May 20th, 2010
11:55 AM ET

What makes people happy?

Happiness is something we all strive for in our lives. But is there a secret ingredient to being happy?

We asked five faith leaders of varying perspectives to answer the question, "What makes people happy?" Their answers showed that happiness comes from meaning and purpose in life. It's in your heart and soul and can come from helping others.

And if you're looking for perfect happiness, it doesn't exist. But imperfect happiness does.

- Associate Producer

Filed under: Culture & Science • Leaders

soundoff (800 Responses)
  1. Rob

    Interesting to watch all the nasty comments from the humanists directed at those who believe in God. One thing we can say for sure via the evidence from these comments is atheism sure doesn't make one kind or a 'people person'.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  2. pockets

    Religion poisons everything

    May 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
    • CD

      Especially the sinful mind of a non-believer like yourself.

      May 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      Wait – CD was all cool and chill in the previous post, then went all apespit in this one – wassup wit dat? 😉
      Let's all just take a deep breath. And let's remember, Atheists supply less than 1% of the prison population in the USA. Shocking, isn't it?

      May 21, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Power corrupts. The reason that organized religion is corrupt is because of its power base, which is derived from its organization, which happens to be based upon an ideology. However, if the ideology itself is corrupt, the organization has no chance.

      May 21, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
  3. Eve

    this is interesting..I was saying the other day that contentment leads to happiness. And yes even though I want to make others happy I know inately that it starts internally within oneself- It is hard to accept that though. Especially for me right now as I want to make someone else happy 🙁

    May 21, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • CD

      You can't make anyone happy. That's their decision. You can only serve them in a loving way.

      May 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
    • Eve

      CD- thanks CD yea that's true. It's just hard to be the one giving more i suppose :/

      May 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  4. TsirhCitnA

    Happiness is eight aluminum slugs playing a symphony conducted by my right foot. Excitement is the feeling of being lifted from the ground by the chassis twisting torque. Joy is being able to slow down or stop before you run out of track.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  5. Diane_well

    I enjoyed what Greg Epstein, Joel Ooelsteen, and Harold Kushner wrote. For so many years I have prayed to have a connection with God or Jesus, and it has never worked for me to find inner peace. For those who believe and have inner peace by means of faith, I AM VERY VERY VERY VERY happy for you. But you all also have to give those of us room to find peace in our way. It isn't wrong to not believe in Jesus as a saviour. I too feel better when I FREE myself from the myth that believing in Jesus will make my life better. Faith is a wonderful thing, and Jesus is wonderful too. But there are millions of good hearted people on this earth, who are loving and kind and giving, without Jesus. And to tell us we are WRONG for not believing is actually unkind ......dare I say, someties rather mean and nasty.

    Millions of us are kind, good human beings that just come from a different place. We aren't wrong. We love in another way. We are just as compassionate and worthy as any other human on earth.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
    • Sue

      Well said. thank you. How I wish there were more like you.

      May 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • webattorney

      Diane, well said. I believe people who believe in various religions should respect people who do not belong to "set" religions and vice-versa. Given that each one of us experience life in slightly different ways, we are bound to view things in different manners. We should use the internet access to find the common values we share, rather than pointing out differences. For me, I found sincere and kind people who were religious and non-religious. And people who view Islam as a violent religion, please realize that when you compare two religions historically, Islam often was a more tolerant religion than Christianity.

      i am curious to know what are the common and different things between Judaism and Islam - seems like both religions believe in the same God, so how come there appears to be so much conflict between the two different religions when they believe in the same single God, without the concept of Holy Trinity?

      May 21, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
  6. Kvc

    Happiness is a feeling. To feel happy is a decision. If you decide no matter what you will be happy, no one can take this from you.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
  7. Jonathan

    Wait, Chopra, Falwell, Kushner, Osteen, and a "humanist chaplain"?? CNN wasn't shooting for the credibility rep when it organized this panel.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Credibility with whom, exactly? I'm curious, what panelists would have earned your respect?

      May 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  8. Vinay Puri

    Get rid of religion, every one will be happy 🙂

    May 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
    • dhakir

      How do you suppose this can be achieved? Just wondering.

      May 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
    • Jake

      I agree! Religion hurts, Jesus heals.

      May 21, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
    • Hindu

      I agree 100%!

      May 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  9. Sherry

    Happiness comes when you touch your true nature and start acting accordingly.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  10. Sven

    What makes me happy? When I see understanding and tolerance from people, when I wake up next to my beautiful girlfriend in the morning, and when I just look at the world and see what amazing things are there for us, if we just look a little bit closer.

    That, and chocolate chip pancakes from Rise n Dine!

    May 21, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  11. dhakir

    Happiness comes from the feeling that you are fulfilling the purpose of you existence, the essence of life. Believing that God does not exist is a mere fantacy, as you can never prove it. You will be lying to yourself, you will never be in sync with your subconscious. You have to be honest with yourself, absorb all the beauty around you as evidence of God's power and mercy, and ask yourself: why am I here? But do so sincerely, without prejudice whatsoever. Then seek answers in the major religions. You will find it. Do not accept anything said unless it is adequately substanciated. No dogmas. The truth is plain. eg. Anyone telling you Jesus is Son of God, he is God, and he was killed by man in order to set man free, shun him. clearly that is all a pack of nonesense. Once you know your purpose, fulfil it, for there lies true happiness.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
    • Sven

      Somebody read Hegel.

      May 21, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • jenefa2004

      You are obviously a muslim trying to portray Islam in a positive light.
      Can you go 'on the record' and state that suicide bombers who kill in the name of Islam are not true Muslims and neither are the Sept 11 terrorists?

      May 21, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • EdCal

      Trying to impose your God ahla or however you call him is not going to work for you here in America...Every time we look at the news it always happens to be one of you crazy fanatic muslims doing your dirt.

      May 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      You say "Believing that God does not exist is a mere fantacy, as you can never prove it."

      Erm, if there is one truth in existence, it is that there is no robust proof anywhere that there is a God in any form. If there was, there would be no arguments about religion. Writings of Man prove NOTHING – they are flawed and opinionated at best, outright political screeds at worst.
      Belief in God is an act of FAITH. Your denial in previous posts that belief in Islam cannot be 'forced' ** is belied by the fact that the vast majority of Islamic countries either unofficially or officially reject people of different religious beliefs, often forcing its citizens to choose between the 'State' religion or death. Try to openly worship in the Christian or Jewish faith in Iran, Afghanistan, or Somalia and see where that gets you.

      ** – I say this with all respect to the true Islamic faith that supports peace, tolerance, and generosity – the countries I am speaking of are doing their citizens a grave disservice by denying their citizens the right to worship freely, and live together in peace with people of different religions. It is this use of religion as political bludgeon which I most disapprove of.

      May 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • Ice Man

      I am a scraggly beard wielding muslim – and I can go on record and say that suicide bombers, especially the Sept 11 terrorists, who killed innocent people are an abomination – and in fact they are enemies of all of humanity and Islam.

      Perhaps my only solace is that those suicide bombers will be dealt with justly by Allah in the hereafter – for the abominable sin they committed. They cannot merely get away by killing themselves.

      It is imperative for the muslim community to hunt down and help anihilate these monsters.


      May 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  12. whatever

    Christians come and start saying "Love Jesus". Musims come and start saying "Love/Fear Allah". What is up with these two religions? I know what makes me unhappy – this constant obsession of these two religions to convert the whole world to their religions. The only two religions in the world that proselytize, manipulate, brainwash, convert people using force, fear, money. And no matter how much the history is showing about the atrocities created by these two religions, we just refuse to see the pattern. I wish these two religions did not exist. The world would have been much better.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
    • dhakir

      You maybe right about Christians buying converts with money, but you are misled about Muslims using fear to win converts. That is not true, as you are not a muslim by merely stating that you are one. Faith that is not in your heart will not benefit you at all, and force can not place faith in your heart. Islam is spread by explaining the truth in the simplest of terms that a person of any IQ can understand. Islam will never tell you God is 3-in-1 and God is 1, God is unseen and God leaved with the people and got killed......Islam puts it simply God is 1, unseen. period. Forget the terrorists, forget the media, read the authentic scriptures and do yourself one eternal favor. You will be hypocritical to force yourself to believe there is no God

      May 21, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
    • Nauman Rauf

      i am guessing you have no religion. Allah is the one who sent you down and he will bring you back up again. Why don't you fear Allah?

      May 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • pockets

      I applaud your statement.

      May 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
    • Saudi Fred

      My maid was forced by her Saudi employer to sign a card written in English on one side and Arabic on the other stating that she voluntarily converted to Islam before she would be allowed to work. Having spent her life savings on getting into Saudi and not even knowing what the card said, of course she signed it. Please dhakir, don't pretend like your faith does not have its shortcomings just like any other faith. As a Christian, I am willing to acknowledge Christianity's shortcomings if you will open your eyes to abuses done in the name of Islam and our atheist friends will acknowledge the evil done by those who believe in no God. There are abuses in every belief system.

      May 21, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  13. Phil

    The human brain is complex. The interplay of natural chemicals made by our body , as well as chemicals we are exposed to, regulate and can change our brain functioning.
    What we choose to think and our own self-talk and experiences can also influence our brain chemicals interplay.
    There's no limit probably to what can make people feel happy. Listening to music is probably one of the universals. Food and drink is another universal.
    If we feel threatened, our primitive biologic instincts can take over and we will feel unhappy. A lot of people benefit from religous/illusory belief by making themselves feel special and safe.
    Given the randomness of events that can happen in our lives, religous belief/illusions can give people significance and security.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
    • Janice

      I love this. One of the most profound responses. Thanks.

      May 23, 2010 at 3:44 am |
  14. Jake

    The only thing that will bring true joy & happiness is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. No religion will save you; only Jesus.
    Men say, "There are many different ways to God;" Jesus said, "I am the way."
    Men say, "Truth is relative; what you believe is your own personal truth;" Jesus said, "I am the truth."
    Men say, "Life is what you make it; live it up, you only have one life, and it's yours to enjoy;" Jesus said, "I am the life."

    May 21, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
    • TsirhCitnA

      Jesus certainly wasn't modest for a poor carpenter, was he?

      May 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • EdCal

      He is God himself who decided to live a human life as a carpenter and you are questioning his modesty?...You truly have no clue!!

      May 21, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      Jesus also said "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (His most important words, IMO)
      So, "said Doing" would NOT include:
      Judging others to be less than you because their beliefs are different than yours.
      Persecuting others because their beliefs are different than yours.

      If you want to be more like Jesus, this is Rule #1. Everything else is irrelevant at BEST.
      As long as they don't impinge on others, your practice of your beliefs are aok with me. But keep out of my space.

      May 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
    • pockets

      "This little piggie went to market"
      "This little piggie stayed home"
      "This little piggie went we we we all the way home"
      You see how much nonsense all of the 'quotes' from the book of foolishness make. Grow up people and THINK.

      May 21, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
    • AGuest9

      A man named Jesus suppossedly died for peoples' sins. His brother James made a church based on his teachings, and lied that Jesus returned from the dead and appeared to him.

      May 21, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
  15. EdCal

    Happiness is a mortal trap. It makes us very selfish beings and tend to distract us from our real purpose here on earth.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  16. al

    this is supposed to be a discussion about happiness but it is now a discussion about god ....the topic should be changed to does believing in god makes you happy ? .. and the answer from my own experience is yes..but it does not come easy..it is not a switch you turn it on ..it is a struggle , a commitment that most of us do not want to go through..

    May 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
    • dhakir

      This should tell you one thing, that God can be easily done away with.

      May 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
    • pockets

      Look inward if you seek some sort of 'savior' figure, your 'it', like it or not. Religion poisons everything. Think and stop pretending you believe is fairy tales. Your an adult take responsibitlity for your lives. Look around you at what the so called beliefs in ignorant peasants folklore has done to humans and their tribes. Dark ages still prevail in some countries, brighten up fool.

      May 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm |
    • logic

      We should try to get the opinions of scientists on this matter

      May 22, 2010 at 12:34 am |
  17. Jake

    Atheists vs. Christians: There is only one way to find out for sure who is right about what happens after we die - unfortunately, we will only know 1 second after we die, and then it will be too late to change anything. Personally, I am trying my best to prepare for eternity as the Bible teaches. If I am wrong, and I die, it won't matter anyway. But if you are wrong, you're in a lot worse shape than I am for living my 70 or so years on Earth according to the Bible's teachings. What makes me really happy is the promise of eternal life; what is so happy about eternal death?

    May 21, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
    • Joker

      Sad sad life. You're nothing but a Pascal's Wagerist. Google it if you don't know what it means. Better hurry up and please your imaginary friend. Sad and pathetic. I hope you chose the right god, after all, we're all atheists, I just do you one better.

      May 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • dhakir

      Great reasoning. So simple, and most people miss it. Just one thing, though. Jesus is of God, he came with a message, and God did not say through Jesus that there would be no more messengers. Muhammad came to renew the faith preached by Jesus and those messengers that came before him, and to correct the misconceptions that were so cleverly planted in the Christian faith. Muhammad, on the other hand, did say that he is the final messenger. Learn his message and learn happiness.

      May 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Ah...the ol' "faith as an insurance policy" approach...

      May 21, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      And what if I say that I am the final messenger? I'm pretty sure that living by teachings that make sense for individual and collective weal are logical guidelines, and ignoring dumb stuff that makes no sense (like violence and hate) is also smart. So let's just do that, and keep our irrational religious beliefs from clouding the human condition.
      (BTW, I am someone who believes in God, but acknowledges that there is no real way to 'prove' the existence thereof, and I use my brain to navigate Life. He did give us that brain, so when I see 700 million year old fossils, I don't need to reconcile that with the account some guy made over 1000 years ago that the world is only 5000 years old. The Bible (and the other religious texts) were written by MEN. Men make mistakes all the time.)

      May 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • DeeBee

      Powerful logic based on a single set of assumptions: God exists, is all powerful, and knows everything, but can't see past your little ruse.

      May 21, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
    • Wayne

      I agree with jake 100% why would you leave your eternity in question when you have been given the aanswer. I know there are people who say thats crazy. Call it what you want but I have a promise from the being who created everything that you can see that if I trust in Him with all that I am I get to spend eternity in a place where there will be no more death, sickness, pain or suffering and YES THAT MAKES ME HAPPY.

      May 21, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • Ryann

      Jesus warned us of the false teachers.

      May 21, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
    • logic

      Jake, I am glad you are trying to use logical reasoning. But better make sure your logic works.

      Your logic has fatal flaw. Here is why.

      You assumed that, since I don't believe in god, I believe everyone gets the same treatment after he dies. Therefore you are clever enough to buy a little insurance for your second life– if there is no god/heaven/hell, you don't lose too much, you just wasted your insurance, and you will encounter the same as everybody else; if there is indeed this holy god, then you have bet on the right thing and you saved your 2nd life.

      How smart! What an opportunist! I bet your god must feel sad if his believers believe in him as an insurance.

      But wait a second, your assumption is wrong. I don't believe in god, but I also have a little belief. I believe one should not believe in any known religion. If you do believe in god, your second life will be miserable. (Of course you will never understand why I could possibly think so.)

      Now isn't it clear why I insist on not believing in god? That choice is also my insurance. If you are right, I go to hell; if I am right, you go to hell. I have to bet on something. You are not that different. We are just buying different insurances. When brainwashed people keep telling me their insurance is better, I laugh. When insurance salesperson keeps trying to sell it to me, I think it is fishy.

      May 21, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
    • JoeBu

      What a dirty opportunist Jake is. Whether atheist or believer we might never know who's right or wrong because we become nothing when we die. Do you feel anything while you are sleeping? If not, you don't know whether you're alive or dead after death.

      May 21, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
  18. Happy Happington III

    Ahhhh....what makes me happy? Large paychecks, loose women, IRS mistakes....(in my favor of course), Great wings, cold beer and my two best friends...Mr. Harley and Mr. Davidson. God bless both of you.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • Mike

      You nailed it. The little things in life make us happy.

      May 21, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      Except for paychecks. Those should be big. 😉

      May 21, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • Careful Now

      Happy: I was with you until right up 'til the last sentence of your post.

      May 22, 2010 at 1:12 am |
  19. El socio

    The worst possible way you can achieve happiness is making other people happy. Depriving yourself from happiness for the sake of other people happiness is a recipe for misery. Sounds like slavery to me. I admire Deepak but he is wrong in this one.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:29 am |
    • Preet

      Fully agree. Making others happy is the biggest failures in life.

      May 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Eve

      Why is it that way though? Why can't my unhappiness in making someone else happy be a bittersweet thing..Maybe it goes somewhere right? I mean can we change people into becoming more self content? Does that happen? 🙁

      May 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      Not sure you are required to deny yourself happinesss to give others happiness. False choice.

      May 21, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
    • Missed the point

      You missed the point – you dont deprive yourself of happiness when you strive to make someone else happy. You achieve happiness in this striving. Both of you get benefit. The neat thing is that you can test this and try it yourself. The trick to this working is in your own intentions. If you approach this selfishly – ie you are only doing it for your own gain – you wont get the results because of your intentions. If you actually want the other person to be happy, then you will also achieve happiness. Its a win-win when done correctly. You will want to do it again and again. Good luck

      May 22, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  20. mtk44

    Deepak Chopra and Greg Epstein have given the best examples. I do know for sure that I am the happiest when I make the people around me happy.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:15 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.