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Left and Right on the Happiness Scale

To the Editor:

Re “Can Those on the Left Be Happy?,” by Ross Douthat (column, April 7):

Mr. Douthat thinks, citing no evidence, that people on the left are “by nature” unhappier than moderates or conservatives, in part because he thinks we don’t believe in God anymore.

The left is not “by nature” unhappy; we are often brutally honest with ourselves and unavoidably empathetic to the plights of those who suffer. I wear those traits as a badge of honor.

If we feel more unhappy these days, it’s not because it’s in our genes. It’s because we see the truths of our world — the radical disruptions from technology, the very real threats of climate change, the distortions of our economy that leave so many behind, and the threat of political violence and fascism on our doorstep (thanks to, um, the God-fearing right). We see it all with clarity and are therefore motivated to change it.

I’m a proud liberal who is determined and hopeful, and happy most of the time. I don’t know if I believe in God, but I think Jesus was pretty awesome, and what I mostly think is that we’d all be a lot better off if more of those on the right (especially the politicians) would live their lives as if they thought Jesus was awesome too.

Rebecca Spence
New Providence, N.J.

To the Editor:

Ross Douthat is right to claim that people on the left have become pessimistic. He attributes much of the left’s bad mood to its drift away from “the Christianity of the American social gospel tradition” and its message of “fundamental optimism.”

But did the left drift away from religion, or did religion stray from its mission? As a left-leaning religious leader, I have to take Mr. Douthat to task for failing to acknowledge that many of the most influential American religious institutions seem to have become unmoored from any gospel of social, economic or environmental justice.

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