While I believe that elements of religion can, in and of themselves cause on average, an increase of happiness, I also suspect that happier people are inclined towards religion, and fundamentalism.
Aside from what I wrote about two entries ago, recent interesting studies have been done about happiness and religion. The study participants would document periodically throughout the day how they were feeling. The studies showed that the more religious and conservative people were the more likely they were to enjoy whatever activities they engaged in as well as be more inclined towards and more likely to enjoy interacting with people.
Studies regarding introversion and extroversion go back a long way and there is little controversy and much consensus about the nature of introverts vs extroverts. Of course, it is too simplistic to split people among only two groups, and there are always exceptions but in general certain rules apply.
Extroverts are overwhelmingly happier than introverts. Extroverts are more social (obviously), tend to have more friends, more full of energy and confidence. However, just as with most aspects of human life, our positive traits are not always appropriate for all circumstances and can have a negative side, so while can be to the extrovert may benefit from being full of energy and optimism this leads them to far more inclined towards reckless behavior, addiction, and a lack of introspection.
Introverts tend to be more introspective, more inclined towards intellectual pursuits, but also have less energy and are far more prone towards depression.
While there are certain environmental factors, particularly in a person's early stages of development that may nudge one towards introversion or extroversion, it appears genetics exert the strongest influence in determining a persons position on the introversion extroversion spectrum.
What the studies mentioned above illustrate is the more conservative and religious a person is, the more inclined they are to be happy,and outgoing. Happy and outgoing = Extrovert. Extroversion = result of genetic predisposition(in general).
It makes sense that an extroverted person, who is not given to introspection, would be far less likely to question their religion. As well, the extrovert would be more likely to feel comfortable as a member of their group, and more prone to be influenced by social pressures, and feel a desire towards conformity.
It would also make sense that an introverted person, already inclined towards depression, inclined towards introspection, which leads to questioning of beliefs and authority. The introverted person is less likely to feel apart of the group, and be persuaded by social pressures towards conformity. Given these factors it would make sense for the introvert to have a lower probability of fundamentalist of conservative behavior and beliefs.
So what is causing what? I think it makes more sense, given what we know about the biology of happiness that it is a person's biological inclination towards extroversion which leads them to be more conservative and religious, not the other way around. So, while I do feel that religion can be inherently beneficial, and can to a certain level lead a person to feel more outgoing, and satisfied with life, studies that show more religious and conservative people are happier and more outgoing, actually illustrate that happier and more outgoing people are more likely to behave and think in conservative ways.
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