Towards a Culture of Happiness

Yes, the world presents us with tremendous challenges.

Yes, there are many reasons for sadness and anger and grief.

Yes, there is urgency in addressing crises that threaten our very existence.

So why, then, does Atheopaganism put a premium not only on being activists, but on being happy people? On having lives that are fulfilling adventures of growth and discovery?

Well, I’ll tell you why.

First of all, there is inherent justification in it. As Atheopagans, we know that an afterlife is highly unlikely. This is a one-time, one-way trip for each of us. Surely we should enjoy that journey as much as is reasonably possible. Pleasure is our birthright, as the tenth Atheopagan Principle so explicitly tells us.

But secondly, happy people are effective people. As psychologist Shawn Achor explains in the (very funny) video below, people who are affirmed, engaged, and appreciated are also more motivated, more productive, and perform at a higher level.

Now, Achor’s TED talk is rooted in some pretty capitalistic biases (such as “higher productivity = good”). But for our own purposes, we can learn from what he has to say when it comes to our sacred charge to work to make the world a better place, as articulated in Atheopagan Principles 2, 8, and 9: Reverence for the Earth, Legacy, and Social Responsibility.

Being demoralized and hopeless isn’t conducive to the kind of effort we’re going to need to transform our societies and economies. Wallowing in the horrors of the world not only makes us miserable…it makes us helpless. And that is the farthest thing from what is demanded of us in these times.

No, we shouldn’t be Pollyannas who insist on “always looking on the bright side”. There is horror in the world, and we must confront it. But that doesn’t mean we need to be morose, or dejected. Rather, let us do what we can also to see what there is to be celebrated, and to draw continual joy and uplifting from the beauty of our spectacular world.

Our cultures are deeply prejudiced against this. “The news” is always, overwhelmingly bad news. Good news just isn’t seen as that important.

In my new job, I have been fortunate enough to come into an organization which is just at the beginning point of formally developing systems of leadership and culture which are explicitly about the happiness and affirmation of every person involved with the organization: staff, volunteers and clients. While the culture there has already been kind and compassionate, we have now grown to the point where it is necessary to enshrine such values in our policies and procedures, and in how we manage meetings, performance reviews, and supervision. We are starting to emphasize celebration of accomplishment as much as problem solving.

I’m learning a lot, and I’m glad to have arrived at this transitional moment. The potential feels almost unlimited.

As Atheopagans, I think we are uniquely positioned to embrace happiness and its effectiveness-boosting nature in the course of our religious practices. Each of us has things to be grateful for, things to celebrate, things to be proud of. We don’t have to be shackled by some leftover Abrahamic urge to shy away from tooting our own horns when we deserve it: better to say, “I did that WELL!”, and bask in the good feeling for a moment before moving on with your day. And to tell others what you appreciate about them, as well.

Much has been made about the scale of the challenges before us, and this site’s assessment has been no exception. Yet we are mighty. We are resourceful, strategic, kind, and committed.

Lasting revolutions are joyous ones.  So be of good cheer and stout heart, and go forward into the world, sharing the light we know belongs to all of us.