As regular readers know, I have a very dim view of most forms of organized religion, especially fundamentalist denominations and, of course, the morally bankrupt and hypocrisy dripping Roman Catholic Church. My own Catholic upbringing cause near unlimited amounts of self hate as I tried to deny who I was and sought desperately to conform to Church and by extension family expectations. The result was innumerable thoughts of suicide and two serious attempts that landed me in the hospital. It literally years of therapy and walking away from Catholicism to find emotional and spiritual peace. Based on my experiences, I view raising an LGBT child in a fundamentalist or conservative Catholic home as nothing less than a form of child abuse. I also hold fundamentalist denominations and conservative Catholicism responsible for many needless suicides. A new study linking religion and suicide for LGBT youth confirms these views. Here are highlights from a piece in Huffington Post:
Faith is supposed to be a source of strength for believers, especially during times of struggle and sorrow. However, a new study suggests that religiosity may be linked to negative feelings among queer individuals ― including increases in suicidal behaviors.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine last month, is a chilling revelation of the ties between suicide and theology that doesn’t affirm queer identity.
“Religious groups who stigmatize LGBT people should be aware of the potential damage they can do to an individual and families, and honestly the damage they do to themselves as an organization,” study co-author John R. Blosnich told HuffPost.
In order to study religiosity and suicidal ideation among sexual minorities, Blosnich and his fellow researchers turned to data collected by the University of Texas at Austin’s Research Consortium.
The students were asked to rate how important their religious or spiritual beliefs were to their personal identity. They were also asked a number of questions about whether they had ever seriously considered or attempted suicide.
Analyzing this data, the research team found that while 3.7 percent of heterosexual young adults reported recent thoughts of suicide, the percentages were significantly higher among queer youth. Those questioning their sexuality had the highest rate of recent thoughts about suicide at 16.4 percent, followed by bisexual individuals (11.4 percent) and lesbian or gay individuals (6.5 percent).
Five percent of heterosexual youth reported attempting suicide in their lifetimes, compared to 20 percent of bisexual youth, 17 percent of questioning youth and 14 percent of gay or lesbian youth.
Notably, the study authors found that religion may have acted as a protective factor against suicide attempts among heterosexual youth.
On the other hand, for lesbian and gay youth, increasing levels of religious importance were associated with increased odds of recent suicidal ideation. In fact, lesbian and gay youth who said that religion was important to them were 38 percent more likely to have had recent suicidal thoughts, compared to lesbian and gay youth who reported religion was less important. Religiosity among lesbians alone was linked to a 52 percent increased chance of recent suicidal ideation.
Questioning youth who said religion was important to them were nearly three times as likely to have attempted suicide recently, compared to questioning youth who reported religion was less important.
“It can be very scary to be caught in a space where your religion tells you that you are a ‘sinner’ just for being who you are,” he told HuffPost. “Sexual minority people may feel abandoned, they may experience deep sadness and anger, and they may worry what this means for their families ― especially if their families are very religious too.”
Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also found that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth seriously contemplate or attempt suicide at higher rates than heterosexual youth.
While several mainline Protestant and even evangelical leaders have begun to embrace a more inclusive theology, some of America’s largest religious denominations still hold non-affirming views of queer sexuality. Roman Catholic Church doctrine views gay and lesbian relationships as “intrinsically disordered.” The largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, sees marriage as exclusively reserved for one man and one woman and actively rejects equating gay rights with civil rights.
Blosnich’s study demonstrates that for many queer people, non-affirming theology is at best problematic and at worst lethal ― “no matter how kindly or compassionately” it is articulated.
[I]n Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is based, researchers have documented a recent spike in teen suicides. Some advocates for LGBTQ Mormon teens have asserted that the spike is connected to the church’s policies on queer sexuality, although research hasn’t confirmed this link. The Mormon church views queer relationships as sinful. In November 2015, it declared that Mormons in such relationships were to be considered apostates.
Diane Oviatt, a Mormon mother with a gay son, is part of Mama Dragons, a group of parents who have banded together to advocate for their queer children. She believes that non-affirming theology has a “direct” effect on suicidal ideation among LGBTQ youth and young adults. . . . . “There is absolutely no room for homosexuality anywhere in the doctrine,” she told HuffPost. “Our kids are stripped of hope and faced with the notion that they, by virtue of their sexual identity, are ruining their celestial ‘forever’ family and will be separated from them in the hereafter if they choose a same-sex partner.”
What is just as troubling to me is that many of these anti-gay denominations care little or nothing about the lives being lost or damaged. Sadly, the leaders of these groups care more about retaining their power and/or refusing to face the untrue aspects of their dogma than the lives of living, breathing individuals. I suspect that Christ would be appalled.