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Would Religion Have Saved Bourdain? – OpEd


If Anthony Bourdain had been a religious man, would he have killed himself? Probably not. The celebrity chef was found dead today in his hotel room in Strasbourg, France.

Bourdain was raised by his Catholic father and Jewish mother, though neither of them saw fit to raise him in any religion. In 2011, he said his views on religion were similar to those expressed by Christopher Hitchens, the British atheist. This is why the atheist organization, Freedom From Religion Foundation, was so proud of him.

His death comes at the same time of a study on suicide issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide rates have spiked dramatically in recent years, in nearly every state. Indeed, suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. One of the chief factors contributing to suicide, the study said, is substance abuse. Bourdain was a known substance abuser.

The study, “Vital Signs: Trends in State Suicide Rates—United States, 1999-2016 and Circumstances Contributing to Suicide—27 States, 2015,” has one glaring flaw: it says nothing about religion. The eight authors of the study disaggregate the data on the basis of sex, age, race/ethnicity, and other factors, but not on religion. This is inexcusable: virtually all studies on suicide include the variable of religiosity, or religious practice and commitment.

As I have recounted in my book, The Catholic Advantage: How Health, Happiness, and Heaven Await the Faithful, there is an inverse relationship between religiosity and suicide: those who are regular churchgoers have a much lower rate of suicide than atheists like Bourdain.

May Anthony Bourdain rest in peace. And may the CDC hire more astute scholars.

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William Donohue

William Donohue is the current president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in the United States, and has held that position since 1993.

6 thoughts on “Would Religion Have Saved Bourdain? – OpEd

  • June 9, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    This is such a garbage article.

  • June 9, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Wow, using a tragic suicide to promote your own books? Spiritual maturity is obviously not one of their ingredients.

    There is good research connecting active participation in a stable, supportive community with lower suicide rates. There is ZERO quality research showing differences in suicide rates between those who participate in religious vs non-religious stable, supportive communities.

    James Keim

  • June 9, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    HAD ne given his life to Jesus he would still be here,ITS THAT SIMPLE!!!

  • June 9, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    How dare you have the temerity to take such a recent and sad event, one still being mourned by not only millions of fans but more importantly a child, and use it as a prop for your evangelical dogma. People like you are precisely why people like Bourdain run from religion; ‘obey my contradictory and confusing commandments or I will set you on fire for eternity!”, or in your vein “That bad thing wouldn’t have happened if God loved you more, which is your fault too!”. As you state, people of faith commit suicide too, and people of no faith also live without depression, so your justification is a wash at best, which is why religion wasn’t a part of the cited study. A person may be any of those cultural.ethnic, age groups and then be any religion, all with varying attitudes to suicide, making it a useless data point. Shame on you for heaping criticism on this man who simply did his best, and his mourning family- SHAME.

  • June 9, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    I do not think William Donohue gets it. If someone does not believe in something, they cannot magically force themselves to do so. Instead of reflecting on the kindness and contributions Mr. Bourdain made, you take swipe at his parents, of which his mother is still alive, and claim that religious people less prone to suicide. If your goal is to attract people to the Catholic faith, this does the opposite. It is both petty an unkind. Traits that people who read this will now associate with Catholics. Great job! /s

  • June 12, 2018 at 6:15 am

    This is a horrible way to talk about this. Yes, suicide rates are somewhat lower for the currently religious. What about those who feel like their religion has turned their back on them? Those unwelcome at church for some reason? They commit suicide and should be considered as religious for your statistics, but they’re not. I was raised Catholic and, after having left the church, I have had fewer suicidal thoughts. And yes, I was talking to priests regularly during the time I had more suicidal thoughts. Reading this article when I was contemplating suicide could have made me decide the Catholic Church isn’t worth it and leave the flock earlier in life. Or maybe I would have thought life is hopeless anyway and that the Church doesn’t care about me anyway and go through with it.

    Either way this article would have made me a former Catholic either in death or in leaving the Church, either way ensuring I wouldn’t be counted as a “faithful” suicide.


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