During the reading of some of my Sociological articles (most specifically those authored by Emile Durkheim), I began thinking of a moral quandary.  What is a valid reason (as atheists) to prevent suicide?

Christians believe in some type of hell or another; thus eternal torture.  Pagans believe in reincarnation; thus the return to the state the suicidal is attempting to leave.

What compelling reason do Atheists give to the suicidal to prevent this act?  Do we believe there is nothing to prevent it? Is it considered o.k. to do it?  Do we offer the suicidal the weapon of choice and politely say, “What’s stopping you?”

As a budding psychologist/ sociologist, and as a member of society, I am truly curious.

Please, don’t call the local authorities or put me on 24 hour watch- this is purely educational.  I have no intention or desire to take my own life.

In advance: thank you for your input.

 

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Comment by Lewis Smith on August 30, 2011 at 4:57pm

#1 - I think suicide should be allowed. A person shouldn't be forced to live when they don't want to. (Thrown in a mental institution, guilted into living, threatened with hell fire or being dishonored when they're dead, etc.) I think a person should have the freedom to end their life if they choose to.

#2 - Suicide can have negative effects on society, it may be removing one able bodied hard worker from this world. Obviously it will hurt the people close to them emotionally, and it may effect how much they contribute to society.

#3 - Therefore, it's practical to try preventing suicide, convincing a person to try alternatives such as counseling, medication, offering them options and hope, teaching coping skills, showing love and support, etc.

Comment by Unseen on August 30, 2011 at 6:04pm

You should take a look at Oregon's Death With Dignity concept.

Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on August 30, 2011 at 6:13pm

I support the right to die... for terminally ill patients only. Having a mental illness myself, I know that those mentally ill individuals who wish to or try to commit suicide (as I have done many times before I was properly medicated) often DO NOT really want to die. As a result of being not properly treated, their illness makes them believe that there is no hope. But what they really want more than anything else in the world is help. Not helping a suicidal mentally ill patient is unethical because there is a way to alleviate their suffering without unnecessarily destroying their most precious thing... their life. A properly medicated mentally ill individual will return to happiness and normality. Looking back on those unmedicated years when I was suicidal, I realize that I never truly wanted to die. I just wanted my pain to end... and it did... through medication.

 

However, with cases of terminally ill patients for whom prolonging unnecessary suffering with no hope of recovery would be cruel and inhuman, they should have the right to pull the plug on their own lives. However! The decision to die should be the PATIENT'S ONLY! With minors, the parents may have some say, but it is the child who should make the final decision. If the patient wishes to die but has become so feeble that they cannot do it themselves, assisted suicide in these hopeless cases should be legal.

 

So, the right to die should be there for individuals who are going to die anyway in a horrible manner, but if a person is mentally ill or going through tough times, they should get the help they need.

Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on August 30, 2011 at 6:17pm

Oh! I should add however that individuals who DO take their life, whether terminally ill or not should NOT be demonized, castigated, or considered selfish after their death. To do so would be wrong because it would cause unnecessary emotional pain on that person's friends and relatives that are already having to deal with the loss of someone they love. So I think that in the case of a completed suicide... no matter the motive for it... the most ethical thing to do is to provide support for the loved ones left behind.

Comment by James on August 30, 2011 at 9:17pm

It seemed like it was one part of your justification for your moral view to begin with, so yes, it does matter in this case.  I take a few issues with your statements:

i) you aren't benefitting from this party in any way

ii) not only does this party have no appreciation for your deed, but receives no benefit

iii) this party does not exist now or at any other point in time; it's strictly conceptual

 

True, it's all conceptual, but that doesn't matter to me and I'm not convinced that this fact should matter. I could say that I benefit because I am alive and they aren't. But the whole scenario is simply an exercise in statistics. Their chance at life likely wasn't impacted by my winning life. But I still don't see why I shouldn't appreciate the odds that were overcome, since the other (conceptual) party is unaware they lost, or that there was a lottery of life to begin with.

 

This 'amazing gift' also has no feelings or appreciations of any such disservice.  It asks for nothing and needs nothing.  Not everyone experiences it as a gift.

 

Agreed. Life is not a conscious party in this scenario. I approach the situation as such; Life is something I am amazingly appreciative for. Thus, ending a life that I love would be a disservice to that life. Obviously, not everyone views life the same though. And to that I'm sure we can agree.

 

I'm sure many people feel that way as well.  I certainly have no issue with the way you feel about your life.  Other people don't feel that way about their lives, and I think they's equally valid.  It's their life. For those that choose suicide, I don't think inherently makes them any more selfish than anyone else on the face of the planet.

 

I'll agree that many people may not feel the same about their lives as I. That truly is something unique to them. What they decide is what they decide. But we were asked our advice fore the suicidal. In short, I'd tell them that I feel that life is an amazing thing, and that no matter how bad you think yours is, that it's still worth living. Life can and often does get better, but when put it in perspective, there are always those that have it worse. Will it help stave of a potential suicide? I guess it would depend on the person. Personally, I hope to save them. But at the same time it really is up to what they feel is right for them.

Comment by Laura Benedict on September 1, 2011 at 7:27pm

I have found this discussion to be quite educational.  I truly appreciate all comments given here.  I am especially grateful for the personal stories offered.  I have learned much.

Again, thank you

Comment by Colin Tomele on September 1, 2011 at 7:45pm

Personally, I am terrified of death, not because I fear hell but because I fear non-being. I like thinking and breathing and all of the associated benefits.

 

We are animals who are born to breed. We also have a self preservation instinct that helps propagate the species.

 

I believe that, unless you are dying or in immense, unlivable pain or similar dire straits, a healthy -animal- mind has been breed to live and reproduce, especially when young.

 

Suicide, to me, is a symptom of mental illness. This is not to say that there aren't outside influences!

 

Enough pressure can snap any mind, but I think some minds are more fragile to certain stressors. What may seem like nothing to you may seem like a phenomenal amount of pressure to someone else.

 

I also don't think that a mind that contemplates suicide is weak or inferior. Have none of you even considered it at a time of crisis? I don't mean that you actually attempted it - but, hasn't the thought of the easy-out crossed your mind and then been thrown away for the nonsense it was, at least once?

 

What if things, in your head (apart from the rest of our reality of the situation), were ten times worse. Twenty? A thousand? Who's to say what goes through anyone's head has any firm grounding on your own perception of the situation! My firm belief, though, is that it's an unnatural act brought on by stress that affects a mind that may have an imbalance, emotionally or chemically.

 

Again, just my opinion. I hope I haven' crowded out your other comments!

Comment by Unseen on September 1, 2011 at 8:55pm

You seem to be only considering the kind of suicide YOU might be subject to (should you go crazy). Not, for example, the person whose physical pain has become unbearable or the person who has altzheimer's and doesn't want to slide into dementia (who doesn't want to go crazy, in other words).

Comment by Colin Tomele on September 1, 2011 at 8:56pm

I commented on that early in my post. I said that I'm only speaking for (mostly young) people who are neither old not in unlivable pain or conditions.

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