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. Mulamootil

    Believe in Jesus Christ. He is the prince of Peace. I found peace in Him...the heavenly peace.

    May 21, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  2. Ron

    Happiness is a momentary lapse of time and usually does not last very long. I believe those who are content with their overall lives are in the best position to experience happiness or joy more easily however as their state of mind is more in a positive condition. I do not believe religion has much to do with whatever state one may be in, happy, joy or content as these feelings come straight from the heart, as do the all opposites as well and are or can be caused by many different circomstances.

    May 21, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  3. Socr8s

    All the faith leaders take such a modern, post- christian view. But Socrates Plato and Aristotle had it better: Happiness is not a by-product of our actions. Happiness is the ultimate aim of our actions. If we know that something will not make us happy, then we choose not to do it. For instance, if a dentist wants to drill your teeth even though you do not have any cavities (and so the drilling does not accomplish anything), who in their right mind would stay in the chair? It is only by understanding the ultimate end of happiness, can we then make a rational plan for our lives. Viva Socrates!

    May 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  4. Sridhar

    Dear Mr Chopra ,

    if happiness is from pleasing others why didnt you prescribe the stuff micheal jackson asked you for. you made him unhappy....


    May 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  5. dhakir

    to EdCal: My friend, if the media, from where you get your news, is the only place you seek truth, then i am sorry to tell you that you are in a lot of trouble. Use your intellect an common sense too. It maybe true that so many of the so-called terroristic crimes are committed by people who confess to be Muslims, but those of us who follow strict islamic teachings, or whom you might want to call fundamentalists, have nothing to do with those acts. Our religion teaches us the very opposite. Dont take my word for it. Read. CNN will not give you that side of Islam as they do not know it.

    May 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • Wondering

      Is this a misquote?

      Mohammed said, “Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him.” (Hadith Al Buhkari vol. 9:57)

      3:85 “Whoever seeks other than Islam as his religion, it will not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he will be with the losers” “Slay the idolators [non-Muslims] wherever ye find them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the last Day…. Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah! (Sura 9:5,29,41).

      Sura 5:51: “O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he among you that turns to them for friendship is of them.”

      May 21, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  6. jus wondering

    perhaps I misunderstand "comment"; does it mean, "give your sermon here"?

    May 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  7. Reza

    "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions."
    Karl Marx

    May 21, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
  8. jus wondering

    What's interesting is that only men are used in this bit on happiness. Hmmm....

    May 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  9. Reza

    “The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion."

    May 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  10. Christina

    I believe people make a choice to be happy or otherwise. Some people don't know how to achieve it and are afraid of doing what it takes to be happy. I'm a Christian and that's my choice. I don't depend on Christ or God to make me happy, but I choose to live my life in a manner "similar" to what is described in the bible and I believe my happiness is a direct result. Judge not lest ye be judged, don't cheat on your spouse, honor your parents, don't tell lies, don't steal, be good to people because its the right thing to do....and I believe my happiness comes from doing these things. Sure, there are times when I am unhappy, but its not because God has failed me or because Christianity is a myth. I'm unhappy sometimes because despite my efforts everything doesn't always go my way, but I'm mature enough to realize that that's how life is. What causes my periodic unhappiness generally passes and I am able to resume my normally happy existence.

    May 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
    • dhakir

      This world needs more people like you, Christina!

      May 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  11. Angela Walsh

    Thank you! Love Mark Twain!.. Heard a good one yesterday...will share..."It is truly liberating to be fully known and still loved."

    May 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  12. Angela Walsh

    People of "faith" have been told "faith without works is dead."...In other words to SOURCE/LOVE...serving (for instance in the extremem....washing another's feet!)....is the the route to happiness/connection/reciprocation

    May 21, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
  13. Fr. Anthony

    I find it interesting how we can say in one breath that we are "happy" while at the same time we find ourselves telling others that the source of their happiness is either wrong or limited (or is a example of misplaced faith in a perceived historical or imaginary figure. Other times we find ourselves telling others that if their love does not have the same "label" as ours that the source of their love is less than the source we personally know etc. Saying such things to one another only serves to further separate us from the ideal of the love we are claiming to know so well. So in the end...we may not be as "sincerely" happy as we think we are (which is true of all of us at times and is in the end only our "normal" human behavior manifesting).

    Within my 38 years of life I noticed that whatever we may ultimately be as "human beings" on this earth, well it seems to be at it's most beautiful when we are not hurting one another in any manner, not trying to control each other in any manner, not trying to use or manipulate one another to make ourselves feel better (or even in the most extreme cases hurting one another to ensure our own survival). This act of becoming selfless appears to have merit to it as it lends us to experiencing more acts of ideal love within our lives (even if it is mostly us reaching out to love others with very little to no love at all being returned to us. I have found that when we give of ourselves to one another we become something truly special in this or any universe. In my opinion during these times we are as close as it is humanly possible to becoming the ideal that Christ (be he historical/fictional or otherwise) was encouraging all of us to grow towards. When in this state of being we become sources of love to each other hence we become sources of happiness. I believe this was the main message that the historical Jesus or fictional Jesus depending on your point of view, was encouraging us to strive for, as this opportunity is within every single relationship we have each day of our lives today.

    Love requires no reward for itself, nor does it require reciprocation. It does not require religion, it does not require conscious belief or proclamation in some non belief systems either. Yes believes and non believes we are all in the same boat within the eyes of love as it has and will forever more remains outside of all labels, free of all belief /non belief systems while yet still somehow including all of us, inspiring us to be inclined to share it's essence with each other within our individual lives. So my friends, you see you are all correct as when you sincerely feel love, you are communing with the very essence of what the historical Jesus or fictional Jesus (depending on your belief/non belief system) spoke of. This should be palatable to believers/non believers/atheists/others etc as love has and will always be all inclusive. I always felt that Jesus whether he be truly historical or purely fictional was never concerned with labels or controls; rather I feel it was only focused on encouraging all of us to create the opportunities within our lives to experience love for what it truly is. I think he had perfect faith in love's ability to sustain itself within us individually once we chose to allow it in.

    For what it is worth my love and encouragement.
    Fr. Anthony

    May 21, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
    • Melody

      This is an incredible answer and insight into the heart of Love and the path that is its journey. Rather than argue the semantics about which road to take or whether or not a certain view of God is waiting at the end of that road, I hope more people read Fr. Anthony's response and meditate on it. Arguing about whether or not someone else has it right is far less effective than doing our best to "right" ourselves. In other words, focus on the beam in your eye rather than the mote in your brother's. The only path to any kind of salvation requires you to be an active part of the application and has nothing to do with whether or not you agree with anyone else or if other people are doing it the same way as you.

      May 21, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • disappointed

      In other words LOVE = HAPPINESS and we are all capable of love.

      Very well said, Fr. Anthony.

      May 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
    • Double D

      One of the few comments I have read on this blog or others that actually brings a little common sense to it all. Unfortunately your articulation may be lost on the general populus but feel "happiness" that the few who took the time to read and understand, probably used it to make someone else happy today. I am 60 and left religion when I was 12 because everyone of them seemed to exclude someone. Even then it didn't take much to figure out that humanity is all inclusive of everyone. I find a simple approach to it all. Treat everyone with the same level of consideration I would my mother on her birthday and a hug is a lot less exhausting than a fight.

      May 21, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
    • Sister Alonia Anderson

      Fr, Anthony,

      I agree with you that if you show love to others and treat others as you want to be treated then that is true happiness. i have long talks with GOD I believe as I desire to have a closer walk with HIM, I am happy. That does not say that I don't have moments of sadness. But when I can sit down in a "quiet place" and tell GOD about the sadness I feel, somehow it pass it does not last long. For those that believe that you can make yourself happen. I find that it not necessarily the case. It is a false state of mind and the particular state of happiness is fleeting. The true happiness is inner peace and love for others unconditionally and While I desire to have a closer walk with GOD, HE makes this abundantly clear. I know who HE IS. GOD is real. He has shown HIMSELF to me many times. GOD hears my cry when I am sad. He immediately answer my call one way or another. This I do Know. So, GOD does not force no one to except HIM or who HE is but gives each of us FREEWILL. GOD will not have it no other way. You either except HIM or not.

      May 21, 2010 at 9:11 pm |
  14. Shawn

    Jesus is one of literally thousands of gods humans have created. Finding happiness in Jesus is no different than finding happiness in cocaine. They both bring you to a state of euphoria but to get you there unfortunately you need to loose touch with reality. It’s time humans stop living their daily lives in accordance to ancient literature, we have more important things to put our energy towards. The information age will bring down religion, it’s becoming too hard to brainwash people with fear and dogma.

    May 21, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  15. Jon

    Greg Epstein is an idiot. "These things, not belief in God, are why churches and temples work..." he says. He is the only fool on this panel who deemed it necessary to assume some platform AT THE EXPENSE OF organized religion. Merely because his experience of organized religion (church or temple, whatever his background is) may not have met the criteria AS HE SEES IT, why does he feel that that qualifies him to make a statement on ALL churches, and on ALL church experiences??? I know some people who experience HAPPINESS in a way that I truly don't FOR PARTICULARLY the reasons that he discounts – belief in God. Period. No, their happiness is not ALL the time. Of course not, they're human. I resent the fact that this arrogant "expert" decided to take a shot against something OF WHICH HE HAS NO KNOWLEDGE OR FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE.

    May 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  16. dhakir

    to jenefa2004: First of all, I have no idea who did the 911 menace. I do not judge on the basis of media. Too many lies and liars. Secondly, Islam is completely innocent of such acts of violence. I am not to judge, but I believe whoever did that will suffer in Hell, endlessly. And finally, yes. I am a Muslim, and happily so.

    May 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • David

      You have no idea who committed the 9-11 acts...do you not own a computer or have access to media in your current cave?

      May 21, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
    • jenefa2004

      Dhakir: You say that you are a Muslim and that you do not know who committed 911 menace? The ones who did the act are those who quoted the Koran and used Islam to kill innocents.
      Further, you state "Islam is completely innocent of such acts of violence". However, in an earlier post, you stated "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". Islam teaches you to shun (hate) people?
      In Christianity, we are taught to pray for those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and those who pray to false gods.
      That is the difference between Islam and Christianity – as clear as night and day. Islam is a religion of hatred (shun people), Christianity is a religion of love (pray for people).
      I am a Christian and I said a prayer for you today.

      May 22, 2010 at 1:47 am |
  17. Peter Paul

    Joy is when you stir awake from your dream, open your eyes back in the world, and realize you're not dead yet.
    Not yet, not yet. That's joy. What you do with that joy, is what determines your happiness, and those around you.

    May 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  18. Shirley

    'Happiness' is never a permanent state. No sense to imagine achieving it. 'Joy' and 'delight' are spontaneous; and you'll feel those when willingly, you do things for self or others. ("willingly" the operative word) Instead of trying to define or achieve 'happiness,' live for contentment with your decisions and actions.

    May 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  19. Richard

    You are right! Great insurance for eternal life.
    Well put.

    May 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  20. Reza

    I'm very afraid of people who have personal relationship with god (of any kind). They scare me to death! It does not matter whether they think they are happy or not.

    May 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
    • David

      please don't be afraid...the devil spreads fear . False Evidence Appearing Real. FEAR

      May 21, 2010 at 10:43 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.