World’s Happiest Countries Revealed: And Religion?

World’s Happiest Countries Revealed: And Religion? April 3, 2019

CNN have recently produced a list of the world’s happiest and least happy countries. There are no prizes to those who guess the correlation between lack of religion and happiness. This is a recurring pattern that we have seen over the years. Of course, we can talk more pointedly about causality and correlation here, for there is a lot to discuss. However, the headline results are pretty stark.

As my friend Sergio Sider prefaced:

It must be terrible to live in those “Godless™ countries”. All those atheists killing each other, raping…. or….

They pay high taxes for a social safety net, they trust their government, they live in freedom and they are generous with each other. “They do care about each other,” he says. “That’s the kind of place people want to live.”

The lists:

World’s happiest countries

1. Finland
2. Denmark
3. Norway
4. Iceland
5. Netherlands
6. Switzerland
7. Sweden
8. New Zealand
9. Canada
10. Australia

World’s least happy countries

1. South Sudan
2. Central African Republic
3. Afghanistan
4. Tanzania
5. Rwanda
6. Yemen
7. Malawi
8. Syria
9. Botswana
10. Haiti
As for the US:

The United States came in 19th place, dropping one spot since last year and a total of five spots since 2017.

Except for its 10th place ranking for income, the US doesn’t rank in the top 10 on measures that make up a happy country in the UN report. They include 12th place for generosity, 37th place for social support, 61st place for freedom and 42nd place for corruption.

Addiction is partly to blame, says report co-author Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, who wrote a chapter focused on the US epidemic of addictions and unhappiness in America, a rich country where happiness has been declining.

Many variables are at play:

No other super powers made it into the top 10 rankings, either. The United Kingdom came in 15th place, up from 18th place, while Germany came in 17th place, down from 15th. Japan came in 58th place (down from 54th), Russia came in 68th place (down from 59th) and China came in 93rd place (down from 86th).

People in South Sudan are the most unhappy with their lives, according to the survey of 156 countries, followed by Central African Republic (155), Afghanistan (154), Tanzania (153) and Rwanda (152).

Bolstered by population growth, overall world happiness has fallen over the past few years, which has mostly been fueled by a sustained drop in India, which came in 140th place this year (versus 133rd place in 2018). There has also been an increase of negative emotions, which were also measured and include worry, sadness and anger.

If you look at the latest Global Peace Index rankings, the most peaceful nations are the least religious ones: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Peace_Index.

Of course, we can be a little more nuanced than that. My opinions, backed up by some pretty robust data, suggest that countries with more stable economies and with greater welfare systems that allow their citizens to feel more secure and have less need the comfort blanket of religion, and less need for an attribution of God are more likely to throw off the shackles of religion. These are the same countries that have higher education levels, less inequality between rich and poor and are generally fairer societies with greater well-being. Therefore, it is not essentially the content of the religion that leads to poorer well-being and life chances for those in the countries of the bottom of the rankings. There are many variables that play of which religion is merely one. Nevertheless, the stats are particularly interesting and I know where I would prefer to live. Dogmatic religion almost certainly hinders and isn’t just hanging on for the ride. t plays its causal role, for sure.

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