So, many of my friends and a whole lot of bloggers are absolutely incensed at the words of Rep. Gohmert a mere 8 hours after a mass shooting in a movie theater. I’m sorry Rep. Gohmert – but the U.S. is getting sick and tired of that – and I hope it gets more sick and more tired of the type of media blitz and political capital grabs that inevitably devalue loss of life, trauma, and grief. I hope we collectively get so disgusted with it all, that it one day stops being the norm.
Another part of Rep. Gohmert’s interview is not getting as much press. Apparently, he not only used the theater shooting to try to make the case that violating the Establishment Clause saves lives, but he blamed atheism for military suicides.
I doubt very much that he actually thinks that multiple deployments to fight wars has nothing to do with it. However, he referred to an unpublished study saying, “…all of the people who committed suicide, within their thousands of people studied, were part of the 2-percent most atheistic members of the military.”
He reports that the sample size was 6,000 and I have no idea if he is characterizing the study accurately or fairly. However, the link between atheism and suicide is not new and seems to actually exist. The likely culprits, according to the study authors of Religious Affiliation and Suicide Attempt was a lack of aggression in religious study subjects and a lack of moral objections to suicide in non-religiously affiliated study subjects.
This does make sense, to some degree. If you believe and have been taught that suicide is always wrong, regardless of the circumstances, you may be less likely to end your life. Certainly many non-religious people are categorically against suicide while some religious people see suicide (especially for a religious purpose) as permissible or even encouraged. However, among the subjects studied, that apparently was not the case. About 40% of the religiously affiliated subjects were Catholic. The number of non-affiliated subjects was 66 out of the total 371.
We also know that non-religious people in the U.S. tend to be less happy. The reasons, however, do not seem to be because of a lack of religious coping mechanisms but because of out-group stress. In other words, the main reason that non-religious people are less happy in the U.S. is because of the number of religious people.
Also, when a nation has a higher social health, religion tends to decrease. The happiest nations tend to be the least religious.
It’s tempting to think that if there is more happiness, there is less suicide, but that isn’t necessarily true. Imagine a society where the people are really quite miserable all the time, but have a very strong stigma against suicide that includes family shaming and a popular belief that those who commit suicide will be tortured in the afterlife. In this case, suicides might be rarer than they would be otherwise and suicides might be covered-up by the family to avoid the stigma and to protect the reputation of the person that has died.
So, it seems that the military’s plan to decrease human resource loss is to increase the out-group stress of personnel as much as possible, to make them miserable so they are more likely to become religious, so that they are less likely to commit suicide.
If the study that Rep. Gohert has any truth to it – it appears that this tactic has failed miserably. However, that’s not how he sees it.
He ended the interview by saying, “We’ve lost our faith.”
If only that were true! Perhaps then he would realize just how dismissive and cruel his words and attitude are concerning atheists and other non-Christians in the military, as well as the non-Christians that were undoubtedly in that theater.