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Christianity and suicide 

Christianity and suicide
Chapter:
Christianity and suicide
Author(s):

Nils Retterstøl

and Øivind Ekeberg

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198570059.003.0009
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date: 22 August 2019

First, the views on suicide as found in the Old and New Testament are presented. In the early Christian period, suicide does not seem to be prohibited. St Augustine (350–430 AD), however, considered it a sin, violating the fifth commandment, ‘Thou shall not kill’. Later, synods of the Church gave strong regulation as to how the suicide should be buried. The same negative attitudes were expressed throughout most of the Middle Ages across Europe.

The European Enlightenment movement brought about moderated views on suicide, challenging former Christian condemnations. From about 1800, psychiatry was established, stating that most people who committed suicide were mentally ill.

Contemporary official Christian attitudes are presented with special reference to the Roman, Greek and Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the Protestant Church. The viewpoints on euthanasia are presented briefly. Finally, we discuss how Christian traditions influence suicide prevention today.

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