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. soraya

    Happiness is in everything.Just take time and try to find it out.Keep it up though life,i know ,is hard.Friendly yours

    May 27, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  2. jeff

    More wOO wOO from Deepak.

    May 26, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
  3. Reality

    If you have not already done so, please watch Julia Sweeney's monologue "Letting Go of God". Depaak one of the "stars" in the show.

    (Ex-Catholic, now atheist) Julia Sweeney's monologue "Letting Go Of God" will be the final nail in the coffin of religious belief/faith and is and will continue to be more effective than any money-generating book or blog on the historical Jesus, your "Ultimate Happiness Prescription", atheism or secularism.

    Buy the DVD or watch it on Showtime. Check your cable listings.
    from http://www.amazon.com
    "Letting Go of God ~ Julia Sweeney (DVD – 2008)

    Five Star Rating

    May 26, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  4. Ranjit Karnaker(Ricky)

    happiness is a state of mind : a feeling of being at peace with oneself and the world around you ; of not finding reasons to be tense, worried, and burdened with issues you cannot control ; of opening your eyes to the wonder and beauty in the world around you ; of joy at being alive, healthy and in charge of your own life ; of faith in God and all that is good, pleasant and worthy of your appreciation ; of respect for everyone, regardless of religion, color or appearance ; of accepting that there are things you can do, and things you cannot do ; of reaching out to others with a smile, a heartfelt "Hi there !" a song on your lips, and a prayer in your heart ; of remembering to be thankful for who you are, what you have, and for the freedom of choice.

    May 26, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  5. Dr narain Rupani

    when u r past 60 years or so AND reflect back.... analyze.....what went wrong n why ,i m sure we all will get an honest answer , well do communicate findings of ur research to ur kids ,they may listen n learn ,there by avoiding acts which cause unhappiness or they may not listen n would love to find their own path ,God bless them !

    May 24, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  6. Oc

    And ..yes Chocolate !

    May 24, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  7. Oc

    "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
    Abraham Lincon
    Happiness is in the state of the mind concerning the matters of of the heart.

    May 24, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  8. kenshin

    ...is this discussion happy? o.O

    May 24, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  9. Cherlynn

    We are all son's and Daughter's of God. Instead of looking at what's wrong with this church or that church we should come together as one in God and serve one another instead of hating. To truly love your neighbor, no matter what is where we need to be instead of fighting one another. Contention, hate and Anger tear your insides out. Serving another and having love brings peace and happiness.

    May 24, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • sibylle

      Religion was always a cause for many wars. Those people didnt seem to care about 'coming together as one' or 'loving their neighbor'!

      June 2, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  10. Chelsea

    I'd like to hear a women's point of view about happiness and am disappointed there are only five men's beliefs here.

    May 24, 2010 at 6:28 am |
    • Michael Wong

      They tried asking women but the answer they kept getting was "chocolate".

      May 24, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
    • mende59

      If god is for real, why then did he take my son, my beloved dog, and my father, all in a matter of a five months?
      Why is he forcing me to live as I do, barely having enough to pay bills and eat?
      How can I believe in a God that makes people suffer so when all they did was do good for man?
      My God is MONEY! That would make me happy. I could keep my roof over my head and food in my belly!

      May 25, 2010 at 2:21 am |
  11. Michael

    I don't think I've seen a group of people less qualified to to discuss happiness! How about we talk to a psychologist?

    May 23, 2010 at 9:01 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Given the fact that psychology has such poor standards of evidence, I doubt that anyone could be considered truly authoritative on the subject, including a psychologist. It was only a few decades ago that psychologists were still spreading nonsense about masturbation being destructive to the psyche, worthless Freudian nonsense like the Rorschach test, etc (some still subscribe to the Rorschach test).

      May 24, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
    • geeta

      I didn't think happiness is a topic of discussion of any sort

      June 1, 2010 at 6:58 am |
  12. r

    Wong: How is Ayn Rand's philosophy flawed? Please answer, specifically, the best you can.

    May 23, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Her moral objectivist philosophy is based on the idea that self-interest is the prime moral value and that "social" moral values are a corruption of that basic self-evident truth. That is a deeply flawed philosophy, as proven by evolutionary biology. It rests on the assumption that humans' prime values are individual rather than social, when in fact we know from evolutionary biology and anthropology that humans have always been pack animals. In fact, we even have a historic co-operative relationship with another species: specifically, the canine.

      All of the universal moral codes found throughout human societies around the world share one thing in common: they just happen to be useful for ensuring the survival and prosperity of small tribal units, as in the kind which would have existed in the African savannah eons ago. Our fundamental nature is NOT individualistic: we are in fact social animals by nature, and so a morality code based on "individual self-interest" which completely eschews social morality goes completely against our nature.

      Of course, Rand tries to paper over this problem by pretending that social interests actually add up to individual interests, by pretending that people who ignore social interests always get punished, so it's in their own best interest not do. The problem is that this is again disproven by observation: history furnishes countless examples of tyrants and villains who were not suitably punished.

      At the end of the day, Ayn Rand's problem is common to a certain brand of philosopher (ie- not a very good one). She tries to work from abstract principles, but she made no effort to verify her speculation with empirical observation. No scientist or engineer would operate this way. Her entire moral philosophy was based on a flawed assumption: that humans are innately individualistic creatures instead of social ones, and that our prime value must always therefore be selfish. This is how she comes to the perverse conclusion that altruism is immoral.

      There's a second huge flaw in Rand's moral objectivism: the idea that the purpose of a moral code is to reinforce the behaviour that people are inclined to do anyway (or what she believes they are inclined to do). If that is the case, there is no point having a moral code at all; a moral code is a code of conduct after all.

      May 24, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
  13. FAISAL

    in my own experience happiness comes from praying and reading quran ,,and i do find happiness in helping others no matter what religion they are its good to help all humans who needs help aether with money or your time and happiness comes from seeing different places and traveling ,, meeting new people and learn more about there way of thinking ,,i think the more things u c in this life the more fulfill and happy u will be

    May 23, 2010 at 8:07 pm |
  14. MC

    If you laugh, the World will laugh with you & you will be happy. So practise Laughing Yoga at least fifteen mts in the morning & fifteeen mts in the evening, you will be Happy.

    May 23, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  15. Kris

    Dear Michael Wong:

    Great question. Let me give you my perspective. Consider this example. A student, no matter how much he studies by himself will eventually be mired into confusion unless he has the guidance of a good teacher. Similarly, no matter how much we try to "seeking those answers by looking within ourselves", we need a guide/teacher to clear our misconceptions/doubts and help us fully understand GOD's nature which is hard for human beings to understand I think. Forget about understanding GOD's nature, we humans simply even cannot understand/fathom species diversity on earth. GOD is mighty not because He can destroy anybody or everybody who dares to oppose HIM. He is powerful because He controls the universe in space and time. Remember the old adage, "With power comes responsibility". He would use his force only when evil reaches unbearable magnitude and causes immense suffering to mankind (see Geeta).

    May 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Sorry Kris, but that's not really an answer to my question. That doesn't explain why immense power is required for wisdom. In fact, I would argue the opposite: that throughout history, the truly wise have almost NEVER been the most powerful among us.

      You are basically saying that it's important to have an all-powerful God because only such a God can control space and time. That is a tautology: "control space and time" is just another way of saying "all powerful", so your answer boils down to "God should be all-powerful because he should be all-powerful".

      If I want a good teacher, I don't go to the richest and most powerful man I know; I go to the one who has demonstrated the best judgement. According to your mythology, this God once annihilated the entire human race (save one family) in a fit of anger, aka "The Great Flood". This strikes me as the act of a petulant man-child with anger management problems, not a fount of wisdom.

      May 24, 2010 at 11:57 am |
  16. Michael Wong

    Why are so many people attacking Deepak Chopra for making money off his beliefs, when Joel Osteen makes so much money that he can blow his nose with thousand-dollar bills?

    May 23, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
  17. Kris

    I think belittling other religions is just because of human envy, ignorance, and self-righteousness. I am a Hindu but I love Christianity, Sufi Islam, among others. I think Christianity is a great religion in the pure form, that is if you follow Jesus Christ in word and deed. But the restricted form of Christianity preached by the so-called evangelist Christians among others is polluted with human sin. So, they would never accept other religions as one of many ways to reach GOD. You guys should understand that GOD created the world in such a way that each person goes through a unique experience in his life and would realize GOD in his own characteristic way. Regarding Atheists, I think they are in the bottom level of learning curve to realize GOD, but they will soon realize the futility of their path. Just a couple of examples for those who disbelieve GOD: 1) look at the Universe including earth where everything seems to be harmony, 2) I am just amazed at the sight solar eclipse, when the moon shields the sun too perfectly. Who else but GOD.

    I think there is only one GOD and He would not help us "materially" but only spiritually if only we can realize the true nature of GOD, as an unbiased/unprejudiced, unfathomable, omnipresent, omniscient, and all-powerful force in the universe, and follow the right path as determined by your freewill and reinforced by GOD's messengers on earth.

    May 23, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Why is it important for God to be powerful? Why must divinity be wrapped up in some notion of might and power? Why must we seek answers in something which possesses great power, instead of seeking those answers by looking within ourselves? It seems to me that the desire to perceive God as a being of immense power derives from a primal alpha-male instinct.

      May 23, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  18. DepraSoil24

    Ramesh you are absolutely right, i have only read your two first paragraphs and it sounded alot like Echart Tolle and didnt know you are going to qoute him.

    May 23, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  19. JimK

    True happiness comes from within. In the Christian bible it says: the kingdom of the lord is within you. Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be given unto you. This is the same message as all the major religions: Hinduisim, Buddhism, and I'm told it is also in Islam if you know where to look. Everything is there within, you just have to find it. But most religions are a mess today and have forgotten this principle. Like the Christians in the US who now just want to start wars, buy guns, and claim their superiority (while hating anything that isn't part of their club). That's why the atheists are making their comments–because the religions have lost their bearings, and they know it.

    May 23, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  20. DepraSoil24

    You dont have to be religious to believe in the Heavenly Father, you dont have to believe anything, live and accept life. We all know God is there but our minds cant grasp his existence. We dont always feel like we exist, we day dream, we sleep, we think about our past and not feel the present moment, we love other people and forget about ourselves. We dont always feel Gods presence, at least we dont recognize his presence, this shows that God is more real then we are. Well, you dont have to try hard to believe in joy, its out here in this world, we have to make a choice now whether we want to accept it or not. Minds are limited-you cant create joy, the joy is there and it comes from the greatest Love, and enters our inner body. The mind is not everything, its a tool that we use to comunicate and expend our brain knowledge, so we dont have to "know" that God is there, we have to accept him without using our doubtful minds. Try it.To find happiness you dont have to find a key because there is a key planted in every one of us we just need to find a lock. Its true we need people aswell, to find happiness, there are many ways, but our hearts need to love God and people to have a lasting happiness and you have to accept yourself and how people are and the way life is, it could have been different but we have to accept the way it is now. It might be hard to look at it that way, but just try to accept the way things are.

    May 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      You say "we all know God is there" but that statement is simply false. Buddhism, for example, has no God. If you were not so insular in your thinking, you would know that, instead of misrepresenting all Buddhists by speaking on their behalf and saying that their beliefs are similar to yours (without even making the slightest effort to investigate their beliefs first). That kind of arrogant egocentric presumption is what turns a lot of non-Christians (not just atheists, but non-Christians of many other faiths) against Christianity in particular.

      May 23, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
    • Michael Wong

      Just so you know, Buddhism is about seeking enlightenment and inner peace. There is no deity to worship, and when Buddhists appear to be praying, they're actually meditating.

      Some people need to worship something that is mighty and powerful: a sort of spiritual alpha-male figure. Others, however, want to put everyone and everything on an equal plane: that is Buddhism. There is no hierarchy of power in Buddhist philosophy.

      May 23, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
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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.