Evangelist Billy Graham wisely said, “When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God.”
In this time of rising depression and suicidal despair, it seems many in Generation Z have reached this point, with a new study showing a growing proportion of young adults holding religious faith.
About a third of 18-25 year olds say they believe in the existence of God or a higher power.
This is an increase of about a quarter in 2021, noted Clare Ansberry of The Wall Street Journalwriting about survey data from the Springtide Research Institute.
Ansberry reported that in the age of COVID-fueled isolation and canceled dreams, young adults, theologians and church leaders “attribute the rise in part to the need for people to believe in something beyond themselves after of three years of loss”.
As a recovered agnostic baptized in December 2017, I am not surprised. God is in the healing business.
The data illustrates the benefits of faith for public health.
Women who attend religious services at least once a week are 68% less likely to die from “death of despair,” including suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol poisoning.
Men are 33% less likely, according to 2020 research led by the Harvard University School of Public Health.
Elite economists published in January a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper showing that states with steep drops in religious attendance experienced steeper increases in deaths of despair and vice versa.
It is not surprising that the 12-step program, one of the most successful strategies To break addiction to drugs and alcohol, he focuses his methodology on the belief in a higher power.
Phil Zuckerman, Pitzer College professor and associate dean, noted that while the United States is generally secularizing, is “quite religious” compared to most other rich countries: “Fifty-five percent of Americans, for example, say they pray daily, compared with an average of 22% of Europeans”.
The militant atheist Karl Marx wrongly claimed that religion was “opium of the masses”, used to ease the pain of ordinary people trapped in oppression.
In truth, people of faith are more likely to challenge poverty and despair than non-believers.
American Christians are more likely to adopt a child, volunteer and contribute to charity than secular people.
Religious people are at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking globally, and Graham’s charity, Samaritan’s Purse, is spearheading disaster response.
Samaritan’s Purse moves quickly to provide food, water, shelter, medicine and other aid around the world for people suffering from crisis, disaster and war.
From soup kitchens to hospitals and schools for homeless children, the Catholic Church is a global force for good.
The brilliant theologian Tim Keller also disagrees with Marx, arguing that by taking human form and dying a violent death, Jesus showed how God cares about the physical realm.
Marx accuses religion of being “a sedative that makes people passive in the face of injustice because there will be ‘pie in the sky, bye-bye.’ That may be true of some religions that teach people that this material world is unimportant or illusory,” Keller wrote in his book “The Prodigal God.”
“Christianity, however, teaches that God so hates the suffering and oppression of this material world that he was willing to get involved in it and fight against it. Properly understood, Christianity is by no means the opium of the people. It’s more like smelling salts.”
That is not to say that religious people have not committed atrocities; they have, from pedophile priests and pastors to bankrupt televangelists.
But like the Springtide investigation gradesyoung people are realizing that God is not a human-run religion.
After suffering religious abuse in childhood and young adulthood and spending nearly 12 years as an agnostic, it took some torturous time and effort to believe in a God who existed and was neither vindictive nor uncaring.
Even now, as a practicing Christian, I see frequent examples of heartbreaking pain inflicted by religious people in the name of God.
My faith in God is now unaffected by the heinous actions of “religious” people.
Bad deeds done in the name of God are like a fake Gucci bag with a big fake “G” on it.
Clearly a flimsy fake.
My hope is that believers of all faiths will show greater empathy and instill greater emotional awareness for the suffering of others, especially those hurt by human-led religion.
Above all, I hope that the youth continue to grow in their awareness of our loving Creator.
Carrie Sheffield is the author of the memoir “Motorhome Prophesie: A Journey of Healing and Forgiveness,” forthcoming from the Hachette Book Group.