• The Catholic Advantage: Distorting Reality

    Bill-DonohueCatholic League President, Bill Donohue just came out with a new book called, “The Catholic Advantage: Why Health, Happiness, and Heaven Await the Faithful.” In it, he references me by name and of course in typical Donohue form, plays rather loosely with the facts and with reality.

    On pages 61 and 62 of his book, he states that I lost three atheist friends within a few months to suicide. Wow, Donohue seems to know a lot about me considering that we have never met and he is way more famous than I am. Where is he getting this stuff from? Well, I did write a blog post awhile back about atheism and suicide. It was a pretty popular post so I assume that is how he knows so much about my circle of friends.

    Donohue, however, got the facts wrong. I never said that I lost three atheist friends to suicide within a few months of each other. No, I said that I lost two friends over the course of a year and that one of them was from suicide and the other one might have been also. Neither committed suicide because of their atheism. Their atheism had nothing at all to do with their deaths.

    Both suffered from clinical depression. This was not my determination as Donohue seems to suggest. I don’t really know the details of my one friend’s suicide except from what I heard from those close to his family and from what I understand, his family had been trying to get him professional help and he had rejected it because of the stigma attached to it.

    My other friend had a more difficult situation. He had been suffering from depression and anxiety for a long time and was being treated for it. Due to certain circumstances he was having a severe anxiety attack. He overdosed on prescription medication. It is unclear as to whether that overdose was intentional or not. He did not reach out to any of his friends about the situation which brought about his severe anxiety and left no note of any kind.

    The third friend, Donohue made up. I did mention a third friend who was having trouble adjusting to life without the imaginary man in the sky watching his every move, but he is not dead! He is still very much alive.

    He also claims that “the latter two were recent converts to atheism.” This is also not correct. My one friend who overdosed was de-converted over a decade before his death. I mentioned that he was the first person I de-converted but I never said it was recent. My other friend as I mentioned before ISN’T DEAD!!!!

    Donohue writes:

    “Rosch is not a psychiatrist, but he believes they were all depressed.”

    No, it is not my “belief” that two out of the three people Donohue is talking about suffered from depression, it’s a fact. The third friend was depressed, but to my knowledge does not suffer from depression. He was suffering from existential angst. But last time I saw him (as he is actually still alive) he was doing much better and moving on with a life without belief in deities.

    The point of my blog post was to talk about how churches provide a support mechanism for those in their community who suffer from depression and how atheists can do the same thing in a secular way. I also pointed out that much of the depression some atheists suffer from are exacerbated by fundamentalist believers. Often time fundamentalist family members and friends harass, ostracize, and threaten non-believers. Because of this, some atheists (particularly young atheists who have recently lost their faith) can feel isolated and experience higher than normal levels of anxiety due in large part from keeping their lack of believe secret out of fear of how religious believers will react to their atheism.

    Those in the gay community often suffer similar isolation and anxiety. In fact, there are many gay atheists who must face the double whammy due in large part to what many non-Christians jokingly refer to as “Christian Love.” Speaking of love, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind readers that Bill Donohue believes that marriage has “nothing to do with love.”

    Moving on, in his book Donohue also asks me why atheists don’t meet more frequently. I mentioned in my blog post that atheist usually only meet once a month and so we rely on online social support. Currently, the atheist community is starting to create organizations and social structures. We are still pretty new at this type of stuff. The Church has been around of nearly two-thousand years. We don’t have gaudy tax-exempt worship centers on nearly every street corner in the country. Atheists usually meet at diners, libraries, and coffee shops. Plus, atheists have to be careful where we meet. If a place is too public in an area that is too religious, we risk that “Christian Love” I mentioned earlier.

    Last week, many atheist and humanist organizations were labeled as “bigoted” by Christian Right groups like the America Family Association. Most of those atheist groups have taken the label from obviously hateful religious groups as a badge of honor. In that same spirit, I am honored that the hateful President of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue referenced me and my writing in his book. Thanks Bill, please feel free to send me an autographed copy.

    Thanks to Hemant Mehta for the heads-up.

    Category: #ChristianLoveAtheismBill DonohueCatholicdeathdepressionfeaturedPersonal


    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.