Losing Their Religion, Americans Are Dying of Despair

July 27 2017

America is dying of despair. That’s the conclusion of a recent study conducted by the Princeton economist Angus Deaton, who has followed the alarming, decades-long nationwide increase in deaths from drugs, alcohol, and suicide. Aaron Kheriaty comments:

There are doubtless complex factors in play, including economic problems. Predictably, liberals are calling for a stronger safety net and a single-payer health-care system, while conservatives are calling for a deregulated free market that will spur economic growth and raise all boats. Neither solution addresses the deeper cultural dynamics. . . .

Sociologists have documented the close connection, for example, between the retreat from marriage and declining religious participation, especially among the working class. As a consequence of these changes, many Americans have “lost the narratives of their lives,” as Deaton puts it. This leads to a loss of meaning and hope. . . .

We now have a sizable body of medical research which suggests that prayer, religious faith, participation in a religious community, and practices like cultivating gratitude, forgiveness, and other virtues can reduce the risk of depression, lower the risk of suicide, diminish drug abuse, and aid in recovery. To cite just one finding, . . . Tyler VanderWeele of Harvard’s school of public health recently published a study of suicide and religious participation among women in the U.S. Against the grim backdrop of increasing suicide rates, this study of 89,000 participants found that . . . between 1996 and 2010, those who attended any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide. . . .

There are straightforward reasons why religious practice protects against suicide. Church attendance is a social activity that protects people against loneliness and isolation. . . . Judaism, Christianity, and (in most cases) Islam also have strong moral prohibitions against suicide. In Hinduism and Buddhism, suicide is considered bad karma. When these moral prohibitions are internalized, they reduce the risk of deliberate self-destruction. Furthermore, religious faith can instill a sense of meaning and purpose that transcends present exigencies; this helps people not only to survive periods of intense anguish, but even to find meaning in suffering.

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Read more at First Things

More about: Addiction, Drugs, Politics & Current Affairs, Suicide

The End of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and the Rise of the Arab-Israeli Coalition

Nov. 30 2022

After analyzing the struggle between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors since 1949, Dan Schueftan explains the current geopolitical alignment and what it means for Jerusalem:

Using an outdated vocabulary of Middle Eastern affairs, recent relations between Israel and most Arab states are often discussed in terms of peace and normalization. What is happening recently is far more significant than the willingness to live together and overshadow old grievances and animosities. It is about strategic interdependence with a senior Israeli partner. The historic all-Arab coalition against Israel has been replaced by a de-facto Arab-Israeli coalition against the radical forces that threaten them both. Iran is the immediate and outstanding among those radicals, but Erdogan’s Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, Syria—and, in a different way, its allies in the Muslim Brotherhood—are not very far behind.

For Israel, the result of these new alignments is a transformational change in its regional standing, as well as a major upgrade of its position on the global stage. In the Middle East, Israel can, for the first time, act as a full-fledged regional power. . . . On the international scene, global powers and other states no longer have to weigh the advantages of cooperation with Israel against its prohibitive costs in “the Arab World. . . . By far the most significant effect of this transformation is on the American strategic calculus of its relations with Israel.

In some important ways, then, the “New Middle East” has arrived. Not, of course, in the surreal Shimon Peres vision of regional democracy, peace, and prosperity, but in terms of a balance of power and hard strategic realities that can guardrail a somewhat less unstable and dangerous region, where the radicals are isolated and the others cooperate to keep them at bay.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel-Arab relations, Middle East, Shimon Peres, U.S.-Israel relationship