On the day Anthony Bourdain took his own life, Matt Walsh wrote a column for The Daily Wire titled, “What Really Lies At The Root Of Our Culture’s Suicide Epidemic.” The featured image showed a woman praying on a rosary, which prompted me to google Walsh’s background as a writer. I soon suspected that the article was going to be a lecture on how society is crumbling due the fact that people are becoming more and more secular. I was right.
Posting the article to his Twitter profile, Walsh declared that he thinks “our conversation about the suicide epidemic needs to go much deeper than ‘mental health.” It was a coded way of laying out the article’s premise, which is that Anthony Bourdain killed himself because he was an atheist whose lack of religion prevented him from finding any true meaning in life.
I wrote this in the wake of Anthony Bourdain's suicide today. I think our conversation about the suicide epidemic needs to go much deeper than "mental health." That's what I try to do here. https://t.co/mZt3QZhnix
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) June 8, 2018
Walsh shared his thoughts on the country’s rising suicide rate. “This is not normal. Something is happening. But what? And why?”
According to Walsh, “purely psychological explanations just don’t hold up” when it comes to suicide. It was a perfect a primer which makes room for Walsh to claim that Bourdain’s suicide was symptom of his lack of religiosity. “Clearly there is a deeper problem here,” he writes.
“I think that problem is emptiness. There is an emptiness at the core of our culture, and from this root the suicide epidemic grows,” Walsh declared. “We have fled from God, from meaning, from purpose, and embraced a soft kind of nihilism; a nihilism that will not call itself nihilism. It uses other words and slogans to describe itself. ‘You only live once,’ it says. ‘Live your truth.’ People are told that there is only one life, one reality, and it has no meaning aside from what you assign to it. But what happens when you no longer see meaning? Well, our culture says, if you do not see it then it is not there.”
This is a variation of logic that conservative Christians apply in a blanket manner to most tragedies in the news. The logic says that since society is growing more secular, people’s morals are declining. And of course as Walsh any many of his ilk declare, lack of religion coincides with “emptiness.”
It’s true that Bourdain was openly atheist — a trait that posthumously makes him a target for self-righteous religious fanatics like Walsh. The fact is, we don’t know what drove Bourdain to kill himself. But this doesn’t stop Walsh from suggesting that it was because he excised religion from his life. Walsh then laments the outpouring of love in the wake of someone taking their own life: “We deliver tearful, admiring eulogies to the deceased celebrity and express our hope that they have ‘found peace,'” he writes, adding that these sentiments constitute people endorsing the idea that “suicide is a means to peace.” That’s false. All those people are saying is that we have no idea what Bourdain was going through and we have no right to suggest he had the capacity to make a better choice.
Continuing to undermine the mental illness component, Walsh writes, “…we never pause to ask why all of our brains have apparently gone haywire in modern times. If this is all just a matter of mental disorders, why in the hell are these ‘mental disorders’ so common now?”
“I think it is because the disorder is not purely psychological. It goes beyond our brains and into our souls, into the emptiness. What everyone really craves deep in their bones is truth and meaning. Not meaning they arbitrarily assign, but meaning that is objective and inherent and beyond our ability to remove or change. But our culture tells us that nothing of the sort exists — there is only this physical world, and our egos, and whatever we decide to make of it all. And if we make nothing of it, and find nothing in it, then life is nothing and there is no reason to carry on living anymore.”
The above quote is the crux of his piece. According to Walsh, the suicide epidemic exists because people are conditioned to reject God or the afterlife. It’s a standard cliche from religious conservatives: People who are godless have nothing to live for, so suicide is an enticing option.
Religious conservatives employ this same kind of stupidity to school shootings. Why did Nikolas Cruz pick up a gun and kill his former classmates? BECAUSE THEY TOOK GOD AND PRAYER OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS!!!
“People need more than that,” Walsh opines. “They need more than therapy and phone numbers. They even need more than the knowledge that other people love them. They need meaning. They need hope. They need there to be a point to all of this, a reason. Well, praise God because there is a reason, there is a point, there is a meaning. God is our foundation, our truth, our purpose, and the substance of our lives. We are not mere accidents.”
In other words, we all must subscribe to Walsh’s idea of what “meaning” is. If we don’t share his religious beliefs, we lack true substance in our lives.
The bottom line is this. I don’t know what drove Bourdain to kill himself. You don’t know. Walsh doesn’t know. What we do know is that whatever it was, it was beyond his capacity to control. Every day, we see people who claim to speak for god defile themselves morally.
Over 80% of evangelicals supported the immoral monstrosity that is Trump. They also support his family-separating immigration policies. Christian conservatives disseminate some of the most vile political rhetoric we’ve seen in a while. If a belief in God can’t prevent people from developing these kinds of atrocious belief systems, then how can it intervene for people gripped in the anguish that leads them to kill themselves? How can Walsh offer hope to people if his instinct is to blame their suffering on what he sees as flaws in their morality?
Anthony Bourdain is dead because the mental forces that wanted to tear him down were out of his control. Writing it off as a simple lack of morality because he didn’t go to church on Sundays is an immoral insult that wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for religion.
This article originally appeared as a Twitter thread, which can be viewed here.
Featured image via Reyhan Dhuny (Flickr)