During a town hall meeting earlier this week in his home state of Maryland, Republican Rep. Andy Harris spoke about guns and immigration and gave the responses you’d expect from a conservative in Congress. But a couple of his answers included baseless jabs at the non-religious.
For example, when addressing gun violence, he blamed violent video games rather than lax legislation. Then he kept talking.
He also blamed what he called an overall decrease in “religiosity,” and went on to cite decreased police enforcement in Maryland’s urban areas in recent years following the “Freddie Gray incident.” In 2015, Freddie Gray protests occurred in Baltimore after a man died in police custody.
Later, he addressed the problem of suicide among young people. His answer was no less ignorant.
The second part of his answer has nothing to do with the first, and the first part suggests a link that doesn’t exist.
He also talked about suicide rates, particularly among young adults.
“You literally double the risk of committing suicide if you don’t have religious belief,” he said, adding that the United States was “founded on religious principles.”
People aren’t more likely to kill themselves because they don’t believe in God. Risk factors for suicide include social isolation and not having a sense of purpose. Churches can provide those things, but there are plenty of secular outlets for both. That’s why church attendance — not being religious itself — is more strongly linked to people who don’t think about suicide. The same could be said for people who belong to intramural sports teams, or volunteer for a cause, or love their careers. Community is the common thread, not God. If anything, certain religious beliefs may make you more vulnerable to suicide.
It’s not surprising that a conservative would ignore the nuance and jump to the conclusion that atheism is hurting society. Still, to hear all this from a man with the power to influence legislation is incredibly troubling. He’s more interesting in promoting religion to solve serious problems than writing bills that could actually contribute to a better society.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Jen for the link)