Apr 14, 2011

Its official secularism makes you sad

Britons have become miserable because we are selfish, unfit and anti-social begins an article in yesterday’s Telegraph.

The article continues Experts say that unless we undergo a ‘radical cultural change’, the population will slide into unprecedented depths of despair and that rates of depression and suicide will rise.

We are according to the paper in a psychological decline.

So what is causing this bad state of mental health? According to experts the answer is that we do not give enough to others, have lost the art of connecting with those around us, and no longer possess a sense of belonging in society.’

Dr. Anthony Seldon  comments;

“Young people now are being brought up grasping for what they don’t have rather than appreciating everything they already do.

“For everything we have gained in material wealth and sophistication in recent years, we have lost in happiness and the overall richness of the fabric of society.

“If we don’t act now, in the future we are likely to see increased levels of adolescent suicide and mental illness, and a culture in which taking anti-depressant drugs is the norm.”

What the research demonstrates is what happens when life turns in on itself. When we live for ourselves and are concerned only for ourselves it will have a profoundly negative

What about solutions?

So what answers does our society have to such a crisis? Well if the answers proposed by actionforhappiness.org are anything to go by, pretty much none!  When you read down the list of suggestions they are nothing but a list of ideas on how to try and manufacture happiness in the absence of any meaning, purpose, value or direction to life.

How do you find happiness in a life devoid of hope!

Joseph Addison once said ‘the grand essential to happiness in this life are; something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for’

True and lasting happiness, the joy in life that we seek, are all rooted not in thinking positive thoughts about ourselves but through a knowledge that we are loved. Our joy is a joy derived from a relationship with the living God.

CS Lewis has so helpfully said:

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

You can’t make yourself happy! You can’t manufacture joy. It comes from a source outside of yourself. Our happiness is a gift borne out of a relationship with a God who is supremely happy in himself and so desires that we share our joy in him.

Lewis again: Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.

The 10 suggestions for happiness put forward by a think-tank actionforhappiness.org  show how desperate our desire for happiness has become and yet how even more desperate our search has become.

1. Giving. Do things for others – volunteer to work for a charity in your spare time.

2. Relating. Connect with people – get in touch with friends with whom you had lost contact.

3. Exercising. Take care of your body – go for a run.

4. Appreciating. Notice the world around – take time to appreciate wildlife in your area.

Worship. Notice the world around and thank God for his goodness

5. Trying out. Keep learning new things – learn a new language.

6. Direction. Have goals to look forward to – make resolutions and stick to them.

Hope. Realise that

7. Resilience. Find ways to bounce back – learn from defeats to do things better in the future.

8. Emotion. Take a positive approach – focus on the happy moments of your life rather than the sad.

9. Acceptance. Be comfortable with who you are – do not dwell on your flaws.

10.Meaning. Be part of something bigger – join a society or club.

Surely at no point in human history in the western world have we so manifestly demonstrated our need for God. We cannot make it alone. We need God more than ever for life now and for life eternal.

Final thought from CS Lewis. ‘Happiness is never in our power and pleasure rarely is. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted joy would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world.’


  • Right.. we either think that meaning is found in our possessions (or striving for the latest and greatest ones) or we heed the atheist ‘gospel’ and say that the universe has no meaning, we must create it for ourselves; but what kind of sustaining power does self-created meaning have? And why ought we bother to create meaning if there isn’t any in the first place? Seems that they’re just spending left over Christian credit there.

  • Indeed. This got me thinking about some Tripp stuff I read, while our assumption is usually a change in circumstances will make us happy the truth is people in worse situations than us have been far happier and people in better situations have been far sadder. Our situation doesn’t determine our mood, the Cross does (pretty sure Paul thought the same whether in need or having plenty).

    To view our lives through the Cross will necessarily bring ‘happiness’ and more importantly hope. There can’t be better news than that for a country sliding further into despair can there?

    (I think Tripp had a diagram showing how situations don’t produce good or bad reactions in us but if we take any situation through the Cross it is instantly a positive)

  • S.A.D – secularist affected disorder

  • Neil,

    interesting………………….are you saying that God works in those people who are happy, maybe agnostic, yet do not believe in the soveriegn God?

    I’m not sure whether i’d agree that ‘manufacturing’ happiness – seeking to be more happy in your life is a negative thing when you try to put into action a number of things that may work for you. Is this way of achieving happiness without the acknoweldgement of God being the source, possbile? – i think it’s possible to have a sense of meaing, purpose, value and direction in life whilst trying to attain happiness – is this really just exclusive to what can be found through a believe and relationship with God?


    • Hi Stuart

      Thanks for the comment. What I think Lewis is pointing out and what the report suggests, is that a true and lasting happiness, one that transcends circumstances is rooted in an unshakable conviction that you are loved and that you live in a world that is meaningful, finally.

      So when we wake up each morning and face each new day do we do so with one of only two beliefs either 1) a belief that life really is meaningful and that we have a hope that is bigger than any circumstance because love, meaning, joy and hope are rooted in the final reality that God is for us, that he has made promises to us in the gospel of relationship with him now and an eternal heavenly hope or 2) everything we fill our lives with even ‘seeking to be more happy’ whilst of some value is finally a denial of the reality that this universe is indifferent to our fate.

      When Dawkins says ‘In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication some people are going to get hurt other people are going to get lucky and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it nor any justice. The universe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind pitiless existence. DNA neither knows nor cares DNA just is and we dance to its music.’ we are left with a philosophy of despair.

      So in a nutshell some provisional happiness is available to all in this life but it is very fragile. When the unthinkable happens eg we become ill, our marriage fails, a child (heaven forbid) should suddenly die, without a heavenly hope we are crushed. Only a hope that transcends every circumstance in life can make us truly happy. Only the gospel offers such a hope. That is why secularism makes us sad, if not this week or this year, it makes us sad sooner or later.

      The very best thing I’ve heard on this subject is a sermon by Tim Keller in New York. Well worth a listen.


  • Thanks Neil for the reply……………. excepting that the secularist experiences sadness, but is in a cyclical pattern between sadness and hapiness throught varying degrees and periods in their life – similarily with a Christian. Granted they have this eternal hope that will provide happiness too through these cycles. However unfortuneatley Christians can have other pressures that can way down their happiness too:
    – possible a deep sense of guilt that needs periodic maintainence of relief
    – weight of expectations

    i probably show my ignorance but why would you want to look upoun DNA in despair, why not exceptance and thankfulness? maybe ignorance is bliss then?

    so is the question, can Christians in general be more happy than securalist? i guess the answer is hard to know but possible there would be a draw!!!!!

    take care Neil

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