Chapter

Faith and Freedom: Traditional and Modern Ways to Happiness

Ronald F. Inglehart

in International Differences in Well-Being

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780199732739
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199776887 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199732739.003.0012
Faith and Freedom: Traditional and Modern Ways to Happiness

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There are two main routes to happiness, one linked with modernization and another with traditional belief systems. In so far as modernization brings greater income, and political and personal freedom, it is conducive to rising subjective well-being — and in recent decades, it has actually made people happier. Economic development helps but its impact follows a curve of diminishing returns and rising social tolerance and political freedom played even more important roles in the global rise of subjective well-being that occurred from 1981 to 2007. Belief systems also shape subjective well-being, and religion has traditionally helped offset the effect of poverty. Thus, within most countries religious people are happier than non-religious people, although they tend to have lower incomes. And cross-nationally, the people of strongly religious low-income countries are substantially happier than the people of less religious low-income countries. Ideologies also help shape subjective well-being. Today, the publics of most ex-communist countries show weak or negative correlations between religion and subjective well-being. This seems to reflect a recent influx of unhappy people, who have turned to religion following the collapse of faith in communist ideology, which once provided a sense of meaning and certainty for many people.

Keywords: happiness; subjective well-being; modernization; religion, income; freedom; international

Chapter.  13090 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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