Rick Warren’s Son Has Committed Suicide

After years of struggling with clinical depression, Rick Warren’s 27 year old son Matthew has committed suicide. Rick Warren released a statement:

“Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many,” the statement said.

“Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts. Despite the best health care available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life.”

Warren, the author of the multimillion-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life,” said in an email to church staff that he and his wife had enjoyed a fun Friday evening with their son before Matthew Warren returned home to take his life in “a momentary wave of despair.”

Terrible news. My heart goes out to the family. My mind turns to how we can help those we love who cope with mental illness. If you don’t already read JT, Miri, or Greta, they are each great resources on the subject from within atheist perspectives. 

I am also reminded of Bede, my close friend who suffers from clinical depression and has decided to bravely confront his illness publicly. Bede is also both a monk and gay. He graciously and courageously agreed to be interviewed about his experience for my Camels With Hammers Show last fall. At the 56:50 mark of the video below, Bede begins to talk about his mental illness and its most dangerous effect on him.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • GSM

    Thanks for that gracious post.

    Its a striking comparison to the Uncredible Hallq asking if Warrens son is in hell. I can hardly believe that Hallq could be that much of a jerk.

    • Anonymous Atheist

      For people who care about facts, here is the link to what Hallq actually said: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2013/04/rick-warrens-son-is-neither-in-heaven-nor-in-hell/

    • mikespeir

      It is kinda hard to see how what Hallq wrote could earn him jerk status.

    • Elemenope

      @Anonymous Atheist

      Yeah, but it’s still pretty distasteful. If Warren had used the occasion of his son’s suicide to score theological points, then it would have been fair game, but since he did not, injecting that sort of commentary into what ought to be a moment of empathy and concern (or at least distant disengagement if you can’t bring yourself to care, and if you don’t know the guy personally it’s perfectly understandable why one wouldn’t) is unnecessarily cruel.

      And that is perfectly consistent with noting that Warren himself, by many measures, is not all that nice a guy who has done nasty things of his own, from supporting Prop 8 to shenanigans in Uganda to the execrable Saddleback presidential “debate”, etc. etc., but there is something to be said even there for not kicking someone while they are down, no matter how distasteful you find them personally.

  • http://wateringgoodseeds.tumblr.com insanityranch

    Sigh. Rule of thumb: If you find yourself writing “This is obviously tragic and yet”, you should stop writing. (At the very least reframe the argument.)

  • mikespeir

    Wow. I just don’t see any “kicking” at all.

    • Elemenope

      Well, re-frame it slightly. If a person is an atheist and one of their descendants committed suicide, would you consider it uncouth for a theist to muse aloud about the complete annihilation of the person the atheist loved, especially as an adjunct to what the atheist must believe, in their opinion, about the possibility of an afterlife?

      I’m suggesting there are times, few though they may be, when it is simply not appropriate to go visiting people’s beliefs and intentions, at least not aloud. Seriously, it may be “hard not to think about the theological problems this creates for Christians like Warren”, but somehow I’d guess that the theological implications take a back seat to actual grieving on the part of Warren and family, and so it is really rather callous to inject into that conversation personal musings about how a loved one’s death has an impact on the integrity of their belief structure.

  • Jay Bruening

    Why do you say that Warren’s son suffered from “clinical depression”? I haven’t seen that in any of the news accounts that covered this unfortunate event. All I’ve read is that, according to his father, he’s battled depression (which, while unpleasant, is far from clinical depression) his entire life. Has a doctor who treated him spoken out about this?


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