What makes life worth living? Is it a life filled with happiness or a life filled with purpose and meaning? Is there even a difference between the two?
We can roughly say that Happiness comes from ‘Taking from others’ (e.g., Getting the love, trust or respect from significant others) and Meaning in life comes from ‘Giving to others’ ( e.g., Bringing up children, donating to charities or doing Voluntary work).
Happiness for the believers comes from their implicit faith in their god(s). This gives them the ‘Takeaway’ of psychological benefits like: 1. Protection in this life from adversities (Natural calamities, illnesses, accidents & failures). 2. Immortality & eternal bliss in the afterlife. 3. Ultimate Justice against all people who have hurt & manipulated you and escaped earthly justice.
The religious people assume they are getting these three benefits from the sky daddies and this makes them happy.
But as George Bernard Shaw said: “The fact that a believer is happier than a Skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity & gullibility is a dangerous quality of happiness and by no means a necessity of life”.
Though Social Research shows that Religious people are happier than the non-believers, truth happens to be more important to me and people like me than false comfort. If seeking truth makes us less happy, so be it. We will take it as an occupational hazard for truth-seekers.
Meaningful life for the religious comes from:
1. Giving money to Religious charities & donations for Church/Temple/Mosque construction or expansion.
2. Giving one’s Time & Energies for Group prayers, listening to sermons and going for pilgrimages.
3. Giving up one’s Life for a cause -- in waging Religious wars (Sunnis Vs Shiites, Catholics Vs Protestants, Hindus Vs Muslims) or Islamic Jihad by groups like Al Qaeda.
4. Giving up the use of your brain, surrendering its 'Reasoning powers' and regressing voluntarily to a state of infantile gullibility. Compared to giving up one's life, this is a much greater sacrifice, in that while giving up life is a one-time affair, foregoing the rational use of the brain is a life-long penance. But they don't realize that this brain is a gift from their god(s) and not making use of it would be an insult to those god(s)!
To me all these look like an awful waste of valuable human resources & lives. All these resources could be utilized for better purposes – for making human society more self-reliant, more tolerant toward each other, more friendly and helpful to the needy than at present. We could create the Utopian paradise on earth itself.
In a post-religious world, the time previously devoted to religious rituals will likely be taken up by sports (football, basket ball or baseball in USA, Soccer in the rest of the world, Cricket in former British colonies, Camel racing in Saudi Arabia or Head hunting in Papua New Guinea), popular entertainment (Rock concerts, Cinema multiplexes, Domestic TV, Game parlors) and Social Networking (Face book, Twitter). With a sharper focus on solving practical problems-- as opposed to the emotion-focused Prayer strategy of organized religion - the QOL (Quality of Life) will improve more rapidly. At least that is my conviction.