2. Happiness (Part 2) – What do some of the world’s major religions teach about happiness?


Remind the students that they are thinking about how we use the word ‘happiness’ and reflecting on whether the pursuit of happiness is all that it is cracked up to be!

This session is designed to make students consider the fact that virtually all religions believe that people will become happier if they follow their religion. The session will focus specifically on the Abrahamic religions and Buddhism.


Begin by explaining that, at heart, Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all clear that the route to ultimate happiness is faith in God.

‘Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.’ Jeremiah 17:7 and Proverbs 16:20 (Both these quotes are from the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament).

‘Whoever does good whether male or female and he is a believer, We will most certainly make him live a happy life, and We will most certainly give them their reward for the best of what they did.’ (Qur’an, 16:97)

Ask the students to respond to such questions as:

  • Have you ever thought about Judaism, Christianity and Islam as ways of being happy?
  • Has this changed your perception of what these religions are about?
  • Do you think that you can be happy without faith in a monotheistic God?

Once this discussion has come to an end, explain that of all of the world’s major religions, it could be argued that Buddhism is the one most overtly concerned with the pursuit of happiness.


Use the Buddha’s ‘Parable of the arrow’ to illustrate the point that the Buddha was more interested in fixing the suffering in the world than in answering ultimate questions. The parable can be found at: http://buddhists.livejournal.com/2844718.html

Read the story and ask the students to respond to such questions as:

  • What do you think of the Buddha’s view that attempting to answer ultimate questions is less important than searching for an end to suffering?

Explain that, after devoting years to attempting discover the secret to true happiness, the Buddha had realised that the key to happiness was to rid oneself of all attachments by living according to ‘The Middle Way’. This is because he had realised that it was attachments that caused suffering. For example, if you want to do well in an exam and you don’t do well you will suffer. This is because you have attached yourself to the idea that you want to do well. Or, alternatively, if somebody you know and like dies or stops contacting you, you suffer because you are attached to them.


Encourage the students to reflect on today’s session and to offer some thoughts on such questions as:

  • Do you agree with the Buddha that suffering is caused by attachment?
  • Would you really be happier if you stopped craving things?
  • How does the Buddhist take on happiness compare to the Christian, Muslim and Jewish beliefs we looked at earlier?
  • Is there anything from today’s session you can take to make you happier in your own life?

1.  Happiness Part 1: status anxiety
2.  Happiness Part 2: religion and happiness
3.  Happiness Part 3: what is happiness?
4.  Morality Part 1: what is morality?
5.  Morality Part 2: should we live by ‘moral laws’?
6.  Morality Part 3: where does our sense of morality come from?
7.  Are You Religious?
8.  What Is a Religion and what is a Cult?
9.  What does it Mean to be Religious Today?
10. Religion in Numbers Part 1: how many people on Earth?
11. Religion in Numbers Part 2: how many people are ‘religious’?
12. Religion in Numbers Part 3: how did believers got to where they are?
13. Are All Religions Equal?
14. Transactional Analysis: learning how to feel equal
15. Bloom’s Taxonomy
16. Harry Potter and God
17. Without Fear or Favour Part 1
18. Without Fear or Favour Part 2
19. It’s Not Fair
20. Mind, Memory and Justice
21. Karma, Memory, Freedom and Justice
22. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 1: Religion Without God
23. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 2: God and Morality
24. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 3: Is Life Beautiful?
25. Can Atheists learn anything from Religion?
26. What do Buddhists Believe about God?
27. Is Seeing Believing?
28. Are We Being Hypnotised?
29. Sex and Relationships
30. Truth, Proof and Evidence
31. How should we deal with the range of different opinions in today’s world?
32. Is Religion a Force for Evil or Good?
33. Do Religious Experiences Prove God?
34. What Is Evil?
35. God and Evil
36. Can we verify Religious Experiences?
37. How Spiritual are You?
38. What is Philosphy?
39. The Power of Words
40. Art and Beauty

A printable (pdf) version of this session can be found here

© Sea of Faith 2018

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