Religion and the LGBT community:
Religious involvement and
its effect on the suicide
rate among LGB
Concerning a major study in the relationship among religious belief, sexual orientation, and suicide:
- Question: Does religious involvement increase
or decrease the suicide rate among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) young adults?
- Surprising answer: It can go either way. For some individuals, it increases the likelihood of suicide!
A study by Andrew Wu et al., titled "Religion and Completed Suicide: a Meta-Analysis," was published in PLOS ONE, on 2015-JUN-25. It studied a large number of existing studies on religion and suicide, and concluded that:
"Religion plays a protective role against suicide in a majority of settings where suicide research is conducted. However, this effect varies based on the cultural and religious context. Therefore, public health professionals need to strongly consider the current social and religious atmosphere of a given population when designing suicide prevention strategies." 1
This principle probably also applies to the individual therapists treating each of her or his clients.
However, sincere religious beliefs do not necessarily offer everyone some degree of protection from suicidal ideation or suicide attempts. Among some groups in society, a person's religious beliefs might actually increase the risk of them experiencing suicidal ideation and become involved in an attempted or completed suicide!
Carol Kuruvilla, writing for the Huffington Post, discussed a very important but extremely controversial topic: the linkage between religious faith and suicide among lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) young adults. 1 Her article was based on the results of a study of 21,247 students, aged 18 to 30, at the University of Texas at Austin. It was conducted during 2011 by the university's Research Consortium. Results of the study were reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2 Unfortunately, only the journal abstract is freely available on the Internet. Access to the complete article costs U.S. $35.85. 2
The study found that religious individuals who identified their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning and who viewed religion as very important to their lives were at INCREASED risk for recent suicidal ideation and lifetime suicide attempts when compared to LGB young adults who were less religiously involved!
The study concluded that religion-based services for mental health and suicide prevention may actually harm gay/lesbian, bisexual, or questioning individuals. The authors recommended that religion-based service providers should actively assure their services are open and supportive of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning individuals.
A co-author of the study, John R. Blosnich, told Huffington Post that:
"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." 1
A public opinion poll found that about 30% of young adults who leave their family religion gave their faith group's teachings against gays and lesbians as a reason.
The University of Texas report demonstrates that an additional study is needed -- one that would examine the effects that the teachings of various faith groups have on suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among their LGBT youth and young adult members.
The dominant religion in the U.S. is Christianity, which is followed by about 70% of the population. It can be divided into five main groups: Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, Liberal Protestants, Mainline Protestants, and evangelical'/fundamentalist denominations. The more conservative groups generally teach that same-sex behavior is a profoundly serious sin, and that sexual activity must be practiced only by opposite-sex married couples. Some still teach that a person chooses their sexual orientation in the teenage years and can change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation later in life through personal effort, prayer, and reparative therapy. Liberal groups generally teach that heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual orientation are all normal and natural sexual ordinations. They accept that the vast majority of individuals engage in sexual activities before marriage. They generally accept the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, scientific research has shown that homosexual orientation is caused by epigenetics: a layer over top of one's DNA that turns various genes on and off. It is present before birth and is constant throughout life. This would seem to indicate that a person's sexual orientation is determined before birth and is not changeable.
Among millennials who have left their family's religion, 39% cited their objection to their faith group's teaching about gays and lesbians. The teachings by conservative Christian groups is thus a main cause of their decline in membership.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Carol Kuruvilla, "Chilling Study Sums Up Link Between Religion And Suicide For Queer Youth," Huffington Post Canada, 2018-APR-19, at: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/
- Megan C. Lytle, et al., "Association of Religiosity With Sexual Minority Suicide Ideation and Attempt," American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2018-MAY issue, Volume 54, Issue 6, Page 644 to 651. Unfortunately, only the abstract is available. Internet access costs U.S. $35.85
- Andrew Wu et al., "Religion and Completed Suicide: a Meta-Analysis," PLOS ONE, 2015-JUN-25, at: https://journals.plos.org/
- Christy Thomas, "Millennials Flee The Church Because Of Lies And Sexual Discrimination," Patheos, 2018-JUL-06, at: http://www.patheos.com/
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Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Original posting: 2019-MAR-06
Author: B.A. Robinson