The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Americans are killing themselves in record numbers, evidenced by data covering the last two decades.

Most did not have known diagnosed mental health conditions, says the report.

In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans 10 or older died by suicide. Between 1999 and 2016, suicide rates rose more than 40 percent.

The question is why.

I have a theory.

My guess is most do not have a close relationship with or a strong faith in God. I concede I don’t have any statistics to back that up, just anecdotal experience and intuition.

It’s certainly true that over the last 20 years and even longer, more Americans have lost the kind of unshakeable faith their parents and grandparents had. It’s also true that America’s secular institutions in education, media, corporations, libraries, science and foundations have spread the ideology, one might even say “religion,” of secular humanism. It has become the de facto worldview. And the role of churches and synagogues cannot be overlooked either. Many of them have abandoned the basic precepts of the Bible – that God created everything, including human beings in His own image, and He wants us to experience everlasting life.

Why do I believe this?

I suspect almost all of us have had moments when we considered if we’d like to escape this fallen world of frequent pain, fear, violence, anguish, temptation, doubt and depression.

Shortly before I was born, Hollywood produced a movie many of us, I suspect, have seen a dozen times or more – “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It wasn’t a huge box-office success when it came out, but it has become an American classic since then.

It’s the story of a man named George Bailey who has a great wife and lots of kids who love him. But he has unfulfilled dreams and responsibilities that lead him to the brink of suicide. It takes the intervention of a guardian angel named Clarence to make him realize he actually has a wonderful life, and that he should not throw it away by thinking everyone would be better off if he just ended it.

It’s an uplifting story written and produced after World War II when so many Americans endured sacrifice and suffering, loss and stress, only to return to a world of more mundane trials – like financial crisis and depression.

It raised the question of what life is really all about.

How many movies have been produced like that in the last 20 years?

When I was a child, we began the school day with prayer and Bible readings. I recall them stopping one day because the Supreme Court of the United States decided it was unconstitutional to do so in state-run schools because one deeply disturbed mother hated God. What were the biggest problems we had in schools at that time? Did we experience mass shootings by students in schools? Were drugs a big problem?

And more people attended regular religious services and understood it was good for the next generation to believe in the One True God who created us all. Are we better off as a nation since that trend reversed?

I think the answers to those questions are self-evident.

When people understand they are more than material beings composed of molecules and that we are not just the product of evolutionary natural processes that took billions of years, they are far less likely to kill themselves. Does that not make sense?

Are we more likely to explore the infinite and seek a real relationship with God when our minds are not programmed to reject Him out of hand? Without question.

What’s the answer? Open yourself up to the Good News and spread it far and wide.

I’m looking forward to everlasting life in paradise because of those foundational beliefs. I believe that promise is more real than anything we can experience in this material world. I suspect that people who have that faith are far less likely to kill themselves and victimize others. Make sense?

The Bible has the answers. It’s God’s love letter to us. Open it. Read it. Study it. Embrace it and then turn your life over to the God who shared it with those made in His own image – those He wants to embrace as His sons and daughters in eternity.

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