In 1999, the Gallup Poll said that 70% of all Americans belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. In March of 2021, that number has dropped to 47%. That doesn’t mean 53% of all Americans are atheists, but it does indicate a failure of organized religion in 21st century America.
When you look at the climbing suicide rate, the increase in the use of drugs, including alcohol and marijuana, and the increasing violence in America, it is obvious that our secular culture is falling apart. Add to that the fact that the media, politicians, and academic communities have been caught in lie after lie, and the picture looks bleak.
The bright side is that people are becoming more open to change.This ministry has been in existence since 1968, with the message that science and faith are compatible and that massive evidence shows that God is real and the Bible is His word for humanity. Interest in that message has grown astronomically. Organized religion has maintained the status quo, and hypocrisy has been rampant in religious and political leaders. Meanwhile, young people have shown a growing desire to integrate belief in God with making human behavior changes.
Organized religion in 21st Century America shows the decline of mainline churches that focus on the political issues of the day. Basic Bible groups have experienced growth when they advocate breaking with tradition and listening only to what the Bible actually says. We encourage our readers to look at the evidence for God and the Bible. As young people act on the evidence, they will make positive changes in the direction of humanity.
We hear all the talk about “flattening the curve” concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. There is another pandemic without a direct viral cause, and the curve of that pandemic keeps getting steeper. Suicide is the other pandemic.
Since 1999 the suicide rate in the United States has risen over 33%. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in the U. S. among people ages 10 to 34. Males have a higher suicide rate than females, and both show a rate increase of over 2% a year. The Center for Disease Control tells us that among young people between the ages of 10 and 19, suicide attempts increased 8% every year between 2006 and 2015.
The experts are giving all kinds of explanations for why this is happening. Some blame the use of digital devices, with cyberbullying being a significant factor. Research shows that there is a one-to-one connection between unemployment and suicide rates, and the collapse of the economy in the COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive unemployment.
We would suggest that the growth of atheism and the rejection of God is a major factor of why suicide is the other pandemic. Christianity teaches that the body is the dwelling place of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and the description of the judgment in Matthew 25:34-39 make it clear that Jesus expects his followers to use our lives in a productive way. In Philippians 1:21-26, Paul made it clear that he wanted to leave this life and go and be with Christ, but he knew God wanted him to help address the problems of the Church and humanity.
If I base my life’s decisions on being the most fit and realize that I have no hope of ever being the fittest, ending this life seems like the logical thing to do. Atheism and agnosticism offer no motivation to continue living. If I know I cannot find pleasure as I once did and the future looks bleak, why would I want to continue to live? Life has no ultimate purpose without God, and suicide is a way out.
Job’s wife told him to curse God and die (Job 2:9). If you do not have a purpose in life, that option can look very attractive. When you read Job 42:1-6, you see Job coming to a full understanding. He realized that he is part of something so grand and powerful that he can only vaguely understand it. We, too, may not fully understand what God is doing through our lives, but destroying ourselves so that God can’t use us is a huge mistake with catastrophic results. (See 1 Corinthians 3:11-23.)
The Federal Communications Commission is working to establish a three-digit suicide prevention hotline. It will use the number 988, comparable to 911 for other emergencies. The reason for this new emergency number is a surge in deaths by suicide over the past ten years. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. More than 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and more than 500,000 LGBTQ youth attempt to kill themselves annually.
You might think that the reason for an increase in suicide is poverty or hunger, but that is not the case. According to the experts at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the common denominator is a lack of hope. As a former atheist, I can verify that kind of thinking. As an atheist, when I no longer was the “fittest,” my moral foundation built on “survival of the fittest” collapsed. That’s when I reached the point of attempting to end my life. There is no hope when everything around you is collapsing, and you are no longer in control.
The word “hope” occurs 135 times in the Bible. Life has meaning when we have faith in Christ and believe that this life leads to something better–even when we are not the fittest. Christ’s teaching and the New Testament repeatedly refer to joy. That joy leads to loving life and looking forward to the future no matter how bleak our circumstances are now.
The 988 number of the suicide prevention hotline is good because just having someone to talk to may help a person contemplating suicide. But it may be 2021 before the number is in service. The greatest message of hope comes from the Bible, and it’s available now. The real source of hope comes from finding new life in Christ, as Romans 6 describes in glowing terms.
When a celebrity commits suicide, it makes front page news and dominates the tabloids for months. We still hear about Robin Williams’ suicide which happened in 2014. Now we have Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain dominating the news during the early part of June. What many of us don’t realize is that 44,965 Americans killed themselves in 2016 and that from 2010 to 2016 there has been a 70% increase in suicide among girls ages ten to 19. The nation as a whole has seen a 28% suicide rate increase from 1999 to 2016.
The experts are trying to explain all of this. Certainly, there is more than one factor involved, but we suggest that a major factor in our country’s strong movement away from faith in God to a rejection of religion as a whole. Jesus Christ has given us a purpose in life. The unique teaching of Christ is that everyone, no matter what their situation or appearance or abilities, has a purpose in living. In addition to that, Christianity provides a way to deal with the failures in life. No one needs to live with a load of guilt. We can be forgiven of our sins and overcome our guilt, and we can turn the mistakes of the past into a ministry to help others walking the same path that we walked.
What can you expect if you are taught that you are an accident, that you have no purpose, and that life is merely a chance-driven battle for survival of the fittest? It is not hard to see the attractiveness of ending your life when you have no purpose, and you face struggles that seem impossible to overcome. How could we not have a suicide rate increase?