February 19, 2010

Clarify me

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:41 am

I’m glad you folks are commenting more on some of my posts, because it gives me a second chance to try and clear up my obtuse expression.  To wit, I’m going to keep pulling snippets from comments into posts where needed to clear up my points.

I’m having a hard time understanding the importance you’re giving to happiness factoring into Mormonism.

Part of the Mormon self-concept is that being Mormon will make you happier in this life and the next than anything else you could do.  If this is the claim, then there should be evidence thereof (at least for the earth life part).

I thought most religions value delayed happiness over immediate happiness, so how much relevance does current happiness hold?

This is certainly true, and Mormonism is no exception.  I think there tends to be a retreat to rewards in unseen realms when expectations don’t pan out.  “You’ll get mansions in Heaven!”  In some cases, religious promises of payoff are primarily or exclusively in the next world.  I certainly acknowledge this.  As above, Mormonism asserts itself differently.  It promises higher happiness than its competitors here and now, as well as better returns in the future.

Experience of happiness and correlation to pleasant indicators is nearly always used by Mormons in testimony meeting to explain why they believe.  I’m so much happier… My life is so much better…  Once I became Mormon, X pleasant indicator increased… etc. etc.  Saying: “My life is pretty much just as pleasant as when I used to be Catholic” would not at all be welcomed.

I don’t think happiness is an adequate predictor of “true” faith.

Could well be.  The assertion I am trying to debunk is not that happiness is a valuable metric, but that Mormonism produces it.  Personally, if we start with the presumptions that God exists, and he wants us to be happy (presumably in the present as well as the future) and at least 1 religion existing that fulfills God’s desires, then the incapacity of a given religion to produce happiness would make it hard to show it was God’s one true way.  Could a religion exist which produces happiness but is still not God’s one true way?  Possibly, but this is not the problem at hand.

Feeling content in your faith doesn’t mean that your life might not be terrible. I know first-hand that it’s incredibly difficult to mathematically determine the link between happiness and ptsd symptoms or depression – particularly when using self reported data or divorce stats.

Sing it sister!  I know we both work with these complexities on a daily basis.  It is very hard to measure this stuff.  Is it time for the methodology discussion? =)  In my earlier post, I cited the happiness composite index first as it is arguably more meaningful than the depression/divorce numbers.  Just to clarify further, the test is:

Are Mormons detectably happier than the baseline population within a given community?

Test:  If this is the case, the expected result would be to have happiness associated indicators rise proportional to the presence of Mormons in the community.

Results:  There was no correlation between the density of Mormons and the selected indicators.

You are alleging that the selected data does not significantly illuminate the condition of happiness.  That may well be true.  I took that post out of the oven half-baked because there was a convenient headline.  The press thought they were correlated so that must make it true! =)

In any case, I do think it is relevant to illuminating what kind of payoff you get for being Mormon at the macro-social level.  Maybe Mormonism produces people who are more likely to be divorced, bankrupt, depressed, unhealthy and suicidal but still happier.  Doesn’t make a very snappy sales pitch =)  I would be curious to see if anyone could put together a plausible model that would explain the observed data elements and still validate the assertion that being Mormon makes you more happy in this life than the competition (relevant to the one true way argument).

While most of the TBMs who visit this site have unfortunately chosen to remain lurkers, I was originally concerned that my original post would unleash some ire from that camp because I had even attempted to show that Mormonism is not an above average happiness producing mechanism.  By the direct or proxy variable data I am aware of, Mormons don’t diverge from the scatter plot in such a way that would lead a neutral person to conclude that the theology produces disproportionally better results than its competitors.  I would guess that most TBMs would consider the conclusions I have promulgated to be heretical if not actively apostate.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize that the ability of Mormonism to produce happiness is important because it is actively part of the sales pitch.  Mormons very actively proselyte people of other faiths (as well as the unaffiliated) on the assertion that they will be happier if they are Mormon, both now and in the future.

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