First, let's define both "Cynic" and "Believer," as both words are more likely to provoke emotional reaction than thoughtful analysis.

When I use the term Cynic, I simply mean someone who holds the opinion that people are motivated wholly by self-interest. Do not confuse the factual definition of Cynic with the ill-spirited description, "a sneering and sarcastic faultfinding critic."

By Believer, I mean someone who has religious faith, and more particularly someone who believes that the nature of God is to watch over their well-being, and that "good" will triumph over "evil" in the end.

The Believer begins the race with a big head start toward happiness. The world is good - someone kindly and supremely powerful is looking out for their best interests. Surely there is no cause for worry or fear. It is easy to be an optimist when one can depend upon a great and benevolent celestial parent.

The Cynic knows that all creatures - human and other animals - are driven solely by their own desires to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Compassionate and other cooperative behaviors create their own reward. Cooperation increases the probability for survival and reproduction, so that instinct has been strengthened through evolution. Most people upon seeing an injured person by the roadside would experience pleasure in aiding that person, but experience pain in leaving that person to die. It's not noble, it's an evolved instinct - a very useful instinct that helps ensure the continuation of the human race.

Now consider what happens when life fails to meet our expectations.

The Believer is shocked. How could God let this terrible thing happen. Bad things aren't supposed to happen to good people. Disappointment and confusion reign. Did I do something to displease God? Is God perhaps not totally kind and benevolent? Is God not omnipotent? Perhaps this is just my trial by fire - the test of my faith. Surely I will find my reward in the next life.

If the Believer can regain their faith in the benevolence and omnipotence of their Celestial Father, happiness is certainly possible. Given an unwavering faith, one can withstand any circumstance with serenity. However, for those who begin to ask, "Why me, God?" great emotional suffering lies ahead.

The Cynic already knows that unexpected events occur often. People die or become crippled more often than they win the lottery. Life just happens. For the Cynic, the path to happiness lies in making a conscious choice for happiness, even in the face of whatever circumstances life throws in their path.

So who is happier?

Perhaps happiest is the Believer who can hold unswerving faith in the face of all the obvious realities in this world that contradict that faith. A childlike trust in the power of ultimate goodness can create miracles of happiness.

However, happiness is easiest for the Cynic, because there are no contradictions in his or her world. The Cynic understands that if there is to be happiness, it must be self-generated, and the Cynic accepts that responsibility willingly.

The brunt of the world's emotional suffering is born by those who label themselves Believers, but whose faith cannot survive the test of reality, and who succumb to the cry, "It's just not fair. Why me God, why me?"

Author's Bio: 

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Jonathan Lockwood Huie is an author of self-awareness books, and has been dubbed "The Philosopher of Happiness" by those closest to him, in recognition of his on-going commitment to seeing Joy in all of life.

** Today is your day to dance lightly with life. It really is. - jonathan lockwood huie **