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Religion and Deaths of Despair

By January 19, 2023Commentary

There has been a multi-decade decline in religious adherence in the US, with people who are essentially areligious being the dominant group.  This decline in religiousity has been accompanied by an upsurge in attacks on religious institutions–burning churches, anti-Semitism, discrimination against Christians.  Religion plays a significant role in human history and in individual’s life.  It provides people with a sense of meaning and purpose and with a code of rules for good behavior.  The lose of those leaves many people adrift.  And it leads to worsening lives for many, as reflected in more self-destructive behavior.

A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research tracks the decline in religious adherence and the coincident increase in deaths of despair–suicides and drug and alcohol serious disease and deaths.  Over two decades, drug overdoses have tripled, suicide rates have gone up 30% as have rates of serious alcohol-related disease.  While the decrease in the number of people who say they are religious did occur at the same time as the increase in these self-destructive behaviors, I am not inclined to believe it is the only cause, but I do think it contributed.   (NBER Paper)

Now one question I do have is why the new religions, fake global warming and woke progressiveism, haven’t been able to adequately substitute to give people that sense of purpose and meaning.  They clearly are religions–no basis in fact, pure ideology, and reliant on faith and believe.  Must not be quite as good as the old religions.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • JT says:

    The Z-Man has lots of interesting perspectives. This is a 2019 article, before the C19 debacle which shutdown churches altogether. But I think the capitalism driver is interesting. I know what we went through raising 2 teenage boys and our church’s role in our lives. Parenting is a courageous endeavor. You can’t give up on instilling the concept of church and faith as moral compasses and a foundational element in their lives. No doubt that evil quickly backfills the empty souls we are churning out of our educational systems. The millennial generation of ‘participation trophy’ coddled snowflakes isn’t helping either. ZERO parenting courage within this generation.

    Regarding the current ‘religions’ flowing into the void of honest religions … there’s a crisis at the top which provides little reason for young people to stay within the system. Young people today are flooded with the hypocritical behavior of the ‘systems’ which attempt to control them and they are lost.

    The global elites who are fanning the flames of the new religions of ‘climate alarmism’, ‘progressivism’ and even MMT, are also purposefully undermining religions globally. They fully understand the methods to alienate and separate people and cultures. We have quite a mess on our hands …

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