Reflections From A Secular Humanist | A Secular Humanist’s View of Happiness



Are new insights the result of thoughtfulness or impulsiveness? At the end of your life would you rather have achieved maximum happiness or maximum productivity? What causes and sustains your happiness? How much does your happiness add or detract from the happiness of others?

Can Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology and emphasis on optimism become self-indulgent? Does time and energy focused on self inversely leave less for others? When does self-nurturing and preoccupation with self become excessive? How important are social, political, existential and environmental threats? Do neglected threats increase with self-centered preoccupation? When level 10 threats are chronically responded to as a level 3 or level 0, what is the eventual outcome?

Albert Ellis, author of 80 books and over 700 peer-reviewed journal articles in psychology, often warned that religious beliefs and irrational optimism could be used to avoid facing reality. Does positive psychology over-focus on self at the expense of the collective good? Are Americans obsessed with self-pampering and narcissistic freedoms, even when the cost is pandemic deaths, climate devastation, environmental degradation, mass species extinction, and economic disparity that guarantees anguish for future generations? Is gratification from ignoring impending crises ultimately self-enhancing or self-destructive?

In a July 2020 podcast with neuroscientist Sam Harris, Humanistic Psychologist Scott Kaufman talked about Abraham Maslow’s unpublished personal journal. In his pyramid of hierarchical needs, Maslow described a level of self-actualization beyond the self-development of personal talents. This transcendent level of self-actualization is reached when personal talents are used to enhance the collective good and the self-actualization of others. Are we making decisions for future generations that are generous or genocidal?

In over 100 combined international studies on happiness, the U.S. ranked 23rd. Despite the abundance of natural resources, amenities, emphasis on positive thinking, self-development and self-proclaimed superiority, America led the world in the use of anti-depressants, tranquilizers, anti-anxiety, pain medications, illegal drugs and alcohol. Americans had the highest rates of obesity, meat consumption, heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and imprisonment. Americans weren’t in the top 10 in health care, infant mortality, math, science, or life expectancy.

While depleting the world’s largest fresh water supplies and richest topsoil, while using 25% of the world’s energy resources, removing environmental protections, slaughtering 25 million farm animals per day, putting the most greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, and while enjoying abundant amenities, Americans are increasingly unhappy. Are some Americans too complacent and detached living in their golden cages of comfort? Poet Anandamurti says, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted in a profoundly sick society.”

Is Republican leadership, lacking scientific objectivity, prioritizing economic interests and narcissistic freedoms, rather than scientific expertise? Is this resulting in record-breaking pandemic death totals far higher than every other country? Is anti-scientific Republican leadership trustworthy or anti-factual?

The highest-ranking countries in the U.N. Human Development Report, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Japan, and Australia, are among the least religious countries on Earth. They are the highest in health, longevity, infant health, adult literacy, per capita income, educational attainment and gender equality. Does happiness and morality correlate with religion or reason? The 50 lowest ranked countries were among the most religious with higher rates of violence, homicide, divorce, teen pregnancy, infant mortality, burglary, gender inequality, lower income and lower educational attainment.

Doesn’t data point toward non-religious people being not only happier, but often more moral and socially responsible? Blaise Pascal points out another perennial problem with religion, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

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