Tuesday, April 25, 2023

WSJ Poll: Happiest People Are "Religious"--But Is "Happy" Enough?

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A WSJ/NORC poll has found that the happiest people in America value religious belief much more than unhappy people do.

However, the poll also found, "The number of 'very happy' Americans is in steep decline, dropping by a striking 19.6 percent over the past five years the poll reveals, but those who are very happy share some common traits, such as religious belief and practice."

I'm happy that religious people are happy. I wanted you to know so you, too, could be happy about it.

But is that enough for difficult times like these? Times that try our souls?

Be informed, not misled.

However, the poll finds the number of “very happy” Americans is in steep decline, dropping by a striking 19.6 percent over the past five years, the poll reveals, but those who are very happy share some common traits, such as religious belief and practice.

While less than half of U.S. adults say belief in God is important, the number jumps significantly among those who describe themselves as very happy, the poll finds, and two-thirds of this group describe themselves as “very or moderately religious.”

But things have changed. The share of Americans calling themselves “very happy” has fallen to just 12 percent in 2023, the smallest percentage of “very happy” people ever recorded in NORC’s General Social Survey, which began in 1972.

According to the poll conducted from March 1-13, 2023, large majorities of Americans feel pessimistic about the economy and prospects for the next generation. Among those surveyed, about 30 percent placed themselves at the lowest level of happiness, saying they were “not too happy.”

The highest correlation for people saying they are “very happy” is belief in God, with 68 percent of this group declaring belief in God to be “very important” to them. By contrast, among those who are not happy, fewer than half (42 percent) say faith in God is very important to them.

Along with belief in God, the “very happy” overwhelmingly value strong relationships, and about 67 percent say marriage is very important to them, independent of their own marital status, compared with 43 percent of respondents overall.

Truly, this makes me happy. I hope it makes you happy as well.

But is happiness enough to see us through dark times?

Jim Denison wrote this yesterday: "Elon Musk recently tweeted, 'Violent crime in SF is horrific.' A responding headline in the Sunday Los Angeles Times caught my eye: 'Sorry, San Francisco is not the crime-ridden hellhole the far right claims it is.' The reason, we’re told, is typified by an 'iconic transgender cabaret' named AsiaSF.The writer admits that San Francisco is plagued by what she calls its 'tech bust,' 'crisis of addiction,' 'anti-Asian hate crimes,' and overall lack of safety. However, she cites one of the owners of AsiaSF, who calls San Francisco 'a beacon of hope for so many people.' In his view, 'No matter who you are, you have to find your truth and live your truth'.”

The author responds: “And that is the enduring strength of San Francisco.”

Oprah, Obama, and a number of others have been encouraging the millions who follow them to "stand in your own truth." And they've been assuring us that "Jesus is not the only way to God."

Aspirin won't cure a broken leg. 

Denison notes, "I’m glad 'very happy' people consider 'belief in God' to be 'very important' to them. Here’s the problem: our pluralistic culture thinks all such beliefs are the same, just different roads up the same mountain.”

But religions are not, all the same, any more than medicines are all the same. Aspirin for a headache won’t cure a broken leg. 

Furthermore, belief in God by itself will not change us or our broken world: “Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19). 

Clearly, belief in God is not enough. The Greco-Roman world was highly religious, as Paul noted (Acts 17:22). But they treated women as possessions, threw unwanted babies out with the trash, and engaged in sexual activities too horrific for me to describe here.

Psalm 18 is a model for joy.

Happiness and joy are different. Happiness is a response to something. 

Joy is the abiding presence of God in our hearts. It is our strength.

Psalm 18 models transforming faith in the one true God. Here David proclaims: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” 

Note that he calls God not “the” God or even “our” God but “my” God.

Consequently, he prays (Psalm 18:28,29,31) "For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him."

So we decide. A generic God who sort of conforms to the culture, affirms sin, and makes us happy?

Or the true and living God who puts true joy in our hearts because He is the Truth, The Life and Light, and the Way?

And He is in control.

Be Joyful. Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Faithful Be Vigilant. Be Prayerful.