Could Suicide Be Rational?

ROB MC EWAN

Today, millions of people are mourning because of the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams. Williams was an amazingly talented person. He was a recipient of numerous awards, including an Oscar for his role in “Good Will Hunting.” My personal favorite role of his was in “Aladdin.” Williams was the voice of the Genie and I knew every one of his lines by heart.

Tragically, there was another side to him. In addition to being able to make anybody laugh until they cried, Williams struggled for years with addiction and depression. Williams was very open about his problems. True to his character, Williams never missed an opportunity to use his struggles to make people laugh. Yesterday, news reports say that the 63 year-old husband and father of three was found dead in his home of an apparent suicide by asphyxia.

To me, laughter is one of those experiences in life that erases differences. When people are laughing, they’re not Black, White, rich, poor, a Republican or a Democrat; they’re just people. For his contributions to that form of art, Williams will be fondly remembered by all.

After I heard the news about Williams’ passing, I started thinking about the issue of suicide. Most people believe that it’s tragic, but why? Is it tragic in a personal sense in that it goes against our preferences or is it tragic in an ultimate sense? We often assume that nobody in their right mind would commit suicide, but why is that? Could suicide be a rational decision? I think the answer to these questions depends on your worldview.

Any worldview or philosophy of life that’s worth its weight includes answers or opinions on certain ultimate Grand Central Questions such as: does God exist and what is my purpose? I wonder if people take the time to realize the implications of their worldview, specifically when it comes to suicide. For example, atheists agree with the statement: “God does not exist.” In general they believe that the universe and human existence is merely a cosmic accident and that there is no ultimate purpose for life; any purpose that people think they have is self-created as a way to cope with the harsh realities of life. It seems to me that a person with such beliefs could see suicide as a rational decision. Since, your life doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things and since you’re an accident without any ultimate purpose beyond yourself, why shouldn’t one kill themselves if they’re in pain or unhappy with their life? It seems to me that an atheist can’t escape these implications.

For me, it’s not just that I reject atheism because I find its implications depressing, I think atheism’s answers to questions about God and purpose conflict with reality. Today, many scientists agree that the universe is fine-tuned for life. To me, the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe is that God exists and that He designed the universe because He cares about us. Since God cared enough to design the universe so that we could live, there is worth and value in our lives beyond the value that we see for ourselves. Christianity teaches that God cares so much about us that He was willing to sacrifice Himself on the cross just so we could be reunited with Him. I personally find this teaching more consistent with the human experience than atheism or any other alternative.

It seems to me that only a person who’s worldview is consistent with theism in general or Christianity specifically, can mourn the death of Robin Williams in a deep and meaningful way. As a Christian, I don’t mourn his death in merely a subjective or selfish way in that he can’t make me laugh anymore, I also mourn his death because his life mattered in and of itself. The world has truly lost something valuable that can’t be replaced. It makes the tragedy even worse when, as seems to be the case here, life’s struggles causes a person to forget that they are so valuable.

I hope that people will take the time to think, not only about Robin Williams’ death, but about death in general. Ask yourself: if you feel a sense of loss that is more than just selfishness when somebody you know dies, is your worldview consistent with that feeling?

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3 Responses to Could Suicide Be Rational?

  1. Ofela says:

    Could Suicide Be Rational? Some excerpts from original post: – “It seems to me that a person with such beliefs could see suicide as a rational decision. Since, your life doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things and since you’re an accident without any ultimate purpose beyond yourself, why shouldn’t one kill themselves if they’re in pain or unhappy with their life? To me, the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe is that God exists and that He designed the universe because He cares about us. Since God cared enough to design the universe so that we could live, there is worth and value in our lives beyond the value that we see for ourselves.”

    First, and foremost, let me say the above was a well-written analysis about concept of suicide. The question asked was “could suicide be rational?” For me the answer could not be as simple as a YES or a NO, for both believers and non-believers alike. The incidence of suicide for atheists or non-God believing persons could be as a result of a feeling of worthlessness, non-value ascribing life that was self-imposed or perceived. When a person imposes a meaning of worthlessness to his or her life due to an inherent mental/psychological distortion, the issue is generally beyond comprehension for lay people. Unfortunately, this “worldview” distortion do not occur among the unbelievers only. Even, we have biblical incidences of suicides. One that comes to mind is Samson (Judges 16). When we heard the news of Robin Williams, and others who took their own lives, many of us are saddened, without a doubt. When a news like this breaks many of us do not know the intimate detail surrounding such desperate act of hopelessness that terminated the lives of those we heard about. We do not understand the suicidal notions. We are unable to rationalize the occurrence in any intelligible manner. We become devastated and confounded.

    Consequently, as children of God, we must ask ourselves some questions. Do believers sometimes feel a sense of hopelessness, valueless life ideations and discouragement that possibly lead to suicide? Do we know, or have we heard of a believer suicide incidence? What happens to a believer that committed suicide? Should we assume that if a so-called believer committed suicide, that he or she was never saved? What I know as a clinician about victims of suicide involves mental illness, which invariably causes a person to have a distorted worldview. Given my clinical knowledge and understanding of mental illness, and then my comprehension of the manifestation of this unfortunate sickness in the lives of the affected, I believe suicide occurs among believers, as much as it occurs with unbelievers alike. I have seen it, way too many times in both populations of people.

    Parenthetically, let me say when a suicide incident occurs with a believer, I must say, I take solace in the knowledge of the person’s faith in God. I am rest assured that the believer – a saved soul, who professed Christ as the Lord and Savior, who also believed that Christ is the procreator, the author, and finisher of his or her faith, will not perish. The believer who committed suicide, like Samson (Hebrew 11), will reign with Christ in heaven, in the bosom of Abraham. It is my divine that believe through faith, even a Christian suicide victim will “33 Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, … to obtain resurrection to a better life”

    Hallelujah Jesus lives so I too, when I exit the ephemeral world in Glory of God, and those believers in Christ who slept due to mental illness that brought about suicide, will live forever in the Mighty Kingdom.

    May God make His words live forever in us! Remain blessed in the pureness of Calvary

    Ofela

  2. Very thoughtful. Thanks for reminding us that our worldview determines how we respond to this issue.

  3. Quasi-Paul says:

    Thank you for your comments Ofela. I agree that a believer who commits suicide will go to heaven. The idea that suicide disqualifies you from heaven seems to be a “works” based idea of salvation, which I think is wrong. I’m sure that both Atheists and Christians commit suicide. The point is that it is logically consistent with atheists views and logically inconsistent with Christians views.

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