OPINION

OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Quality of life


Since childhood I've intuitively believed in the higher consciousness humans possess which allows us to conceive of an ultimate creative force responsible for our existence and the entire universe.

From the late teenage years, I didn't need the mysteries of quantum physics or sermons of holy men and women to make me aware of the miracles and seeming impossibilities in what we call life. They are at work around us constantly if we're willing to look.

Just learning about the complexities of the eyeball and the boundless electrical impulses that pervade and activate our thoughts and physical bodies was evidence for me that I didn't originate from an amoebic organism that somehow multiplied in the primordial sea until finally wriggling from the water before eventually mutating over eons into a vast and complex array of reptiles and mammals.

Christened as an infant in the Presbyterian Church, I became an active Episcopalian as a teenager and learned its liturgy and customs. Since that time, I've attended services in various Protestant denominations ranging from Methodist to Baptist, Lutheran and nondenominational sanctuaries.

To me, the object behind attending church was to set time aside for worshipping the divine force we call God, that force that, at conception, ignited a chemical spark that would grow to become me and you.

The biggest question humans have always strived to answer is why we are here. In search of an answer, we turn to philosophy and religion, where we mutually worship in different ways. Does such a collective act of homage and prayer make a difference in the quality and satisfaction of our lives? I believe it assuredly does.

It appears I'm far from alone in such beliefs.

Pew Research found, on the topic of religion and satisfaction in life across several countries, that in the U.S. 36 percent of the actively religious described themselves as "very happy," compared with 25 percent of the inactively religious and 25 percent of the unaffiliated. There were notable happiness gaps among these groups in Japan, Australia and Germany as well.

In 2019, Frontiers in Psychology published a heavily footnoted study by Daniela Villani, Angela Sorgente, Paola Iannello and Alessandro Antonietti on the subject of subjective well being (SWB) and religion/spirituality in humans. One finding concluded: "Concerning the relationship between spirituality and SWB, we found a strong impact of spirituality--intended as the human desire for transcendence, introspection, interconnectedness, and the quest for meaning in life--on SWB, and this relationship appears the same regardless of the individual's religious status.

"Specifically, the spirituality dimension that was strongly connected with SWB, both in its cognitive and affective aspects, was that of purpose and meaning in life. ... [T]he drive to construct meaning or purpose in life is a quintessential consequence of being human rather than something that is conceived under a specific religious or philosophical framework.

"Thus, our results appeared as coherent with other studies that already showed the association between meaning in life and SWB. Furthermore, purpose in life, which addresses the extent to which individuals perceive their lives as having goals and meaning, has already been associated with positive affect."

Katharina Pohls, in a 2021 article in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion wrote: "Most of the previous research on the relationship between (non)religiosity and subjective well-being has found a general positive association between religiosity and life satisfaction, happiness, mental health, and even physical health. Thus, a simple linear relationship is widely assumed: Religious individuals are more satisfied with life than nonreligious individuals, and highly religious individuals are more satisfied with life than weakly religious individuals."

An agnostic friend one day asked why I felt the need to have religious faith, specifically Christianity. I sensed he was sincerely curious, perhaps searching in his own personal way.

I thought for a moment before explaining: I've only got this one life I know of, which means a single brief chance to get it right. To me, the Christian faith offers a map of eternal truths on how I should live my best life while among others.

If I do my best to believe and follow those instructions, one of two things is bound to happen. Either I'll have lived a good life by trying my best to follow the spiritual tenets shared in the Bible (thus basically either leaving a legacy of having treated others like I wanted to be treated) or I'll claim the rewards of honoring those beliefs promised by my creator.

Either way, my fleeting time here wouldn't have been lived in vain.

As always, valued readers, go out into this sadly troubled world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you. Either way, you can't go wrong.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected].


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