Faith and Happiness in China: Roles of Religious Identity, Beliefs, and Practice

Abstract

Using the 2007 Spiritual Life Study of Chinese Residents data, this article examines the association between religious faith and happiness in China. We treat religious faith as a multidimensional construct and explore the possible effects of religious identity, belief, and practice on happiness among Chinese citizens. We find that having a religious identity in general was not significantly associated with happiness, while religious belief and practice—in particular attending religious services—was negatively associated with happiness. Different denominations were found to have different associations with happiness. The most consistent and robust results show that Daoist beliefs or practices and all dimensions of Christianity were negatively associated with happiness. While having a Buddhist identity and high frequency of Buddhist practices were associated with increased happiness, Buddhist beliefs or practices were found to be unrelated to happiness. We offer the social contextual perspective and the religious oligopoly theory as possible explanations of these findings. As religion expands constantly to play a more important role in China and as the government strives to build a happier society, the findings from this study offer timely implications and help lead to more rigorous research on this understudied topic.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the editors and three anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments and suggestions. We are also grateful to Fenggang Yang for support and guidance.

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Correspondence to Jun Lu.

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Lu, J., Gao, Q. Faith and Happiness in China: Roles of Religious Identity, Beliefs, and Practice. Soc Indic Res 132, 273–290 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-016-1372-8

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Keywords

  • Happiness
  • Faith
  • Religion
  • Service attendance
  • Praying
  • China