Christ’s Truth about Happiness and How it Aligns with Its Concept in the Mind of One of the Greatest Secular Philosophers – Aristotle

Was unable to generate a blog during father’s day because I decided to spend a week with my son. In the future, I will try to take advantage of the fact that you can queue up future blogs to publish at a certain time. This is actually a planned section of a book I plan to publish in the future which I “cleaned up” to post.

          “…the starting point for Aristotle’s ethical reflections is his identification of happiness, or eudaimonia, as the end for the sake of which we do all that we do…”( Stephen Engstrom and Jennifer Whiting, Ed. “Aristotle, Kant, and the Stoics: Rethinking Happiness and Duty” Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 1996, pg. 102)  This is a conclusion that a philosopher, arguably one of the greatest if not the greatest of the ancient world, who, using only the natural world and his intellect as a guide, came to.  But what is his definition of happiness? I will zero in on Aristotle’s definition of happiness with several quotes. The first of these is what happiness roughly consists of and what it is not or the antithesis of the definition of what a happy person is, so that we know, working backwards from this, what a person can add to his or her life to make him or her happier. People should strive to be happier (according to Aristotle’s definition of striving for perfection in all virtues) to the end of his or her life. One should strive to be as happy as one person can be.  This natural human intuition-based idea of happiness is, is what I mean when I refer to happiness in this blog.

The Greek word that usually gets translated as “happiness” is eudaimonia, and like most translations from ancient languages, this can be misleading. The main trouble is that happiness (especially in modern America) is often conceived of as a subjective state of mind, as when one says one is happy when one is enjoying a cool beer on a hot day, or is out “having fun” with one’s friends. For Aristotle, however, happiness is a final end or goal that encompasses the totality of one’s life. It is not something that can be gained or lost in a few hours, like pleasurable sensations. It is more like the ultimate value of your life as lived up to this moment, measuring how well you have lived up to your full potential as a human being. For this reason, one cannot really make any pronouncements about whether one has lived a happy life until it is over, just as we would not say of a football game that it was a “great game” at halftime (indeed we know of many such games that turn out to be blowouts or duds). For the same reason we cannot say that children are happy, any more than we can say that an acorn is a tree, for the potential for a flourishing human life has not yet been realized. As Aristotle says, “for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1098a18)

.  .  . happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue, though his virtues are somewhat more individualistic than the essentially social virtues of the Confucians. Yet as we shall see, Aristotle was convinced that a genuinely happy life required the fulfillment of a broad range of conditions, including physical as well as mental well-being. In this way he introduced the idea of a science of happiness in the classical sense, in terms of a new field of knowledge.

Essentially, Aristotle argues that virtue is achieved by maintaining the Mean, which is the balance between two excesses. Aristotle’s doctrine of the Mean is reminiscent of Buddha’s Middle Path, but there are intriguing differences. For Aristotle the mean was a method of achieving virtue, but for Buddha the Middle Path referred to a peaceful way of life which negotiated the extremes of harsh asceticism and sensual pleasure seeking. The Middle Path was a minimal requirement for the meditative life, and not the source of virtue in itself. (

           We can see from the above that both ancient occidental and ancient oriental people shared a common view of what constituted a fulfilling or happy life.  This is to say the ancient definition of happiness was more or less universal.  But the above quote sheds light on Aristotle’s idea of happiness but tends to be a bit ambiguous.   To clearly illustrate what a totally unhappy person would be qualitatively “[Aristotle] recorded the ambiguous and marginal standing of the most pathetic creature Homer could find with in his fertile imagination – the lawless, stateless, hearth less man.  Once one is no longer a neighbor, citizen, son or daughter, wife or husband, father or mother, soldier or statesman – once one has no civic or familial identity – what is left, except some unrealized potentiality for a person hood?” ( this link is provided for attribution/credit – i.e. not my original work, this link is no longer functional, a problem I hope to fix by downloading the information I reference in the future)

        I use Aristotle’s definition of happiness because I believe Jesus Christ came when he did because He was God and knew this idea of happiness would have reached most of the civilized world 300 years after Aristotle had posited it.  This, what I believe to be natural, or at the time, also secular, definition of happiness is what Jesus came to show the world how to attain. Just as there is objective truth in the physical universe, Christians believe there is objective truth in the unseen or spiritual universe and you need this information to discover objective good and objective evil.  Christians believe that objective good and evil were revealed by God in the Bible.  When you exclusively pursue objective good and do your best to avoid objective evil and when by weakness or accident fail to, go to confess your mortal sins to God through the mechanism of priest of the apostolic succession (John 20:19-23), make reparations for them if possible or if asked to do so by the priest and firmly resolve not to repeat the sin or any other mortal sin (1 John 5:16-17), you can obtain the objective goal of happiness as Aristotle defined it.  The human psyche is incredibly complex and more credence is lent to the fact that Jesus Christ was God when we see how happy, with perfect examples being the saints, humans can be, meticulously following Jesus’ example, under any condition, whether rich, poor, in-charge or persecuted.

         I agree with the current Roman Catholic Pontiff that much too much is made of homosexual sex, self-stimulation while watching pornography and artificial contraception by Catholics.  The dogma on these things as being patently wrong and will result in unhappiness in this world and going to hell in the next is well documented in Roman Catholic literature as well as in the protestant literature, by some of the greatest intellects in human history, (  These same references also state why these things pose a problem.  I, however, disagree with some cardinals, bishops and priests who say we should look the other way and pretend we are not jeopardizing the souls of known abortion supporters, those divorced and remarried without the benefit of an annulment and those practicing homosexual sex (this last one being knowable only if such persons were something like pornographic actors or actresses) by allowing them to receive Holy Communion.  The argument I have heard used is that Holy Communion is medicine by the divine Healer Jesus Christ and we should not refuse healing.  Agreed, but the healing needed first is the sacrament of confession (i.e. wanting, asking and receiving forgiveness for sins by an ordained catholic priest).  If a patient is bleeding out and needs a heart transplant, you need to stop the bleeding and heal the wound before you do the transplant or he will die before the transplant can even start.

          If you believe Jesus Christ is God and that the Bible is revealed truth you have no choice but to believe that homosexual sex, self-stimulation while watching pornography and artificial contraception are evil due to over 1800 years of analysis from the early Christians up until fairly recently, including most Christian denominations up until about the Lambeth Conference of 1930. There are some Christian sects that have in the last 90 years voted that the fact that these things are not truly evil (which brings the implication that either Jesus was not God, the “first cause,” the creator, did not understand what He created, or God, who is truth, lied in his revelation to man), and if a person agrees with them and is Catholic or with a protestant sect that agree with Catholics with respect to the aforementioned dogma, they should join that Christian sect and not attempt to persuade other Catholics or other Christians that this dogma, given by divine revelation, is wrong.  If homosexuals stop practicing homosexual sex, if self-stimulators stop self-stimulating to pornography and those who used artificial contraception in the past stop using it, are truly sorry and firmly resolve not to do these things again, and either be baptized for the first time (as I understand any human, wishing to accomplish what Christ wanted to, using water and pouring it over the individual saying “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost/Spirit” can perform this sacrament on someone who wants to be baptized)  or if they have already been baptized, confess to a Catholic priest, just as with the thief on Calvary (Luke 23:39-43), they can be saved and go to heaven. 

            Jesus wants all to be saved but we must use our free will to give assent.  God has given man only two options: (1) With a human subsuming himself entirely to God’s will or (2) not.  If a man or woman chooses God completely, they heroically go forward to do God’s will to make the world better, be happy in the Aristotelian manner, and enjoy eternal happiness in heaven.  Man is not given the choice of being either half hearted or non-committal with respect to following God’s will.  Not pursuing excellence to the best of our ability leads to unhappiness in this world and hell (the ultimate unhappiness) in the next.

            To illustrate the value of marriage to one person for life, as Jesus Christ taught, is evident even in this life, I have seen 2 examples of in just our neighborhood.  One couple had a hard time when a wife contracted a life-threatening disease, eventually was cured but began binge spending afterward.  The husband was considering divorce but they reconciled.  Afterwards they started to become more invested in their church community and both of their children, who were both younger than 16 when the turbulence of the disease and disenchantment occurred eventually grew up to get full scholarships to prestigious schools.  They grew up with good discipline, which I know because one of my sons was close friends with one of their sons.  They have a good relationship with their parents, as I understand, even to this day.  

            Lest you think my point ties directly to the fact that they were Christians and that becoming better Christians was the only thing that improved their life I will use another example of an agnostic couple to try to illustrate a revealed fact in the Christian belief system. The benefits of staying married to one person is a result of the underlying reality with regard to human beings (both psychologically and spiritually) and following it results in happier outcomes.  The couple in question do a lot of community outreach.  They do their best to help their neighbors and enforce discipline on their children.  They are upper middle class but their children still were accepted into good state schools graduated and get along with their parents just as the children in the first example.  The problems from divorce households are well documented and exceptions where there are good kids exist, but they are the exception compared with the outcome of parents who stay married. 

            The point is that we learn from the Bible we must discipline our children (teach them to be lawful – proverbs 13:24), we must help our community and by example teach them to be good citizens of the state, and in doing these things we can form good children and stronger families. My father was hard on me but in general, the way I was disciplined was warned verbally calmly many times, warned loudly several times, sent to my room a few times then spanked (at least in my family) once or twice on the calf or butt with a chopstick, wooden spoon or slipper before getting an actual “spanking” for disobeying my mother for a particular infraction.  Things like trying to cross the street without looking after being taught the fact of danger might result in a quick slap on the butt to prevent me from killing myself next time the situation arose. The first teachers in all things are the parents and at least 60% of the time, in these days of 2 income households, the mother is the most likely teacher.  Both parents must be good examples to their family, of resolve to do the right thing and the resolve not to quit on any promise, the best example being their promise to take care of each other in sickness and in health for richer or for poorer as long as they both shall live, which is a promise children are acquainted with and know should exist between a married couple by the time they grow up.              God has put into each human the yearning to be happy in the Aristotelian manner which, roughly translated, is a yearning to be heroes.  There are reasons that make sense as to why the dogma such as the evil of artificial contraception etc., mentioned earlier, exist.[1] Be that as it may, depending on your life, many of these things are not easy.  It seems to me for people who believe Jesus is God and who watch sports like soccer, it should be a lot easier to understand such as why some actions which are not acceptable between two consenting unmarried people, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is perfectly acceptable between two committed married people assuming within the same session they participate in intercourse capable of producing human life.  I see this as analogous to using your hands in soccer.  The goalie can use his hands but the other players cannot.  No player or spectator complains the rules should be changed.  If they do not like soccer and its rules, they can pick another game to follow.  As I have mentioned earlier there are a lot better reasons, supported by research (as well as common sense like you can contract venereal diseases) why multiple sexual liaisons with random individuals or a quick succession of cohabitating mates could possibly be deleterious to the health and psyches of those participating in such relationships.( new research finds that these relationships may not cause as much anxiety or depression as previously thought but suppression of information these days may call these studies into question)  The problem is people in our day and age think happiness is synonymous with one pleasurable experience after another and have very few examples of people experiencing the Aristotelian definition of happiness.  Just 60 years ago we had presidents like John Kennedy who was notonly a great statesman but a US naval officer in World War II and a family man.  Or like Audie Murphy who despite his small stature became the most decorated soldier in World War II as well as a movie star. These men may not have been perfect but were famous and demonstrated that we each have responsibilities not only to ourselves but to our families and to our neighbors.

[1] Patrick Coffen, “Sex Au Naturel” and Simca Fisher, “A sinners guide to natural family planning”

             By living by the same mores, the same expectations (which Jesus Christ has held for Christians) and the same prescriptions for life and worship as they did 100, 500, or 1900 years ago, which Christ, gave humans, links the Christians today with the great Christian heroes of the past – saints. Christians of today wrestle with the same burdens and the same problems as did Christians of the past plus new ones caused by the increased secularization of our world as well as new technology.  Living what Christians believe many say is out dated, but this same philosophy has continuously made the world a better place for close to 2000 years as of the writing of this piece.  Present day Christians are more the heroes for fighting the new problems of today in addition to the things that were problems in the past, problems like the clash with our secular world and its push toward tolerance to everything and its push to make us half hearted, or lukewarm in our attempt to push our world back toward sanity.  The conundrum is figuring out what is tolerable in the absolute and what is tolerable to let occur outside of the Christian community.

         We can never tolerate artificial contraception inside of the Christian community because it intentionally frustrates God’s mechanism for bringing new life into the world (it also goes against God’s first command to mankind recorded in Genesis 1:28 –  “… increase and multiply and fill the Earth). We can work with God’s mechanism for bringing new life into the world through natural family planning (NFP), avoiding times of fertility, to hopefully build up our emotional love for our spouse just as they did since Christ’s time.  Through this and many other Christian prescriptions, Christians are linked by timeless laws, to other Christians past, present, rich, poor, educated and minimally educated.  These laws are timeless not merely because of God’s fiat but because the Creator built humans to be happiest when they follow these laws. Discipline such as found in NFP, build’s character just as other parts of our life do.  It also puts the rich, the poor, the highly educated and the high school graduate in an environment with common, dare I say, equalizing, challenges.

         The rich wife is just as worried with the complications and discomforts of child birth as the poor woman and the rich father is just as worried about how to properly discipline his children as the poor father.  And the rich can’t just buy away the uncertainty of marital interaction with the pill or divorce their wife and remarry if they don’t get along with their wife, if they follow Christ.   But some may ask what difference does it make if we use artificial birth control instead of NFP, isn’t the result still the same? Well working for a company and earning money supports your family the same as computer theft, where one writes a program to transfer money to your account by rounding pennies off from everybody else’s account.  But one is illegal and the other is not.  It’s only pennies so why doesn’t the government look the other way?  Some people are still losing their hard-earned money even if it is a penny at a time.  So how does taking artificial birth control harm anybody? You just have to watch TV to see the harm some birth control like Ocella and Yaz have done to women based on callous pharmaceutical companies’ decisions that these drugs are safe enough. We should not oppose artificial birth control such as condoms for the secular population because it is their soul that faces damnation and it is their free choice.  We cannot tolerate abortion or even chemical contraception because of its danger to the woman and because it could prevent a fertilized human egg from implanting in the mother’s womb thus, in either case, killing a child before it has a chance to grow and possibly be born.  The child is a person who’s right to choose is taken away for the first, most basic rights, all humans have, a right to live.

           Arguably, fairness is another cornerstone of Christian philosophy.  Along with the order imposed by the natural universe, because man is a rational being, God’s precepts introduce fairness into the lives of men.  The Bible states in Genesis God created man in his own image and likeness, male and female He created them and told them to fill the Earth and subdue it (Gen 1:27-28).  “Secular law defined married” homosexuals basically can buy their children in the adoptive process if allowed in their state or country and no consequences that God takes a positive role in, or that has any tangible positive result to the society as a whole (but a negative one for the spread of venereal disease) is the result of them having homosexual sex. A wife in a heterosexual relationship has the pain of childbirth and the chance of dying even today’s world when she has sex with her husband.  Husbands in a heterosexual relationship have the responsibility of supporting the children they father no matter the number, which, as anyone using NFP can attest to, is very much in God’s hands.  In a heterosexual marriage, the joy of marital intercourse has a heroic dimension for women in the pain of child birth and in men in raising their children to be good God-fearing human beings (for secular humans this translates to raising well disciplined law abiding citizens).  If the role of disciplining his children is thought to be easy for a rich man we need only look at how spoiled many celebrity children have grown up to be wild or commit suicide (e.g. the son of Anna Nicole Smith or the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus i.e. Miley Cyrus).  

          Where Women function as procreative and nurturing in a marriage, men have the function of leading and protecting.  To be as happy as one can be in marriage these are the roles the men in women in a marriage must aspire to.  This does not preclude a woman from being a leader outside the home, as we see from the CEO of PepsiCo in India ( ), but even she says you can’t have it all, and implies her family life is not the best, which might be better should she put her husband higher on her list of priorities. She should give her husband more responsibility for discipline, possibly, and neither by action (verbal or otherwise) nor inaction diminish his authority. The roles in the home can be switched and if the couple succeed in raising well balance children more power to them, but they will not enjoy the maximum happiness if they go against the grain of how God created them.

            With this discussion of fairness, many modernists argue, why didn’t Christ give women the possibility of having the power of transubstantiation (that is of becoming priests)?  Possibly it was part of his mission to only give it to men since God the father had already taken it upon himself to give that power to women first. Mary arguably carried out the ecclesial functions all positions in church (i.e. priest, deacon, pope bishop) and all sacraments except penance (which a female can carry out in the extra ordinary circumstance of and arguably leading divine worship for the people of God when those consisted of just her before Jesus Christ’s birth and after his conception. Semantics maybe, but arguable when she was the only Christian after Saint Joseph died she lead the entire Christian community, herself, in divine worship, when she prayed, before Jesus started his ministry.  In that God made them in his own image and likeness, males and females he made them, females have different words to transubstantiate (i.e. turn base matter into the body blood soul and divinity of Jesus Christ)).  Those words only could be used with effect by one human being and speaks of the extreme trust God entrusts to motherhood and those words translated into English are “I am the handmaid of the lord be it done unto me according to thy word.”  Since it was done by a female did an actual transubstantiation as real as the one Jesus Christ handed on to his apostles take place? Yes, since these were the words of consent Mary used to allow the conception of the Jesus Christ himself. 

           Mothers (and females in general as child care workers and elementary school teachers) are the first teachers and leaders of all humans and the Pope, bishops, priests and deacons take over that job and help nourish the children of God only after mothers have done theirs.  In my mind, the case of Mary, mother of God, proves that God does not have anything against women clergy or adolescent teenagers only that he has decided that there will only be one female to fit that description to elevate both the feminine  gender and the-maturity-possible-in-adolescence, through making the only human to perform a perfect transubstantiation as an example to every mother, the person in a family that has both the hardest and most important job regardless of age, of her ultimate importance in the salvation of her family’s souls.  Unfortunately, I am doubtful any modernist secular humanist will accept this because they do not seem to grasp the concept of a good successful example needed to inspire those in a hard job.  To them any woman has the “right” to do what any man can do.  But what they do not acknowledge is only a celibate man can become a priest and except for the virgin Mary, mother of God/Jesus Christ, only a woman who is not celibate (but hopefully married) can have and raise an upstanding child.

             God gives everybody the chance to be a hero and make the world a better place by something as simple as getting married and staying married to one person.  Both of you take care of each other to prevent abuse by outsiders and take care of your children to the benefit of their emotional health, their mental health and their physical health. ( and  This ensures the next generation has good role models, secure futures and happy lives.  This is the reason I wrote this piece to bring into focus the salient points of Christianity to light the way to be happy, not in some esoteric “Christian” way, but in a way defined by one of the greatest secular philosophers – Aristotle.

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