Home Commentary The kids are not alright: why we need existential crises

The kids are not alright: why we need existential crises

by Elyette Levy February 23, 2021
The kids are not alright: why we need existential crises

How spirituality and mental health intertwine

We’ve heard Premier François Legault say it enough times: implementing secularism in our province’s legal framework was an “important moment” that “doesn’t go against the freedom of religion.”

Whether a state’s democracy rests on its relationship with religion is a debate as old as time. Throughout history, people have gone to war because of the power of religion over the state and over other religions.

This is a contentious issue that no one has an answer to, but one of the expected consequences of secularizing a state is that of having a society that doesn’t think of religion as having an integral role to play in the way our country is run.

Our secular society tells us that it’s unbecoming to talk and think of religion as anything other than a private, individual matter, and that other social aspects of politics should take precedence over it. Legault wasn’t wrong in saying his Bill 21, which banned religious symbols for public workers and mandated that one’s face must not be covered in order to receive some public services, was an “important moment” in Quebec.

Instead of making it a norm to see people practice their religions, we’re pushing people to foster their own religious beliefs within their own homes, on their own, away from their community, which is the complete opposite perspective to how most religions have been structured.

Young people are raised not to think about questions central to religion with as much seriousness as past generations. For some time now, the percentage of the population who are religiously committed has been declining, while the proportion of Canadians who are “spiritually uncertain” or who simply reject spirituality have been escalating. Even those who have faith in religion don’t practice it nearly as much anymore.

On the other hand, our country is going through a mental health crisis, and one which disproportionately affects young people.

We can’t dismiss the downward trend in adherence to faith as being completely disconnected from the rise in mental health issues in the country. The cosmogonic theories and ideologies that religion is so good at starting conversations about, and that science so often leaves open-ended, are quintessential to the human experience.

It’s not a coincidence that every single civilization that has existed has created a system of beliefs to explain where things come from and what the universe is. Since we’ve become sentient and self-aware beings, it’s been a natural instinct of ours to look for answers and to rationalize the world we live in beyond sensory perception.

It’s also no coincidence that all religions have traditions and habits that centre around bringing people together: we know that community is a basic human need. Living beings don’t do well with loneliness; it’s instinctual to want to build relationships with those around us.

It’s not surprising to see the attempts by a government to reduce religions down to something we can leave at home ends up making its population more depressed and less grounded. Our leaders have such a key role to play on culture, and they’re now building one where fraternity and existentialism are considered peripheral to self-reliance and science.

Maybe what we need isn’t a more secularized state but a more spiritual and inclusive one. Human beings weren’t made to let go of their desire to understand the unknowns of the universe.

 

Graphic by @the.beta.lab

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