Posted: Fri, May 03, 2013 | By: Religion / Atheism
by William Hamby
Something really awful is happening with our teens. We’ve known about it for a long time, but we don’t seem to be willing to do anything. Young people are killing themselves with startling regularity, and far too often, bullying is somewhere in the picture. The numbers are startling:
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
- Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
- A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying
- 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above
- According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying
To begin with, let’s try wrapping our heads around the fact that if you put ten teenagers in a room, there’s a good chance at least one of them has considered suicide. Or that there’s a reasonable chance that one has actually tried it. This is a problem of epidemic proportion.
this essay was originally published at William’s blog HERE
Lawmakers aren’t playing leapfrog to get to the front of this line, either. Most everybody is okay with saying bullying is bad, but actually doing anything about it? Not so much. A few “anti-bullying” laws have been tossed around, but they turned out to be more about promoting bullying. For instance, there’s the Michican bill which allows children or school employees to bully children if the bullying comes from a sincerely held religious belief. Of course, that’s not anti-bullying. It’s pro-bullying. So it’s not much help.
The elephant in the room might just be religion. What do most of the bullying stories have in common? They’re about sex or sexuality. That girl’s a slut. That boy’s a queer. And what institution, more than any other in America, promotes the idea that sex is bad and homosexuality is wrong? Yep. That would be religion.
No wonder lawmakers aren’t in a hurry to stop bullying. To do so, they would have to refute the tenets of the religion they’re insinuating into legislation at every opportunity. They’d have to look the Republican base in the eye and say, “It’s not okay for you to tell people they’re bad for being gay or having premarital sex.” They’d have to turn their back on the very issues that won them the Bush White House. It would be one of the most epic flip-flops in modern politics.
Our children are learning from their parents. They’re listening to Rush Limbaugh in the car and Ann Coulter all evening. They’re emulating the hate. They’re doing precisely what their parents are advocating—making “sexual deviants” suffer for being sinful. And let’s not sugar coat this: Show me a family teaching their children to bully, and I’ll show you a Christian Republican family in most cases.
The best solution to bullying is raising children with an understanding of the wide range of sexual diversity in humans. Teaching them that the beauty of evolution is diversity. Explaining that without diversity, humans would not have survived long enough to build schools in the first place. Instilling the perspective that the edges of the bell curve are our best protection against changing environments. In short, the solution to bullying is to stop raising children who believe those who are different are deserving of ridicule, scorn, and punishment.
It’s unfortunate that religion’s strongest foothold in America is rooted in hate, but it’s the case. Our children are being taught that evolution is a lie, and that it leads to atrocity. We are blind to the fact that the atrocity is here, in our schoolyards, and that the prime mover is religious ignorance and the rejection of evolution.
We can make all the laws we want addressing the problem from the back end, and it won’t fix the problem. Preventing bullying is dependent on preventing the attitudes that lead to bullying. And in no uncertain terms, that means putting an end to religious hatred and bigotry in education. It means insisting that no religious view, regardless of its tenacity, belongs in science curricula. A scientific education teaches that nature is full of non-straight sex, and that humans, despite their considerable brain power, are less sexually adventurous than many animals. We’re not on the fringe of sexual deviance. We are pretty darned ordinary. That goes for sexual promiscuity, as well. Compared to a lot of animals, we’re prudes. Teenage girls have sex. And it’s okay. Teenage boys like other boys. And that’s okay, too.
What would our culture look like if every teenager knew that there’s nothing abnormal or wrong with having premarital sex or being gay? I know one thing for sure: there would be a lot fewer children hanging themselves or shooting themselves in the head over sexual orientation. It’s strong medicine, to be sure, but we have reaped what we sowed. We wanted more religion in the classroom, and we got it. We wanted more Christianity in government, and we got it. The question now is whether we will realize our mistake and do something that will actually put an end to it.
this essay was originally published at William’s blog HERE
Image credit: www.sott.net
William Hamby is a longtime blogger and secular activist. He maintains a blog at http://livinglifewithoutanet.wordpress.com/, where he examines religion, science, and culture from a secular perspective. A former evangelical Christian, William has experienced both sides of religious life in America, and is now an advocate for human rights and separation of church and state.