Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Reader Poll: Children, Religion, and Happiness

For the religious: Would you prefer your [hypothetical, if necessary] child to be religious or happy, assuming only one was possible?

For the nonreligious: Would you prefer your [hypothetical, if necessary] child to be nonreligious or happy, assuming only one was possible?

I recognize that the assumptions are not true, but it's still an important question.

17 comments:

YS said...

Religious people believe that if one follows the dictates of the religion one will be happy in the end.

So, yes, the religous person can choose the 'suffer' option, but that's because he is certain that ultimatley his children will be better off - paradise in fact.

Athiests on the other hand, are more likely to be desperate that their children should not suffer during the one and only life thier children have.

Intergalactic Hussy said...

Happiness is very important, but what's true is far more important. I can't really answer the question. To me, happiness is being reasonable, honest, and free. I can't imagine being an unhappy atheist. but that's just me. :)

Ezzie said...

Heh. This is how I defined the parameters of the split between the wings of Orthodox Jewry to a few friends in the past. It's actually better to look at it if you change it slightly... where they will be unhappy for NOW, but there's the possibility they will eventually be happy.

In addition, you'd have to factor that some religions feel it important to be happy in your service of God or it is [near] worthless. [Ivdu es Hashem b'simcha!]

Back to the original Q, I think it's similar to that split: Charedim may have strict(er) guidelines than [say] Modern Orthodoxy, but that's because they think it's more important to be short-term unhappy but 'get it all right' than the reverse, and eventually, they'll be happy. MO disagrees with that method, and thinks that in the long run, hurts how happily and content people are in their service of God.

I think that both groups, however, would choose happiness over religion if it came down to it, even if it would make them themselves unhappy. I'd just use as an example the common cases of families where one child 'goes off' - even in the Charedi world, once they're past the fighting stages, they learn to accept the person's lifestyle [as it applies to the person]. Rare is it that the old stories about sitting shiva and the like happen. Instead, the families recognize that the child will never be happy being religious, and therefore, it's not good for them.

I think a large part of this is also what kind of lifestyle the person is leading: If the person is being self-destructive, I think it's a different story. But even religious parents can view a secular child's life as basically doing the "right" things - being moral, being kind, etc. - even if they're not following the minutia of halacha.

Scott said...

I can't imagine being an unhappy atheist.

And the theist can't imagine an unhappy theist.

Hmmm, could it be that most people find their belief or disbelief in a god intrinsically intertwined with their own happiness?

Grey Swan said...

I don't think that being religious and being happy are that closely related. It is true that religion can give a feeling of hope and importance to a person, but that is not the ONLY way that can happen. So I am not sure where the proposal comes from in the first place.

Grey Swan

CyberKitten said...

Sorry JA - it's such a silly question I can't possibly give you a sensible answer.

CyberKitten said...

scott said: Hmmm, could it be that most people find their belief or disbelief in a god intrinsically intertwined with their own happiness?

I know of theists who say that their belief makes them happy. However, I don't think that my atheism has much (if any) impact on my happiness level.....

Ezzie said...

And the theist can't imagine an unhappy theist.

That's actually not true. I know plenty.

I think the other guy was lying, though. Statistics claim that a [slightly] higher % of religious people say they're "happy" than those who are not religious. I'm assuming that means the rest are unhappy.

Holy Hyrax said...

Religious people believe that if one follows the dictates of the religion one will be happy in the end.

No they don't. They believe its a life long struggle just like an atheist does. There are plenty of religious people that are unhappy. There is no guarentees. And I can assure you that if there actually WAS such a decision to be made, most sane theists would choose to be happy. I can only speak for Jews, but a Jew (at least the most that I know of) believe you are doing God NO favors to go by his dicates. Its all for us. And therefore there is no point if you are miserable. And yes, there are plenty of insane theists that would rather their children keep the laws and be miseralbe, but then again I believe there are plenty of atheist that would rather their children remain empty and live a mess of a life than have them go to some seminary or become a bit more religious.

Keebo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
emunahpshuta said...

hmmm.. not sure which category i'm in. I am relegious but not believing and hope to be non relegious some day. Nonetheless, I wouldn't mind at all of my children decide to be relegious. It's a personal choice I've made. They can make their own choice with their life.

beepbeepitsme said...

I would hope that they were happy AND non-religious.

Obviously I think that if you are non-religious, you have a better chance at happiness. :)

Stephen said...

I would rather that my children were happy, but I have to qualify my answer a little.

"Happiness" is such an ephemeral state. If you are guaranteeing me that my children will remain happy, than my answer stands.

But in the real world, no one remains perpetually happy. In that case, when the going gets tough, they might be better off with a faith. But that scenario is outside of your question, so I let it pass.

Cyberkitten: how typical of you to refuse to answer the question; and how disingenuous to find fault with the question instead of yourself.

CyberKitten said...

stephen said: Cyberkitten: how typical of you to refuse to answer the question; and how disingenuous to find fault with the question instead of yourself.

Actually it's a silly question. It's totally artificial. As if there is a choice between being religious *or* happy or non-religious *or* happy. The question is meaningless as would any answer be.

As to happiness being an ephemeral state - actually it's not. I think what you're probably thinking of is that feeling (which *is* ephemeral) produced by pleasure. This is quite different from the long lasting feeling of happiness that can be accomplished though figuring out who you are and spending time and effort working towards a inner personal harmony.

dbs said...

Many orthodox parents would choose to have there children be happy, though many would not. However, very, very few (if any) actually teach them to seek happiness. There is no emphasis at all on learning to respect and understand your own personality and needs, and to act accordingly.

As for me, I'd rather that they be happy and religious, but I'd rather they be miserable Mets fans than happy Yankee fans.

Ezzie said...

There is no emphasis at all on learning to respect and understand your own personality and needs, and to act accordingly.

?! Where do you get that?

As for me, I'd rather that they be happy and religious, but I'd rather they be miserable Mets fans than happy Yankee fans.

LOL. Indians fans, not Mets. :P

dbs said...

?! Where do you get that?

C'mon ezzie, I'm really not making this up. The goal is to be m'vatel your ratzon with the ratzon of the sh'china. (To nullify your own will in light of the will of God.) Sure, there is some room for personal choices, but the goal of being happy is, at best, subordinated to the goal of performing God's will.