‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes: We were happiest in 1957 – and highly religious

Happiness is a serious problem. Happiness in Britain peaked in 1957. It has never returned to that level in the last 70 years, says the Understanding Happiness study conducted by the University of Warwick and the Social Market Foundation. How do we solve the problem of happiness? Will roping in Nanny State Governess Mary Poppins make us happier?

The state cannot legislate for happiness. PM Theresa May cannot pass an Executive Order forcing us to smile. But Madame May’s government can try yet another experiment in social engineering by making happiness a policy objective and programming kids to be happier.

The experiment begins from May 2017. Never mind our pathetic performance in reading, writing and arithmetic—pupils as young as eight are to receive lessons in mindfulness, relaxation and deep breathing in a government trial to promote wellbeing and happiness. Never mind fighting ISIS, teenagers in secondary school will take hour-long classes in fighting anxiety, stress, depression, crisis and suicidal thoughts.

When the government touches gold, it turns to coal. You can be sure that no one in the Department for Education (DfE) is even asking the question of causation. Why were we happier in 1957, even though one in five homes had a washing machine, one in ten a telephone, one in 20 a fridge, few homes had central heating, many had freezing outdoor toilets and more than half did not own a television? Why are kids in England—with I-Phones and I-Pads—among the unhappiest in the world today, behind countries such as Ethiopia, Algeria and Romania, according to a Children’s Society Report, which ranked Britain fourteenth on the scale in a study of fifteen countries?

Two observations from Dr Daniel Sgroi, co-author of Understanding Happiness and associate professor at Warwick University, are significant. First, people in the 1950s had a greater sense of realism about happiness. Second, people are more likely to be happy when their expectations are lower.

Given that the State wishes to poke its intrusive Pinocchio-like proboscis into every area of our lives, the DfE should be teaching pupils to have a greater sense of realism and lowering their expectations, rather than offering New Age Mindfulness mumbo jumbo in schools. In typical Mindfulness lessons, children are taught to think of disturbing thoughts as “buses” that will move away. This may make children feel good, but where is the evidence that ‘breathing in for seven seconds and exhaling for 11 seconds’ will make them happier?

Sir Anthony Seldon, who introduced mindfulness lessons as Master of Wellington College, defends the programme against previous governments responses to it being ‘la-la land and psychobabble.’

But why are we not being told that Mindfulness is a meditation technique that is deeply rooted in Buddhism and has been sanitised to fit a Western mould? Why are we not being told that Mindfulness is Buddhism-lite and a subtle but slippery introduction to a religion that is life-denying and directly opposed to Dr Sgroi’s first principle of acquiring a greater sense of realism about life?

Worse still, why are we not being told that Mindfulness can be dangerous? Dr Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm sound the alarm in The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You? ‘We need to ask ourselves if meditation has a dark side,’ they write. The book cites the case of “Louise” who spent 15 years treated for psychotic depression after a meditation retreat. A teacher confirmed that 10 per cent of young adolescents could be adversely affected by the technique.

In 1992, a study by David Shapiro, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, Irvine, found that 63 per cent of people suffered at least one negative effect and 7 per cent suffered profoundly adverse affects including anxiety, panic, depression, negativity, pain, confusion and disorientation, after meditation.

Even earlier in 1976, Arnold Lazarus and Albert Ellis, co-founders of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), reported serious disturbances including depression, ongoing tension and a serious suicide attempt after meditation. Lazarus strongly criticised the idea that ‘meditation is for everyone.’ Instead, he warned that ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ and that practitioners need to know the benefits and risks of meditation for different kinds of people.

Willoughby Britton, assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University Medical School, receives phone calls, emails, and letters from people around the globe who have practised Mindfulness. They are now in various states of impairment. Her investigation of this phenomenon “The Dark Night Project,” is an effort to document, analyse, and publicise such adverse effects of meditation.

The fatal flaw in all this is that both DfE and the study Understanding Happiness are staggeringly silent about the contribution of religion—specifically, the Judeo-Christian faith—still practised by a large segment of our population in 1957.

Religious truth is not proved by its therapeutic benefits. Nevertheless, more studies than one would care to cite, have over the decades demonstrated that religious people are happier. Religious people are twice as likely as secularists to say they are ‘very happy.’ In general, religious people ‘cope with stress better, they experience greater well-being because they have more hope, they’re more optimistic, they experience less depression, less anxiety, and they commit suicide less often.

They don’t drink alcohol as much, they don’t use drugs as much, they don’t smoke cigarettes as much, and they have healthier lifestyles. They have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, probably better cardiovascular functioning, and probably a healthier hormonal environment physiologically—particularly with respect to cortisol and adrenaline. And they live longer,’writes Dr Harold Koenig of Duke University. And all this makes them happier!

Happiness is a serious problem. There is a solution to the problem of happiness. But it is a solution that is far too serious for our touchy-feely secular government steeped in quick fixes, psychobabble and mumbo jumbo to take seriously.

(Image: Paul Townsend)

Rev Jules Gomes

  • David Keighley

    On this one, I fear you may have emphasised the wrong villain. I agree that meditation is not for everyone, and should be practised with care and caution. I also strongly agree that faith is life-affirming and is often the bedrock of inner peace. But the real problems here are those connected with the state’s concerted efforts (documented on TCW by Kathy G and others) to interfere with, and weaken family life. Today’s kids are desperately unhappy not because mindfulness is rammed down their throats, but primarily because they are not receiving the love and attention of their parents (or principal care-givers) in the way that previous generations did. And that’s because the state (aided and abetted by the feminazis) are hell-bent on making employment more important than care-giving. If priorities were different, meditation would fade in significance.

    • Lagopus scotica

      Good comment about the lack of mothering being a huge cause of unhappiness. However, Rev Gomes is also correct about some eastern religions being promulgated by stealth instead of Christianity, and the roots of e.g. mindfulness and yoga being hidden from the people being asked to try it.

      Why is Christian prayer not offered as an alternative to mindfulness? As a (very lapsed) Anglo Catholic, I have recently taken up praying the Rosary at times of stress, (and when I remember at other times). Although I’m probably doing it incorrectly, it is a source of great calm and strength, I can also feel my hearbeat slowing and my breathing becoming deeper as I go through the meditations.

      • Bob Marshall

        There is the Holy Rosary as taught in Catholic schools and there is a more personal use of ‘the beads’. I don’t know if it is still in print but there was an excellent book on the Rosary, ‘Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy’, which I believe was written by a Methodist minister.

        By the way, I don’t think there is any ‘wrong’ way to use this wonderful aid to prayerfulness.

        God bless and keep you.

        • Lagopus scotica

          Thank you Bob, it is still in print and I have ordered a copy.

          God bless and keep you.

        • Vox Populi

          The Eastern Orthodox Jesus prayer rosary is a wonderful prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.” That’s it. And you keep repeating it in a spirit of contemplation using the rosary as a counting aid.

      • Coniston

        I think ‘mindfulness’ can cover a wide range of practices and beliefs. But there is also Christian Meditation, practised in the very early centuries by Christian monks in the deserts of Syria and Egypt (some of whom traced it back to Apostolic times). John Cassian (c360-435) wrote about it; his writings were read by St. Benedict and taken up into the Western Church. In recent centuries it declined, and was nearly forgotten, but has recently been re-discovered. The Eastern Church has always practised it. It does NOT take the place of any other prayers of the Church, church services or study of the Bible, though like everything else it can be ill-used and lapse into a sub-Christian practices.
        The Jesus prayer, widely used in the Eastern Church, is now becoming more widely known in the West (see ‘The Jesus Prayer’ by Simon Barrington-Ward).

        • Lagopus scotica

          Thank you Coniston, I will look into this.

        • Charitas Lydia

          I do use the Jesus prayer particularly when I really do not know how to pray if the situation involved is too complex. It is a great prayer and its merits are extraordinary.

        • Vox Populi

          Sad to see that a number of Anglican clergy are now promoting ‘Mindfulness’.

    • Charitas Lydia

      Hindu is Buddhist meditation is very different from Christian meditation as Tricia has pointed out earlier on. We meditate on the word of God, on the person of God as described in the BIble and that gives us the right perspective of who we are and where we are going. That is one of the keys to happiness. The perspective of eternity makes us have the right priorities and sorts many things out which are a serious impediment in our pursuit of happiness. The Western world view has lost this to a large extent… materialism, hedonism seem to bring happiness.. but they fail all the time and now this Eastern medition is going to fail in a different way… God help us with these fake ideas of bringing happiness with Buddhist meditaion.

    • Groan

      Indeed. The original reports http://www.isciweb.org/?CategoryID=176&ArticleID=108 show a somewhat different story to the CS Report. For a start Israel does well but isn’t mentioned in CS. All three of the “top” for happiness are societies with significant internal and external stresses Romania, Colombia and Israel. Norway the representative “Scandinavian Model” society does surprisingly poorly. Generally all is not as the CS and Guardian reports suggest. Surely the really big question should be how is it three such stressed countries are top in child happiness? In answering that we’d learn a great deal. As always we look for solutions in the places that the evidence says are actually bad at “happiness”.

    • Vox Populi

      Remember the time Western governments spent millions to promote the Transcendental Meditation peddled by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and other frauds? The Beatles became a Western conduit for this mumbo jumbo. Now the DfE is following suit!

  • Dustybookwyrm

    The more we seek pleasure the less we find happiness; the latter coming when we are subordinated into something elegant whilst the former is when we inelegantly subordinate something to us.

    I wonder if that is also something lost since 57…..as the world becomes ever more about self.

    • James Chilton

      It’s no use seeking happiness, you won’t find it. It eludes direct search, and only turns up incidentally and unawares.

      • Dustybookwyrm

        Happiness comes from love (which is what “subordinating [ourselves] into something elegant” is), but love only happens when we recognise something as being more important than our own happiness.

        Never let it be said that the universe lacks a sense of humour….

  • TheStoneMan

    Reverend Gomes – May I suggest you listen to Jordan Peterson.

  • Benthic

    As a society we have replaced God by the cult of celebrity. The whole idea that somebody is having a ‘better’ life being drummed into us 24/7 by the media probably does not help.

  • PerplexedSardine

    Whilst the thrust of the article seems sound, I’m baffled by the parts on the horrors of meditation. Sitting quietly is plainly not physically harmful, so what of the psychological?

    The stories on the Dark Knight link you gave speak of people dropping out of work or school, and struggling to enjoy life after their experiences. I know virtually nothing about Buddhism, but realising and pondering that there is more to life than everyday material concerns is surely the point of meditation?

    Christianity has us think about death, judgement and the eternal on a regular basis. You note that religious truth is not proved by its therapeutic benefits, but the inverse is also the case. Contemplating the smallness of one’s existence, and finding your conclusions unsettling, even debilitatingly so, doesn’t make them any less true.

    • Tricia

      I think the problem is with the spiritual link. In Christian prayer we are told to meditate on the things of God through the Holy Spirit. I am not that conversant with Buddhism, but in Yoga you are instructed to empty your mind – in Christianity this is seen as opening yourself to spirits other than the Holy Spirit and is not recommended. Indeed such acts as fortune telling and weegie boards take you into these unhealthy spiritual realms.

      • PerplexedSardine

        Certainly people who start to seek more than material fulfilment struggle to find meaning in life. Many come to Christianity. I can see how meditation would help people come to the first realisation, but perhaps you are right that Christianity then offers an eternal hope that is lacking in Buddhism. I suppose we’d need to know more about it to say for sure.

        I think my original point still stands though. Realising (through meditation or otherwise) that life is a vale of tears, and then saying that the fault was in the realising, is to say that one should spend one’s life pleasure-seeking in an effort to avoid thinking too hard.

        • Vox Populi

          Buddism is profoundly life-negating. It calls people to flee from desire–but even that is a desire. No wonder not a single country practising Buddhism every prospered or made progress.

      • Pretty much, I think. In my younger years I flirted a bit with both, knowing that I needed some quiet time, to think and reflect. Just emptying my mind was deleterious, at least for me, bringing things into my mind that worked against me, so I quit. But I still needed that quiet time, and a few years ago, my Anglo-Catholic dearest friend spoke with me about the Rosary on her pilgrimage to Walsingham, and you know, that fulfilled my need for quiet time, while putting my mind on a higher plane, rather than emptying it. My solution, may not be anybody else’s, but I recommend trying it.

  • Tricia

    You are right to point out that young people have been left adrift in our society. All religions being equal being the mantra in schools, it is a smorgasbord of ideas and then there is the “must have a good job which pays loads if money, so that I can spend it on things I want but don’t need” culture. And more teenagers have a mobile phone than those who have a father who lives with them.
    I was brought up in the 1950’s. I had no worries. I had two parents who loved me. Both worked hard to provide for me (my mother was an outworker for a clothing company, and sewed at home). We had a roof over our head as they had saved to buy a house in the 1930’s. We had food on the table, we had a TV which showed the test card for most of the day. We had a telephone on a party line with a neighbour and we had a Second hand Ford Consul. I used to run free playing out. Luxuries were for Christmas.
    There was no credit – HIre purchase was a no no in our family. If you could not afford it, you did not buy it.
    What we have now is overblown expectations, many in debt, children in crisis because of marital breakdown and non marriage relationships.
    In fact greed, envy, sloth, sexual decadence and violence abounds.
    In Lent it is good to ponder where our turning away from God in the Western world has led us. There is always a chance to repent and turn back!

  • James Chilton

    The “mindfulness” fad that Rev Gomes refers to, is a product of the well-being industry. It is consumed by dupes who are exceptionally self-absorbed and gullible.

    A higher “mindfulness” was encouraged at a school I attended for seven years. It took this form: every piece of work was dedicated, “Ad majorem Dei gloriam” – to the greater glory of God.

    • Vox Populi

      I agree. The problem is with meditation that is actually a subtle introduction to Buddhism (as in the case of mindfulness) or Hinduism (as in the case of yogic meditation and Transcendental Meditation). Both leave one to an “emptying” of the mind which can lead to forces from the dark side of the spiritual world taking over. Christian meditation, on the other hand, is filling the mind with Scripture–the Word of God–not emptying it.

      • James Chilton

        You seem to have Matthew 12:44-46 in mind:

        When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.

        Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.

        Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

        • Vox Populi

          Yes, James. I also have testimonies by Hindus and Buddhists who converted to Christianity in mind. The best of these is by a Hindu guru called Rabindra Maharaj, Death of a Guru, where he very directly indicts the whole business of yogic meditation as leading to possession by evil spirits. I am sure Dr Gomes will have heard of this book–given his Indian background. I have spoken to ministers who deal in deliverance and exorcism and all of them testify to many people who have unwittingly practised yoga, or T M or Buddhist vipasana–having ‘mental’ problems that turn out to be an invasion by the world of evil spirits. They then need healing and deliverance and in many cased are delivered.

  • My feeling is that we all yearn for stability and that back in 1957 there was a feeling that things had returned to normal after the war and most of us knew where we stood in the scheme of things. There was no great demand for change, Harold Macmillan told us that “most of our people have never had it so good” which looking back I think was broadly correct.

    The Church of England hadn’t decided to modernise, if you went to Sunday Service you knew what to expect. We didn’t have the thousands of assorted pressure groups all demanding something be done or changed, that we have now. You could still speak your mind without fear of upsetting someone, I don’t think that political correctness had yet been invented; in any case we were a mentally a tough lot having lived during the wartime years, we weren’t likely to get easily upset like many of the current generation and need safe spaces. We wouldn’t have recognised something ‘micro aggression’ and would simply laughed.

    We got on with our lives, at school or work we did our best to do what was expected of us. We could still rely on the BBC for good honest news without the current bias. There was no competition to have the latest gadget. You could buy things like TV’s or household white goods on the never-never, but you couldn’t rack up thousands of pounds of debts on credit cards; to most families, if you hadn’t got the money, you didn’t have it. We still had bobbies on the beat, Councils repaired the roads, collected our bins and looked after the trees and verges and travelling into London for work was still reasonably comfortable.

    I think most of us were at peace with ourselves, we knew life had its ups and downs but we had ambitions and we saw a reasonable chance of achieving those ambitions. We had no need for mindfulness, meditation, yoga or whatever happens to be currently fashionable.

    • Andy

      It is not just a problem here in the UK but can be seen across Europe. The Dutch were deeply religious people before the war, but the churches emptied in the 60s like ours did. The Anglican Church did suffer because the bench of Bishops seem to think they could write as well if not better than Cranmer and William Tyndale – they couldn’t. The replacement to both the Prayer Book and Authorised Version are a disgrace.

      • Very true, the present service is a disgrace. Even if I get up for the early traditional service, it is rushed to allow enough time for the choir to practice for the main service.

        • Andy

          People like tradition and the familiar, which is why it was stupid to throw away the Book of Common Prayer and the Authorised Version. Both had a rhythm and were written to be read out aloud.

          • Bruce Atkinson

            Some people like tradition and the familiar and the status quo, and other people like a lot of change and variation and excitement. What we need is a balance with not too much of either extreme.

            Rote religion can give a (false) sense of security and it keeps people from growing; the “chosen frozen” tend to get stuck in their old habits. God wants us to learn and grow. Our real security is not in familiar church services but in a personal relationship with Christ.

            Entertainment religion appeals to the senses and provides a (false) sense that something important is happening. God does not want us distracted from what is truly important. If we want excitement, we need to become missionaries where Christians’ lives are in danger.

            What is God truly calling each of us to do? It is likely to be out of our comfort zone.

          • Agreed, very little change these days seems to be for the better.

          • Vox Populi

            And both were meaty and packed with sound biblical doctrine. Not like the management speak and warm fuzzy Common Worship!

  • Charitas Lydia

    A very thought provoking article, thank you. What a shame that the DofE is resorting to something that would be a problem not a solution at all. There is so much of the denial of the fact that human beings are spiritual beings and there is a world out there which is not seen with the normal eyesight. Eastern medition, either Yogic or Buddhist, is about empting your mind… that is where what is not seen can come in and occupy that mind. No wonder those who are exposed to it, without being warned of the darker side of it, go into depression, have suicidal thoughts and so on.
    Years ago when Yogic meditations were being made popular, I was given a book by my cousin and it did open my eyes to its danger. Ravindra Maharaj who himself had acquired inexplicable power through yogic meditation has thrown much light on the dark side of this so demonic exercise in his book called, Death of a Guru.

    I feel so sorry for the kids and their parents who would be exposed to this danger without being warned what they are getting into.

  • Bonce

    Alot of the decline in happiness can be explained by a few statistics.
    In 2016, over 50% of children were born out of wedlock and 25% in single parent families.
    Schools and the education system is completely not fit for purpose- with many still being sold the lie that all they to do is go to University and get a degree (any degree) and they are now really employable and will walk into a job!

    Children born in unstable environments, with part time parents, brought up by strangers, and many without a father figure.
    Do people know that for example children under the age of 3 who spend 15 hours or more away from their mother suffer from separation anxiety and emotional issues?
    Do people know the life outcomes of adults who had a mother and father compared to those who only had one parent (91% just having a mother)?

    Many young people are then stiffed by the education industry, that leaves many of them unemployable with joke degrees and £30,000 in debt by the age of 23. In fact most young people with degrees today would be more employable without a degree, having gone into work at aged 18 and they would also be debt free. Finally, we have the lies of Marxist female dominated teaching industry who shames young girls to not have children and be slaves to a career- this has created record levels of depression and alcohol consumption among millenial women.

    • 1649again

      Absolutely, parents who prioritise their own needs over their children is a huge issue, and it’s common in all classes. In fact the professional upper middles classes are the worst in my experience and I have seen far to many of their children develop into selfish, insecure and unstable adolescents and adults, and such parents have the lest excuse.

  • Ravenscar

    1957 and all that.

    Something was beginning to stink.

    The Irish and English clergy, its hierarchy of all ‘divisions’ Anglican or RC many were rotten to their very cores – the church, parishes were dying and thus community was disappeared. In foreign parts, the curia was run by the ‘claque of Judas’ or should I say AntonioGramsci? – cultural Marxists/robbing bastards/banksters and the SJ’s God only knows what happened to them – but JC didn’t get much of a look in, probably he wasn’t in the picture.
    Then came Vatican II and it was game over – it took a time deconstruction and inculcation of alternative PC doctrinal poisons and over a few decades but – nihilism with moral bankruptcy + consumerism, false idols [sleb kultur] 1 – 0 all Christianity gone.

    Simplistic, aye maybe, but the bones are there, washed up, lying and bleaching.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      Most of them stopped mentioning God and moved on to social engineering.
      Stripped of all the mumbo-jumbo any decent religion is about ‘being kind to one another’, except for the 7th Century control freaks who want to chop off heads.

  • Under-the-weather

    1957 was only 12 years after the end of world war 2, for those who lived through the Blitz and the horrors of first hand war on the front, life in 1957 with full employment, and after the enrolment of the ‘state safety net’, must have felt like a bowl of cherries. It’s all comparative as you say to expectations. When you expect God will support and direct you, you have different expectations to those who don’t. Buddhism doesn’t ‘exclude’ God, it’s a process for understanding and mitigating suffering in the present, and there are those who for any form of inner contemplation will create problems as described in ‘the dark Knight of the souls piece linked in the article above. Modern psychotherapy can cause harm to patients. It’s an issue that was recognised according to an article linked as present in contemplation across many religions, and in a non professionally managed situation (for example at school), can enable an existing psychosis to surface:

    “The divine experiences reported by Saint John describe a method, or protocol, “followed by the soul in its journey upon the spiritual road to the attainment of the perfect union of love with God, to the extent that it is possible in this life.” The poem, however, is linked to a much longer text, also written by Saint John, which describes the hardships faced by those who seek to purify the senses—and the spirit—in their quest for mystical love.

    According to Britton, the texts of many major contemplative traditions offer similar maps of spiritual development. One of her team’s preliminary tasks—a sort of archeological literature review—was to pore through the written canons of Theravadin, Tibetan, and Zen Buddhism, as well as texts within Christianity, Judaism, and Sufism. “Not every text makes clear reference to a period of difficulty on the contemplative path,” Britton says, “but many did.”

    “Fisher also emphasizes two categories that may cause dark nights to surface. The first results from “incorrect or misguided practice that could be avoided,” while the second includes “those [experiences] which were necessary and expected stages of practices.” In other words, while meditators can better avoid difficult experiences under the guidance of seasoned teachers, there are cases where such experiences are useful signs of progress in contemplative development. Distinguishing between the two, however, remains a challenge.

    Britton shows me a 2010 paper written by University of Colorado-Boulder psychologist Sona Dimidjian that was published in American Psychologist, the official journal of the American Psychological Association. The study examines some dramatic instances where psychotherapy has caused serious harm to a patient. It also highlights the value of creating standards for defining and identifying when and how harm can occur at different points in the psychotherapeutic process.

    One of the central questions of Dimidjian’s article is this: After 100 years of research into psychotherapy, it’s obvious that scientists and clinicians have learned a lot about the benefits of therapy, but what do we know about the harms? “

    • Bruce Atkinson

      And very often people have to get worse (and hit bottom) before they can truly get better. There is a stage of therapy that requires being majorly honest with oneself and for sinners (all of us) this can be a devastating trip to the mirror. For naïve types who paint rainbows over reality, there comes a time when they finally see the truth of a dangerous fallen world where no one is perfect and therefore no one can be fully trusted, where sometimes very bad things happen to reasonably good people. Seeing beyond denial and our other ego defenses can be traumatic.

      • Bruce Atkinson

        Anxiety is inescapable. This is true because anxiety is not something that one has, but is rather a reflection of what one is. It is, in effect, a message
        signaling that one is out of step with one’s own being and with one’s purpose
        in life. That this restless anxiety is unavoidable does not stop us from seeking a “cure” for it. Our solutions take the form of dependency on relationships with others or with things outside of ourselves. But to our dismay, we discover that we cannot fully depend upon others or things because they are limited, temporal, and not 100% reliable. In that any external attachment is at best
        only symbolic of that union which we seek with our own deeper self and with
        God, each successive strategy of dependence or control merely postpones our
        confrontation with anxiety’s meaning.

        If all goes “well,” however, there comes a moment in one’s life when everything goes wrong. That is, the structure of props and defenses
        (the old self) with which one has kept one’s anxiety at bay collapses and one
        is thrust “unprotected” into the direct experience of that dread. The game is up. Certain that one is about to meet the most awful fate, but unable to continue the self-deception, one falls headlong into the chasm of one’s fear. Christian
        mystics have spoken of this as the “dark night of the soul.” One feels lost, without direction. There is a deep feeling of abandonment, rejection, and utter aloneness. The core of this feeling is expressed in the agonized cry of Jesus on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” One is overcome with hopelessness. Swallowed by the waves of anxiety, one sinks, to come at last to rest.
        But not until one has “hit bottom” is one likely to look up. One discovers that here, where one kneels totally exposed, is the place where love, belonging, and wholeness are to be found.
        Out of the ashes of crushed dreams springs a beautiful awareness: to one’s utter astonishment, what has died is one’s fear. Rather than finding oneself
        utterly cut off from love, the willingness to face one’s worst fears and to risk the leap of faith transforms aloneness into an experience of “at-one-ness” with God in which no sense of separation exists. It is what we were designed for. Perhaps nowhere is this purpose more clearly expressed than in Augustine’s contemplation of the divine: “You have made us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

        Not until one fully accepts the reality of deep insecurity and powerlessness to save oneself can one reach out and open the door to the One waiting to save. The Power to save us from ourselves (and from all that we fear the most) does exist: “He stands at the door and knocks…”

  • Under-the-weather

    Where does modern unhappiness stem from?
    The pursuit of materialism (excercising control over others and control over resources) is a solution to happiness
    That sacrifice involves loss of self, rather than giving up something now in order to get something better in the future
    That equal opportunity must mean equalizing everyone out, women must become and behave like men
    That society wants only the majorities needs to be accepted and taken care of. (Revolutions originate with disaffected minorities), which has led to the politicization of minority groups, as opposed to the elevation of freedom of the individual.

  • 1649again

    Didn’t church attendance increase markedly through the fifties, and only come to a halt in the sixties?

    • Groan

      It did indeed. Both world wars it seems fuelled revivals.

      • Bruce Atkinson

        But it never lasts long because we selfish human beings are so easily spoiled. Read abut the repeated cycle of regression, fall, judgment, repentance, success, taking things for granted, regression… etc. that we find in the book of Judges. Trauma (like wars) tend to wake us up to what is really important. For maybe a generation.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      That happened when trendy vicars took up guitars and jazzed up church social clubs. However these were quickly overtaken by coffee bars which offered dark corners in their interiors.

      • 1649again

        No they came later in the sixties when things began to slide.

  • John Thomas

    The government/Establishment certainly does NOT do anything to promote rationality, since it fosters fantasies like: Anthropogenic global warming, The supposed harmlessness and naturalness of gay sexual practices, The idea that education can make everyone “equal”, and that competition can be removed from human life, That sex (“gender”) can be rendered into a matter of personal choice, and – most of all – the idea that human life can be completely fulfilling and good, and an end IN ITSELF (without hedonism and nihilism setting in…).

  • Bruce Atkinson

    Thanks, Jules Gomes. This article fits my abiding interest in the integration of theology and psychology.
    In fact, last year I discovered 40+ citations of my doctoral dissertation research in this area, published in 1994 in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, with second author (dissertation chair) Dr. H. Newton Malony (both a psychologist and an ordained Methodist minister).

    In a population of senior Christian females from assorted denominational backgrounds and socioeconomic status, it was found that spiritual/religious maturity (as measured by the Religious Status Interview) was positively related to fewer mental health symptoms (as measured by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory).
    That is, in these older women, the more spiritually-minded were less anxious or depressed. Anybody surprised? But it helps in a secular culture to have scientific research verify what we already know from scripture and common sense.

    “Religious maturity and psychological distress among older Christian women.”
    Atkinson, Bruce E. & Malony, H. Newton; International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, Vol 4(3), 1994, pp. 165-179.

    • Jethro

      Thank you for the puff for your book. I can’t help but think that Mr. Wesley, who once declared ‘I live, as I shall die, a Priest of the Church of England.’ would have reprehended your mention of “an ordained Methodist minister”

      • Bruce Atkinson

        No book, just a brief research article in a professional journal. I have never been paid a dime for it, nor will I. But I was rewarded with a PhD.

        Yes, Wesley would have been unhappy being associated with a non-Anglican denomination that counts him as a founder. But he would be far more unhappy to see where the Church of England has ended up.

    • Bik Byro

      The psychology of religion is like the science of palmistry.

  • Under-the-weather

    I’m only part way into reading the book I’m linking below, but having listened to Doctor Petersons work by video, he explains a huge amount about the connection between religion, myth and how human civilization develops in the context of psychology.


    Stefan Molyneux now postulates – is ‘socialism’ actually ‘the Devil’ incarnate?

    A further thought. If the function of the brain as science is now suggesting, the conversion of energy which reaches us in a 2D form and we extrapolate into 3D, being how we actually experience the physical world, (we are all part of the same hologram but experiencing it differently), that suggests, trying to levitate our consciousness back into what is potentially a ‘2D’ dimension, is not going to necessarily be ‘easy’ anyway.

    • Bruce Atkinson

      : ) Science suggests nothing– but certain scientists love to hypothesize their way into occasionally being blessed by a fortuitous guess. That particular bit of neurobabble is worthy of a chuckle.

    • Belinda Brown

      No feminism is ‘the Devil’ incarnate…

      • Under-the-weather

        Extreme modern (not all) feminism, is part of cultural Marxism, there’s a modern equivalent of the Frankfurt school too – there’s a proliferation of pro Marx web sites which revolve around the assumption of lack of and so idealist control of limited resources for example


      • Bruce Atkinson

        Feminism is not the devil incarnate, but the devil certainly has deceived a lot of women…

  • Groan

    The Childrens Society inevitably is selective in the data it uses, as it has to generate income around its core business of child protection/safeguarding. The original survey is very interesting http://www.isciweb.org/?CategoryID=176&ArticleID=108
    It seems we’d be best considering Romania, Columbia and Israel (funny how Israel gets dropped by the Children’s Society Report). All three facing huge challenges. Yet with happier children. It strikes me that having a closer look at these might tell us a whole lot more, than digging into the box of “California Dreams” from the world’s faddiest “State”.
    Interesting for this article the top three are a solidly Catholic Country, an Orthodox country with a huge religious revival due to the years of communist suppression and a country defined by its religion. Interesting.

  • One major difference is the effect of social media on mood. When you have a constant tie to those you know/ met, receiving ‘bulletins’ of their lives (all highlights of course) then this will have a negative effect on mood. The effect of social media on mood is known by those of use who used it and those that experimented with.

  • Bruce Atkinson

    This was also very true in 1957 for us in the USA. The Great Depression and two world wars got Americans’ attention. We did not take things for granted and we worked our tails off to make things better. We attended church. Then it got a lot better and everyone was happier… and then our children became spoiled brats (I am of that spoiled generation that sent the train off the rails in the 1960’s).

    After 9-11, it is amazing how it turned so many back to God and to church. And then a couple years later it again went back to the regressive status quo. What kind of terribly tragic trauma do we need now to get our attention? I am praying for a Great Great Awakening from God to make all previous awakenings seem like whispers.

    • Bik Byro

      What kind of sick individual prays for a massive traumatic event? Oh – you. OK.

  • Phil R

    I am not convinced that we should be interested in happiness as a measure. God’s purpose in the present life of a believer is not to make the believer happy and comfortable. God’s purpose is to conform him to the image of His Son. The question as presented assumes that God’s ultimate purpose in the life of a
    believer is to provide happiness and pleasure to him in this life. In fact it assumes God is obligated to do so. Man declares “If you existed, you would make me happy!” In essence this is a demand that God indulge the selfish carnal appetites of men as a condition of worship. It stands the message of the Book of Job on its head.

    God’s purposes are eternal and not temporal. The good things we expect from a good God are perfectly delivered not in this life but the next. At that time we will be able to properly receive them as new creations. In this present life, we deal with sin and the action of God who works to bring about His desired end. This is how backwards our thinking can be. We do not see the purpose of God in circumstances that objectively work for our welfare.

    We think we know what we need.

    However, we only know what we want.

    Ironically, fallen man doesn’t even realise what would make
    him happy. He defines happiness in self centered terms. He is blind to the truth that happiness is found in fulfilling the purpose for which he was created. To glorify God.

    It does not take great theologian to read the Book of Job. The answer will not be found in the demand of man that God Justifies himself to his own creation. The answer is found in the person and nature of God. A God who works all things for good according to His purpose.

    • Bruce Atkinson

      Yes and no. Happiness is not why we are here; that is mostly for heaven. We have to expect some suffering in a fallen world, maybe even a lot of suffering.

      However, it is also true that three of the primary fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, and peace (Galatians 5). That sounds like happiness to me. And Paul in Philippians 4 commands us to
      rejoice (and he repeats this for emphasis) and to be anxious for nothing. And he also writes about the peace that is beyond comprehension and having found the secret to being content in ALL circumstances. This sounds again like happiness to me.

      • Phil R

        Happiness in knowing that God has chosen us is different to what we are considering in the article.

        It’s like the difference between the
        purpose of God in the life of David vs the purpose of God in the life of Goliath. Suffering can work good in the life of the former while happiness can work towards destruction in the life of the latter.

        Too often, Christians give the message that life is wonderful and once can expect a constant stream of blessings as a Christian. This is reinforced by leaders who seem to have (and project) perfect lives and perfect families. Alpha from HTB and New Wine etc, try to “sell” a message of Christianity that bears little resemblance to the Gospel. “God owes me a perfect life” is what we hear preached and to me this is the same essential message as the current church sexual standpoint which is often, I desire it, I like doing it, it makes me happy, God wants me to be happy, therefore…… — you know the rest.

        • Bruce Atkinson

          “Happiness” as marketed in the media is “getting what you want” and is superficial and very temporary. It is more like instant gratification than a state of mind with depth.
          What could possibly be more motivating of long term joy and peace than knowing Jesus Christ and knowing you are forgiven and have become an eternal child of God?
          This is the kind of happiness that matters; the other kinds may be OK, but they can also be very temporary and distracting, like eating ice cream.

          • Phil R

            Slight edit.

            What could possibly be more motivating of long term joy and peace than knowing that you are chosen by God and because of Jesus Christ, all sins are forgiven and you are ordained to eternal life.

          • Bruce Atkinson

            OK. But you took out the “knowing Christ.” According to Paul (and my own experience), nothing is better than knowing the Lord Jesus Christ (all the rest then is included– chosen, forgiven, eternal life). I don’t just want to know about Christ, I want to know Him personally and have a very close relationship.

            Paul wrote: “…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord …” (Philippians 3:7)

            Jesus said: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only
            true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
            (John 17:3)

  • Sargv

    Happiness is when tomorrow within your prognostic reach, and you know for sure it will be better than today.

    In 1957, after two World Wars and and a Great Depression, the only way was up. Now the only way is down. Everyone feels this one way or another.

    Religion indeed works in making people happier – by switching their attention away from Earth and its lowly temporary problems. Doesn’t have to be Christianity – Soviets believed in Sputnik for two decades, worked for them.

    If we teach kids humility, simplicity and mindfulness in school, instead of physics, mathematics and chemistry – we effectively confirm that they’re screwed, and no amount of real life skills acquired will ever change this. So – breathe deep, kids. And enjoy your innocence.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      Please consider calling them children.

      • Sargv

        Not a native speaker. Is there any contextual difference between “kids” and “children”?

        • TheRightToArmBears

          Yes, one is a noun and the other is dismissive sla*g.

          • TheRightToArmBears

            Once again TCW auto-censor has declined to let me use a common word, requiring me to insert an * in place of an n.
            I must now go and wash the fingers I used to type such obscenity.

          • Sargv

            You mean, as an address? Got it, thank you.

  • paul parmenter

    One thing I remember from my childhood growing up in the 1950s, was that we were told, by parents and teachers alike, that if we got into any kind of trouble, we should ask an adult for help.

    Yes, that was the advice: any adult. Not just the police or someone in authority. And it worked on at least one occasion for me. Can you believe that? It is of course completely different today. But in those far off times, there was no default assumption that every adult was a threat, or that all men were paedophiles. The only exception was never to get into a car with a man we did not know. That warning seemed to be based on the possibility of being taken far away from safety, where something unspecified but nasty could happen. But such events were extremely rare.

    I don’t know whether life was happier in the 1950s, but I recall it as a time when there was certainly far less artificially induced fear, hysteria and paranoia.

  • TheRightToArmBears

    What I remember from growing up in the late forties and fifties is that we were pretty much all the same people. Any foreign types at school, Poles, Czechs, even the Iraqi, spoke English and knew they had to comply with our mores. The Iraqi who demanded ‘What will you do without Iraqi oil?’ was put in his place with ‘Melt down greasy buggers like you.’ There were no police sirens blaring, we did not recoil in horror, we were normal English people behaving as English people always had, and the foreigners were glad to come to such a country.

    I worry for my children and grandchildren. They are now second-class citizens in what should be their country. Our politicians could not care less and I despair for the future. All I can wish for is that we were a homogenous white nation again, but the LibLabConspiracy has put a stop to that wish.

  • Maybe it’s just the cynic in me but I can’t help but notice the similarities between Government-enforced “mindfulness lessons” and those old style films where the villain uses his best time-piece to “brainwash/hypnotise” the goodie to follow his nefarious scheme!

    Teachers can’t actually get children to learn by “honest” teaching techniques these days so now they are resorting to something very close to hypnotising the little ones into learning!

  • CRSM

    I wish people would not keep regurgitating the ‘Judaeo-Christian’ faith falsehood.
    Christianity has few if any links to Judaism. The religion that is strongly linked to Judaism is Islam. (G*d help us).

    • How can you say that “Christianity has few if any links to Judaism” with a straight face? Christianity worships the God of Israel/Jacob and the majority of our Scripture is your most sacred text the Tanakh (the first 3/4 of our Bible). That’s a huge link right there without even delving into any deeper theology!

      “As regards the gospel, they (non-Messianic Jews) are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.” Romans 11:28

    • Vox Populi

      Whatever gave you this idea? Jesus was a blue-blooded Jew. The apostle Paul was a dyed-in-the-wool Jew–a Pharisee in fact! Almost all the disciples of Jesus was Jews. None of them stopped being a Jew. Jesus himself never repudiated Judaism. He did not start a new religion called Christianity. “Christianity” was a Jewish sect. It only became ‘independent’ from Judaism in the second century. Islam, on the other hand, is a seventh century invention. It took elements from both the Old Testament (Judaism) and the New Testament (Christianity) and garbled, distorted and twisted the stories and doctrines of both.