Happiness and satisfaction in life may be associated to the degree of commitment in practicing a religion as well as to the religion affiliation. This paper studies life satisfaction and spiritual satisfaction across religion affiliations (Catholics, Protestant, Other Christian, Other non-Christian) as well as for those with no religion affiliation. A large, recent, and representative database for three Latin American countries (Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico) and for the White/Caucasian US population is used. It is then possible to study how life satisfaction varies across religion affiliations and along cultures (Latin American and US Caucasian). A domains-of-life approach is used so that life satisfaction is explained on the basis of satisfaction in the family, friends, economic, health, and spiritual domains. Substantial differences across cultures and across religion affiliations are found. Particular attention is given to the role of the spiritual domain. The study is extended to the degree of commitment/involvement, with the spiritual domain playing an important role in explaining life satisfaction for those who are highly involved/committed. The study is further extended to analyze how folk understandings of what a good life is vary across religion affiliations and cultures. The conceptual-referent-theory-of-happiness framework is used. In general, it is found that religious people report greater life satisfaction than non-religious persons and that, independently of religion affiliation, practicing people report greater life satisfaction than non-practicing people. The domains-of-life approach and the conceptual-referent theory of happiness provide a good framework to understand these differences across religion affiliations, practicing degrees, and cultures.
Mariano Rojas is professor of Social Sciences at Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences - Mexico and at Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla, Mexico. He is President of the International Society for Quality of Life Studies (www.isqols.org). He was Project Leader in the 'Understanding High Happiness in Latin America: Human Relations and Spirituality in a Life Well Lived' research project. He was alos coordinator of the Initiative Measuring the Progress of Societies. Mariano Rojas holds a PhD and an MA degree in economics from The Ohio State University, United States as well as an undergraduate degree from Universidad de Costa Rica. His areas of research are Subjective Well-Being, Quality of Life, Happiness in Latin America, and Economic Development. He has published more that 100 papers and book chapters on happiness-related issues as well as several books.