Suicide is an epidemic in the West. Among Americans, the numbers are alarming, with suicide as the 10th leading cause of death. Between 1999-2016, the rate increased 30 %, writes Jesse Lee Peterson.
Emptiness and Suicide: The reasons for suicide are many, but particularly white people kill themselves, according to studies. Between 2006 and 2016, the suicide rate for white children jumped 70 percent. The group at highest risk are white men aged 14-21, Ben Shapiro points out.
The inner feeling of discomfort may probably best be described as a fundamental lack of peace. It is a sense of chronic suffering that seems to be epidemic in the atheist West.
“The association of religion and suicide has long been of interest. Emile Durkheim (1897) noted and tried to explain the fact that Protestants have higher suicide rates than Roman Catholics, while it has long been known that Muslims have lower suicide rates than Christians,” writes David Lester in the article “Does Religiosity predict Suicidal behavior?” Durkheim famously wrote the book Suicide in the early 1900s.
Emptiness and Suicide: The suicide of UK Love Island star and ex-girlfriend of Prince Harry, Caroline Flack is but one of several famous suicides the past years. Former spouse of Norway’s princess Martha Louise, Ari Behn, killed himself on Christmas Day, 2019.
CNN host, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain committed suicide in 2018, fashion designer, Kate Spade hanged herself in 2018. The list goes on. These are all famous people who “had it all”, pertaining to material wealth, fame, riches. Yet, they fundamentally lacked inner peace and contentment.
The American actor, Ben Affleck recently spoke about his alcoholism and regrets of infidelity in his marriage to Jennifer Garner.
He said there was this constant feeling of inner discomfort and self-loathing that caused him to choose the bottle of alcohol and sex in the attempt to drown this excruciating feeling.
He candidly addressed the regrets of his own mistakes in life, saying it haunted him badly.
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The very aim of religion is to give man peace
Emptiness and Suicide: The precise aim of the world religions is to ease suffering. Man is to learn how to live in order to avoid suffering, or lessen it. Buddhism speaks of the poisons of the mind: Envy, greed, lust, ignorance – and defines these human ills in the heart to be the reason for man’s sufferance.
In essence; the person plagued wants more than he gets, desires more than he has, wishes for more than has been given to him. He wants more sex, more women, more objects. In question is not a healthy competitive attitude, but the excessive greed that churns the soul.
This creates envy towards those who have that which he desires. It awakens the lust to pursue it, the lack of ethical boundaries and all of this reflects his own ignorance of the true road to happiness.
These toxins are the product of man’s own craving, and lead to a state of pain, suffering and lack of inner satisfaction. The ever present desire for material objects, be it in fame and glory, wealth, sex, economic dominion or power over others, all boils down to man’s desire.
This writes Alec Campbell: “The deception and negativity in life, that obstructs the fulfillment of our complete potential for bliss and creativity, originate from the three poisons.
These pollutants are thought to demoralize our capacity for contentment, hinder our human connections, and very much limit the ability for our highest creative potential. They become the root of the conflict, domination, ecological devastation and revolting disparities amid societies.”
Christianity speaks about the exact same phenomenon. The deadly sins cause the venom of dissatisfaction to grow in man’s heart. Again, envy, gluttony, greed, excessive sexual appetite outside of what has been given to him, the lust for power and money.
In Christian philosophy, it is not the money itself that is the problem. Abraham was the richest man in the Middle East and God’s chosen. Joseph, David, Daniel and others were great, wealthy politicians. Yet, at the same time period lived prophets who barely had food to eat. Both groups were men of God.
Saint Paul states that it is not money, but the desire for money that taints the soul. Without funds, one cannot even buy food. It is not the money but what you spend it on, what you do with it. So, the lust for wealth corrupts. And leads to death.
“The wages of sin is death,” proclaims the Christian scriptures. The aim, therefore, is to avoid inner death both while alive as well as death in the afterlife.
Disconnected from the source of Peace
Emptiness and Suicide: When the soul is disconnected from God, it is equally disconnected from the profound inner peace that is so precious to the religious, claims the religious.
The metaphysical God is outside of the human universe and at the same time the very essence of it. He is inexplicable to the fallible human mind, yet explicable and near him in his heart.
“The most important thing that happens between God and the human soul is to love and to be loved”, writes the Orthodox Kallistos Kataphygiotis.
The religious will claim that precisely this insatiable love for God contains the equally fuming inner peace. It is this peace, that surpasses human understanding, that Jesus said is his gift to his friends.
The quest becomes to be his friend. Even in afflictions and persecution, the believer consumed by God’s peace, will overcome. Peace is the very ticket to go through tribulations and come out of the tunnel victorious.
Yet, envy, lust and greed destroys both the peace and the spiritual friendship with God, also for the Christian.
Hypocrisy is the state in which a believer says he is a follower, but does not live in such a way that the peace of God consumes him. He may be religious of tradition, but not of the heart.
One of the benefits of believing in God and seeking him in deep prayer, one may say, is to receive a peace so strong that it surpasses any other feeling.
It is a guiding peace that calms the soul, redirects the individual on a better path and does as king David said in Psalm 23, “leads me to green pastures and sooths my soul.”
“You are the lover of my soul,” claims the awakened believer, who therefore is not that dependent on the praise from others. Whether others praise his work or not, he is much more dependent on God’s appraisal or evaluation. God is Great, says the Muslim. It is God who is supposed to receive the praise, not us.
It is this that the atheist misses out on. To him the world is without existential meaning, without hope, the afterlife does not exist.
The Nietzsche, Freud and Marx world of God as Dead prohibits their atheist followers from entering this peaceful world of mental bliss.
The atheist does not have the knowledge of its existence. He deprives himself of the mental nirvana that the religious acquire through the metaphysical search for God.
If God is dead, the world is meaningless, greed and lust does not fill the heart with peace, what reason is there to live? Or what danger is there in death, as the atheist does not believe there is an afterlife?
But what if the religious are right and there is life after death? Has he considered his placement in that equation?
Peace as Protection
Emptiness and Suicide: Many cite peace as the remedy and protection of the heart against outer pressures. Prayer and meditation is the very source to the calmness and existential satisfaction that the believer feels as he stretches his hands towards God.
The Orthodox Christian writers and monks have long sought to describe the indescribable peace of God that fills the soul of the longing human as he remains in prayer to the Almighty.
“Come to me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus famously stated. It is this mental state of rest that we all are looking for in a world that seems to be in constant turmoil.
One may argue that this sense of love towards God and its inexplicable complete peace of heart may be one of the main reasons why people pray.
The goal of the Buddhist is that man should find a state of mental stability of the mind, not unlike the concept of the golden mean.
Christianity says the same: The goal is for man “to love God and love one another.” The peace he achieves is to be used for the betterment of human kind, to help others, to do good.
He is to apply virtues such as humility, moderation, fidelity, honesty, perseverance, kindness, justice – to the best of his ability and with the help of the metaphysical power in the love of God. And by doing so, quenching the death spiral that stems from the venoms of the heart.
A culture that neglects the spiritual, eternal dimension and downgrades the role of religion as a motivator for peace and healthy relationships may develop into a cold, non-cohesive place where human bonds wither and meaninglessness becomes the norm.