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Robert Ingersoll Suicide Sin Int

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Suicide Sin Int

Robert Green Ingersoll

New York Journal, 1895. An Interview.


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.

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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

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

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?

****    ****

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New York Harold, 1897. An Interview.


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

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

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-- 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.

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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.

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