Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Durkheim and Suicide

From the reading on Durkheim I thought that when he said that the tighter the social ties, the lower the rate of suicide. The idea was that in Protestant countries the people have greater individual freedom and are more on their own before God, and Catholics have a more integrated social community. The Protestant countries tend to be more egoistic and therefore more suicide. I think that this notion is interesting that the more individualistic a group or society is, the more likely they are to be selfish and commit suicide. It seems that the role that religion seems to play in a society can be a very important one. It is strange to think that simply depending upon whether someone is Protestant or Catholic can determine their likelihood to kill themselves.


jeff said...

I think that Durkheim makes a very valid analysis in his identification of social ties and suicide rates. While I cannot quote actual statistics or studies, I think it is a logical belief that could be backed by study that suicide can be directly linked to the isolation that an individual feels with his or her community. Studies I've read have identified suicide with extreme feelings of isolation from others. It makes sense that a society or organization that actively promotes solidarity and group identity will give an individual a sense of purpose, thus eliminating the sense of isolation that so often leads to suicide.

Given the role of Protestant Christianity that has played such a huge role in America, it should be easy for many of us to identify with the personal concept of unity with God that this religion promotes. This particular setting seems to be one where an individual is forced to both identify and reconcile with their own personal conception of God. While Protestant churches exist, it seems like the main theme is for the individual to understand their faith by themselves. This leads to a multitude of understandings, none of which help to identify the individual with the group.

I don't mean to attack the idea of an individual exploring their own faith. In fact, I believe that is a very relevant idea to modern religion in general. However, I do believe that it has the ability to isolate individuals, often alienating and disenchanting those who cannot come to a solid understanding by themselves. This, I believe, is where Durkheim's theory of social unity through religion comes in and plays a major part, both in the social cohesion itself, as well as individual understanding.

ejmcneeley said...

I think also the idea within the Catholic Church that commiting suicide sends someone to hell might also play into why fewer Catholics commit suicide. Suicide isn't 'ok' within Protestant churches, but I do not think it carries the weight of automatic eternal damnation.

Cash said...

I dont know how i feel about the statement that less catholics commit suicide because they fear that they will be sent to hell.

Psychologically, a large majority of the population of the world possesses the ability to take a life, much less their own.

If someone is seriously contemplating suicide i doubt that, above everything else, church doctrine would push someone over the edge on the issue.

Suicide isnt a matter of consequences, it's a matter of the current state. I'm sure there are cases in the world where the catholic church doctrine prevented suicide, but i would be willing to bet that they are few and far between.

People who commit suicide are looking to escape their current problems. It's not really an issue of 'i want to go to heaven'...but it is an issue of 'i want to get out of here, no matter what it takes'.

thinking this way, i would argue that whether protestant or catholic, those who are going to commit suicide are going to do it, and those who aren't aren't. I think it really comes down to who gets the better counseling, has a stronger friend base, and who is able to be pushed back into reality.

Thats just my thought. I could be wrong, but i figured i'd just explore that idea

Blake said...

I think the notion that suicide is more or less likely to occur, based on an individual's faith inclinations and the group unity of their particular faith, is a very interesting one indeed.

It makes me think about the Atheist and the (to my knowledge) lack of group unity/support network with regards to spirituality. I wonder if Atheists, as a group, are more likely to commit suicide than religious folk?

Then I think about the Atheist living in America, and the Protestant Morality takeover along with the scorn and disdain some American Religious Folk use while addressing Atheists or when referring to them.

That sense of Exclusiveness seems to compound the very nature of the problem, if in fact the Atheist is more likely to commit suicide than a person belonging to a Faith /community based religion.