How to End Depression and Suicide in Mississippi

school classroom

What is it like for atheists living in Mississippi? Given that Mississippi is one of the most religious states in the U.S., is it as bad as you might imagine? What challenges do atheists face here, and how do they cope with the oppressive fog of evangelical fundamentalist Christianity that covers the state? Stories often help to promote understanding, and I've got one to share that should make this clearer.

Mississippi state Rep. Jill Ford has come up with an idea for ending depression and suicide among Mississippians: mandatory sectarian prayer in our public schools. Specifically, she's written a bill that would require children in Mississippi's public schools to begin each day with "the Lord's Prayer." It does not seem to matter that this would violate the Establishment Clause and has been recognized as illegal since 1962 because...well...Jesus. And besides, the rule of law does not seem to mean what it once did. At least, not when Christianity is concerned.

Rep. Ford acknowledges that her bill is unlikely to pass; however, she had the following to say in a Facebook post:

Can you only imagine what would begin to happen in the Spiritual Realm if the children would stand before Him lifting their heads in prayer asking Him to ‘lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil?'

I wonder who she's talking about here? Any guesses?

But it gets better, much better. Rep. Ford went on to say:

Oh how we would see the atmosphere begin to change across Mississippi as depression and suicide would stop becoming the norm. We would watch as our children’s grades begin to rise, their hearts softened and their minds saturated with good thoughts and not thoughts of addictions.

Right. Because prayerful Christians in Mississippi never experience depression, kill themselves, struggle in school, or experience addiction. What a fine example of magical thinking!

What needs to be highlighted here - perhaps the only thing that really demands to be highlighted here - is that this is coming from an elected official. A majority of voters in Mississippi apparently see this sort of thing and think, "Yes, let's have some more of that!" These voters, most of whom are evangelical fundamentalist Christians, are fond of talking about religious freedom as they support candidates peddling mandatory school prayer. When I am asked what it is like for atheists in Mississippi, I will refer them to this story.