Suicide is Painless

MASHOr so the old theme song from M.A.S.H. goes.  I honestly get really tired of people getting up in arms about suicide, like it’s the worst thing anyone could ever do.  Personally, I’m fine with people deciding to kill themselves, but then again, I’m an atheist and I don’t have to pretend that offing yourself sends you to eternal perdition.  That’s what the early Christian church had to do, after so many early believers were killing themselves to get to heaven with Jesus and the church was losing workers and income.  They decided to declare suicide a mortal sin, just to keep their cash flow positive.

This is just an issue that has come up several times of late, both in a discussion about the suicide of Lee Thompson Young and another discussion about bullying, both of which have produced people who have some really, really strong feelings about suicide.

Me, I don’t care about suicide.  I think that if a person wants to kill themselves, for whatever reason, we ought to let them.  I don’t find suicide a tragedy, I don’t think it’s even an issue.  I think people ought to have the right to decide when their life ends, be it to avoid painful, debilitating disease or simply because they’ve decided they’ve lived long enough.  It isn’t like we’re going to run out of people if a few, here and there, take themselves out.

Yet we still live in a death-adverse world, where people are terrified to die so they seek to keep everyone around them alive as long as they can, without regard for the other person’s wishes.  It’s part of the culture.  We insist on extraordinary measures to prolong the lives of everyone, sick or not, willing or not, and impugn their sanity if they ever suggest they don’t want to go on.

Of course, the real issue here is that people are terrified of death and they not only don’t want to die, they don’t want anyone around them to die.  They don’t want to see death, they don’t want to hear about death, they don’t want to be exposed to death.  Therefore, they do their damnedest to eliminate death from their vicinity and to declare death a bad thing across the board.

Sorry, but it’s just not.  Death is, in fact, a natural part of life.  Everything dies.  You die.  I die.  Everything I’ve ever known or loved is destined to die.  Accepting this is an essential part of the maturation process.  It’s also something that most people unfortunately never achieve.  Are we supposed to believe that people have a rational right to declare that everyone has to do things to make them emotionally comfortable?  Really?

15 thoughts on “Suicide is Painless

  1. A person who is suffering from depression may not be capable of making sound decisions. I wouldn't support the suicide of such a person, but instead encourage them to get medical help. Very likely, after receiving treatment, they will look back and say to themselves, "What was I thinking?!" I have no problem with suicide, but it would be negligent to assist or encourage suicide without assurance that the parties involved are of sound mind.
    Having witnessed a lot of death up close I am not a big fan of dying. Am I afraid of dying? Perhaps, to some degree I am, although I was completely horrified of death as a believer. Now, I have what might be called the normal aversion to death that any living thing has. It is nearly always better to be alive than dead. We are all terminal, so I've come to terms with my own demise in a healthy, balanced way. I don't deny my fear of death, but I don't dwell on it either. I also recognize that there are countless others in this world who are of sound mind that have their own reasons for wanting to end their lives and it is not my (or anyone's) place to tell then they cannot.

    1. Yet that's the problem, lots of people assert that anyone who has any thoughts of suicide at all, for any reason, cannot be of sound mind by definition. That means people who are in constant pain, who are unable to care for themselves, or who are just sick of living, can't be trusted to make their own decisions because they want to do something that other people don't like.

    2. I agree with you, even while I agree with Cephus concern that it is too easy to label anyone who makes a decision we would not make "not of sound mind".

      For this reason, I support the idea of trying to provide resources that people in trouble can resort to before they decide to take their own lives, but I do not support actually forbidding them from doing so.

      1. I'm entirely fine with people having every form of support available to them when they make this decision, I am not fine with stopping them because we're uncomfortable with it. It reminds me of the scene in the 1973 movie Soylent Green where Sol Roth goes to a government assisted suicide center because he's old and tired of living. There's nothing wrong with that, except that they made pate out of him afterwards.

  2. "I don’t have to pretend that offing yourself sends you to eternal perdition. That’s what the early Christian church had to do, after so many early believers were killing themselves to get to heaven with Jesus and the church was losing workers and income."

    Is that true? Do you have a reference? I'd love to look in to that.

    My recent post Rotten Core but Thick Fruit

  3. It's strange that Christians would be against suicide, and atheists wouldn't be. They make up this nonsense about you're going to Hell if you kill yourself, because otherwise these people would go to Heaven, and that would be too good. People would be killing themselves all over the place, and that's no way to grow your brand family. On the other hand, we know that life has value while it is being lived, so if you end it, you lose whatever potential value you might have experienced. I guess you're right that the value might be negative, at some point, in many lives, so it might make sense to cut that part out. Unless it goes back up into positive territory.

    Some suicides are the result of oppression or bullying. While suicide may be a logical way for such victims to stop the pain, it's not really a pain they should have had to endure in the first place. Suicide can be a symptom of repetitive injury caused by others, as opposed to a solution to terminal illness, or genuinely free and rational examination of one's life. We should distinguish between the these, preventing deaths that do not need to happen by preventing their causes, while easing deaths that make no sense to prolong/delay. When someone wants to commit suicide, we need to know why, so we are not missing serious problems in society or health care, that we might be able to reduce, particularly knowing the severity of it. I think preventing some causes of suicide is not likely to have any significant effect on world population.

    I saw a 2008 documentary (Boy Interrupted) abuot a young boy who seemingly had always wanted to kill himself. I have no idea what to make of that.

  4. "They decided to declare suicide a mortal sin, just to keep their cash flow positive."

    What is your evidence that they did this "just to keep their cash flow positive."? There isn't any possibility it was done because of their interpretation of biblical scriptures?

    St. Augustine was the first to condemn suicide as a sin. He was motivated to do so because of the large number of christians who were commiting suicide. But there is nothing in the historical record, so far as my research has discovered, that supports the claim he or others condemned it "just to keep their cash flow positive."

    I agree with you that our culture's opposition to suicide is wrong. But it serves nothing but the cause of dishonesty to make stuff up and intentionally misrepresent the historical facts. And without some citation for the claim that suicide was labeled a sin by the Catholic Church for the reason you stated, the only conclusion one can arrive at is that you just made it up.

    St. Aquinas later also condemned it but based on interpretations of scripture.

    "In the 13th century Thomas Aquinas fortified the Church’s official position against suicide. Unlike Augustine, who acted to quell the surge of suicide among Christians, Aquinas was motivated by a need for intellectual understanding. Aquinas completed a comprehensive and systematic review of Christian theology, entitled Summa Theologiae. In this work, Aquinas vilified suicide as an act against God (much like Socrates) and denounced suicide as a sin for which one could not repent. Aquinas’ admonition resulted in civil and criminal laws to discourage suicide."


  5. " Death is, in fact, a natural part of life. Everything dies. You die. I die. Everything I’ve ever known or loved is destined to die."

    Quite true. But I hope you aren't suggesting that suicide is as natural a part of life as death. If it were then I should think our species would have gone extinct long, long, long ago. Evolution certainly did not mold us to be prone to suicide as an option. Suicide most certainly does not have a survival and/or reproductive advantage, the very core of what drives evolution. If it did then it would be far more common a practice than it is.

    1. Why isn't it? You've got this bizarre idea that being a natural part of life means that everyone who is alive does it. Dying of cancer is a natural part of life, it doesn't mean it's a universal experience.

      1. No, I don't have a "bizarre idea that being a natural party of life means that everyone who is alive does it." But if suicide were as natural as you are claiming it is then why aren't a great many more people doing it? After all, natural selection would have selected for this behavior if it were as natural as you seem to think it is.

        Of course dying of cancer is a natural part of life. But cancer is very different from suicide. Cancer is a disease. Suicide is not. Suicide is a behavior, an act one choose to perform. No one chooses to get cancer. Since suicide has a behavioral component, there is good reason to suspect that it would have been affected by evolution. If suicide conferred upon members of our species a survival or reproductive advantage, then it is very likely it is a behavioral trait that would have spread through the gene pool and become ubiquitous. This obviously is not the case. Thus my reason for saying that suicide is not as natural in the same sense that death itself is.

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