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Religion: Happiness isn’t next to godliness

While sifting through the e-mails and comments in response to my Feb. 16 column, “Presidency: When will we break the God barrier?” I noticed an overriding theme in the criticism. What seemed difficult for my critics to swallow wasn’t my conclusion that it would be near impossible to elect an atheist to high office, but that neither goodness nor happiness are linked to godliness.

All too often those who say morality is derived from the Bible nitpick through the nastiness of scripture and only preach the less disturbing parts. There’s no better example than the story of Abraham, a charming bedtime story. God orders Abraham to murder his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. But then, just before Abraham slices into his petrified son, an angel appears. Just joshing, Abraham, God was only testing your faith, the angel informs him. Abraham and Isaac then walk off into the sunset, surely to have a great father-son relationship for the remainder of their days – OK, so that’s an exaggeration, but you get my drift.

Many faithfuls look at this story as an allegory, something that only reflects how we should have trust in God and we’ll be shown the way. But that, in itself, is contradictory. If we derive our virtues from the Bible, then how can we look at this story and say that it’s morally wrong? Our sense of right and wrong must come from some other place.

But if there wasn’t a higher entity monitoring our actions and thoughts, wouldn’t we all turn into diabolical heathens? Anyone who refrains from inflicting pain and suffering on others just because God may be watching is nothing more than a brown-noser. But those who continue to avoid committing murder and the like without a God prove that a higher power isn’t necessary to be good.

Religion affects all of us. There is not a person who won’t one day grapple with faith. And as college students, we’re at a stage in our lives when we’re coming to terms with our beliefs. Some are sticking by the convictions of their parents while others are rejecting them entirely. But in either case, we’re filtering through facts and opinions to find ourselves. Those who refuse to question their own faith fail to discover the flaws in their arguments.

There are surely billions of people who sleep better at night thinking that there is some order to the world. The idea that life came about by chance is hard for our minds to fathom. But that doesn’t mean happiness is unattainable without God. One of the pitfalls of religion is that it teaches us to be content with not knowing. Ignorance may be bliss, but as the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.”

Amen to that.

Justin Snow is a sophomore history major. He can be reached at

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