Ray Comfort capitalizing on a man’s suicide to spread lies about mental illness and life.

Ray Comfort capitalizing on a man’s suicide to spread lies about mental illness and life. September 23, 2013

Ralph Barton was a popular cartoonist who shot himself in 1931.  Ray Comfort is now using his suicide to dig at atheists and, in doing so, to elevate Christianity.

"I have had few difficulties, many friends, great success; I have gone from wife to wife, and from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up 24 hours of the day." -- Suicide note of cartoonist Ralph Barton.  Existence without god is futile...it is "chasing the wind."  It is the tragic fruit of godlessness.

Makes sense since no Christian has ever committed suicide.  Wait a minute…

Sadly, if Comfort had bothered to do any research, he would’ve learned that the reason Barton shot himself (that preceded the quote-mined bit from Comfort) was because Barton had “lost the only woman [he] ever loved”.  He was referring to actress Carlotta Monterey who had divorced him.  He was also a clinically diagnosed manic depressive who had eschewed treatment, allowing the condition to grow until it caused him to end his life.

The failure of his book “God’s Country” (1929), a satirical view of American history through drawings, and the onset of the Depression marked a downturn in his popularity. In January 1931, [Charlie] Chaplin tried to raise Barton’s spirits by inviting him as his travelling companion on an extended tour of Europe. The cartoonist started the journey well enough, but once they arrived in London he refused to leave their hotel and began exhibiting signs of paranoia. He returned home alone after only a few weeks. Fearing he was going insane, Barton shot himself in his Manhattan apartment shortly before his 40th birthday.

So no, Barton’s suicide note doesn’t prove that life is futile without god – it proves that people have the potential to become depressed.  It also proves that mental illnesses exist that torment people.  If god exists, he designed it this way.  What a dick.

But no, life is not futile without god.  Just as people, Christian and atheist alike, can become sad, they can also find joys that exceed any dreams of faith.  Check out this atheist conference I was just at this last weekend.  Good luck finding any church service where people are having that much fun.  If you want to talk about boredom that could tempt a person to end their own life to escape it, you can find it in the pews of just about any church on Sunday.

Plenty of Christians have killed themselves over a loved one leaving them.  Sorrow is not a stranger to anybody, and especially not on the basis of religion.

In fact, depression is a more frequent affliction of the faithful than a charlatan like Ray Comfort would have you believe.  A new study has confirmed that Evangelicals are more likely to be depressed than atheists:

The study, published in the October issue of Psychological Medicine but online now, followed more than 8,000 people in rural and urban areas in seven countries for one year. During the research, they were each examined at six- and 12-month intervals.

In those time frames, 10.3 per cent of religious participants became depressed, compared with 7.0 per cent for atheists and 10.5 per cent for those with a “spiritual understanding of life,” the study found.

And why not?  Being told repeatedly that you deserve hell and that you’re a failure in the eyes of god – why would that ever depress a person?  Or wanting to touch someone, but suppressing it because god says you can’t touch that person, or you can’t do it until you’re married, and then having to live with that frustration….it’s well documented that such things lead to depression.  So, way to go god for demanding behavior that leads to depression in the brain you created.  What a strange way for god to reward his followers.

Ironically, a third of Americans (the Evangelicals) are the ones who regularly believe that prayer and bible study are the only ways to overcome mental illnesses:

A third of Americans – and nearly half of evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians – believe prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness, according to a recent survey by Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

Doctors and psychologists?  What do they know!  But imploring the being who supposedly conceived of mental illness and inflicted you with it for no good reason?  How could that fail?

A few things are certain: doctors employing evidence-based treatments rescued from mystery by intelligent humans is the way illnesses get cured, not by prayer; and the supposedly moralizing influence of faith doesn’t deter people from doing gruesomely unethical things like using a man’s suicide to promote their religion (and to make money).

If you have a mental illness, don’t go to organizations who have a history of not giving people anything in return for their money.  Contact the Secular Therapist Project and find yourself a doctor.

Ray Comfort: proof that a terrible person with a big smile and a cross is still a bad person.  The only difference is that it becomes harder for a lot of Americans to see what a bad person they are.

Said a commenter on my facebook:

If only somebody had told Rick Warren’s son about this ‘Christianity’ thing, he could have let the healing light of Jesus re-jigger his serotonin levels.

Yes, if only…

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  • Dean Jones

    Even now, Comfort is quote mining. Barton’s full suicide note reads:

    who has known me and who hears of this will have a different hypothesis
    to offer to explain why I did it. Practically all of these hypothesis
    will be dramatic–and completely wrong. Any sane doctor knows that the
    reasons for suicide are invariably psychopathological. Difficulties in
    life merely precipitate the event–and the true suicide type
    manufactures his own difficulties. I have had few real difficulties. I
    have had, on the contrary, and exceptionally glamorous life–as lives
    go. And I have had more than my share of affection and appreciation. The
    most charming, intelligent, and important people I have known have
    liked me–and the list of my enemies is very flattering to me. I have
    always had excellent health. But, since my childhood, I have suffered
    with a melancholia which, in the past 5 years, has begun to show
    definite symptoms of manic-depressive insanity. It has prevented my
    getting anything like the full value out of my talents, and, for the
    past three years, has made work a torture to do at all. It has made it
    impossible for me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life that seem to get
    other people through. I have run from wife to wife, from house to
    house, and from country to country, in a ridiculous effort to escape
    from myself. In doing so, I am very much afraid that I have spread a
    good deal of unhappiness among the people who have loved me.”

    (Or rather one of them reads thusly; he left a second for his housekeeper, apologising).

    I did a little research on Barton and curiously I couldn’t find any reference to him being an atheist, a Christian or espousing any religious affiliation. I fully approve of Ray’s new stance in assuming that athiest is the default position, but it’s a shame that he’s not mentioned the billions of atheists who have died in ways other than at their own hands.

  • Mike MacK

    But who would take him?

    • Mackinz

      Texas. They already have Barton.

      • Nooooo! We have Barton so we really, really don’t need more crazy. Really. Give him to Mississippi.

        • Mackinz

          Mississippi deserves all of our “prayers”, though. Fundies have taken over its government. Comparitively, Texas has a rapidly changing demographic that will lead to Comfort’s stupidity falling on deaf ears.

          He needs to get the hell out of L.A. at least.

          • Why not keep him somewhere where his stupidity is already falling on deaf ears then? By that logic, we should ship him to the Bay Area in CA.

          • RobMcCune

            Lets agree to disagree and maroon Comfort for all eternity at the center of a dead planet. Buried alive, buried alive…


          • Deal!