The title of Dr. Michelle Golland’s blog “Religion Actually Makes You Happier?!” caught my attention. With all of the rules and rituals that go with big box religion, I was prepared to give it a big Whitney Houston style “h*ll to the naw!” However, knowing that our mental well being impacts our physical well being, I pose this question to you. Does religion make you happier?
With my own religious background in Fundamentalism and Catholicism, I’ve had enough guilt and shame to last me a lifetime. The rules of the Evangelical church I belonged to were many:
- No wearing of men’s clothing, meaning that women and girls could not wear pants
- No listening to secular music
- No playing of card games (gambling)
- No playing games that involved dice (gambling, yes that meant no Monopoly for me)
- No dancing (I’m a natural born dancer, this one killed me)
We lived by the maxim, ‘the Bible said it, I believe it, and that settles it’. Not a lot of wiggle room there and for a woman that dislikes boxes, this one was small and tight.
And I have to admit, those were some of the happiest times of my life.
Dr. Golland explains that, “Per the study, it’s not the doctrine of the religion that’s important; rather, the key to greater happiness is the social networks that these organizations provide for the individual and his or her family… As human beings, we crave meaning and connection. We desire to be understood by those around us and to feel close to others in our life.”
Indeed. My friends and I had uncontrollable fits of giggles in the choir stand. We went roller skating (in our skirts) and had lots of fun mimicking the pastor. The friendships I made lasted for years, even after I left that particular brand of religion. While there I felt a part of something larger, and connected to others in the shared experience of ritual and rules.
As the New Year opens wide before us, let’s think about what makes us happy. Let’s think about connecting to people again, face to face, breaking bread, over music, or a puzzle or a game. And if it is religion that makes you happy then by all means, connect and be happy.
– Aunt B