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Suicide Sin Int
Robert Green Ingersoll
New York Journal, 1895. An Interview. SUICIDE A SIN. QUESTION: Do you think that what you have written about suicide has caused people to take their lives? ANSWER: No, I do not. People do not kill themselves because of the ideas of others. They are the victims of misfortune. QUESTION: What do you consider the chief cause of suicide? ANSWER: There are many causes. Some individuals are crossed in love, others are bankrupt in estate or reputation, still others are diseased in body and frequently in mind. There are a thousand and one causes that lead up to the final act. QUESTION: Do you consider that nationality plays a part in these tragedies? ANSWER: No, it is a question of individuals. There are those whose sorrows are greater than they can bear. These sufferers seek the peace of death. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 20 SUICIDE A SIN. QUESTION: Do you, then, advise suicide? ANSWER: No, I have never done so, but I have said, and still say, that there are circumstances under which it is justifiable for a person to take his life. QUESTION: What do you think of the law which prohibits self-destruction? ANSWER: That it is absurd and ridiculous. The other day a man was tried before Judge Goff for having tried to kill himself. I think he pleaded guilty, and the Judge, after speaking of the terrible crime of the poor wretch, sentenced him to the penitentiary for two years. This was an outrage; infamous in every way, and a disgrace to our civilization. QUESTION: Do you believe that such a law will prevent the frequency of suicides? ANSWER: By no means. After this, persons in New york who have made up their minds to commit suicide will see to it that they succeed. QUESTION: Have your opinions been in any way modified since your first announcement of them? ANSWER: No, I feel now as I have felt for many years. No one can answer my articles on suicide, because no one can satisfactorily refute them. Every man of sense knows that a person being devoured by a cancer has the right to take morphine, and pass from agony to dreamless sleep. So, too, there are circumstances under which a man has the right to end his pain of mind. QUESTION: Have you seen in the papers that many who have killed themselves have had on their persons some article of yours on suicide? ANSWER: Yes, I have read such accounts, but I repeat that I do not think these persons were led to kill themselves by reading the articles. Many people who have killed themselves were found to have Bibles or tracts in their pockets. QUESTION: How do you account for the presence of the latter? ANSWER: The reason of this is that the theologians know nothing. The pious imagine that their God has placed us here for some wise and inscrutable purpose, and that he will call for us when he wants us. All this is idiotic. When a man is of no use to himself or to others, when his days and nights are filled with pain and sorrow, why should he remain to endure them longer? **** **** Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 21 SUICIDE A SIN. New York Harold, 1897. An Interview. SUICIDE A SIN. Col. Robert G. Ingersoll was seen at his house and asked if he had read the Rev. Merle St. Croix Wright's sermon. ANSWER: Yes. I have read the sermon, and also an interview had with the reverend gentleman. Long ago I gave my views about suicide, and I entertain the same views still. Mr. Wright's sermon has stirred up quite a commotion among the orthodox ministers. This commotion may always be expected when anything sensible comes from a pulpit. Mr. Wright has mixed a little common sense with his theology, and, of course this has displeased the truly orthodox. Sense is the bitterest foe that theology has. No system of supernatural religion can outlive a good dose of real good sense. The orthodox ministers take the ground that an infinite Being created man, put him on the earth and determined his days. They say that God desires every person to live until he, God, calls for his soul. They insist that we are all on guard and must remain so until relieved by a higher power -- the superior officer. The trouble with this doctrine is that it proves too much. It proves that God kills every person who dies as we say, "according to nature." It proves that we ought to say, "according to God." It proves that God sends the earthquake, the cyclone, the pestilence, for the purpose of killing people. It proves that all diseases and all accidents are his messengers, and that all who do not kill themselves, die by the act, and in accordance with the will of God. It also shows that when a man is murdered, it is in harmony with, and a part of the divine plan. When God created the man who was murdered, he knew that he would be murdered, and when he made the man who committed the murder, he knew exactly what he would do. So that the murder was the act of God. Can it be said that God intended that thousands should die of famine and that he, to accomplish his purpose, withheld the rain? Can we say that he intended that thousands of innocent men should die in dungeons and on scaffolds? Is it possible that a man, "slowly being devoured by a cancer," whose days and nights are filled with torture, who is useless to himself and a burden to others, is carrying out the will of God? Does God enjoy his agony? Is God thrilled by the music of his moans -- the melody of his shrieks? This frightful doctrine makes God an infinite monster, and every human being a slave; a victim. This doctrine is not only infamous but it is idiotic. It makes God the only criminal in the universe. Now, if we are governed by reason, if we use our senses and our minds, and have courage enough to be honest; if we know a little of the world's history, then we know -- if we know anything Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 22 SUICIDE A SIN. -- that man has taken his chances, precisely the same as other animals. He has been destroyed by heat and cold, by flood and fire, by storm and famine, by countless diseases, by numberless accidents. By his intelligence, his cunning, his strength, his foresight, he has managed to escape utter destruction. He has defended himself. He has received no supernatural aid. Neither has he been attacked by any supernatural power. Nothing has ever happened in nature as the result of a purpose to benefit or injure the human race. Consequently the question of the right or wrong of suicide is not in any way affected by a supposed obligation to the Infinite. All theological considerations must be thrown aside because we see and know that the laws of life are the same for all living things -- that when the conditions are favorable, the living multiply and life lengthens, and when the conditions are unfavorable, the living decrease and life shortens. We have no evidence of any interference of any power superior to nature. Taking into consideration the fact that all the duties and obligations of man must be to his fellows, to sentient beings, here in this world, and that he owes no duty and is under no obligation to any phantoms of the air, then it is easy to determine whether a man under certain circumstances has the right to end his life. If he can be of no use to others -- if he is of no use to himself -- if he is a burden to others -- a curse to himself -- why should he remain? By ending his life he ends his sufferings and adds to the well-being of others. He lessens misery and increases happiness. Under such circumstances undoubtedly a man has the right to stop the pulse of pain and woo the sleep that has no dream. I do not think that the discussion of this question is of much importance, but I am glad that a clergyman has taken a natural and a sensible position, and that he has reasoned not like a minister. but like a man. When wisdom comes from the pulpit I am delighted and surprised. I feel then that there is a little light in the East, possibly the dawn of a better day. I congratulate the Rev. Mr. Wright, and thank him for his brave and philosophic words. There is still another thing. Certainly a man has the right to avoid death, to save himself from accident and disease. If he has this right, then the theologians must admit that God, in making his decrees, took into consideration the result of such actions. Now, if God knew that while most men would avoid death, some would seek it, and if his decrees were so made that they would harmonize with the acts of those who would avoid death, can we say that he did not, in making his decrees, take into consideration the acts of those who would seek death? Let us remember that all actions, good, bad and indifferent, are the necessary children of conditions -- that there is no chance in the natural world in which we live. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 23 SUICIDE A SIN. So, we must keep in mind that all real opinions are honest, and that all have the same right to express their thoughts. Let us be charitable. When some suffering wretch, wild with pain, crazed with regret, frenzied with fear, with desperate hand unties the knot of life, let us have pity -- Let us be generous.