Horror Show Sunday: Suicide is Religious

Maria KisloUsually when I write these stories, they involve horrors visited upon others by the religious, either physical, mental or emotional.  This one is a little different.  In Poland, a 12-year old girl, Maria Kislo, was found hanged in her bedroom with a note that said she was killing herself so that she could go to heaven and see her father.  The girl’s mother, Monika, found the body and says she didn’t know that her father’s death in 2009 had so profoundly affected the girl.  She says Maria wasn’t depressed or despondent, she said “she didn’t seem unhappy, she didn’t have problems at school and she seemed a happy little girl.”

Yet this is what happens when you tell innocent, impressionable children such absurd concepts as heaven and hell.  I know it’s supposed to be comforting for those left behind, but without an understanding that it’s just a story, horrific consequences like this can and do occur.

Suicide is an interesting issue when it comes to Christianity.  In the Bible itself, there are seven suicides described and several cases where suicidal thoughts are expressed, most notably the jailer in Acts 16:28 and Elijah in 1 Kings 19:4 and Job 6:9.  Early in church history, the Donatists were a very pro-suicide sect, believing that because Jesus was soon to return, they should kill themselves to go to heaven and be with him.  This was soon to be considered a heretical position, both because of the Bible’s prohibition on killing and because early churches recognized that if their members kept killing themselves, they’d soon run out of members and that all-important donation money.  By the sixth century, suicide became a secular crime and viewed as sinful and eventually, those who killed themselves were denied a Christian burial.  In 1693, even attempted suicide became a sin and could be punished by excommunication.

The Catholic Catechism denounces suicide in two points:

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It 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.

2325 Suicide is seriously contrary to justice, hope, and charity. It is forbidden by the fifth commandment

Yet even though Christianity generally abhors suicide, a young child like Maria can’t be expected to understand this, all she knows is that she was told that her father is gone and in heaven and when she goes to heaven, she’ll get to see him again.  That’s why she killed herself.  Thanks religion.

Horror Show Sunday will never end so long as religion causes this demonstrable harm.


7 thoughts on “Horror Show Sunday: Suicide is Religious”

    1. Yes, I did see that after the fact and even if, in this instance, it wasn't the case that she killed herself to see her father in heaven (we don't know, that could be the case but we have no corroboratory evidence, as you note), certainly it's a possibility given the Christian belief system. When you pack that kind of religious bullshit into a child's head, I have no problem thinking that such a thing could happen, after all, we know that suicide was a huge problem in the early church and they had to proclaim that suicide was a mortal sin to keep the faithful from offing themselves to be with Jesus. Stranger things have unfortunately happened.

  1. To their credit, the people at The Friendly Atheist did admit that the story was bogus. It was a bit like a game of children's telephone tag: the story changes from one person to the next (for example, the British tabloids said the girl's father died of a heart attack; in reality, he was murdered). Still, though, I think unless we can really prove that this girl killed herself because she thought she would meet her father in heaven, using this particular story as a cautionary tale looks bad.

    1. It didn't come out until quite a bit later on that there was no note found and while this story may not have been true as reported, certainly one can see that such a thing could occur. This is one of hundreds, thousand of cautionary tales and it's certainly something that could easily be found within the beliefs of religious fanatics. It's not any individual story that ought to drive us to reject religion, it's the overwhelming weight of the enormous number of stories that we find day after day.

  2. I think, however, that even if an incident like this could conceivably happen, using this particular story that now appears to be bogus as an illustration of the dangers of religion does seem awkward. To use an analogy, people who want to raise awareness about the sexual abuse of children might think twice about using the Kelly Michaels case, in which a day care worker was falsely accused of molesting her students, as a warning about how children can be sexually abused. Yes, it is possible that children in day care centres can be sexually abused, but that is not what happened in the Michaels case.

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