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mazingerz88's avatar

Outside the POV of religion, would suicide still be wrong?

Asked by mazingerz88 (25284points) January 22nd, 2012

I’m assuming most of us know what some religions think about suicide. That only God could take our human lives and never by our own hands. I don’t know what Buddhism thinks about suicides. But taking religion out of the discussion, would you think that a human being taking his own life is wrong? If it is not wrong, then why would it be right?

I am also not just talking about suicide induced by extreme physical or emotional pain, this is also about the possibility of a human being becoming simply disinterested or tired with experiencing human life and making the decision to “shut himself down.”

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38 Answers

King_Pariah's avatar

As I believe that morals are abstract (a false set of guidelines if you will), suicide – for whatever reason – isn’t wrong to me. It isn’t right persay, but then nothing is right, or wrong for that matter because nothing can be morally right or wrong.

TexasDude's avatar

You could probably argue from a Kantian or an Aristotelian perspective that suicide is wrong.

Fly's avatar

As a person whose values are completely separate from religion, I have never thought of suicide as wrong. Is “right?” Rarely.
Of course, I feel that a person should try all possible alternatives before resorting to suicide, as all lives are valuable even if said person might not see it at the time. If, at the end of the day, nothing has been able to change said person’s mind, I am of the opinion that suicide is an acceptable option, though still not quite “right.”
I think that the only instances in which suicide is ever arguably right are cases of the terminally ill or dying. I also think that doctor-assisted suicide should be perfectly legal, especially in these cases.
Sometimes, people are simply ready to pass, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, regardless of the reasons. In very few cases, however, do I think that suicide is fully “right.”

KoleraHeliko's avatar

If you’re in any situation*, of sound mind, and simply decide you do not wish to continue living, that is your choice.

Religion is typically an extremely conservative take on the accepted standards of a given time. Its sole purpose is control, in one form or another. Followers killing themselves (in manners other than martyrdom, of course) is adverse to the progression of a religion, so is usually advised against in articles of faith.

I strongly suspect suicide, especially in cases of euthanasia, would be far more acceptable had various religions not permeated our society as such.

*Provided that you shan’t be leaving a child with someone who cannot care for them, without first making further arrangements for alternative care, leaving a large debt upon someone who could not pay for it, or some other such dick move.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I think it should be your choice as long as you give some consideration for the survivors. You should not leave a mental and physical mess as your legacy.
Do not burden others with nightmares that result from your choice. (I selfishly say this from my experience as a former ambulance crew member.)
Dying with dignity is best.

zenvelo's avatar

I am supportive of those who wish to end their lives because of terminal illness, or intractable pain. But I also think that needs to be done with a lot of thought and counseling, not just spur of the moment.

I think suicide when one is emotionally overwhelmed is wrong, and doesn’t solve any problems, it just creates new ones for those around you.

smilingheart1's avatar

If we have no God then we are god of our lives and suicide would not be wrong. However after out of the body and saw how wrong we were we would give anything to get back in the okd carcass and live with fresh gusto.

AdamF's avatar

Every suicide I have personally known of has had significant and often devastating aftershocks…screwing up the lives of dozens and dozens of people within sufficient emotional proximity.

That said, whether suicide is “wrong” depends on the context of the circumstances. Frankly, I think the issue is too complex to hang simplistic black or white labels on.

I can only hope that those contemplating suicide can force themselves to live just one more day, and then another, and another, because then there’s hope. Hope that someone else, or some thing, can give them reason to live for and a life to enjoy.

JLeslie's avatar

I never think of suicide as wrong or right or immoral or moral. The reason I might feel suicide is a bad decision, is because many times suicidal feelings are temporary, but death is obviously permanent. I do think a person should have the right to take their own life, but I am against very young people doing it, because they have not experienced life enough to know what they are missing, and their brains are not developed enough to make this sort of decision in my opinion. I also think parents have an obligation to their children to provide for them. In every circumstance we should consider those around us to some extent. If the person, even young, is enduring significant physical pain and possibly has a terminal illness. The opposite extreme is I know someone who has spoken about how the nurses who cared for her father told her that he lived longer than he would have because of her, and a part of me feels he suffered longer, because he knew his daughter, adult daughter, could not let go. I think that was an unfair burden for the patient in that circumstance. I think maybe the nurses were trying to tell her to give him permission to go, and she never understood their message. It would not have been actively taking his own life, but it does seem people can have some control over their death when they are very very terminally ill.

marinelife's avatar

Yes, in general it is wrong. It goes against the instinct to survive.

bea2345's avatar

Short of intractable, unremitting and incurable suffering, I would not consider suicide. There is always another day.

Blackberry's avatar

It’s not wrong at all. Life is amazing, but we were also involuntarily brought into it. People are born into the shittiest lives everyday that they didn’t ask for. Is living really so worth it if your life is horrible everyday? That doesn’t apply to a lot of people, but the fact still remains it’s our brain and bodies and we can do whatever we want with it.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I don’t see it as “right” or “wrong”. It is sad to think that anyone would be that out of options, and hurtful to those left behind. It is a human travesty. But who am I (or anyone else) to be judging the person who does it. It is their choice, and I suppose they have their reasons.

whitenoise's avatar

Religion has very little to do with it.

Only if you would accept the premise that without religion there can be no good or bad, does the question make sense.

Rape can be viewed ‘bad’ by people without religion, so I see no reason why they couldn’t see suicide as wrong. If you look for non-religous arguments, then I’ll gte back to that in a later post.

BTW… something can be ‘not wrong’, without being right.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@whitenoise I guess I can’t see any behaviour that a person does as “wrong” if it doesn’t affect anyone else. There are bad choices, and even VERY bad choices, but they are the individual’s choice to make. Of course, suicide does affect that person’s loved ones, but that isn’t the same. The suicidee is DEAD, the loved ones are not.

whitenoise's avatar

Suicide is the ending of one’s life.

As a choice its best merits may be to take away the misery someone endures. It does so by taking away all potential for future good things as well, though. The latter to be considered opportunity costs. As a choice as such the merits are therfore limited, while the costs are not.

Personally I dislike suicide and think that in general it is wrong:
* It cannot be undone
* Often it is a choice with consequences that cannot be overseen (how to know your future potential.)
* Often it leaves and creates a lot of misery to the ones left behind.
* Often, successful suicides are carried out with little deliberation, by people that suffer from a treatable medical (mental) condition impairing their judgement.
* Most survivors of a (serious) attempt later say they are happy they failed.

I know I can find the sources for this, but I’m tired.

whitenoise's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt

A person that makes a poor choice and through that hurts himself has made a wrong choice.

More so if the choice was made by someone incapacitated to make a good choice. For instance as a consequnce of their depression.

I’ve had a depression. I felt like jumping off a cliff most of the time.
I didn’t (duh…) and I’m happy I didn’t.

Looking back… Had I killed myself as a consequence of my depression, then I think that would be a wrong. A wrong that I would have done to myself as a consequence of my illness at the time.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@whitenoise I try not to make bad choices or poor choices. I wouldn’t make the choice to kill myself, but I don’t feel like it is my business to make that choice for someone else. Unless I am living in his/her skin, I can’t make that call. And it is judgemental to say “you’re bad” or “you’re wrong” or “you’re evil” for making that choice.

whitenoise's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt
Bad, wrong evil, all different things.

You can make a wrong choice, do a wrong act and I can say so,without saying, or having the right to say that you are a wrong person. I would call your suicide wrong, but would not think of or refer to you as a bad / wrong /evil person. You seem very nice. Probably i would say you were a great person that made a wrong choice.

On top… If you are to make a wrong choice, or taking a wrong action, that in itself doesn’t mean I will have the right to intervene. You are creating false dichotomies. In my world, you have the right to make wrong choices, as long as you don’t hurt others. The choice would / could still be wrong though.

flutherother's avatar

Suicide might be more accepted if it weren’t for religion. Religions are dogmatic about suicide but every case is different.

wundayatta's avatar

For me, suicide is not a theoretical issue. It’s something I struggled with on a daily basis for maybe half a year. I would sit here in my office on the 8th floor and wonder if today was the day I would see if the window opened widely enough for me to slip through. I wondered if 8 floors was enough. If I would be able to turn around and land head first so as to make sure I didn’t survive.

I imagined that short flight and wondered if I would have regrets at the last moment. If I would chicken out and try to see if I could survive it. I imagined that last moment of consciousness before nothingness and not even an awareness of nothingness. Then I comforted myself that after that, it wouldn’t matter. A nothingness of nothingness.

Everyone one talks to about this reminds one that there are family members: children and a spouse and perhaps even others who would be affected very badly if I were to succeed. Or maybe even if I only tried. This fact seemed to mean a lot to most people I talked to about it. Most women, anyway. They cited it as the number one reason why they could never kill themselves, even though they wished they could.

How is it that we can have such a powerful impact on others if we die, when we feel totally lost, alone, and unloved while we are alive? I suppose we could be wrong in our assessment of ourselves that we are unloved. But do our feelings lie? Is it possible to be loved, yet feel unloved? Could people love us without actually expressing their love to us? If so, what does that mean? Does that mean this urge to die is a disconnect with reality? It seems that most people who have not felt this pain do argue that. They argue that we are not unloved. We are missing it, somehow.

I don’t know if that helps. I know that “I wouldn’t want to do that to my children” does seem to help a number of people. If your parent is a suicide, that strongly increases the chances you will be a suicide. But not everyone has children.

I never wanted to die. I don’t believe anyone wants to die. What people want, I believe, is an end to the pain. And there are some pains that seem like they will never end.

Should I have to live in pain for the rest of my life? The pain of depression is unrelenting and unbelievably painful. It is worse than any physical pain I can imagine. Physical pains tend to stop after a while. Mental anguish does not. It might end. If we’re lucky it will end. But usually when it is really bad, it becomes impossible to believe it could ever end. Not no how. Not no way. Except if you are dead.

Suicide, I believe, is only seen as a way to end unbearable pain. The question is, is the pain truly unbearable? Is it true that it will never end?

This is not something we can know. In my experience, the mental anguish did end. It ended for everyone I know before they killed themselves. This suggests that mental pain is also temporary, although to say that is like speaking a lie. This pain is unbelievable and it is not possible to conceive of it ending until it actually does diminish.

Suicide is wrong, for me, because it is based on a premise that is not likely to be true. It is based on the premise that the pain will never end. Still, the pain can go on and on and it can seem like it will never end and I can understand why someone would feel that way. At a certain point, you give in, and you just want it to get worse until you have the strength to end it.

My psychiatrist had a clever trick, and it worked even though I knew it was a trick. He told me that you should never make a life-changing decision when you are in the midst of a depression. You should always wait at least three months. I was thinking about letting my wife be free of me. Three months later, he gave me another reason to wait three more months (it takes time to get the meds right, or some such).

Is suicide wrong? I could never answer that question. But should you wait? Yes. You should always wait. Give it time. Give it another day. You can live one more day, can’t you? Then just take it wundayatta time. That is all I can ask of anyone, no matter what situation they are in. One more day. Just give me one more day. You can handle that. Any one of us could.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@whitenoise You are right, I see that I shouldn’t have said “you’re bad” or “you’re wrong”. But even if you say the act of suicide is the bad or wrong thing here; just because it would be a bad choice for me and you, we can’t assume that it would be a bad choice for someone else. We can’t know their situation without living in their skin.

Mariah's avatar

A lot of people say that suicide is extremely selfish, because of the pain you’ll cause your family and friends.

To that I ask: is it not selfish to ask someone who is living in terrible mental or physical pain to continue existing because you love them and don’t want to let them go?

If there’s any hope that the situation might improve, of course I would hope that somebody would try as hard as they could to find another way through it. But if the only choices are live in pain forever or die… I couldn’t possibly blame somebody for choosing the latter.

saint's avatar

Only if the person commiting suicide imagines that they are going to a better place. If they simply want to end it, well fair enough. But if they imagine that they will be transported to a brand new alternative, they are irrational. Irrational is immoral.

ariah's avatar

I would not say that it is right. You are A) being very reactionary to things in your life that may or may not be fixed or controlled. B) You are being selfish. Everybody you leave behind will not only have to mourn you, but may be left with the thought that they should have helped you and that it was, possibly, their fault that suicide is what you choose. Weather you believe it or not, there are people who understand your pain and can help you either get out of the situation you are in or deal with your depression. Seek them and use them.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Any complete answer to this question is going to very complex.

If a person commits suicide because they believe that they will go to heaven or be reborn into a better world, then that is irrational. If the belief in a better afterlife is a major factor in the decision, such that the person would not commit suicide if they did not believe in it, then I would classify the suicide as “wrong.”

Then there are those people who commit suicide because they believe that their family would be happier without them. While these people may intend on doing good, this is still very irrational, and I would include it in my category of “wrong.”

I’m not completely sure that I would call a suicide that does not fit into the above categories “wrong”, but I will never call it “right” and I would never advise suicide.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

auhsojsa's avatar

I’d say it’s too systematic of an idea. I’m trying to put myself in a suicides shoes and what I come up with is this particular thought. “Ok, I’m no good for the people surrounding me, or no good for this world. I can’t help animals, or nature, or people or I’m feeling like I don’t belong at all. This is it for me I don’t belong and I don’t want to try anymore so I’ll kill what is perceived to be my life. By doing this I won’t have to deal with any more pressure of what is affecting me.” I think when someone starts thinking like that, although it’s an abstract thought, it’s a black and white switch to me. To think someone could just turn off the miracle of life as a choice is so robotic to me. We didn’t decide to have life, so I think we shouldn’t decide to take it away as well. The scientific beauty of how spontaneous life is much too rare, consciousness is much too precious in my opinion to just let go and give up on life. So by my conclusions yes I think it would be wrong.

digitalimpression's avatar

Regardless of why people think they exist, it is pretty obvious that life is the greatest gift (if you’re religious) / phenomenon (if you aren’t) that we have. Throwing it away doesn’t make sense regardless of which side of the equation you’re on.

harple's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt You wrote: “Of course, suicide does affect that person’s loved ones, but that isn’t the same. The suicidee is DEAD, the loved ones are not.”

It’s worse, actually. The loved ones have to live with it day after day, for the rest of their lives.

mattbrowne's avatar

In many cases, yes. Because how it affects the close people who are alive. In many cases there are good alternatives to suicide.

There are rare extreme cases of incurable depression for example where for some patients suicide is the only way out and we have to respect this.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@harple I know, but I think if someone was contemplating something as rash as suicide, they probably would not be thinking of their loved ones. I don’t believe that they have any intentions of hurting their loved ones, anyway.

harple's avatar

Oh well, so long as it’s not the intention, that’s okay then. The hurt they cause must not be as real.

flutherother's avatar

People don’t commit suicide to hurt their loved ones but that is the inevitable result.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I guess a lot of decisions a person makes would hurt their loved ones. Even just moving out of state, or marrying someone that they object to. Joining the army, skydiving, or if you died skydiving. Sometimes you have to go through with your decisions even if they hurt your loved ones. I can only assume that someone who has made the decision to end it all would have had to struggle with that.

wundayatta's avatar

@auhsojsa I applaud your effort to try to put yourself in the place of someone who is contemplating suicide. You are missing something important, though.

It is not and intellectual exercise. It is very much emotional and we only have the intellect to try to argue against this overwhelming feeling of loss and worthlessness. I could try to summon up the feeling necessary to try to go for a metaphor that might convey it to you, but I don’t have the energy for that now, and it’s too dangerous for me to put myself in that place.

So, from a distance, imagine there is a black hole inside your stomach and it is sucking all your happiness out of you, and it only leaves these feelings of incredible anxiety and depression that feelings like your whole personality is being flattened by a steam roller the size of a giant dump truck. Your body flattens beneath it, but you don’t physically break. Instead your entire spirit is squished out until there is nothing. No will. No belief. No happiness. No sense that you have anything of value to offer anyone and indeed, if you go near them, you will suck all that is good out of their life, too.

Now know that this is true. You do actually suck the life out of everyone else whenever you go near them. Know also that this will never end. This is how it is going to be for the rest of your life. God told you this, or whatever authority you know. Science says so. This is what the rest of your life is going to be like and not only that, it is going to get worse. You must know this in your soul of souls.

Now try to apply logic.

Now understand this, too. When someone tells you that death is the best thing for you, you recognize that as the paramount truth. Well guess who told you? Yup. You did.

Fighting against that… anyone who survives… has my greatest admiration. Honestly, it doesn’t seem possible and yet people do survive. I would not wish this battle on anyone.

AshLeigh's avatar

I wouldn’t say it’s exactly wrong. But it’s not right either.
I guess it all depends on the situation. If you’re dying anyways, and you just want the pain to stop, maybe. I wouldn’t condone it, but I could understand it.
If you’re just being a dumb kid… “Oh, my boyfriend broke up with me! I’m going to kill myself!” That’s stupid. It’s not like you’re never going to get over it.
I think suicide is selfish. When my best friend was suffering from all that he was going through, I always felt like he was being selfish. He was going to leave me behind, in a world with no one I could trust. But then I realized that he was hurting, and he felt just as much, maybe more, pain as I did. And I was selfish for wanting to keep him with me.
I understand why people would commit suicide. I’ve wanted to die before. I know what it’s like to feel that low. But it’s a selfish thing to do. There’s always someone who might need you, and you won’t be there.

Studies show that 90% of people who attempted suicide, and lived, immediately had the desire to live. Makes me wonder about the ones who succeed…

linguaphile's avatar

Not on religious grounds but on certain ethical grounds, it’s wrong.

When someone kills themselves, they get rid of their own pain, but create pain for a varying number of others in the process.

One of the most fascinating thing about suicide, for me, is when someone kills themselves, that becomes the first and often main thing others remember about them- it is like it almost cancels out everything else that person does. If someone dies in a car accident, it’s like, “Matt was a wonderful guy! He did this, and that, and that. He loved to do this and that. It was funny when… etc.” But when someone kills themselves, it’s like, “Brandon ehm….....(awkward pause).”

The self-cancellation (on more levels than one, evidently) is ethically wrong as well.

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