The Dark Side of Declining Religion

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Friday, January 11, 2019


According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 307 shootings in the United States, which resulted in four or more casualties in less than a year.

When news breaks of highly publicized shootings such as the Thousand Oaks Bar shooting or Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, people tend to move to their side of the aisle. They either call for stricter gun control or they attribute the shooting to failures in law enforcement, security, and mental health.

There is nothing wrong with running to your side of the aisle immediately after a horrific event, but, in the long terms of policy making, Republicans and Democrats will have to find some common ground on this ongoing issue.

The common ground between the two parties should be mental health.

If past shooters such as the Sandy Hook shooter or the Parkland shooter were not convincing enough, then look at the past of the Thousand Oaks Bar shooter.

The Thousand Oaks Bar shooter was a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, which quite literally means he put his life on the line for the citizens of the United States. Then, he not only turned around and senselessly killed 11 innocent people but also killed Dan Manrique, a Marine veteran himself. This shooter turned on the very same people he had risked his life for along with someone he had risked his life with.

Mental health issues have been on the rise in the past two decades, According to Scientific American:

Suicide rates per 100,000 people have increased to a 30-year high. Substance abuse, particularly of opiates, has become epidemic. Disability awards for mental disorders have dramatically increased since 1980, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling to keep up with the surge in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

We need to find out why.

One possible reason for the rise in mental illness is the decline in what has historically helped people stay together, hopeful, and happy: religion. Over the past years, religious belief has been steadily declining. A General Social Survey conducted in 2017 predicted that by the year 2035, strong belief in religion will drop to only 50 percent of the US population while no belief will rise to close to 20 percent. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, religiousness has a strong association with good mental health. Therefore, it is very likely that religion is a factor of rising mental illness.  

Religion has played a major societal role in combating violence and poverty in both the U.S. and worldwide. It is a social support system for millions of Americans which makes it essential to address the gap it will leave as belief declines.

One solution commonly looked to for most of the world’s problems is scientific breakthroughs. Scientific breakthroughs to help mental illness would include new medicine for treating disorders such as depression or anxiety, which is not a surprise, as more Americans are on prescription medication than ever before.

One major issue  is the development of new and more effective drugs. Many modern drugs, such as Abilify for schizophrenia or Prozac for depression, are not more effective than their ancestors from over 50 years ago. Another issue is that some drugs, such as cannabis and LSD, have been shown to have medicinal uses, especially within mental health patients, but have limits as Schedule 1 drugs. In the The American Journal for Managed Care, Dr. William M. Suavé writes:

Marijuana, classic hallucinogens, MDMA, and ketamine have all shown some evidence for therapeutic applications in a wide variety of psychiatric and neurological conditions; however, Schedule I status severely limits ability to research. Most studies to date are small, underpowered, and have other methodological flaws; however, promising results from existing studies suggest that larger studies are warranted.

Decline in religion leaves Americans lost. They no longer have their faith to turn to and their spiritual communities to assist them in tough times. Science and technology has not been able to cover these losses due to either ineffectiveness or lack of treatment altogether.

If we are going to let faith slip away, then we need to decide what is going to replace it or if it can actually be replaced.

It is paramount that we address this issue not only for our brothers and sisters who feel inexplicable pain from their mental illnesses but also for those innocent people on the receiving end of a terrible act by a very sick person.

Alex Chokas is a student at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia where he studies healthcare business. He seeks to solve healthcare problems in the U.S. and around the world while staying involved in politics which often go hand in hand.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Alexander Chokas

University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

Alex Chokas is a student at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia where he studies healthcare business. He seeks to solve healthcare problems in the U.S. and around the world while staying involved in politics which often go hand in hand.

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