I cringe when I hear people say that Christians never truly embrace life and only endure it. They say believers care too much for the hereafter to bother with the here and now. Friedrich Nietzche once wrote that “Christianity was from the beginning life’s nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in ‘another’ or ‘better’ life.”
The data simply doesn’t support this anti-religious sentiment. A Pew research poll for example found that 36% of actively religious people in the US describe themselves “very happy” compared with 25% of the inactive religious people and 25% of the unaffiliated. And this finding generally holds true for other countries1.
Religious people are more likely to sacrifice short-term selfishness for lasting joy. They engage with and contribute to their communities – religious and otherwise. And in forgetting their daily troubles in the pursuit of others’ happiness, they find meaning, gratitude and happiness throughout their lives. The religious pass through pain and sorrows like everyone else but have the support and tools to rise above them.
The prophet-historian Mormon wrote, “I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven2 .” Mormon is saying that peace is not just available in the afterlife. It is here and now for those who humbly follow Christ’s path.
All are free to choose a different path of course, but at their peril. True religious principles make this life better – not necessarily immediately but certainly over time.
Dieter Uchtdorf talks about training as a fighter pilot in his youth. He describes how, for some reason, endless running is an essential part of training to become a pilot. During this training, he was disappointed many of the riotous soldiers around him were faster and in better shape than he was. He said of this experience, “Wait a minute! I was [being] overtaken by people who were definitely [hard living]. I confess, it troubled me. [But] years later I could see clear evidence of the temporal blessings that come from obedience to any of God’s laws.”
So should we live for today or for the eternities? The answer is that living for the eternities can maximize happiness today. The anti-religious have it wrong on both sides of death’s door.