The results of a recent study showed that “belief in scientific-technological progress is a stronger predictor of life satisfaction than religious beliefs.”
The abstract of this study by Olga Stavrova, Daniel Ehlebracht and Detlef Fetchenhauer — all of Germany’s University of Cologne, posted on “Science Direct”, stated, “A strong belief in scientific-technological progress was associated with an enhanced sense of personal control, which in turn contributed to higher life satisfaction.”
Many of us find belief in higher power highly satisfying, while many others prefer deriving satisfaction from gadgets. Each side labels the other’s joy as unreal, claiming their joy as real.
On the other hand, the Chinese sage Confucius (born probably in 552 BCE), is stated to have said: In the eating of coarse rice and the drinking of water, the using of one’s elbow for a pillow, joy is to be found.
Here is what they have to say:
MODERATION IS NECESSARY
Brian Melendez, American Indian Spirituality Scholar
We’re easily satisfied and distracted; sometimes it’s the same thing. Prior to our current technological age, nature has always satiated our individual spiritual periphery. Even though I myself enjoy technology and all associated perks, there’s a time and a place where technology is not appropriate or necessary. Truth be told, I’m so invested in Apple right now it’s not economically feasible to switch companies.
Learn to appreciate the sacredness of more natural atmospheres; that’s where we seem to thrive spirituality. I know we all love strong Wi-Fi, 4G, and all other modern conveniences, but many of our practices, customs, rituals, could probably do without technology or vice versa, maybe we need a wireless religiosity? I believe over dependence on anything can tantamount to addiction, especially if left un-regulated, but that’s just me.
The moral of the story: Don’t let your technology (or religion) turn you into domesticated house cat.
HAPPINESS IN “RIGHT PATH”
ElizaBeth Webb Beyer, Temple Beth Or Rabbi
Voluntarily committing to a spiritual path brings more happiness in the long run. Life satisfaction comes from the joy of experiencing G-d and knowing that one is accomplishing the goal set out by our ancient Sages, “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your G-d.” (Micah 6:8). This cannot be accomplished where religion is a forced regime. Religious freedom must be a communally held value.
While “belief” in scientific-technological progress may bring some happiness, it is not a life path. One does not set their ethical standards or their moral compass by it. Most people do not dedicate their lives to that because it merely shows human progress and misses the greater challenge of a relationship with G-d. Each person has their own spiritual journey to follow. Generally, it is easier to follow an established religious path consistent with your values. Find the spiritual tools that bring you joy.
HAPPINESS IS FRUIT OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
Stephen R. Karcher, St. Anthony Greek Orthodox Church Presiding Priest
Science and technology engage our senses and our brains, but not our hearts and minds, and until our hearts and minds find peace, or rather, until we learn to feed our souls, we won’t be happy. Struggling to satisfy our restlessness, we feed our physical senses in many different ways that also include devouring technology and scientific ‘wonders’, in other words, we do whatever it takes. However, this never really satisfies, this perpetual race to find the next great thing. A person may realize that it’s only by living a spiritual life and learning to feed the soul that one can truly find satisfaction. “Blessed is the man” begins Psalm 1, and Jesus’ commandments begin in a similar way, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he says, describing what it is to be truly happy, satisfied, and fortunate, which is nothing other than being favored, or blessed, by God.
SPIRITUAL HAPPINESS IS FOREVER
Bradley S. Corbin, Baha’i Teacher
The Baha’i Faith encourages the development of a technologically advanced world; the development of useful arts and sciences, that lifts us out of the depths of ignorance to the highest reaches of knowledge and human excellence and brings a level of happiness. But in this technologically advanced world, have you ever felt your values, your humanity, or even your soul, slipping away? Are we looking for no other good except eating and sleeping and pandering to our sensual desires? Do we know nothing at all of our origin or our end? Each of us contains a greater and much more profound reality than simply our commercial or material existence. We have a temporary physical life and an everlasting and timeless spiritual life. Abdu’l-Baha urges us to take the long view, meditate on the meaning of our mortality, and transcend this walking shadow. This will bring us an everlasting more profound happiness.
Steve Bond, Lead Pastor, Summit Christian Church, Sparks
Technology can improve some aspects of life such as communication, commerce and entertainment. But it cannot bring true happiness. For example, whatever limited happiness a new cell phone brings only lasts until the next newest version is released.
I also do not believe that religion brings happiness. I understand religion to be humankind’s attempts to reach out to God. This inevitably involves following rules to attempt to become good enough to achieve God’s acceptance. The end result is legalism, not happiness.
The essence of Christianity is not humankind’s reaching out to God; it is God reaching out to us to restore our relationship with him through Jesus. The essence of Christianity is not about religious rule following, it is about restored relationship with God.
Thus, neither technology nor religion bring true happiness. True happiness can only be experienced through a restored relationship with God. And this comes through Jesus.
SATISFACTION NOT A CONSEQUENCE OF BELIEFS
Kenneth G. Lucey, UNR philosophy/religion professor
The notion that belief in anything brings happiness is a conceptual error. Having a belief is something that happens to a person in a variety of ways. Some beliefs are inculcated through education or indoctrination. Other beliefs are the result of one’s life experiences. Having or lacking a particular belief is not one of those things about which people have freedom of action. Belief in the obvious is surely easier than belief in the more speculative. Modern technology, like the iPhone in one’s hand, is surely easier to believe in than something more speculative like a belief in reincarnation or divine salvation. Life satisfaction or the lack thereof is usually a result of one’s successes or relationships in life, or a consequence of how life may have treated one. But in any case, life satisfaction is not a consequence of beliefs, but rather of one’s life achievements, relationships or mishaps.
MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE THEY ARE NOT
Muhammed A. Quddus, Northern Nevada Muslim Community Member
Life satisfaction, defined as being happy and in control of its direction, is a highly complex and subjective state of mind. While faith provides people with a sense of purpose in life and expectation of divine interventions in times of difficulties, science and technology make material lives comfortable and enjoyable. People respond to many stimuli in their self-assessment of the nature and degree of happiness. Some are content with leaving everything in God’s hand; others wish to remain in control of their destiny using science and technology. Still others combine the better of the two in maximizing life’s satisfaction.
The good life of this world and the heavenly salvation of a soul, wrapped around tweets and Snapchats, the pursuit of knowledge of the Law of Relativity and Computational Thermodynamics, and religiosity are quite compatible with each other in promoting a satisfying life in this world and a rewarding time thereafter.
Monique Jacobs, Director of Faith Formation, Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno
Do we have to choose? Can we not draw happiness or life satisfaction from both; for they are not necessarily at odds, are they? Many of the earliest scientific discoveries were made by men and women of faith; for example, Augustinian Friar Gregor Mendel, who is credited with the first experiments and discovery of the science of genetics. People – like Rosalind Franklin, a Jewish scientist who made contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite – who embrace the excitement of scientific discovery with the awe and wonder of someone who recognizes and appreciates the Source of these discoveries. For many who profess belief in God, there is a particular joy in the discovery of dynamic, new frontiers, in the exploration of mystery toward what is not humanly known, and in appreciation for the intricacies that come from wisdom greater than ours.
FULFILLMENT IS SPIRITUAL
Matthew T. Fisher, Reno Buddhist Center Resident Priest
Technology and religion are different things – religion brings spiritual fulfillment and true satisfaction, science brings material benefits [or horrors without a moral compass]. The danger of “believing in” science is that it lacks any morality. Many ills of modern societies are grounded in an infatuation with material things. Don’t lose of the spiritual aspect or you will lose the only pathway to abiding joy.
Buddhism is a religion of enlightenment and is seldom at odds with Science. The Buddha is often described as a doctor – a kind of scientist. His method was to systematically identify the illness afflicting our life and recommended a cure. What is the cause of the non-joy of life? He studied and identified this cause as clinging, thirst, or wanting. Ending this selfish wanting is the path to a joyful life. This science of mind brings a satisfying life.
RELIGION ANSWERS MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
Sharla S. Hales, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Area Public Affairs Director
This question is like asking which brings more satisfaction — a hearty meal or a comfortable bed. Religion and technology answer different needs.
Religion brings meaning, comfort, and direction. Scientific-technological progress provides information, convenience and efficiency.
Religion answers questions of the soul: who we are, why we are here, where we came from, where we are going, how to find happiness. Religion fosters hope in this life and hope for life after death. Religion is highly satisfying.
Science-technology answers how questions, such as how diseases and other physical challenges work and how they can be treated to improve lives; how the earth and the universe work; how energy technology can be improved to take better care of the earth–all highly satisfying endeavors.
Religion and scientific-technological progress are both good and generally compatible. Comparing the two, religion brings more life satisfaction because it answers more basic needs and more important questions.
GOOD DEEDS BRING TRUE HAPPINESS
Donne A. Levy, Vice-President Men’s Club, Temple Emanu-El
One must clarify the meaning of happiness under Jewish teaching. A strong belief within the religion is that humans are on Earth for the purpose of doing Mitzvot (Hebrew for good deeds) as stated in the Torah (Five Books of Moses).
After the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 until the Third Century, sage rabbis taught that the reward for doing Mitzvot is the act itself. A belief permeating Judaism is that doing good deeds such as tzedakah (Hebrew for charity or justice) brings one the greatest happiness.
That in no way denigrates science-technology. In Genesis it states, “And God created man in His image, and in the image of God he created him.” Therefore, we are creators commanded to improve the quality of life through technology.
The central point is that religion brings true happiness while technology brings a higher quality of life.
Next week’s topic:
How religion will respond to the discovery of aliens?
Faith Forum is a weekly dialogue on religion produced by religious statesman Rajan Zed. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @rajanzed