Death and Dishonor [...]

The Romans and many other cultures have often embraced a notion of honorable suicide. An honorable suicide is a suicide that is not done for personal reasons, but to achieve some greater good. Mark Antony’s death, for example, was seen as dishonorable not because it was a suicide, but because he killed himself over a love affair. Cato the Younger, who killed himself after a battle defeat to avoid prolonging civil strife, on the other hand, was seen as noble. In other words, the suicide is judge by motives and by intended impact.

Christian notions have been decidedly mixed. Most Christian doctrine forbids self-harm, but many in Christianity many have long defended suicide as forgivable in cases of extended pain. Thomas More famously said in his world of Utopia that it was permissible for someone to commit suicide if their life was burdened by torturous pain: “if they thus deliver themselves from torture, or allow others to do it, they shall be happy after death. Since they forfeit none of the pleasures, but only the troubles of life by this, they think they not only act reasonably, but consistently with religion.”

This focus on pain and suffering has formed much of the debate around Euthanasia in Christian countries.

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