Thursday, December 06, 2007

Truly Enjoy Yourself


We would all like to feel satisfied and have a sense of well being. But how can we reach that goal?

Fortunately, a highly respected social psychologist, Dr. David G. Myers, has reviewed thousands of recent scientific studies regarding what makes people happy and he has published his findings in a book called “The Pursuit of Happiness” , Avon Books 1992.


First of all being rich does not make people happy (page 31), so scratch that. Having happy ancestors does have a big influence (page 122); however for most of us, it’s too late to choose our parents. So what can we actually do to become happier?

Well, in a nutshell, here it is:

- Develop a strong faith and trust in God. page 183
- Believe in an afterlife. page 200
- Focus on spiritual rather than material accomplishments. page 188
- Focus on the present moment more than on the past and the future. page 51
- Focus on what you have, not on what you are lacking. page 56
- Focus on what others are lacking, not on what they have. page 56
- Focus on helping others, not helping yourself. page 194
- Develop good relationships with family and friends; try to be part of a supportive community and family. pages 142 and 155
- Try to find employment which suits your talents. page 129
- Maintain a healthy diet. page 77
- Exercise. page 77
- In general, care for your health. page 76
- Get enough rest. Allow quiet time to relax. page 138

This is the true, common sense, scientifically proven path to achieve greater happiness, not the endless pursuit of wealth, fame, sex, drugs, fattening food and alcohol. All of those things bring a brief thrill, but at a high cost and they cannot provide long term satisfaction and well being. (For proof, read the biographies of the rich and famous.) Many people, especially young adults, are distracted by such things, sometimes wasting years and sometimes ruining or terminating their lives in the process. Instead, simply the quiet, sober, healthy, generous, religious life is what really works. Difficult and boring, perhaps. But in the long run, much happier.

When we meet an atheist, we should pity him. Not only has lost the next world, which he doesn’t believe exists; however he has lost this world as well. He finds pain difficult to cope with since he believes that disasters happen without reason. He believes that his existence will soon end. He believes that human accomplishments have no permanent or cosmic significance. In light of this, he may try to squeeze out whatever pleasure he can from his fleeting life, with little concern for how this affects other people or even how it affects his own long term future. He may very well become an addict – obsessed with alcohol, drugs or some other substance or behavior, which makes him feel good at first but not for long. Finally, as he grows older and his hopes of pleasure dim, he may prefer suicide. He has nothing to look forward to, so why bother any more?

Richard Dawkins attempts to put this in a positive light when he says, “if you're an atheist, you know, you believe this is the only life you're going to get. It's a precious life. It's a beautiful life. It's something that we should live to the full, to the end of our days, whereas, if you're religious, and you believe that there's another life, somehow, that means you don't live this life to the full, because you think you're going to get another one. That's an awfully negative way to live a life. Being an atheist frees you up to live this life properly, happily, and fully.”

Whatever “religion” he is referring to, it doesn’t seem to be Orthodox Judaism. The life of a Jew is filled each day with immense gratitude to God for all His blessings and with boundless joy for the opportunity to serve Him. The Jew is not on an endless pleasure treadmill, chasing rainbows that turn out to be illusions. He is accomplishing great things each day by studying Torah, praying and performing Jewish rituals. In addition to that, Jews believe in loving each other, which alleviates so much of the isolation and loneliness common in our self-centered world. Tragic stories such as people committing suicide in a park so that they would not “die alone” are unimaginable in the Orthodox community.

It’s also noteworthy that Judaism can help a person develop a tremendous amount of self-control. It’s probably no accident that virtually all addiction recovery programs consider belief in God to be an essential component.

What a gift atheists are throwing away. Someone wishing to “live to the full, to the end of his days” needs to accept God and His Torah.

16 comments:

DrJ said...

Good post, JP.
I've got to admit I agree with you on this one.

badrabbi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
badrabbi said...

Anatomy of a fallacy:

 “When we meet an atheist, we should pity him.”

Well if you are in the habit of pitying people with a given philosophical opinion, go ahead…

 “Not only has lost the next world, which he doesn’t believe exists;”

This reminds me of a deal wherein you sell your hundred thousand dollar house for a million dollars. The catch is, though, that the money will be delivered to you, and only you, in a hundred years. JP, don’t know about you, but I’m keeping my house man!

 “however he has lost this world as well.”
LOL, I am here, happy as a clam! Somehow the world does not seem so lost to me, but perhaps you know better!

 “He finds pain difficult to cope with since he believes that disasters happen without reason.”
Suppose, JP, that a loved one was lost to a tragic accident. Which is more difficult to accept; knowing that accidents can and do happen often without a rational reason, or that somehow because of an irrational sin God punished the victim or his family? Do you really think that the latter is a cause for victims to take solace in?

 He believes that his existence will soon end.
Yes, as atheists, we believe that the likelihood is that our existence is temporary and will end soon. This is somewhat sad in that this life is enjoyable. But sad as it may be, it is likely that it is the truth. Sometimes the truth is a bit sad. Delusions, no matter how comforting they may be, are just that. You might delude yourself into thinking that Jessica Alba is your girlfriend, but at the end of the day, you are stuck with whomever you are with. Reality is reality no matter whether it is pleasant or not.

 “He believes that human accomplishments have no permanent or cosmic significance.”
True. I must say though, that scientists are now playing with telomerase enzymes, which could possibly extend life spans to 4 times the current median. Such achievements trend toward permanence.
 In light of this, he may try to squeeze out whatever pleasure he can from his fleeting life
True.
 with little concern for how this affects other people or even how it affects his own long term future.
Here is where you have made a huge leap. You thought you could stick this here and no one would notice. Why would we, as atheists, have no concern for others? Why would we not care about our long term future? On the contrary, whereas you deists pin your hopes on a non-existent entity, hoping that He would bail you out of whatever trouble you have placed yourselves in, we atheists believe that troubles are by and large of our own making and their solutions are similarly in our hands.

 He may very well become an addict – obsessed with alcohol, drugs or some other substance or behavior, which makes him feel good at first but not for long.
But why would you think this? I am an atheist, and I must admit that I have never touched drugs. Nor do I consume alcohol to excess. Why would my opinions regarding the lack of a god cause me to become an addict? Do you, JP, think about doing cocaine because Poseidon does not exist?

 Finally, as he grows older and his hopes of pleasure dim, he may prefer suicide.
LOL, you are so funny! Why suicide? I suppose if circumstances are such that life has become full of pain and devoid of pleasure, such as with terminal cancer, then yes, suicide can be contemplated. But do you think that under these circumstances the believer does not consider suicide?
 He has nothing to look forward to, so why bother any more

I would argue that the deluded believer – one who thinks that after death he would be closer to god (Orthodox Judaism) or sit by the bosom of Jesus (Christianity) or find himself in a harem with 72 virgins (Islam)- would more readily be frivolous with his life and give it up for silly reasons.

We got one life baby. We best enjoy it.

jewish philosopher said...

Can you provide any evidence affirming your belief that atheists are on the average as happy or happier than Orthodox Jews (or even religious Christians and Muslims, who are somewhat similar)? I have some evidence on my side, as I explained in this post. This article is also interesting.

The fact that monotheism is almost universally considered to be a prerequisite for recovery from addiction would suggest that it should have some preventative benefit. I don’t see many drunks in my community nor are many Orthodox teens turning up dead from over doses.

You’re assertions that you personally are a sober, happy atheist are of course worthless since there is no way to verify your identity. If, however, you want to use anecdotal evidence, my atheist father, a child prodigy and a psychiatrist, was an alcoholic hospitalized many times for depression. My mother, also basically an atheist, now lives in old age as a recluse. My father’s father, a very “modern thinking” person, shot himself to death in his sixties.

SJ said...

>> Can you provide any evidence affirming your belief that atheists are on the average as happy or happier than Orthodox Jews


athiest guys can talk to girls. XD

jewish philosopher said...

Awesome.

badrabbi said...

You family's lives being unhappy notwithstanding, I pointed myself as an example of a happy atheist simply to show that it is not impossible to be an atheist and be happy. Similarly, it is possible to be an orthodox Jew and be miserable. You are correct that these are anecdotes, but even one anecdote would unravel your contention that "all atheists are unhappy".

I was happy to see that you scaled back on your contention that atheists were all an unhappy lot. Instead, you ask me to supply you with evidence that atheists are "on average" as happy or happier than orthodox Jews. Even your request demonstrates you lack of understanding of scientific evidence. Any study that compares the 'happiness' of one group over another would be fraught with all kinds of shortcomings. Personally I am not aware of any such studies, but if you know of any, please supply the links.

As for the article you sited, I hardly think that the following is strong evidence: “Although these associations tend to be consistent, they are modest and are substantially reduced in multivariate research. Longitudinal research is sparse…”

If this is the kind of evidence that you base your opinions on, good luck!

jewish philosopher said...

This article, regarding atheism and suicide, is interesting.

I think I have demonstrated that, based upon current scientific literature,
- Monotheists are happier on the average than atheists.
- Monotheists suffer less from depression than atheists.
- Atheists are victims of suicide more often than monotheists.
- Monotheism is generally considered to be necessary for the treatment of addictions.

If this doesn’t demonstrate the therapeutic value of Judaism, I’m not sure what will.

(I never stated that "all atheists are unhappy". That was a typically dishonest attempt by you to discredit me.)

All you have been able to say in defense of atheism is that you are an atheist and you are happy, something which cannot be verified. For all I know, you may be posting this from a mental asylum.

badrabbi said...

"I never said 'all atheists are unhappy'. That was a typically dishonest attempt by you to discredit me."

LOL, I suppose when you said "When we meet an atheist, we should pity him." you did not mean all atheists!

jewish philosopher said...

I never denied that some atheists may be happy. The first time an atheist uses heroin, he may be ecstatically happy.

Nevertheless, all atheists are to be pitied.

badrabbi said...

I am not going to waste time in pointing out all the fallacies of your argument as frankly there are too many of them. I will merely point out the following:

1. The article you cited never once mentioned "Judaism". Rather, for some reason, they talk about "latter day saints"

2. Here is what the article YOU CITED says about your argument: "Certainly Latter-day Saint missionaries never knock on doors with a message, "Hello. If you join our Church you'll be less likely to kill yourself." Likewise, it is unlikely that any atheists and agnostics will modify their beliefs and religious practices simply because of one demographic factor relating to a statstical group they happen to belong to. If your "discussion" of the relative merits of your belief system devolves into pointing out the suicide rate within a specific population, then you have already lost the argument, because you have abandoned substantitive dialogue in favor of an appeal to tangential sensationalism."

It helps for you, JP, to read your own links from time to time.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm not aware of any studies done specifically about the happiness of Orthodox Jews, however studies done about monotheists in general would probably be somewhat applicable to Jews. We were the original monotheists after all.

I do read my own links and apparently the author of that article is biased against religion, in spite of his findings, which I think makes his conclusions even more credible.

jewish philosopher said...

Bad, I think you are having trouble accepting the fact that not only is atheism false, but it's a poor lifestyle. Have you ever heard of denial being used as a defense mechanism?

LakewoodShmuck said...

יראת ה היא תתהלל
Thats all there is to it

avrum68 said...

JP,
Here's some ammo, enjoy:

We just received the latest edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry, and one of the lead stories is entitled:

Religion, Spirituality, and Medicine: Psychiatrists' and Other Physicians' Differing Observations, Interpretations, and Clinical Approaches
- Farr A. Curlin et al.

Quote:
"The study affirms that psychiatrists, like the physician population as a whole endorse the positive influences of religion and spiritually on health"

jewish philosopher said...

Very interesting. It sounds like we've come a long way from Freud.