Well, not about Russia getting the World Cup in 2018, I’m not. Why does it feel like the Eurovision Song Contest voting – nothing to do with quality, but everything to do with ‘politics’?
Anyway, miserable though I might be about that (and amazed that the huge snowfall in Croydon has brought all life to a halt), I am intrigued by the Government’s decision to gauge the country’s ‘happiness’ with criteria other than economic or financial statistics. The excellent Office for National Statistics has launched a survey and anyone can contribute through this link: ‘measuring national well-being’.
What is weird about it is the total omission of the very element of human experience and motivation that actually shapes ‘happiness’ or how real people measure their own personal ‘well-being’: world view or faith commitment. This applies equally to people of religious commitment and atheists. My argument is not about privileged mention of religion for the sake of religion, but that the omission of any such category renders the survey a bit pointless.
Now, some readers are going to be fed up that I appear to want to drag religion into yet another sphere from which they would gladly evict it. But, this is not about religion per se – it is about the integrity or value of the survey and any conclusions that might be drawn from it.
The human sense of well-being (however you define such a thing) is shaped by all sorts of things: wealth, material comfort, education, family, relationships, environment, etc. But, the assumptions we make about why we are here, why we matter, what drives our ethics, how we see the future, how we face dying and death, etc. also matter greatly. Our world view powerfully shapes how we face the world, interpret our experiences and handle our joy and suffering.
To omit any reference to these is silly. I guess it is yet another example of the ignorant public assumption that ‘faith’, rather than being the shaper of our commitments, is (a) a mere optional add-on for loonies or feeble people who can’t cope with the ‘real’ world or (b) dangerous territory (on the grounds that ‘religion’ is a problem or a threat).
I am tempted to encourage people to respond to the survey accordingly. Again, not as a whingeing ‘we are being marginalised’ complaint, but as a ‘why are public authorities so ignorant of what religion (or atheism) actually is’ challenge.