Posts Tagged ‘suicide’
by PinPonPun in Atheism, Church and State
When someone commits suicide it is common for that person’s friends and family to seek an explanation for the act; what caused the person to take such a drastic action? Who or what is to blame?
In modern days it’s not uncommon to evaluate those recent changes in a person’s life, specifically those changes that we do or did not approve of, and assign blame to them. Publicly, this has included things like heavy metal music or roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons, both of which were linked by loved ones and the press to suicides.
In these cases, friends and family find an immediate causal relationship between the perceived “negative” activities and the suicide; they do not necessarily recognize that correlation does not imply causation.
Jesse Kilgore committed suicide in October by walking into the woods near his New York home and shooting himself. Keith Kilgore said he was shocked because he believed his son was grounded in Christianity, had blogged against abortion and for family values, and boasted he’d been debating for years.
While I understand that a father would be shocked by his own son’s suicide, I don’t quite know what Jesse’s views on abortion or the fact that he’d been “debating for years” have to do with anything. So what drove Jesse to suicide? His father believes he’s found the answer:
“This professor either assigned him to read or challenged him to read a book, ‘The God Delusion,’ by Richard Dawkins,” he said.
“I’m all for academic freedom,” Keith Kilgore said. “What I do have a problem with is if there’s going to be academic freedom, there has to be academic balance.
“They were undermining every moral and spiritual value for my [son],” he said. “They ought to be held accountable.”
Yes, Keith Kilgore believes The God Delusion killed his son and that, furthermore, that the public school system is at fault. He bases this on the fact that a college professor either suggested or challenged Jesse to read The God Delusion and that several friends and an unnamed relative describe Jesse in the days before his sucide as “pretty much an atheist, with no belief in the existence of God (in any form) or an afterlife or even in the concept of right or wrong.”
The quoted source also states that Jesse “thought that murder wasn’t wrong per se, but he would never do it because of the social consequences – that was all there was – just social consequences” — showcasing the common bias and misunderstanding about atheists and morality.
Jesse’s father, his friends, his relatives — all blame the suicide on the loss of faith created by his reading of the book. They see a direct causation there.
Suicide is rarely a quick and spontaneous decision, and the decision to take one’s own life is usually predicated on a number of reasons. I cannot speak to Jesse’s intentions, and know only what the WND articles tells me of him, but I would guess that there were other circumstances leading to his action.
Perhaps he did find himself disbelieving and, fearful of the response from his religious family, could not cope? Perhaps, as a military veteran, he was suffering from other duress?
As mojoey points out:
How about this instead: Jesse Kilgore killed himself because of, mental illness, depression, drugs, girls or maybe boys, guilt, poor grades, or… maybe because he just woke up one day without faith and realized he could not confront his overbearing father. Perhaps the environment in which he was raised was not welcoming to rational thought…
Instead of considering these options, however, Keith Kilgore has instead assumed that it must be a political enemy, an attack on his faith, and a representation of how our country is straying from the so-called Christian ideals. Again, from the WND article:
Keith Kilgore told WND he feels, by allowing his son to move into the atmosphere of a secular school, like “I put a toddler in the front of my car.”
“My son is the Adam Walsh of the culture war. That’s who my son is,” he said, referring to the child abduction victim whose case was used to create a wide range of amber alert and other programs to protect children.
He said he has a wake-up call over the anti-Christian agenda of public education. And he has some goals.
“I want to hold schools accountable for what they’re teaching our kids. This was malpractice,” he said.
Giving his son the opportunity to have a secular education was akin to putting a toddler in front of a car? Adam Walsh?
Jesse Kilgore’s death is, obviously, a tragedy and the young man was clearly battling a number of metaphorical demons. He was not a martyr. He was not a victim of the secular, “anti-Christian” atheists. He was just a trouble young man.
Keith Kilgore seeks justification, understandably. But as I mentioned before – correlation does not imply causation and rather than angrily accuse his own perceived enemies of taking his son he should grieve for the loss and find the support he needs to continue on with his life.
[Edit to add the following]
Scarily, some Christians, apparently, don’t think Keith Kilgore’s views are quite extreme enough:
A time may come for that but I think there is a better solution: transform the public schools. This will require some ‘get tough’ action by concerned individuals in this country by people who generally aren’t ‘activists.’ They generally try to mind their own business, unlike the other side, which is filled with rabid ideologues who, literally, take to the street if they don’t get their way- or worse. A story like this one helps illustrate the stakes involved.