Heaven, Hell and Happiness

Posted by on March 10, 2014 in News, Slider | 0 comments

Heaven, Hell and Happiness

Following up on an earlier paper with Mijke Rhemtulla on the connections between crime and national rates of heaven and hell belief, Lara Aknin and I have been looking at how the balance of these religious beliefs predict national happiness rates. Our new paper, recently published in PLoS One shows a very similar connection to the one we see with crime rates.

Here‘s a link to the paper, titled The Emotional Toll of Hell: Cross-National and Experimental Evidence for the Negative Well-Being Effects of Hell Beliefs.

And here’s the abstract:

Though beliefs in Heaven and Hell are related, they are associated with different personality characteristics and social phenomena. Here we present three studies measuring Heaven and Hell beliefs’ associations with and impact on subjective well-being. We find that a belief in Heaven is consistently associated with greater happiness and life satisfaction while a belief in Hell is associated with lower happiness and life satisfaction at the national (Study 1) and individual (Study 2) level. An experimental priming study (Study 3) suggests that these differences are mainly driven by the negative emotional impact of Hell beliefs. Possible cultural evolutionary explanations for the persistence of such a distressing religious concept are discussed.

Figure 1 National Happiness Rank as a function of how much higher the proportion of a nation that believes in Heaven is compared to the proportion that believes in Hell.

Figure 2 Daily Experiences Well-being as a function of how much higher the proportion of a nation that believes in Heaven is compared to the proportion that believes in Hell.