Hmm, you touch so many subjects it could be 10 posts ...

Main beef that I understand is that we're more happy than twitter shows. Which is generally true, there is a lack of appreciation how well off we are historically. I would be one of the happier people in the surveys and I've added all through my life to the GDP.

However, my world did change over the past decade in a way I did not enjoy. I don't nearly like as much to work for companies (as a consultant) as I used to be. Many topics are now off limits and the thing that so many males (tended to?) enjoy thoroughly (cajoling, teasing, hard work, brutally holding others to high standards, prioritizing topic over comfort, flirting, and joking) have all become problematic. Not only are more people taking offense, snitching, which used to be one of the strongest taboos among men, has become common.

Also, in my own world I see way too many unhappy, long educated, anxious, neurotic, and depressed women between 20 and 40. Almost all have decided to remain barren. True, many women of my age cohort struggled with this question over my life but their respect for the ticking biological clock tended to save them (and society) in time from becoming a female Peter Pan. And without children we lose one of the main motivators of men that made our fathers and grandfathers work hard, often in teidous jobs, to provide for the family or even go to war. Without this motivator, Peter Pan's can survive with surprisingly little effort to support their basic need for sex (porn), food (takeaway), and comradery (gaming).

I am not counting anymore on a lot of support when I hit 80 in 15 years, there will not be enough people to provide the services & tax income at the level of today. Just that we need to educate 2-3 female doctors for 1 traditional male doctor spells doom with 65% women in university. And I predict that the need will only increase, even with the many boomers dying off in the next 2 decades. The current young, without the responsibility and joy of children that metamorphosed previous generations into adults, will need more support but discover they severely lack the skilled people to run a society on the level we have today. I can already see it today, but I fear it might become dystopian.

So I am pretty happy today since I can stay out of offices but I am very worried for the world my only grandson will grow up in.

A happy society is a society where old men plant trees for their offspring to sit in the shade. Offspring they will never ever see.

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"the best evidence suggests that there is practically no relationship between religious faith or practice and life satisfaction outside of the developing world."

I just want to nudge slightly against this, because while Western societies might be currently post-religious, we still have deep religious roots.

I am a typical secular Gen-Xer (born 1969) more libertine skeptic than believer in anything, but my parents and their generation are/were religious, and that goes double for my grandparents' generation: they all went to church, kept holidays and rituals etc, and that was true also of all my friends' families and our neighbors. And they all believed in some variation of Christian ethics: don't hurt others, respect each individual (esp your parents!), and look and act as best as you can—bc God is watching!

I guess my point is that I wouldn't say we're quite yet secular and post-God; after 60 or so generations of Christianity, we may need another century to see what a community sans religious roots really looks like.

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Jan 10, 2023Liked by Richard Hanania

My hypothesis is that religion's contribution to happiness isn't that it gives people a deep meaning but that it gets people to socialize in person and make friends. I'd also guess this is the main reason technology has contributed to unhappiness, a number of people have gotten addicted and stopped going out and having in-person interactions. This would explain the COVID's disastrous impact on mental health. This is also why sports, cars, music, politics, art and volunteering can fill the void fine. We just need to hang with our boys.

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I have never needed religion to be happy. My personal life is generally very satisfying but Wokeism has made me unhappy at times because it has created a more fearful atmosphere. Someone actually contacted my employer about something I posted on Facebook and a Woke Nazi contacted my daughter via Facebook because I dared to argue that the Central Park 5 were guilty. Granted, I could stay off social media but its hard to ignore the Woke BS at work. It’s very dispiriting at times how totalitarian some segments of society are. If I were a public intellectual like you who could sound off without (too much) fear of reprisal, I might be happier but I’m not sure. I’m glad you are happy and that you enjoy fighting back against the Woke crap. I am happy to live through you.

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Jan 10, 2023·edited Jan 10, 2023

Religion/Fertility connection is pretty strong. Even if you look at countries with low birth rates relative to high birth rate countries, at a granular level, you find higher religiosity/higher fertility within the population. Nothing wrong with either the Shakers (they were nice people) or Seculars, there is just a fundamental design flaw that may not be overcome.

As far as religion, happiness, the rest, I do believe that you can't really have a classical liberal state without Protestant Christianity providing the cultural backbone. . . not that you need to have a classical liberal state, there is always illiberal democracy, but it seems kind of conservative-eeh to support classical liberalism.

In addition, rich/religion works in reverse. Religions, among other things, constitute mutual aid societies, so if you have rich countries with big governments and lots of social spending, why buy the cow (religion) when the milk is free (state).

Religion is good in the sense that higher religiosity means lower alcohol and drug abuse, and lower crime rates relating to substance abuse, like domestic violence and DUI. I don't know what is wrong with the world, but deaths of despair seem to be trending upwards, so I don't know how that data squares with your data. Speaking as a "Doomer," my life is fine, I am perfectly happy, but the big picture does not fill me with hope or assurance, I see a declining Empire doing everything in its power to hasten its demise. However, it would have been better perhaps if I had been born in the 1920's, so I would be lean and mean through the 30's and then could get myself killed in some battle by 1945.

I must agree that a world with more f___ing and more fighting would obviously be a better world.

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"Take away universal conscription and patriotic education, and they’ll still become soccer hooligans. Leave humans alone, they’ll follow their evolutionary programming and seek power, status, money, and sex. That’s plenty to occupy you before you drop dead and get eaten by worms." But if you steelman Charles Murray this is the *problem*. The issue isn't merely that people (temporarily) become unhappy when they lose something that they used to invest their identity in - religion, manufacturing jobs, national pride. It's that their desire for a higher status identity can lead them down socially destructive paths. Football hooliganism in the 70s and 80s was a blight on other people's lives, it sometimes bubbled over into full-fledged riots. Most people do not have the moral and intellectual agency to assert their own values from scratch which they will try realise. Their social milieu/ in-group sets the values, and then they optimise for that in terms of the identity they pursue. Obvs a relish for violence and sex is hard-coded in male DNA. But growing up as you did in a working class school and community, those physical fights probs also felt good cos being able to fight were status markers. Even if your status wasn't directly improved by those fights you'd already imbibed the idea that a guy who's not a pussy in fights is a male identity to be proud of.

"Rather, it is better to shape institutions and laws so that they create incentives for more productive and pro-social behavior." Agree. But maybe religion, and conscription and patriotic education, are institutions/social technologies that our societies evolved to do just this. In the 1960s a neurotic lady with a desire for moral fervour and to feel part of a community that gave her belonging, purpose and a sense of propriety, joined a church group. Now she becomes a BLM activist.

Growing up in the 2010s, as a fan of the new atheists and hating the moronic social conservatism of the Jerry Falwell Right, I thought religion was the main problem. But it's not, people are the problem, and religion may well have been one of the less bad solutions.

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People need meaning; it just doesn't have to be on any sort of grand cosmic scale. But people *do* need to feel like they mean something to someone else (family, friends, teammates, battle buddies, whatever), and people need to feel like someone else means something to them.

Also, I'm glad to hear you boxing friend knocked up a black girl in Chicago. If he'd knocked up an Eskimo chick in Chicago, or a black girl in Montreal, or a white girl in Walla Walla, I'd be worried about him. But a black girl in Chicago means he should be alright. Thanks for sharing that detail about him, so I know he's in a good place in terms of his parenting.

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Good until the very end. Anyone who wants to think about the nature of existence, etc., have at it. The thing is to not permit anyone to hijack government power to compel everyone to accept their formulation. Make everyone comply with simple, commonly acceptable norms of behavior in public and in their interactions, like not permitting (involuntary) interpersonal violence, fraud, theft, trespass, etc. The basics. Get out of people's way. Let them go as far as persuasion, stopping short of coercion and extortion, can take them, including selling things to each other. Then we can all go make money, raise GDP, generate a modicum of happiness, and read Plato in the original, or play video games, as we wish. Keep the government, the guys with guns, handcuffs, and the keys to the prison cells, out of it, as much as possible. I am so old I remember William F. Buckley, Jr. conservatism, and it was, pretty much, this. It was American libertarianism, small-l, with room for national defense as needed. Not bad. Better than most of the other stuff on the menu before or since.

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(1) Happiness is a terrible measure of anything. Because humans (and all mammals) don't have an objective happiness meter. Unlike temperature which is objective and people can honestly report, happiness is measured compared to all prior experience. You will be happy almost precisely 50% of your life. It doesn't matter how rich you are or how hot your wife is. It doesn't matter if you live in the uncontacted jungle or in the slums. Your brain adjusts the scale on you.

Many of the authors conclusions are based on that happiness chart. Be careful, that chart does *not* actually say happiness is all fine (as he interprets). It could also (and more probably does) say that happiness is not statistically measurable (because there is no objective scale).

(2) I have come to the conclusion that religion is not an individual good or a societal good - it is a human need. People invented religion because they needed it. When legacy religions became less gripping on the population, the population invented a new one. Leftism is a religion in every aspect. And the political fighting today is a religious battle. Politics today isn't "just for fun" or because males like to fight, it is the Catholics/Protestants and Sunni/Shia and every other religious war. This aspect of religions (wars) are historically known to be bad for both individuals and societies. Honestly, I would give anything to have the legacy religions back (I am an atheist) now that I have seen the profound stupidities of leftism. At least everybody knew they were dangerous and kept them cornered.

(3) Try not to make the mistake of conflating happiness with meaning. That is a leftist mistake. If forced to make a one-liner, "meaning" for any organism comes from making things. Creation. Reducing entropy (a neat trick that all life does - for itself and its local environment - not for the universe). Humans can make lots of things, ideas, houses, families, inventions, art, music, high scores, historic events, unique plays (sports and the thespian kind), newsletters, books.

If you do any of those things your life will have meaning, you will be satisfied, and you won't want to kill yourself.

But you will never be happy more than 50% of the time... Sorry.

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Your religion analysis is overly simple. I imagine you know that. But the quick critique is simple: Ignore the GDP analysis (which many on the right do not since the US is a huge outlier on both axes) . Then, happiness (in-moment, or life sat) is not a predictor of actions that make people's lives measurably better so using it as the dependent variable is already a miss. So while religious belief (and moreso, religious action, or religiosity) does correlate with happiness -- happy to share my data on that if you want to go into it, you can skip the dubious meta analysis -- religious belief is hopelessly bound in the US with actual behaviors that ultimately make people's lives better.

Principal among these is dating, marriage, and childbearing and rearing. Religious people do these things at a higher rate than others. And those things (done well, which Religious people are also more likely to do as in stay married, be faithful, have healthy relationships with children) insulate against negative life outcomes while also promoting long-term life satisfaction. [And please, fellow commenters, you can leave the "I know religious people who are bad at this," comments aside, which, while certainly true, miss the point that I'm talking about statistics here, where a 10% difference makes all the difference in long-run life outcomes] This is true of white communities, black communities, and Latino communities.

In other words, it doesn't have to be about meaning for it to be meaningful, as long as it points you to those actions that you then derive life satisfaction (and meaning) from.

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I agree that fertility rates tell you something about what people really believe about the world, more than surveys. If you do look into this more, I think the analysis needs to be based on the correlation between children and worldview, for each couple, rather than country-wide summaries such as you've cited. Who is it, within each country, who are having children.

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“I rely on my Twitter followers for rides to and from airports”

Really? Please walk us through how this usually works

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Good piece. Would it be accurate to think of Woke-ism as a post-modern religion? It seems to have subsumed the traditionally "atheist" group with its own taboos, rituals, and narratives. Through this perspective, it seems that the current western culture of neoliberal global capitalism is no longer a good fit with traditional religion and thus required a new framework to support its economic goals. This intuitively makes sense as the rural/poor areas across the world cling to organized religion while the wealthy cosmopolitan cities are all typically considered woke and non-religious in the traditional sense.

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I love your writing, but I can’t help but feel that you sound more and more like an ‘elite’ yourself albeit one of a different flavor.

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I’m not sure how I should think about this, but since I saw Douthat mention the Hootie-DMB-Counting Crows triptych I thought about how uniquely popular they were in the US. Like, most bands that were big in America would usually be big in Europe too, but those three bands in particular were absolutely huge in the US and virtually unknown across the pond. An album that reached #1 in America might not even break the top 200 in the UK, for example.

Americans seemed particularly happy and uncynical before 2001 (at least from my European perspective). I wonder if 9-11 killed off that kind of end-of-history soft rock.

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