Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori today joined His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, and George Washington University Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr at Emory University for an interfaith summit, “Understanding and Promoting Happiness in Today’s Society.”
Notes April L. Bogle,
Happiness has been a shining spotlight of psychological and scientific study and pop culture since the 1990s, and it shows no signs of fading (witness Coke’s recent ad campaign, “Open Happiness” and happiness courses being offered in major U.S. universities, following Harvard’s lead). Newsweek (Feb. 2, 2008) pinpoints the happiness movement catalyst to discoveries of brain activity underlying well-being, and the emergence of positive psychology, which focuses on strengths and virtues rather weaknesses and faults when assessing mental health.
But the Abrahamic religions have not heavily weighed in on the debate. Where in all the “Values in Action” surveys and the “Happiness Movement” conventions and the university syllabi is the wisdom of the Torah, the Bible, the Quran? Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR) decided to find out by launching a five-year project on the Pursuit of Happiness. Among the questions they hope to answer: What do Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism share in their understandings of happiness? What are the areas of disagreement, and why? Dare they explore a common scientifically explained physiological state of happiness that is brought about by giving up oneself in service to others, either through acceptance of faith or through meditation? Is happiness achievable in this life, or must it wait for the afterlife? Can the world religions construct a way of working together to cultivate peace?