Phineas Parkhurst Quimby
What is Happiness & Misery?November 1862
We are told that religion makes happiness. Let us see what it is. There cannot be such an element as happiness, of itself; nor such a state outside of man's wisdom. Then happiness must be the result of either our wisdom or our belief. If it is from wisdom, it becomes a part of ourselves; but if it is from belief, it becomes adopted, and we may lose it.
We often hear a person say that religion makes him happy. Now if religion is anything outside of ourselves, then it contains neither happiness nor misery; but if we seek this something we call “religion,” we are happy when we get it. Can any person define what they get that makes them happy, except that it is a belief - and that belief which will make one person happy will make another miserable. Look at any religious society, and you will find that the individuals cannot all agree in belief. So those who do agree are slaves to those whose authority they admit as their rulers.
A church has its pastor, its deacons and other officers; also its forms to which its members must subscribe, and they, being numerous - and each having an opinion of themselves - are either led or ruled into submission by the pastor. This sometimes makes the yoke grievous to be borne, for the burdens are heavy; while they who bind them are happy, for they rule - and their power is their happiness.
The poor soldier who fights for the leaders, sinks under the burden bound upon him. To keep up his courage, the officers hold out the idea that he is fighting for a great and good cause, and a crown of glory in heaven awaits those who die upon the battlefield. This is all the happiness the privates get. So they fight to keep society from ruin, while their reward is the satisfaction of fighting the devil and supporting the officers - and their happiness is what follows their belief. Reverse the tables, making the priest the laborer or soldier, and tax him to pay the former soldier for his instructions; then it would be shown how well their principle of action - which they preach to others - applies to themselves. In this war, let the officers and politicians become soldiers and laborers, and peace would soon triumph.
I will illustrate happiness. Suppose a person is told that certain food, if eaten, will produce certain effects. He then eats the food, and the effect is produced. This is proof that the food produced the effect - for he reasons that if he had not eaten it, the effect would not have occurred. This he lays to the food, but that - containing no happiness or misery - is not really the author of his misery; therefore it must be in himself.
Suppose I eat the same kind of food and feel well. The food does not contain that feeling - so that is in me. Suppose, furthermore, I say to him, “The food is not the cause of your trouble, but the opinion of the person who told you it would hurt you is the author of the mischief,” and he had been deceived and believes the food contained something that was hard to digest. You, from sympathy, became affected - and you were nervous when you ate the food. You then attached your senses to the fear and lay your trouble to the food.
Here you see, misery is what follows a belief - and happiness is that state that follows our belief (or wisdom). If our wisdom can give us a science that will correct our opinion - this is happiness that the world knows not of.