On Campus, Secularism Breeds Suicide

4203539 300x300 - On Campus, Secularism Breeds Suicide(This previously was published in American Thinker.)

It’s no coincidence that mental illness among America’s younger generation is at all-time highs, while their religious practice is at all-time lows.

In October 2021, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill cancelled classes for a day for its 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students, who were urged to consider it a “wellness day” in the wake of two on-campus suicides and an attempted suicide.

Colleges and universities are in the midst of a full-blown mental health crisis.  UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said as much during his announcement.

In a 2019 survey, an unbelievable 45 percent of undergraduate and graduate students “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” at least once during the previous 12 months, according to the American College Health Association.  Sixty-six percent of students “felt overwhelming anxiety” and 43 percent “felt overwhelming anger.” More than one in ten students – 13 percent – seriously considered suicide.

All of those numbers were up substantially from several years earlier.  And post-Covid, the situation is even worse.  In a Jed Foundation survey, 63 percent of students said their mental health has declined since the start of the pandemic.

Pandemic-induced social isolation, of course, has contributed to the rise in depression and anxiety.  On college campuses, another factor has got to be intense academic demands, negatively impacting sleep time.  The proliferation of electronic communications, which discourage face-to-face interaction, also harms wellness.

But a prominent factor is the decline in religious practice.  From 2009 through 2019, religiously unaffiliated young people skyrocketed from 27 percent of that population to 40 percent, according to Pew Research.

Tyler VanderWeele is with the departments of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Harvard T.H.  Chan School of Public Health.  In 2016, he along with Harvard colleagues Shanshan Li and Ichiro Kawachi juxtaposed Center for Disease Control statistics depicting a sharp rise in suicides during the preceding decade and a half, and Gallup polling data showing a sharp decline in weekly church attendance.  The scholars extrapolated that nearly 40 percent of the increase in the suicide rate stems from the drop-off in religious attendance.

It’s ironic that among organizations, publications, and counseling centers that cater to suicidal students, there’s nary a mention of church.  That’s unfortunate, because literally thousands of peer-reviewed studies have determined that regularly going to church, synagogue, mosque, or temple improves mental and/or physical health.  In fact, one of the pioneers in this field, Baylor’s Jeff Levin, started conducting these studies at UNC-Chapel Hill back in the late 1980s.  If only UNC’s mental health counselors would refer to their own university’s ground-breaking research.

Another pioneer in the field, Harold Koenig of Duke, conducted a systematic review of 141 studies on the relationship between religion and suicide; 106 of them concluded religious practice is associated with fewer suicides or suicide attempts, less suicide ideation, and/or negative attitudes towards suicide.

And it’s weekly attendance that’s key; most studies have found that private religious activity without churchgoing isn’t associated with better mental health.  Why? The scholars say it’s the communal, face-to-face interaction that does much to enhance wellness.  Other explanations include having a keen sense of meaning and purpose thanks to one’s faith, and putting others before self such as through church-sponsored voluntary and charitable activities.

Those going to church at least two-dozen times a year are less than half as likely to take their own lives than those going less often, according to George Mason University’s Evan Kleinman and Brown University’s Richard Liu.  They write, “Frequent attendance at religious services may be an indicator of consistent exposure to others who provide social support.…The current findings are consistent with (Thomas) Joiner’s interpersonal theory of suicide, which posits that having a sense of belonging is negatively associated with suicidal desire.”

Francie Hart Broghammer is the chief psychiatry resident at UC Irvine Medical Center.  She writes that religion can instill meaning and purpose, and give meaning to suffering.  “I have seen this first-hand, time and time again,” she recounted, “with many of my patients reporting they would have attempted suicide long ago if they did not have faith, which provided them with hope in otherwise hopeless circumstances.”

College is where you go to gain the world and lose your soul.  Professors push their anti-religion ideology upon impressionable young minds.  To atheists, we’re just bodies and no soul.  As the prominent atheist Richard Dawkins bleakly remarked, “You are for nothing.  You are here to propagate your selfish genes.  There is no higher purpose in life.” Or as another observer put it, we’re nothing more than “the forward edge of the sludge of evolution.” With that in mind, why go on living?

College students are taking that to heart – by permanently halting the beat of their own.

Richard Dawkins Isn’t Being Rational

Richard Dawkins Not Rational 2x2 - Richard Dawkins Isn’t Being Rational

Lower right corner photo credit: Matthias Asgeirsson via Wikimedia Commons

If you were booked to fly in an aircraft, and the plane’s mechanic told you that it “probably” won’t crash, would you still board it?

Prominent atheist-turned-agnostic Richard Dawkins has a campaign proclaiming “There’s Probably No God.” The term “atheist-turned-agnostic” is appropriate because “probably” implies that you’re not sure there’s no God, and thus agnostic. Dawkins, who had been one of the world’s most famous atheists, is now one of the world’s most famous agnostics. He called himself an agnostic, admitting that he can’t be sure God doesn’t exist.

Richard Dawkins isn’t being rational. Just as if someone definitively told you your plane probably won’t crash or has a decent chance of not crashing, it wouldn’t be rational to board that plane. Even if someone told you it only had a 1 percent chance of crashing – meaning of 100 similar planes taking off that day, one of them will crash – you wouldn’t board it (unless it was some life-and-death matter where you really had to fly).

For an agnostic, the rational thing to do is to accept Pascal’s Wager: If God exists, then if you follow His teachings you have everything to gain in an afterlife, and everything to lose if you don’t follow His teachings. If He does not exist then if you follow His teachings, you have nothing to lose. (Well, one could argue that you could lose a little bit in this life, such as having to go to church on Sunday when you instead could be sleeping in, but actually, those who go to church on Sunday win in this life because churchgoers live an average of seven years longer than non-churchgoers.)

Richard Dawkins and other agnostics, atheists, and non-practicing believers are taking a tremendous personal risk. An irrational risk. They’re putting themselves in grave danger – especially considering the enormous circumstantial and eyewitness evidence for the existence of God. If it turns out they’re wrong, they’re in for a rude awakening the day they die. According to the best sources of information on what happens to us after we die, someone who doesn’t follow God’s rules (i.e. the Ten Commandments, as well as others) here on earth could be consigned to be eternally separated from God after he or she dies. That essentially means being a slave and victim of some fallen angel, for an eternity. Ouch. Rationally, you wouldn’t want to remotely entertain that possibility.

Assume you think there’s a 1 percent chance of there being a place of eternal separation – better known as hell. Then, just as with your decision not to board that plane when it has a 1 percent chance of crashing, the rational thing to do is ensure that you never wind up there – by repenting and by dusting off those rules referred to earlier. To do anything less is irrational.

Believing in the Non-God of Nothingness

non god of nothingness 200x300 - Believing in the Non-God of NothingnessAtheists are people of great faith.

Yes, you read that right.

Atheists have amazing faith – in the power of spontaneous self-assembly.

It takes more faith to believe that the raw materials of the universe and that the laws of physics arose from nothing, and that those raw materials somehow self-assembled into stars, objects and living organisms, than to believe that they were designed by an intelligent agent. That’s particularly remarkable because such assembly happened in defiance of the second law of thermodynamics – that things naturally go from order to disorder.

Cup with your hands some empty space in front of you. Then imagine nothing is there – not even any molecules. If you lack faith in God, then you believe in the unbelievable notion that (1) the laws of physics somehow appeared on their own, (2) subatomic particles such as electrons and quarks somehow appeared, (3) those particles somehow self-assembled into atoms, (4) those atoms somehow bonded to form molecules, (5) those molecules self-assembled into inorganic matter, (6) they also somehow self-assembled into organic matter, namely amino acids as well as DNA, (5) those amino acids somehow self-assembled into proteins, all on their own, (6) those proteins somehow self-assembled into cells, and (7) those cells somehow self-assembled into bacteria, insects, plants, animals, and humans.

If you believe all that happened without the input of an intelligent agent, then you have a lot of faith in the impossible. You have faith in things for which there’s no evidence – not even circumstantial evidence. On the other hand, there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence for God. Just as a house is circumstantial evidence that it was created by a human or humans (not direct evidence because we didn’t directly see anyone building it decades ago), a tree or an animal is circumstantial evidence that it was created by an intelligent agent, i.e. God.

Walk into a factory. Tell someone that all the components and functions of that factory randomly and coincidentally fell into place over time. Absurd, right? It’s the same idea with the cell – a factory vastly more complex than any factory man could ever build. (For a flavor for that, watch the trailer at www.unlockingthemysteryoflife.com)

Take a pile of of Lincoln Logs. Watch them during the course of your lifetime and see if they ever self-assemble into a log cabin. Or add a stimulous – keep throwing them up in the air over the course of your lifetime and see if they ever land on the floor in the form of a perfectly assembled log cabin.

It’s much harder for the above-mentioned particles to self-assemble into the above-mentioned complex objects than it is for Lincoln Logs to self-assemble into a log cabin.

(It also takes a lot of faith not to believe in the divinity of Christ and authenticity of the Gospels. As former atheist Lee Strobel said, “In the face of this overwhelming avalanche of evidence in the case for Christ, the great irony was this: it would require much more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to trust in Jesus of Nazareth!” For more info read his book The Case for Christ or see his videos obtainable here.)

So to reiterate, given the abundant evidence of an intelligent creator, it takes more faith (in the non-god of nothingness?) not to believe in Him than to believe in Him.

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