Written by and Media by Momoka Murata.
Is suicide a sin?
It is not rare that people choose suicide to end their lives, leaving others with questions. One of the difficult controversies in Christianity is whether or not this is a sin. From a Muslim perspective, the definition of suicide is clear; however, in Christianity, it seems very complicated, and people have different opinions.
First of all, Islam clarifies suicide as a sin. The Quran, in verses 4-29, states, “Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.” In Islam, this is because they believe every human being is owned by God; thus it is not acceptable to kill oneself.
In contrast, in the Christian community, even though there are no verses that explicitly ban suicide, it is also a common belief that humans are God’s creation; therefore, we should do everything we can to sustain human life. In the Ten Commandments, it says killing is unforgivable, and suicide is technically the killing of oneself. However, in John 11:14-16 we read, “So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake, I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” This could be seen as a suggestion of suicide.
In the book, “On Punishment: The Confrontation of Suicide in Old Europe,” you may see when Christians started to regard suicide as sinful. Before Augustine regarded suicide as a sin, it was admired in early Christianity. Because martyrdom was beautified, the church had to take measures to sustain their believers. In “Definition of Suicide,” there are more historical details, in which Augustine advocated for decimation, which was the custom of choosing one out of ten men to die at the hands of the other nine. In 693 CE, a declaration was made to excommunicate believers who committed suicide. Later, St. Thomas Aquinas claimed it was a crime to commit suicide because it goes against God’s authority and attempts to control life and death. This notion became wildly common.
Because there is no description of banning suicide in the Bible, a famous philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, mentioned in his book, “Studies in Pessimism,” that we should restore the honor of unjustly despised Christians who committed suicide.
In the article, “Is Suicide Unforgivable?” in Christianity Today, author Lewis B. Smedes stated his opinion from a different perspective: “Some say that suicide cannot be forgiven because the person who did it could not have repented of doing it. But all of us commit sins that we are too spiritually cloddish to recognize for the sins they are. And we all die with sins not named and repented of.”
Several Greenville students shared their thoughts on the topic of religion and suicide in the podcast below.
As someone who has grown up in a non-religious environment, I agree with the Buddhist perspective that states that there is no good and evil in death. On the contrary, determining the good and bad is seen as inherently selfish.
What about you? What are your thoughts on the relationship between religion and suicide?