Deaths of Despair
by Hal Lindsey
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control issued a report on a growing phenomenon among white people in America — rising deaths from drug and alcohol abuse, diseases related to those addictions, and to suicide. The problem is so severe that it’s having a significant impact on average life expectancy.
Anne Case, a Princeton University researcher, aptly called the phenomenon, “deaths of despair.”
The study focused on whites, but it’s obvious that “deaths of despair” are rising among all ethnic groups. Since the report came out, journalists have been interviewing academics to find out what’s behind the phenomenon. The experts generally point to shrinking economic opportunity as the culprit.
While economic distress can trigger such problems, it does not address the underlying issue. To find the answer, we have go back to age-old questions, and look at how twenty-first century Americans are answering them.
In the first Star Trek movie, the character of Spock said, “Each of us, some time in our lives, turns to someone — a father, a brother, a god — and asks, ‘Why am I here? What was I meant to be?’”
Government is ill-equipped to answer such questions. Though they often try, academia and the media also fail when confronted with these most basic questions of human existence.
Their problem is that they have made materialism both their religion and their god. It leaves them with an empty, sterile universe. They see the cosmos as a remarkable accident that begat an even more remarkable series of accidents — eventually making the human race. And that’s it. The further they go in this direction, the greater the despair.
In 1977, science fiction author Philip K. Dick said, “We are living in a computer-programmed reality.” That notion, still relatively obscure in the 70s, became the basis for the hit 1999 film, “The Matrix.” In 2003, Oxford Professor Nick Bostrom published a paper entitled, “Are You Living in A Computer Simulation?” His paper fired the imaginations of college students everywhere.
Then, just a few days ago, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, told Recode’s Code Conference, “There’s a one in billions chance that this is base reality.” In other words, this brilliant, highly influential man is virtually certain that all our lives are taking place within someone’s computer simulation.
Do you see what’s happening? These “brilliant people” no longer believe in their own reality.
The removal of the “being” from “the human” also happens in other ways. In 2011, Bruce Hood wrote the book, The Self Illusion: Why There is No ‘You’ Inside Your Head. He argues, along with Buddhists and a whole generation of neuroscientists, that “there is no real you” — that “self” is an illusion.
Late in his life, Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist Francis Crick wrote, “‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”
He said, in effect, that the things that make you uniquely you are not even real. You are a machine and you do as you’re programmed. Remember, these are not the random thoughts of the lunatic fringe. They represent the mainstream within academic circles.
And their thinking forms the basis of our modern view of reality. Look at entertainment. It is permeated by a sense of meaninglessness. The only things that fully engage modern cinematic heroes are fear and rage. It’s as if they’re searching for something human somewhere inside — of themselves, and their audience.
Secular humanism tries to turn human beings into gods, but it does the opposite. Instead of gods, we become nothing at all — bereft of value and purpose. The road that begins with denying God, ends in denying our own existence as free and real moral agents. Concepts such as meaning and hope wither in an environment without God.
The first chapter of Romans talks about nature giving evidence of God to all people. Then it says, “When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. … Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” (Romans 1:21-22, 28 KJV)
The equation for understanding reality begins with God. If we reject Him, we begin a journey that will take us terrible places of horrible emptiness — more desolate than we ever dreamed.
It happens because we forget a simple Proverb. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7 NASB)
Those who reject God wind up exchanging hope, meaning, and purpose for the bare, animal pursuit of survival. It leaves only despair, and that despair is killing people right now.
The only hope is to wrap ourselves around the love of God and to receive Jesus Christ’s forgiveness through His shed blood for us on the cross. Receive His forgiveness and invite Him into your heart NOW. You can change your eternal destiny forever by doing that right now. For the first time you can begin to learn the certainty of God’s eternal life and reality as He progressively teaches you the truth.