Not content with merely being a fake historian peddling lies, David Barton has now decided to be a fake psychologist peddling lies. Specifically, on his radio show he declared that depression and suicide are a result of not doing the right things according to God.
David: You’re talking about how the culture is now present in things like suicide with the programs out there. Suicide so often stems from depression and Ray will talk about the rising depression numbers in the United States.
What’s interesting is the culture also promotes things that increase depression. For example, when you look at studies on abortion, women who have had an abortion have depression rates three to five times higher than everybody else.
You look at homosexuality. Homosexuals have depression rates three to five times higher than everybody else. So we’re even promoting things now that cause depression. We’re promoting things that cause it we’re now saying, “Well, depression is fine therefore suicide is fine.”
And it’s really not because there is a Biblical side. Depression really comes from being discontent with who you are or what’s going on. It’s not accepting yourself or not accepting the situation.
Warren Throckmorton, who has been hammering Barton on the fake history stuff for years but is actually a psychology professor, nails him hard:
Barton confuses effects and causes. Being unhappy with oneself is most often an effect of depression. Simply advising a depressed person to accept yourself is like telling an unemployed person to save for retirement. The otherwise sound advice just increases the hopelessness.
Regarding Barton’s claims, there is evidence that depression is higher among women who have had abortion and yes, GLBT people report more depression. However, the matter of cause cannot be ascertained from these facts. Women who have abortions also have other stressors in their lives. For some, especially those who do not believe abortion is right, having an abortion may trigger depression. However, for others there is no link.
The picture with homosexuality is even more complex. The existing research does not confirm that being gay causes depression. When examining a correlation between two variables, variable A may cause variable B or vice versa. However, a third possibility exists. Another variable may effect both variable A and variable B. For instance, shark attacks and ice cream sales in a coastal town might correlate but clearly summer beach going influences both variables.
We know that women are depressed more than men. We also know from brain scan studies that the brains of gay males are more like the brains of straight females than straight males. It is reasonable to hypothesize that there might be a neurological basis for straight females and gay males to report more depression.
Barton wants to make depression about doing right and being on the right side of the culture war. I can assure Mr. Barton that Christian nationalists get depressed. Good Christians get depressed. Straights and women who have never considered an abortion get depressed. Portraying the causes of depression as being about believing the right Christian things is unhelpful and may drive some people away from getting the help they need. Worse, people who hold the “right” views but remain depressed can become even more hopeless. Over 40 years of clinical practice and teaching, I have encountered many Christians who want to give up because they do everything “right” without relief from their depression.
He also criticizes Ray Comfort for claiming that atheism causes depression and suicide. Comfort quoted a 2004 article in the American Journal of Psychiatry as saying, “Religiously unaffiliated subjects, people who were Godless, had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and perceive fewer reasons for living.” But those studies did not control for the most important factors. My friend Luke Galen, a professor of psychology at Grand Valley State University, did a study a few years ago that fixed that problem.
Luke compared not just the religious and the non-religious, but those who were active members of communities, whether religious or secular (CFI Michigan was one of the groups he studied), with those who were not members of such communities. And guess what? The difference disappears. When it comes to depression, suicide and overall mental health, the key factor is not being religious or non-religious, but being part of a strong social network that provides support and camaraderie.