finns:
- “How satisfied are you with your life overall” and “How happy are you?”
- “How important are the following elements in your happiness?”
- Attitudes of altruism:
- Acts of altruism: previous acts of altruism and readiness to help in the future in relation to personal religiosity
- Motives for altruism
The presentation will present some of the core findings on these themes. More particularly I will present a model based on the qualitative analysis of interview material; the model aims to clarify the (possible) role of altruism in the maintenance of this religion – happiness link. Also methodological challenges of such research will be pondered.