Why Suicide Rates May Rise as Christianity Wanes
by J Warner Wallace
The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have renewed a national conversation about suicide and it’s causes. As a homicide detective, I saw an increase in our local suicide rate first-hand over a fifteen year period, and a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms nationally what I observed locally: suicide rates in the United States have risen nearly 30% since 1999.
While many researchers have studied the connection between mental illness and suicide, it’s important to note that more than half the people who commit suicide are not identified as mentally ill. So, what else might be contributing to the rise we are observing?
It may not be a coincidence that during this period of increasing suicide rates, the influence of Christianity has been declining in America. Fewer Americans claim to be Christians than ever before, and fewer yet know much about what Christianity teaches. As the impact of Christianity decreases in America, I believe our suicide rate may continue to increase. Why? Because the primary goal for most of us in a post-Christian nation is happiness rather than holiness; success rather than significance.
Temporal success and happiness are often illusive, and even when they are within our reach, they’re no guarantee against depression and suicide. The more temporary our goals, the more fleeting our sense of satisfaction and purpose. Conversely, when our sense of value, self-esteem and joy is grounded in something that transcends our immediate circumstances, we are far more likely to survive hardship and find lasting satisfaction…
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