Atheists can never be truly happy, say priest

Atheists can never be truly happy, say priest

Jesuit priest Father Robert Spitzer, above, is an American philosopher, author and academic who recently mapped out four levels of happiness that he says are available to humankind.

After a great deal of incomprehensible psycho-babble contained in this article, Spitzer  – President of the Magis Center (motto “Shining Light on Transcendence and Eternity” – explains that the all-important fourth level of happiness involves folk:

Awakening … to the eternity to which they’re called.

This fourth phase deals with a belief in a higher power, so the priest then addressed whether it’s possible for an atheist to find true and perfect happiness.

Without qualification, no. You can get absolutely to a very high level three, but if you denied God altogether, I don’t see how you could get there. When you deny any aspect of level four, you’re basically denying the transcendent.

He said that denying a higher power would mean denying perfect justice, truth, love and beauty – but that’s not all.

It’s a denial not just of God, it’s a denial of transcendence. You deny transcendent fulfillment.

He also believes God has placed a desire in everyone’s heart to seek him out.

We are desperately in need of being in contact with God. God has been in contact with people since the beginning.

Spitzer said that he crafted the four levels of happiness after researching 100 thinkers, ranging from Plato to St Thomas Aquinas, to analyse how they examined personal happiness. In the end, he noticed similarities that helped inform his thinking.

The priest concluded with a warning:

I think if the culture stays in level one and level two … it will destroy the individuals within it, it will destroy relationships, it will destroy the family. If all that goes, the culture will implode on itself and it will be no different than the Roman Empire.

31 responses to “Atheists can never be truly happy, say priest”

  1. Broga says:

    Spitzer’s babble is such high comedy and is so funny that it adds to my existing contentment. Anyway I doubt whether pursuit of happiness is a worthy goal. Moments of happiness seem to me to arrive by themselves, cannot be manufactured and tend to be fleeting. I will settle for a basic satisfaction which, for most of the time, I enjoy.

    I also suggest, from my experience, that relationships of a kind unavailable to priests are an important part of happiness. I cannot understand how anyone can be happy if they think their every act is seen by a God who has a track record of savagery and inexplicable judgements. Nor can they know what their God wants as his demands, as “explained” by his priests are so variable.

    To add to the simmering pot of religious sewage which the faithful accept they face the chance of an eternity burning in the fires of hell.

    May I recommend atheism. It was a happy day when I discovered it while a teenager.

  2. Barry Duke says:

    Broga, when people find God and reach the pinnacle of happiness, they then set out to make everyone else’s life miserable. Here’s the latest example.

  3. barriejohn says:

    Broga: They’re all the same. Christians keep banging on about their god giving them “peace”, yet, notwithstanding the problems of the human condition, religion causes much of the mental anguish experienced by its adherents with its constant demands, and encouragement of feelings of guilt and low self-esteem. Andrew Marr was interviewing Lord Sacks of Bullshit on his show this morning – cue more twaddle about the “god-shaped void” in the human heart. He finds that young people are seeking for a “strong religious voice that speaks to the spirit” as well as to the intellect. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

    From 33:48 here:

  4. dennis says:

    I too have been happy sense my teenage years. @Borga I loved your “religious sewage.” happiness can be fleeting or enjoyed for life. I know both kinds of people the unhappy and the happy. I am part of the happy “not worrying about tomorrow” (martin luther king) but enjoying the day or night with a relationship that priest can not be happy about.

  5. […] Jesuit priest Father Robert Spitzer is an American philosopher, author and academic who recently mapped out four levels of happiness that he says are available to humankind. After a great deal of incomprehensible psycho-babble, Spitzer – President of the Magis Center (motto “Shining Light on Transcendence and Eternity” – explains that the all-important fourth level of happiness involves folk: "Awakening … to the eternity to which they’re called.".  […]

  6. L.Long says:

    He probably right as they say ‘IGNORANCE is bliss’ so yes their basic delusions, lack of real knowledge can lead to bliss.

  7. Grant H. Thornton says:

    In the scheme of things, religion is man made to control man. As Karl Marx so aptly put it, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” And it is. People create their own personal god that allows them to live anyway they choose without having to adhere to the true tenets of what is promulgated in their books. (I might add, the Muslim women that I have met from India, Indonesia and Pakistan are more Christian in their dress, behavior, and practice than so-called Christians).

    People need religion because it helps them navigate this labyrinth we call life. So they turn to the God in their imagination and religion to make it through life, in spite of the fact that imaginary God does absolutely nothing. History bares me out.

    Hitler was responsible for the deaths of over 100 million souls; where was God?

    There were 14 unsuccessful assassination attempts on his life during his reign; where was God?

    He was shot twice in World War I but lived; where was God?

    40 million Russian died in Stalins Gulags; again, where was God?

    In China, the Qing Dynasty was responsible for the deaths of 20 million Chinese; where was God?

    An “incalculable” number of African slaves perished during the Middle-Passages; where was God?

    Religion and the belief in God is essentially “narcissistic.” The believers will state all the gifts that God bestowed upon them, but ignore the aforementioned facts I just shared.

    Another form of “religious narcissism” is the belief that their religion is the one and true religion, neglecting the fact that the journey to their religion was based purely on the proximity of their birth. Many believers no nothing of religions or philosophies outside of their own religion, yet, vehemently profess that their religion is the truth. Most believers are ignorant to Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Shintoism and the other 250 religions that exist world wide, yet, their religion reigns supreme over others. That is “religious narcissism” in its purest form.

    Another poignant example of “religious narcissism” is when believers state, “God did this for me. God answered my prayers. There go I but for the grace of God (meaning God discriminates),” all the while ignoring those that are suffering in Africa, India, Afghanistan, the Favelas of Brazil, the ghettos of America, the indigent in China,and the trillions of people who go to bed hungry every night or live without health care.

    Religion is necessary but religion is a farce.

  8. Willa Cartwright says:

    George Bernard Shaw said it best …

    “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. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality of happiness, and by no means a necessity of life.”

    – George Bernard Shaw, Androcles and the Lion

  9. Trevor Blake says:

    For 474 years the Jesuits have not admitted women as members. Women must be incapable of the happiness Father Spitzer describes. So we miserable weeping atheists have good company.

    It does appear that Father Spitzer and I share the pleasures found in a good meal. He perhaps more than I.

  10. HellfireLWD says:

    True happiness is a state which can never be reached. You will always feel content after a while and need something to change to find happiness again.
    For example…
    If you are a poor man, and all you wanted is a lot of money to be happy. When your wish is granted, you become a rich man. But not soon after, the new desire for happiness rears its ugly head.
    See now you are rich and you get used to that… after a while… the rich man again seeks happiness. Even while he is still rich and his former wish is still of affect. You see that in the form of them spending money ofcourse…But point.
    This same goes for the other way around. When you are happy at the moment, and something bad is to happen to you…
    for example…
    You lose a leg… or maybe the ability to walk at all…
    You will be truly unhappy for a while…
    But after a while, you kind of climatize to it, and you can again be in search of that eluded hapiness we all look for. You wont have to be an unhappy person anymore.

    This so called fourth level of happiness, is just as much bullshit as the rest of his book of fairytales…
    Even their fictious heaven has no chance of offering eternal happiness… because you can’t sit somewhere and stay happy for all eternity….
    Eternity, if you not heard… isn’t ending anytime soon.

    Having said this…

    Atheist can be happier then theists…. way happier. See theism is always dictated. So however happy you are loving your god… it was still the way it was meant to be.
    So, unless you woke up one day and felt like… not having free thoughts anymore and having a big brother in the sky who will not help out with anything but punish your ass for all eternity if you don’t recognize him to be your boss.
    Unless you feel like you have not enough restrictions in your life… Atheists can be much happier, cause we can do all the same things you do… plus more.

  11. barriejohn says:

    This is where religion gets you:

    No doubt he thought that he was doing the right thing.

  12. JohnMWhite says:

    He also believes God has placed a desire in everyone’s heart to seek him out.

    Presumably that’s the same god that places holes in the hearts of thousands of newborns every year. Talk about a god-shaped void. Maybe we should seek him out with a baseball bat.

  13. Secular Humanist says:

    I’d rather be honest and hold the most credible position, than be happy. That said, I am as happy as the next person. Learning new things, not having my mind constrained by dogma, makes me particularly happy.

  14. Caute says:

    He is right in this respect …until we rid ourselves of theocratic intimidation, bullying, interference, meddling, fundamentalism, cruelty, injustice, proselytising, evangelism,terrorism,hatred, indoctrination, stupidity and retardation …. then I cannot be truly happy. I dont mind lazy stupefied halfwits resorting to something easy from which they can seek solace and explanation. But until the imams, bishops, evangelists, creationists, mullahs, popes, cardinals, canons, vicars and priests are prevented from inflicting their dangerous nonsense on those of us who don’t want or need it .. then this atheist will not be happy or stop railing against their wickedness. Apart from that I am perfectly happy … which is realy what bothers the pious.

  15. Broga says:

    @Barry: I notice the anti gay disc jockeys say they are “following bible teaching.” I won’t bore readers here by quoting the absurd bible teaching these bigots choose to ignore. As usual they are selective but assume that anyone on the receiving end of their bile will assume there actually is unequivocal bible teaching.

  16. Caute says:

    Sorry to lower the tone but the picture looks as if Spitzer is on the brink of onanistic bliss, unless of course there is someone kneeling down in front of him, head up cassock, delivering him to temporal heaven.

  17. JohnMWhite says:

    I don’t know where they get their ideas sometimes. I’m pretty sure Jesus was awesome at weddings. What happened to being Christlike?

  18. Caute says:

    There was no Jesus … that character is merely a confection derived from millenia of theocratic invention and obfuscation.

  19. JohnMWhite says:

    @Caute – I was making a joke about the story of turning water into wine.

  20. Stephen Mynett says:

    So you cannot be truly happy without religion and, I expect, Spitzer’s brand of religion. Sounds like nothing more than a cheap sales pitch.

  21. . says:

    @JMW don’t give up your day job.

  22. AgentCormac says:

    Despite what they proclaim, religious people of all persuasions are some of the most unhappy on the planet. Constantly in fear of how their deity will judge them; constantly worrying if they are adhering strictly enough to their archaic rules; constantly fired up into a frenzy of violence, hatred and anger. And that’s just the men.

  23. Broga says:

    @HellfireLWD: There are more thought provoking ideas in these posts than you could find in a year in Thought for the Day. One that struck me in particular was your comment, “ you are rich and you get used to that… after a while… the rich man again seeks happiness.”

    I think the name for that is hedonic adaptation and I think it is so true. I remember when I bought a brand new car and, at first, I was so delighted with it I just sat in the driver’s seat wrapped in delight. After a few months I was driving it as a routine and with no more pleasure than my previous car.

    It is said that even someone grievously disabled – perhaps minus a leg – will adjust to his previous happiness. I have a friend who is now a wealthy architect. As a child his family lost their money and, aged 12, he was homeless and literally on the street. He said that at that time he told himself that if he ever got himself into a situation where he would know where he would sleep every night he would be happy. He assures me that he regularly reminds himself of his current comfortable and secure bed.

  24. MIKE says:

    For people who still believe in the fairy tale stories of the bible or other religion tales, they need to feel above all others in an effort to keep up the control of their lives. They dont understand that others are stronger and can live meaningful lives without the(as George Carlin stated) best bullshit story known to mankind.

  25. RussellW says:

    Spitzer is a typical religiot. How can atheists ‘deny’ the existence of a deity, or the supernatural for which there is absolutely no evidence. Like other commenters here, I’ve never as an adult, believed, and that’s despite a Christian education. There’s no common ground between those of us who don’t have the ‘gene’ for religion and those who do. I wish the Bible bashers would just mind their own business, unfortunately they can’t, dissenters are always a threat to any totalitarian regime.

  26. 1859 says:

    Mr. Spizter – what you have concocted is a load of fucking nonsense ‘Level 1, 2 3 and 4 states of happiness’ Taking a bath in a bucket full of rat’s piss would make more sense. You should have been a stand up comedian. Do the world a favour – go tie your foreskin to a rocket.

  27. SeculR says:

    Everything this man espouses is absolutely fine, because it is his opinion, which has as much value as anybody cares to place upon it. Were he to be taken seriously, he would have to make the extra effort to provide credible and corroborated evidence to support his assertions. I won’t be holding my breath on that one. A man who can be easily and lightly dismissed. Bring on the next clown please, I have a few moments to spare.

  28. melvin polatnick says:

    Hitler,Lenin, and Stalin were Atheists. They murdered millions of worshipers.But there were not enough bullets to kill them all. Muslims have converted or beheaded 500 million Christians in the last two centuries. After the Muslims and Christians are gone the world will have only Atheists.

  29. JohnMWhite says:

    @melvin polatnick – Hitler was not an atheist, he was a Christian. Lenin and Stalin were, but they did not murder people for the sake of atheism, they murdered them for political power. If you’re trying to draw a line between atheism and willingness to murder, you scupper your own point by pointing out that Muslims (who are, clearly, not atheists) have also been quite violent, though I find your number suspect. And Islam and Christianity are not the only religions in the world. How could you possibly actually think that to be the case?

  30. BOTTOM LINE: If you are looking for opportunities and willing to take risks where necessary you will not be looking for or seeking the meaning of life. If your life is blissful at times and peaceful the other times you will not be asking what your purpose in life is. You should not need religion as a crutch to get a sense of purpose. Doing that does not take away the pain underneath the crutch but only benefits the religious do-gooders who are wasting your energy. You have no right to enable or create a culture where people are made to worry about the meaning of life and torment themselves unnecessarily.

    In Affirmations: Joyful And Creative Exuberance, Paul Kurtz writes:
    “The meaning of life is not to be found in a secret formula discovered by ancient prophets or modern gurus, who withdraw from living to seek quiet contemplation and release. Life has no meaning per se; it does, however, present us with innumerable opportunities, which we can either squander and retreat from in fear or seize with exuberance.”

    Religion claims that life is no good without faith in God and a relationship with him. This is a denial that your life has any objective value or worth. To get those, you need to hope that there is a God to impose this value and worth on your life. Religion demands two things of you. That you regard your life as worthless trash no matter how much good you do unless there is a God to give it value. This is exactly the same as giving yourself cancer and doing operations on yourself to remove it. It is sick.

    A theory or fact concerning why your life is valuable is nothing. What you need is the feeling. Feelings give a sense of meaning. If you can’t get the feeling then people telling you what to believe in order to get it will only serve to make it worse and pile up guilt on you. Belief in God cannot give it to you – it is your emotional response to the belief that does that. Who cares if the feeling is wrong as long as it helps? Meaning then is about us and not God even if some of us use belief in God to trigger it. Every person has a brain. And that brain does not want to be imprisoned by fear so it may shut out the harsh realities of existence. This is what is mistaken for religious faith. It is not religious faith though it is like it in its optimism. It is not moral for it can be dangerous if misused. Bullies feed their self-illusion of power and invincibility through it. If the shutting out is impaired despair and depression may result. It is important to try and not tamper with it but to keep it healthy which means don’t be a bully and don’t pretend that it is a sense of God protecting you. See it as the result of you perceive life. It is faith in life.

    Even if there is a God there does not need to be a reason why we are here. An artist might create a painting because he can and have no real purpose. It is nonsense that God will only make if he has a reason. And God by definition alone matters so he cannot make us matter for that discriminates against himself. So if God means we have a reason for living it is about him and not us at all. It is a sin for us to feel our lives are important for us.

    God might make a meaningless worthless universe hoping that we might create meaning. A good person will live up to the purpose for which they were made. A better person will live up to the purpose they make themselves in a meaningless universe. If there is no meaning or if it cannot be known if there is, the person will bestow meaning.

    The notion that you need God or religion in order to have a sense that your life has value, is based on the notion that if our existence is pure chance then this is scary. But chance is not all bad. When we realise that we don’t want everything controlled by God or to control everything we see that chance is to be celebrated. If your life is a random accident, you can rejoice in its randomness. We forget that we value our sense of freedom even if we will mess it up most of the time. In fact, if we have free will, we have it because of God and still cannot go against him. It is he who empowers it all the time. It implies a form of predestination where we make ourselves bad by sinning but God is indirectly responsible for our sins and his role is justified because of his alleged plan. We cannot feel very free in such a scheme – if we do then we don’t understand what the notion of God holding all things in existence means and how God by definition is the 100% reason anything exists. In other words, we have a god not God if we feel free. Improve your sense of freedom – it doesn’t matter if you really have free will or not – what matters is feeling free. Do that and your sense that life is good or reasonably good will improve.
    When religion attempts to justify God letting terrible things happen to the innocent, do not lose sight of the backdrop – the backdrop is the notion that we are all part of a divine plan. Why do many people want to believe in and follow a plan laid out by God through which they get a purpose in life? Why don’t they make their own plan and get a sense of purpose from that? If the plan matters, then it doesn’t matter who devises or authorises the plan! The plan matters not God even if God makes the plan. The stress on God implies that they want to draw others into their own plan that they attribute to God in order to hide its true origin. It is about controlling them in the name of God. The attempt to justify human suffering for the sake of an unnecessary interpretation of the plan and the wish to say it is a divine plan is pure selfishness of the worst kind. It is robbing people of their need to see that their own plan will do. Robbing them of that is undermining their right to independence and self-empowerment.

    Talk about the plan and the meaning it gives to life is often totally or largely future-oriented. This is nothing more than dissatisfaction with the present time and yearning for better times. The plan is about making us virtuous for God is seen as virtue and as wanting to forge us in his own image. But virtue is not about being happy or content. It is about doing good whether you get happy or not. It treats the happiness of the person doing the good as something that may or may not happen and as irrelevant. Both atheists and believers have to do good. If you need to do good to value your own life and to find purpose then this value is a side-effect of doing good. Whoever (it’s nearly always a Christian) then says, “You need to believe in God and that he has a plan for you if you want to value your life” is saying, “Your goodness is not enough for you to value your life. You must seek value directly. You must upset yourself by working for it instead of just letting it happen. The only hope then is if you accept my understanding of religion.” Such a person does not really know what they are talking about and they implicate themselves in the bigotry that is Christianity.

    The sense that your life is worth it will come from helping others. The best way to remain motivated and willing to help others even to the extent of greatly risking your health and life is to try and see the big picture. Try and see how many can benefit from and be inspired by your actions. If you see yourself as helping only a few, your motivation will not be very strong. Do not see just how many will be directly helped but think of the indirect benefits too. Perhaps the leper you treat will be able to find a wife and raise a nice family. Think also of the opportunities you are making – you give those opportunities to others even if they do not available of them. What matters is that you gave.

    If you imagine that the reason you value life is because of your faith you could easily be wrong. People think something is helping them when it is something else that is actually helping. Somebody telling you that Jesus will give you meaning in life is just arrogance. And if faith gives meaning who says it has to specifically be Christian faith?

    You must make the purposes of your life yourself.