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Atheism and Worldwide Suicide

The suicide rate is a key indicator of not only a people’s health, but of their standards of morality and compassion, and how they value life. Research conducted in the US finds that depression and suicide (both attempted and completed), are significantly higher among the religiously unaffiliated than betwixt those with religious affiliation (see my previous posts here and here). However, are such findings consistent internationally? Yes. Sociologist Phil Zuckerman confirms the inverse relationship between religion and suicide repeats internationally, where suicide declines with greater religiosity. Concentrating on male suicide rates, Zuckerman finds that 9 of the top 10 countries with the highest suicide rate are highly irreligious, Sri Lanka being the exception.

It is now indesputable that religion is the basis of a happy, strong, rational, mentally well adjusted inidvidual. A 2006 Sao Paulo University meta-review of 850 studies on religion and mental health, for example, concluded “that higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being (life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale) and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behavior, drug/alcohol use/abuse.”

In fact religion’s positive contribution to mental health is so powerful it extends beyond the religious. In a study of 90,000 individuals over 26 countries in Europe in 2009,Professors Andrew E. Clark and  and Orsolya Lelkes found that “religious behaviour” is not only positively correlated with “life satisfaction” among religiously affiliated individuals by whom it is practiced but also often of the irreligious people around them. In other words, there is a “spinoff” effect whereby the positive mental health outcomes spawned by the religious practices of religiously-affiliated individuals frequently extends to non-religious individuals. This, however, is only true in regions of high religiosity. In regions of high irreligiosity or atheism, the opposite tends to occur, with the psychological misery of the non-religious often infecting the religious.

This is no surprise because not only does religion form the basis of an individual’s mental health but it also provides the individual with the ability to help those around him through valuing their lives and reinforcing their inherent worth through comfort and compassion.  As it states in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 God is “the Father of compassion and…of all comfort.” We who accept God are comforted by Him “in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.”

This is not to state that atheism causes suicide and other mental health problems as there is insufficient evidence at this point to make such a definitive conclusion.  Atheism, however, provides life with no meaning, morality or value; it does not give life any sanctity, purpose, significance or inherent worth; it offers no rationale why life should be lived or propagated, and no reason to oppose suicide; it is, in its most extreme forms, nihilistic and, to quote Bertrand Russell, “the firm foundation of unyielding dispair.”

Life’s inherent and objective meaning, morality, purpose, value, substance and worth have been and shall remain gifts given to us by God, communicated to us through religion. To reject religion is to reject God and vice versa, and to do so means you are left to your own devices, and to ultimate failure. As it loses its religion, a nation becomes deprived of any objective moral and intellectual foundation for opposing not only suicide but any method of taking life, including murder;  indeed it loses any objective reason for opposing anything once thought of as morally reprehensible, as it descends into unending despair and “blind indifference.”

Suicide, here, becomes just another routine, ho-hum aspect of daily life; more than this, it becomes an essential part of the “survival of the fittest,” and thus something that must be allowed to play itself out, unhindered by unnatural barriers or irrational human emotions, because, as militant atheist James Randi proclaims, suicide is simply a way to weed out the weak, strengthen the human gene pool and “clear the air.” Perhaps, then, suicide should even be facilitated and celebrated, and indeed, in the most suicide-friendly countries, which are also the most atheist or irreligious, it does often morph into the cultural/social and often state approved panacea for any and every personal, mental and physical illness, irregularity, issue or problem afflicting an individual, including newborns. This includes anorexia, bulimia, blindness, depression, disability, economic distress, muffed operations, like gender reassignment surgery, and simply being elderly. This liberal approach is often called “dying with dignity,” “end of life care,” “euthanasia,” “right to die” or some other humane-sounding euphemism; in reality, it is probably just survival of the fittest being facilitated at the expense of human compassion, medical care and valuing life.

For example, in Holland, a nation so Godless that even 1 in 6 pastors is atheist, a country so liberal and irreligious that atheists often hold it up as a prime example of the wonders their rejection of religion can bring, since it legalized euthanasia in 2002,  “medical care for the terminally-ill” has declined,”  as one of the architects of  this legalization, Dr. Els Borst, admits. Dr. Anne-Marie The has further found “palliative care…so inadequate in Holland that patients ‘often ask for euthanasia out of fear’ of dying in agony because care and pain relief is so poor.” Even more, “there have been thousands of cases of involuntary euthanasia and dozens of killings of disabled newborns.” Holland now has a movement promoting assisted suicide for those over 70, including for no other reason than they are “tired” or their lives have supposedly been “completed” and serve no further purpose. In Japan, as The New Yorker’s Larissa MacFarquhar writes, “suicide can absolve guilt and cancel debt, can restore honor and prove loyalty…Suicide can be a gesture of moral integrity and freedom, or an act of beauty.”

While I do not say atheism causes suicide and other mental health problems, it does help create a culture of death that cheapens, wastes, destroys and discards life; one in which suicide becomes culturally, financially, medically, naturally, politically and socially justified and preferred over compassion, effective cures, palliative care and any other means that resolves, betters or manages that which encourages or results in suicide. The opposite is true with religion, especially high religiosity.

 

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Navy Vet, Dad Craig Scarberry Lost Custody of Kids for Being Agnostic? Probably Not.

Craig Scarberry, 29, of Indiana maintains he lost joint custody of his 3 children because of his agnosticism. As evidence, he cites statements alluding to his irreligious views written by presiding Judge George Pancol which state Scarberry “did not participate in the same religious training as the mother…the father was agnostic…when the father considered himself a Christian, the parties were able to communicate relatively effectively.” Following Scarberry, liberals, atheists and agnostics have quote mined Pancol’s comments, spinning them for their political and what can be seen as nothing short of a fear mongering agenda, insisting not only this man lost custody due to his agnosticism but that this represents religion encroaching upon the fundamental rights and freedoms as established by the First Amendment. These people have used Pancol’s words, in a sense, as a call to arms for all irreligious to unite to fight this supposed encroachment before we become a full-blown theocracy. This is perfectly exemplified by the reaction of the The Young Turks.

Pancol’s statements, however, merely relay the fact of how the couple’s relationship operated cohesively when both shared the same religious perspective. Scarberry claims he and his lawyer have gone through the decision, concluding it was based on religious considerations. Of course his irreligious brethren agree. No where in Pancol’s comments does it state, or even imply, religious considerations are a part of the court’s ruling, and Pancol maintains his decision is based on the children’s best interests. Unless irrefutable contrary evidence surfaces, it is irrational and illogical to assume otherwise.

What those who are assume otherwise, and the irresponsible media which is refusing to clarify the matter, are ignoring is the evidence presented in court pointing to the more probable reason his joint custody has been revoked. As reported by the Herald Bulletin, this evidence, which was used by Judge Pancol in his decision, shows Scarberry to have anger management issues, used “profanity in front of the children” and harassed his ex wife with excessive amounts of text messages. Further, in April, 2010, his ex wife had gotten a restraining order against Scarberry for trying to beset and frighten her at her workplace “with abusive language and profanity” and random and unexpected stops by her home “at different hours of the day and night.” Scarberry claims that evidence has been presented in court which purport to refute these latter allegations; as far as I know, as of now, no evidence of such refutation is available to the public and thus I do not know if his claims are true.

Theoretically, though, even if religious considerations had played a part in this decision, it must be determined whether or not they were the sole or dominant criteria on which the decision is based. So long as they do not dominate the decision making process, religious considerations are allowed in custody cases where contesting parties have competing religious interests, and are a normal part of such cases. If Scarberry had been denied custody due to his agnosticism, the judge would have certainly further denied him the right to teach or expose his children to other religious or irreligious perspectives, as happened in MacLagan v. Klein in North Carolina in 1996. In that case, the father, Klein, a Jew, was awarded full religious authority over the couple’s daughter. The court reasoned that since the child had been raised Jewish from the time she was born, it would cause her harm if she was to be introduced into another religion, that being her mother’s Methodism. Scarberry, though, has no such limitations and is free to teach and expose his children to other religions or philosophies, like agnosticism.

Thus, there is more to the court’s decision than these atheists, agnostics, liberals and the media are admitting, considering, investigating or of which they are even aware; it seems these people are motivated by demagoguery and/or paranoid delusions of encroaching theocracy and thus are solely able to focus on the judge’s comments about Scarberry’s irreligious views, spinning them to fit these motivations by ignoring or rewriting the reality and wider context behind the court’s decision. They are further side stepping the reality of custody battles in America where, for perfectly legitimate reasons, it is normal for religious considerations to be a part of a court’s decision.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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