Suicide note

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Posted by Richard Rawlinson

I picked up the London Evening Standard today and may as well have logged on to GFG. Of the three cover stories, one was about the health of the nonagenarian Duke of Edinburgh; one about the suspended death sentence of a Chinese woman convicted of murdering a Brit, and another about the suicide of Top Gun director Tony Scott, who threw himself off a Los Angeles bridge.

I’m sure even ardent Republicans here will feel a degree of concern for the Queen’s aged husband, and will recall with affection at least some of his un-PC utterances over the years:

‘You look like you’re ready for bed!’ To the President of Nigeria, who was wearing traditional robes.

‘Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?’ To residents of the Cayman Islands in 1994.

‘I would like to go to Russia very much — although the bastards murdered half my family.’ In 1967, when asked if he would like to visit the Soviet Union.

‘How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?’ To a Scottish driving instructor in 1995.

‘There’s a lot of your family in tonight.’ After noticing business leader Atul Patel’s name badge during a Buckingham Palace reception for 400 influential British Indians in 2009.

As for story two, I’m sure most here oppose the death penalty, even for heinous crimes.

But do any of you have views on the ‘ethics’ of suicide? Having recently blogged about the need sometimes to release anger at funerals (here), suicide cases spring to mind: we love and miss the person, we wish we could have made things different, but why did the selfish bastard do this to us?

Despite this human response, most religious and non-religious folk alike are united in compassion for those troubled souls who take their own life for whatever reason, and whether they’re seemingly fortunate or clearly deprived and abused.

Religions have varying degrees of forgiveness for what is generally held to be a sin across the faith spectrum.

The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church states, ‘We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.’

Meanwhile, Conservative Protestants, especially Evangelicals, have argued self-murder is as sinful as murder. And because these sects don’t believe in prayers for the dead, they say salvation can only be earned prior to death: the unpardonable sin then becomes not the suicide itself, but rather the refusal of the gift of salvation.

In Jewish law, suicide is deemed sinful, but it may be acceptable as an alternative to certain cardinal sins, when it becomes martyrdom for sacred principles. In practice every means is used to excuse suicide—usually by determining either that the suicide itself proves that the perpetrator was not in his or her right mind, or that the suicide must have repented after performing the act but before death took place.

Most Muslim clerics consider suicide forbidden and make a point of including suicide bombing. Prophet Muhammad allegedly said: ‘Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.’


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