It is safe to say that the happiest Germans were not those who joined the Nazi Party. Nor did the happiest Europeans become Communists. And happy Muslims are not generally among those who extol death. The motto of Hamas and other Islamic groups engaged in terror, "We love death as much as [Americans, Jews] love life," does not appeal to happy Muslims.
Cults, hysteria and mass movements all appeal to the unhappy far more than to the happy. It is one more example of the genius of America's Founders to include "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence. No other major civilization so enshrined happiness as a core value. This American belief in the moral and societal merit in pursuing happiness is a major reason America has developed differently than Europe. The American emphasis on happiness is one reason no fanatical political or religious movement, Left or Right, has been able to succeed in America as such movements have repeatedly succeeded in Europe.
The pursuit of happiness is not the pursuit of pleasure. The pursuit of pleasure is hedonism, and hedonists are not happy because the intensity and amount of pleasure must constantly be increased in order for hedonism to work. Pleasure for the hedonist is a drug.
But the pursuit of happiness is noble. It benefits everyone around the individual pursuing it, and it benefits humanity. And that is why happiness is a moral obligation.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”