Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Suicide as sin

May 06th, 2014 by Vader

It has become fashionable to excuse practically every suicide as either the result of profound mental illness, for which the suicide is not morally accountable, or as a response to intractable psychic or physical pain, for which it is justified.

It is worth remembering that it was once widely recognized as a grievous sin.

I predict that Emily Esfahani Smith will succeed in finally uniting liberals, libertarians, and many self-identifying conservatives … against herself.

Notwithstanding that she is making a rather important point.

Some suicides are the result of profound mental illness. But, as society lessens the stigma against suicide, it is inevitable that there will be more and more suicides that are not the result of profound mental illness. More despondent people will turn to the gun or the rope instead to to the grace of God.

Comments (7)
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May 06th, 2014 16:31:27

Detective Thorn
May 6, 2014

Soylent Green is people!

May 7, 2014

It’s a tricky tight-rope we walk, between mercy for the past and warnings for the future. We can say all we want that suicide is a grave sin, but when confronted with an individual case, none of us will ever pronounce judgment, nor should we in most cases. But that reticence weakens the message.

And since few of us can imagine wanting to die, we assume that anyone who does must be crazy. Of course, that’s a fallacy, sort of like assuming that Kermit Gosnell must have been crazy because we have never felt the desire to murder babies.

Adam G.
May 7, 2014

A good brother with whom I’m close told me that when he was in a period of his life when he was depressed and in bad circumstances, he experienced suicide as a temptation. But telling him that it was sin wouldn’t have helped him.

There are lots of sins where emphasizing guilt isn’t the best pastoral aid.

The main reason we don’tt discuss suicide as sin, however, is that its hardly ever discussed in religious settings except at funerals, when it would be uncivil to speak ill of the dead and wounding to the friends and family of the deceased, who in every instance I know of are devastated, emotional wrecks. It’s just not the place.

I think I recall reading somewhere that a major thing holding back people who are contemplating suicide is the thought of how it would affect their loved ones.

May 7, 2014

It seems very often to be the case that sin should be condemned in the strongest terms in general, but treated sympathetically in the individual.

Something to do with “hate the sin, love the sinner”, I suppose.

May 7, 2014

This harkens back to our modern western secular culture’s reluctance to label anything as sin in order to avoid judging the individual.

As MC mentions the tight-rope, there needs to be a balance between calling out evil acts as evil, yet leaving the final/ultimate judgement of the individual to the Great Judge.

As each generation trains up the next generation, this is a constant tension or friction between denouncing sinful behavior versus compassion for the sinner, and the application of mortal/secular justice/reparation/restoration versus the concept of mercy.

Only the Great Judge knows which human actions are due to human agency and which are due to human nature as “meat computers” acting upon environmental inputs that are further processed by our internal wiring and programming; and to what degree either way.

Bruce Charlton
May 7, 2014

I suppose the simple answer is that some suicides are sinful (i.e. done for evil reasons – such as an act of aggression to hurt someone else – and often explicitly stated in such terms in terms of what people said or wrote before the suicide) – while others are not (e.g. done when psychotic, delirious or when the mind is dominated by some illness).

Knowledge of a person’s past behaviour and the circumstances of the suicide will usually clarify which is which.

On the other hand, a single piece of evidence may be missing from our knowledge which is necessary for understanding what was going on – for example the person may have been taking a drug that causes suicidal ruminations/ suicide attempts in some people; but this fact may not be known, or the effect of the drug may not be known (or may be denied).

May 8, 2014

Suicide is almost always the result of depression, and unless you’ve really experienced that depressed state there is no way to comprehend what it’s like. I’ve written about this on my own blog (depression that is, not suicide). And we’ve no way of knowing whether it is “sin” or “transgression” – how much true choice does someone have when they take that decision? I wouldn’t like to pass judgement that’s for sure.

A particular problem in the Church is that members who are contemplating suicide will already be in a mindset of “I’ve zero hope of the Celestial Kingdom anyway; people, including my family, would be better off without me; etc”, so if we were to start to preach suicide as a terrible sin it would likely aggravate those feelings of hopelessness and *increase* the likelihood of suicide.

So while we *do* need to do what we can to help people through these times and avoid carrying out any suicidal thoughts, I don’t believe the way to do that is to teach it as sin.

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