HOME   People do good because they are human, not because they are religious! 

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Suicide, Faith and God
 
Suicide is the deliberate killing of oneself.
 
The Church says it is a rejection of God's intention to look after us and a rejection of his plan to bring good out of the evil we do and suffer. The atheist would believe the suicide is judged enough without God being brought into it!  The Catechism of the Catholic Church callously worries about how a suicide has supposedly let everybody down: "[Suicide] likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God (2281).
 
St Thomas Aquinas condemned suicide because it,
 
is contrary to natural self-love, whose aim is to preserve us


injures the community of which an individual is a part

 

violates our duty to God because God has given us life as a gift and in taking our lives we violate His right to determine the duration of our earthly existence (Aquinas 1271, part II, Q64, A5).

But all of the three reasons are over-simplified. Its hugely more complicated than that. If we have that problem with suicide, imagine how much trouble we will have in giving reasons for condemning other things!
 
Can a person have a suicidal motive? Is your motive to kill the pain? Or yourself? Or both? If you kill yourself to save another person's life, the subjective reason you do it is to save the other person and not to kill yourself. If your motive is only to kill the pain then it follows that it is immoral (if you believe in that word) or evil to condemn or forbid suicide. What you would do is help people but leave them the right to refuse that help and kill themselves and praise them for availing of the right.
 
Socrates
 
Socrates said that though he was sure the soul was immortal there was a chance that he was wrong but still he would die for it. Christianity has the same attitude. Christians are told to be willing to stake their lives and the lives of others on the existence of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. As heterosexual marriage is a core doctrine of the Church, you are expected to be willing to give your life if it means taking a stand against same sex marriage. Such teachings are really about coercing and forcing yourself and brainwashing yourself to die for "ifs". No if is worth dying for. No wonder dedicated believers develop a propensity to start forcing others as well. If you program yourself you will soon lose sight of how you are trying to program others especially your vulnerable children. If you should die for an "if" then it hardly matters if you start going into denial that it is an "if" and start arguing that you are 100% certain that Jesus was the sinless Son of God and the Bible is true.
 
God Belief Does Nothing to Deter Suicide
 
Children have straightforward faith and commit suicide to alarming levels.  If faith cannot inoculate them how can it protect anybody?

 

In general we believe that death is the greatest loss we can suffer so our moral codes or codes about good behaviour should work hard to protect human life. Religion takes the force of this way and so is to be condemned outright. It even goes as far as St Paul to say that to die is to gain and to be better off.
 
Religion says that God forbids suicide as he has a plan for your life. But that ban has no credibility. It is just a mere prohibition and no real reasons are given for it. Merely telling a suicidally depressed person not to do it is a waste of time. It is in fact making the problem worse. It will be perceived as, "She cannot give me a a reason to live. I am not going to degrade myself by living when I don't want to just to please her!" If A provides sufficient motivation to another to commit suicide then A might be responsible for the suicide.
 
The plan stuff is not helpful. Religion is very hazy about the plan. It amounts to something like saying that God is slowly but surely working to encourage us to be more loving. But that surely means there will be casualties. And a depressed person is not going to feel part of a plan. Telling her or him there is a plan only makes her or him feel worse and that the depression is her or his fault for not having enough faith.
 
Some would reason that maybe its God's plan that you die by suicide for he has mysterious purposes that are unknown to us. The religious doctrine that evil is used in God's plan and God only lets evil happen for a good reason says exactly that!
 
God is ultimately responsible for the depression and despair you experience. Thus if it kills you he is responsible. Belief in God should make depression worse. If it doesn't then does the person understand God at all? Or does the person really believe?
 
Don't presume that suicide is intervening in nature and so is against God. The person who is dying will use medicine to save her own life so if that intervention is acceptable then it may be acceptable to commit suicide. The intervention argument cannot prove suicide wrong.
 
And to say suicide is wrong because God forbids it is really saying ,"I don't care if suicide hurts you or not. What matters to me is that God has banned it." Such a view will only spur on the suicidal person who is influenced by religion. It will deepen the depression.
 
Religion holds that if you kill yourself because of unbearable pain or depression you are not fully to blame. If you have lost control of yourself enough, then it follows that you may not sin at all in suicide.
 
This view implies that if you commit suicide, religion has to hope that you were in such great agony that you had to kill yourself. The pain forced your hand. This view is vicious for it attacks the victim for religious reasons. It wishes evil on him or her for the sake of religious dogma. Suicidal persons who see this will easily feel that their religion has failed them. To the depressed mind, they are personally attacked and despised by their religion.
 
If a person commits suicide, the atheist simply regrets that they didn't find whatever it was that might have saved their life. That is caring for the person. We do not have to worry about the so-called sin or how it thwarts God. That is a moral criticism of the person that must be avoided.
 
An ingrained moral belief that suicide is wrong is not going to stop a person from committing suicide. A suffering mind can be convinced its right and that morality is not a consideration. A person may decide to commit suicide and if they believe its immoral that is further confirmation to them that their belief that they have no control over improving themselves is correct. They will reason, "I want to do bad and this proves that I and everybody else is better off if I die."
 
Suicide is not necessarily selfish. Many suicides are people of good character. They see themselves as a curse on the earth. They see their death as a kind act that relieves others of having to endure them. It does not feel selfish to them. They think they are doing everybody that counts a service by killing themselves. Suicide bombers think they are doing a service too.
 
Believers say that God is bigger than our sins. That surely means that if you kill yourself to do others a favour you get a free pass into Heaven and are a saint! Suicide is implicitly encouraged!
 
The example of Christ who deliberately provoked people to murder him so that he could pay for their sins, as the gospels say, is not the kind of example we need in a society riddled with suicide.

 

A study found, "Religion has typically been seen as something that would protect somebody from thoughts of suicide or trying to kill themselves, and in our study our evidence suggests that may not be the case for everyone, particularly for those we refer to as sexual minority people". The quote comes from John Blosnich of the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University in Morgantown (2017).

 

Nihilism gets the blame for suicides and students gunning down their classmates at random but nihilism and God are compatible.  Nihilism is the idea that nothing has value so suicide is neither here nor there.  Nihilism is confused with a command to commit suicide but that would mean it is not nihilism for it values suicide. If life is valuable it does not follow that God can create a universe where it is valuable for everybody - assuming it is true that God and evil are agreeable.
 
If you believe in God, you will have no real reason for opposing suicide. Moreover, you will have reason for accepting or condoning or encouraging it.
 
Hume's Reply to Aquinas
 
David Hume had an answer for Aquinas's silly reasons for opposing suicide. The following borrows his main points and adds clarifications.
 
If God exists, then he lets us fight the way he has laid things out. For example, we have to reclaim land. We have to get cures for the diseases he makes.
 
If God lets us contravene the laws of nature he has made, then it follows that if we are better off committing suicide then we should do it. You may argue that suicide is never the answer. But what if it was? That would show that God only forbids suicide because it is never for the best and not because it is killing yourself. Killing yourself would then not be wrong in itself.
 
If you assume that suicide is never the answer for anybody, then how do you know everybody else well enough to make such a global statement? Your arrogance is not going to help a person rethink. They want understanding. If there are reasons to kill yourself, you need people to understand them so that you might see a better way.
 
If we have free will because of God and not in spite of him, then we are still fitting in with his will by killing ourselves.
 
Sometimes suicide does not upset other people. Families may want a relative who is suffering extremely and who is dying anyway to end it all.
 
Hume says that suicide does not violate our duty to love ourselves if our continued existence can be seen as worse than death. He said the fear of death which is a natural instinct means that we will deliberate carefully and assess the pros and cons fully to develop the courage and the clarity of mind to end it all.
 
Kant argued that Hume was wrong for our moral worth and capacity comes from our rational will and its a contradiction to say that such a rational power should be destroyed by the one who exercises it. To annihilate the subject of morality in one's person is to root out the existence of morality itself from the world as far as one can, even though morality is an end in itself. Consequently, disposing of oneself as a mere means to some discretionary end is debasing humanity in one's person… (Kant 423).
 
Depression
 
It is thought that depression can lead to suicide and that most depression is caused by a perception that one cannot control one's life to help improve how one feels. It would be a sense of powerlessness.
 
You could feel powerless as an atheist. Belief in God does not insulate you against feeling powerless either for ultimately God makes all the decisions and you are dependent on him - you even use your free will (assuming free will is real) because of him.
 
The atheists should feel they are at the mercy of random forces.
 
The believers should feel their destiny is in God's hands.
 
Either view can be damaging but which one is the worst?
 
The atheists strive to feel that though life is random it can be good because of that randomness. They do not feel that there is something else out there to put another spanner in the works - God. And the notion that God uses evil to do good justifies evil befalling you. If random forces hurt you that is not justified in any sense. It is 100% regretful. The atheist stance is realistic and courageous and the best option. The atheist hopes not for a miracle but for a random event that saves her or him. The atheist's hope is better for she or he will know from life experience how to expect the unexpected and how it can be surprisingly good.
 
We can know, intellectually, that we might win. Emotionally is a different story. We may not feel that at all. It is thought that knowing might help us cling on to enough hope to keep us alive.
 
But knowing it when you don't feel it enough will only make you feel worse. You will be frustrated at yourself for you will expect yourself to feel a bit less gloomy.
 
It is said we can know we can win though we might not believe it at all. This is really the same thing as saying we know we might win. Can only means you can do it not that anything is guaranteed.

 

Reasons for suicide

 

People kill themselves for any number of six reasons.

 
1 Depression makes them suffer and feel there is no hope. They think nobody will be hurt by their passing or even that others will be better off.

 

Note: depression can be seen as a call from God to die by suicide.  It is not a sin to die if an illness does it.  The God belief necessarily implies it is a call.


2 Psychosis has people being driven by inner voices to kill themselves.

 

Note: Thinking there are spirits and accepting the Catholic dogma that spirit possession and mental illness can feed off each other validates those voices.  If you think demons stronger than you are compelling you to kill yourself then you hold that your death by suicide is not your responsibility and by default it must be God's plan.


3 Some kill themselves on impulse.

 

Note: Religion regards impulse as a prompt from God.  The New Testament praises sudden personality changes.  Even Jesus dropped the quiet life overnight.


4  Some do not think they will actually die and are trying to make a cry for help.  Death does not seem real to them.

 

Note: Religion and faith in the afterlife anaesthetises the reality of death.


5  Some feel their death gives their existence meaning and value! As paradoxical as it seems there can be philosophical motives for dying.  They see their death as a sacrifice that benefits others for they believe evil always does a greater good in the end.  They may think they are escaping this evil sinful drab world.

 

Note: If suicide is a sin then it is not much of a sin if it is true that evil does good which is why God lets the evil happen.  It does not follow that a devastating result can only come about with a very bad intention.

6  Sometimes it is a mistake.  For example, somebody thinks they have cancer and use suicide as an escape route.

 

Note: People will reason that if it is okay to send innocent boys to war and get them killed it cannot be so bad to try and make things easier by ending it

 

What we have written covers attempted suicide as well.

 
 
When Depression encourages suicide
 
Is it right to think that depression may make a person convinced that everybody is better off without them so that it makes sense rationally?
 
Not all depressed persons will really care how others feel. Some people really believe that others - even in the close family - are only users and fakes.
 
Christianity - especially the Reformed variety - insists that human nature is depraved in the sense that it wants its own way rather than God's and prefers to worship a version of God that suits it. Good is often the enemy of the best and believers want good but not the best. They care more about what they want good to be more than what it is. Such a doctrine induces cynicism and callousness towards others. It helps encourage suicide. It might do it sort of latently but it does.
 
If there is a God working for good and who brings good out of our wrong deeds then surely it is true that everybody may indeed be better off if one commits suicide? Belief in God leads to suicide.
 
Other ways faith smooths the suicide's path
 
Religion encourages people to think that God puts thoughts and feelings in them and that is how he communicates with them.
 
Schizophrenics who think the voices they hear telling them to commit suicide are from God will commit suicide faster than if they think the voices are from demons or evil spirits. Belief in God then kills many schizophrenics.
 
Some people who kill themselves have done it in the hope that they will not die and thereby issue a cry for help. Many people who commit suicide seem to forget how they are going into oblivion. They seem to think they will merely change form and still be alive after the deed.
 
An atheist may feel less hope of surviving than a believer will. The notion that God has a purpose for us and will protect us can lead to a suicidal person thinking they will survive the suicide attempt by God's grace.
 
Many therapists believe that since many people want to kill themselves and nobody realises how unhappy they are, we should ask others if they ever think about suicide. They think that most of the time the person will be honest about their suicidal feelings.
 
But if you think suicide is a sin, your shame about your suicidal thoughts and feelings will make you reluctant to tell and may stop you admitting your thoughts and feelings.
 
If you tell, you may feel that you are trying to get help from people instead of going to God alone for it. That is a sin according to religion.
 
If suicide is okay, then is it really that important to have a religion (or at least a belief in God)? Does having a religion or belief in God imply that suicide is a sin or possibly a sin? If religion or belief in God is about giving meaning to life, then the answer is yes.
 
Paradoxically, the scriptures of some religions endorse suicide. Jesus the god of Christianity deliberately provoked his cruel death on himself as an example for the world. Even during his trial he would not speak up for his life. How many believer suicides have been fuelled on by knowing this? Jesus said that he agreed with the Old Testament laws that people should be killed and applauded the command to put a son who curses his parents to death. He told people that if they were not breaking the law themselves they could stone a lady to death for adultery. As a lynch mob, they were breaking the law. It would be strange to say that the Jewish religion or Jewish religious state has the right to stone people to death after a trial and to forbid you to execute yourself when you know you have committed one of the capital crimes. You know it best.
 
The argument that your life is not your possession but given to you by God for his purpose does not help people who are considering suicide. The thought that life is your own not God's is more encouraging for those who are starting to have second thoughts about killing themselves. If you are so depressed that you cannot think of what anybody else or God wants, then trying to think about how you are supposedly trying to steal life from God if you take your own life is only going to make it worse. You need to be selfish to get a better frame of mind.
 
A Thought
 
Most Christian publications intended to get people to believe in Christianity again, argue that we need belief in God and Christ in order to stop or reduce the amount of suicide that happens. Even if God exists, it does nothing to prove that suicide is wrong. And the believers want to throw the suicidal a crutch. That is interference and patronising. It is not really going to help in the long-run. It is no exaggeration to say that the fear of people committing suicide is behind a lot of devout Christian practice. Many believe that without religion and God there is no point in living. They programme people to think that. And we know what can happen if people really think that and discover their religion is groundless?
 
Religious people are not medical or psychiatric professionals and their interference is disgraceful and fanatical on that basis alone.
 
If you are suicidal and medication will help, medication is what you need. People praying for you will not help. It is not being prayed for that you need.
 
A person could be almost at the bottom of despair. He is told God loves him and offers hope. He cannot feel that. Now he has a new problem. He feels bad that he cannot feel it. He may even feel guilt. His pain then worsens. Now he is at the very bottom of despair. His life is ebbing away ...
 
When somebody commits suicide religious people have no problem saying, "She couldn't live without her job. He couldn't live without his child." That is really telling people that if they think they have no hope then they are right! Religion tells atheists that they cannot have hope! If we really think life drove a person to suicide, then it follows that suicide is to be responded to like an accidental death. The thought that your loved ones will not take it personally if you take your own life will only encourage you. You will reason that people have to suffer whatever time you die anyway so their pain will not put you off. Religion has the same flaws as the hypocritical society it emerges from. It is no help.
 
Conclusion...
 
Religion costs lives through suicide. Belief in God costs lives through suicide. First it cannot discourage it.  Second it also commands it in certain ways.  Third, it hides its role.  Religion and faith in God must be opposed - it is better to oppose them strongly than for one life to be lost over them. Too much blood has been spilt. What is the point of religion and God when they have no answer for the biggest question of all: "Why should I not commit suicide?" They do not help therefore they hinder.  The good they do is shabby when the biggest problem is left in limbo and not dealt with and cannot be dealt with.