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25 page printout Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. Contents of this file page SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. 1 IS SUICIDE A SIN? 1894 6 COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. 11 SUICIDE A SIN. an interview 20 SUICIDE AND SANITY. 24 **** **** This file, its printout, or copies of either are to be copied and given away, but NOT sold. Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL **** **** A reply to the Western Watchman, published in the St. Louis Globe Democrat, Sept. 1 1892. SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. QUESTION: Have you read an article in the Western Watchman. entitled "Suicide of Judge Normile"? If so, what is your opinion of it? ANSWER: I have read the article, and I think the spirit in which it is written is in exact accord with the creed, with the belief, that prompted it. In this article the writer speaks not only of Judge Normile, but of Henry D'Arcy, and begins by saying that a Catholic community had been shocked, but that as a matter of fact the Catholics had no right "to feel special concern in the life or death of either," for the reason, "that both had ceased to be Catholics, and had lived as infidels and scoffers." According to the Catholic creed all infidels and scoffers are on the direct road to eternal pain; and yet, if the Watchman is to be believed, Catholics have no right to have special concern for the fate of such people, even after their death. The church has always proclaimed that it was seeking the lost -- that it was trying in every way to convert the infidels and save the scoffers -- that it cared less for the ninety-nine sheep safe in the fold than for the one that had strayed. We have been told that God so loved infidels and scoffers, that he came to this poor world and gave his life that they might be saved. But now we are told by the Western Watchman that the church, said to have been founded by Christ, has no right to feel any special concern about the fate of infidels and scoffers. Possibly the Watchman only refers to the infidels and scoffers who were once Catholics. If the New Testament is true, St. Peter was at one time a Christian; that is to say, a good Catholic, and yet he fell from grace and not only denied his Master, but went to the extent of swearing that he did not know him; that he never had made his acquaintance. And yet, this same Peter was taken back and became the rock on which the Catholic Church is supposed to rest. 1 SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. Are the Catholics of St. Louis following the example of Christ, when they publicly declare that they care nothing for the fate of one who left the church and who died in his sins? The Watchman, in order to show that it was simply doing its duty, and was not actuated by hatred or malice, assures us as follows: "A warm personal friendship existed between D'Arcy and Normile and the managers of this paper." What would the Watchman have said if these men had been the personal enemies of the managers of that paper? Two warm personal friends, once Catholics, had gone to hell; but the managers of the Watchman, "warm personal friends" of the dead, had no right to feel any special concern about these friends in the flames of perdition. One would think that pity had changed to piety. Another wonderful statement is that "both of these men determined to go to hell, if there was a hell, and to forego the joys of heaven, if there was a heaven." Admitting that heaven and hell exist, that heaven is a good place, and that hell, to say the least, is, and eternally will be, unpleasant, why should any sane man unalterably determine to go to hell? It is hard to think of any reason, unless he was afraid of meeting those Catholics in heaven who had been his "warm personal friends" in this world. The truth is that no one wishes to be unhappy in this or any other country. The truth is that Henry D'Arcy and Judge Normile both became convinced that the Catholic Church is of human origin, that its creed is not true, that it is the enemy of progress, and the foe of freedom. It may be that they were in part led to these conclusions by the conduct of their "warm Personal friends." It is claimed that these men, Henry D'Arcy and Judge Normile "studied" to convince themselves "that there was no God;" that "they went back to Paganism and lived among the ancients," and that they soon revelled "in the grossness of Paganism." If they went back to Paganism, they certainly found plenty of gods. The Pagans filled heaven and earth with deities. The Catholics have only three, while the Pagans had hundreds. And yet there were some very good Pagans. By associating with Socrates and Plato one would not necessarily become a groveling wretch. Zeno was not altogether abominable. He would compare favorably, at least, with the average pope. Aristotle was not entirely despicable, although wrong, it may be, in many things. Epicurus was temperate, frugal and serene. He perceived the beauty of use, and celebrated the marriage of virtue and joy. He did not teach his disciples to revel in grossness, although his malingers have made this charge. Cicero was a Pagan, and yet he uttered some very sublime and generous sentiments. Among other things, he said this: "When we say that we should love Romans, but not foreigners, we destroy the bond of universal brotherhood and drive from our hearts charity and justice." Suppose a Pagan had written about "two warm personal friends" of his, who had joined the Catholic Church, and suppose he had said this: "Although our two warm personal fiends have both died by their own hands, and although both have gone to the lowest hell, and are now suffering inconceivable agonies, we have no right to Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. feel any special concern about them or about their sufferings; and, to speak frankly, we care nothing for their agonies, nothing for their tears, and we mention them only to keep other Pagans from joining that blasphemous and ignorant church. Both of our friends were raised as Pagans, both were educated in our holy religion, and both had read the works of our greatest and wisest authors, and yet they fell into apostasy, and studied day and night, in season and out of season, to convince themselves that a young carpenter of Palestine was in fact, Jupiter, whom we call Stator, the creator, the sustainer and governor of all." It is probable that the editor of the Watchman was perfectly conscientious in his attack on the dead. Nothing but a sense of religious duty could induce any man to attack the character of a "warm personal friend," and to say that although the friend was in hell, he felt no special concern as to his fate. The Watchman seems to think that it is hardly probable or possible that a sane Catholic should become an infidel. People of every religion feel substantially in this way. It is probable that the Mohammedan is of the opinion that no sane believer in the religion of Islam could possibly become a Catholic. Probably there are no sane Mohammedans. I do not know. Now, it seems to me, that when a sane Catholic reads the history of his church, of the Inquisition, of centuries of flame and sword, of philosophers and thinkers tortured, flayed and burned by the "Bride of God," and of all the cruelties of Christian years, he may reasonably come to the conclusion that the Church of Rome is not the best possible church in this, the best possible of all worlds. It would hardly impeach his sanity if after reading the history of superstition, he should denounce the Hierarchy, from priest to pope. The truth is, the real opinions of all men are perfectly honest no matter whether they are for or against the Catholic creed. All intelligent people are intellectually hospitable. Every man who knows something of the operations of his own mind is absolutely certain that his wish has not, to his knowledge, influenced his judgment. He may admit that his wish has influenced his speech, but he must certainly know that it has not affected his judgment. In other words, a man cannot cheat himself in a game of solitaire and really believe that he has won the game. No matter what the appearance of the cards may be, he knows whether the game was lost or won. So, men may say that their judgment is a certain way, and they may so affirm in accordance with their wish, but neither the wish, nor the declaration can affect the real judgment. So, a man must know whether he believes a certain creed or not, or, at least, what the real state of his mind is. When a man tells me that he believes in the supernatural, in the miraculous, and in the inspiration of the Scriptures, I take it for granted that he is telling the truth, although it seems impossible to me that the man could reach that conclusion. When another tells me that he does not know whether there is a Supreme Being or not, but that he does not Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. believe in the supernatural, and is perfectly satisfied that the Scriptures are for the most part false and barbarous, I implicitly believe every word he says. I admit cheerfully that there are many millions of men and women who believe what to me seems impossible and infinitely absurd; and, undoubtedly, what I believe seems to them equally impossible. Let us give to others the liberty which we claim for ourselves. The Watchman seems to think that unbelief, especially when coupled with what they call "the sins of the flesh," is the lowest possible depth, and tells us that "robbers may be devout," "murderers penitent," and "drunkards reverential." In some of these statements the Watchman is probably correct. There have been "devout robbers." There have been gentlemen of the highway, agents of the road, who carried sacred images, who bowed at holy shrines for the purpose of securing success. For many centuries the devout Catholics robbed the Jews. The devout Ferdinand and Isabella were great robbers. A great many popes have indulged in this theological pastime, not to speak of the rank and file. Yes, the Watchman is right. There is nothing in robbery that necessarily interferes with devotion. There have been penitent murderers, and most murderers, unless impelled by a religious sense of duty to God, have been penitent. David, with dying breath, advised his son to murder the old friends of his father. He certainly was not penitent. Undoubtedly Torquemada murdered without remorse, and Calvin burned his "warm personal friend" to gain the applause of God. Philip the Second was a murderer, not penitent, because he deemed it his duty. The same may be said of the Duke of Alva, and of thousands of others. Robert Burns was not, according to his own account, strictly virtuous, and yet I like him better than I do those who planned and carried into bloody execution the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Undoubtedly murderers have been penitent. A man in California cut the throat of a woman, although she begged for mercy, saying at the same time that she was not prepared to die. He cared nothing for her prayers. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. He made a motion for a new trial. This was denied. He appealed to the governor, but the executive refused to interfere. Then he became penitent and experienced religion. On the scaffold he remarked that he was going to heaven; that his only regret was that he would not meet the woman he had murdered, as she was not a Christian when she died. Undoubtedly murderers can be penitent. An old Spaniard was dying. He sent for a priest to administer the last sacraments of the church. The priest told him that he must forgive all his enemies. "I have no enemies," said the dying man, "I killed the last one three weeks ago." Undoubtedly murderers can be penitent. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. So, I admit that drunkards have been pious and reverential, and I might add, honest and generous. Some good Catholics and some good Protestants have enjoyed a hospitable glass, and there have been priests who used the blood of the grape for other than a sacramental purpose. Even Luther, a good Catholic in his day, a reformer, a Doctor of Divinity, gave to the world this couplet: "who loves not woman, wine and song, will live a fool his whole life long." The Watchman in effect, says that a devout robber is better than an infidel; that a penitent murderer is superior to a freethinker, in the sight of God. Another curious thing in this article is that after sending both men to hell, the Watchman says: "As to their moral habits we know nothing." It may then be taken for granted, if these "warn, personal friends" knew nothing against the dead, that their lives were, at least, what the church calls moral. We know, if we know anything, that there is no necessary connection between what is called religion and morality. Certainly there were millions of moral people, those who loved mercy and dealt honesty, before the Catholic Church existed. The virtues were well known, and practiced, before a triple crown surrounded the cunning brain of an Italian Vicar of God, and before the flames of the Auto da fe delighted the hearts of a Christian mob. Thousands of people died for the right, before the wrong organized the infallible church. But why should any man deem it his duty or feel it a pleasure to say harsh and cruel things of the dead? Why pierce the brow of death with the thorns of hatred? Suppose the editor of the Watch man had died, and Judge Normile had been the survivor, would the infidel and scoffer have attacked the unreplying dead? Henry D'Arcy I did not know; but Judge Normile was my friend and I was his. Although we met but a few times, he excited my admiration and respect. He impressed me as being an exceedingly intelligent man, well informed on many subjects, of varied reading, possessed of a clear and logical mind, a poetic temperament, enjoying the beautiful things in literature and art. and the noble things in life. He gave his opinions freely, but without the least arrogance, and seemed perfectly willing that others should enjoy the privilege of differing with him. He was, so far as I could perceive, a gentleman, tender of the feelings of others, free and manly in his bearing, "of most excellent fancy," and a most charming and agreeable companion. According, however, to the Watchman, such a man is far below a "devout robber" or a "penitent murderer." Is it possible that an assassin like Ravillac is far better than a philosopher like Voltaire; and that all the Catholic robbers and murderers who retain their faith, give greater delight to God than the Humboldts, Haeckels and Darwins who have filled the world with intellectual light? Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. Possibly the Catholic Church is mistaken. Possibly the Watchman is in error, and possibly there may be for the erring, even in another world, some asylum besides hell. Judge Normile died by his own hand. Certainly he was not afraid of the future. He was not appalled by death. He died by his own hand. Can anything be more pitiful -- more terrible? How can a man in the flowing tide and noon of life destroy himself? What storms there must have been within the brain; what tempests must have raved and wrecked; what lightnings blinded and revealed; what hurrying clouds obscured and hid the stars; what monstrous shapes emerged from gloom; what darkness fell upon the day; what visions filled the night; how the light failed; how paths were lost; how highways disappeared; how chasms yawned; until one thought -- the thought of death -- swift, compassionate and endless -- became the insane monarch of the mind. Standing by the prostrate form of one who thus found death, it is far better to pity than to revile -- to kiss the clay than curse the man. The editor of the Watchman has done himself injustice. He has not injured the dead, but the living. I am an infidel -- an unbeliever -- and yet I hope that all the children of men may find peace and joy. No matter how they leave this world, from altar or from scaffold, crowned with virtue or stained with crime, I hope that good may come to all. Robert G. Ingersoll. **** **** These letters were published in the New York World, 1894. IS SUICIDE A SIN? Col. Ingersoll's First Letter. I do not know whether self-killing is on the increase or not. If it is, then there must be, on the average, more trouble, more sorrow, more failure, and, consequently, more people are driven to despair. In civilized life there is a great struggle, great competition, and many fail. To fail in a great city is like being wrecked at sea. In the country a man has friends; he can get a little credit, a little help, but in the city it is different. The man is lost in the multitude. In the roar of the streets, his cry is not heard. Death becomes his only friend. Death promises release from want, from hunger and pain, and so the poor wretch lays down his burden, dashes it from his shoulders and falls asleep. To me all this seems very natural. The wonder is that so many endure and suffer to the natural end. that so many nurse the spark of life in huts and prisons, keep it and guard it through years of misery and want; support it by beggary, by eating the crust found in the gutter, and to whom it only gives days of weariness and nights of fear and dread. Why should the man, sitting amid the Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 IS SUICIDE A SIN? wreck of all he had, the loved ones dead, friends lost, seek to lengthen, to preserve his life? What can the future have for him? Under many circumstances a man has the right to kill himself. When life is of no value to him, when he can be of no real assistance to others, why should a man continue? When he is of no benefit, when he is a burden to those he loves, why should he remain? The old idea was that God made us and placed us here for a purpose and that it was our duty to remain until he called us. The world is outgrowing this absurdity. What pleasure can it give God to see a man devoured by a cancer; to see the quivering flesh slowly eaten; to see the nerves throbbing with pain? Is this a festival for God? Why should the poor wretch stay and suffer? A little morphine would give him sleep -- the agony would be forgotten and he would pass unconsciously from happy dreams to painless death. If God determines all births and deaths, of what use is medicine and why should doctors defy with pills and powders, the decrees of God? No one, except a few insane, act now according to this childish superstition. Why should a man, surrounded by flames, in the midst of a burning building, from which there is no escape, hesitate to put a bullet through his brain or a dagger in his heart? Would it give God pleasure to see him burn? When did the man lose the right of self-defence? So, when a man has committed some awful crime, why should he stay and ruin his family and friends? Why should he add to the injury? Why should he live, filling his days and nights, and the days and nights of others, with grief and pain, with agony and tears? Why should a man sentenced to imprisonment for life hesitate to still his heart? The grave is better than the cell. Sleep is sweeter than the ache of toil. The dead have no masters. So the poor girl, betrayed and deserted, the door of home closed against her, the faces of friends averted, no hand that will help, no eye that will soften with pity, the future an abyss filled with monstrous shapes of dread and fear, her mind racked by fragments of thoughts like clouds broken by storm, pursued, surrounded by the serpents of remorse, flying from horrors too great to bear, rushes with joy through the welcome door of death. Undoubtedly there are many cases of perfectly justifiable suicide -- cases in which not to end life would be a mistake, sometimes almost a crime. As to the necessity of death, each must decide for himself. And if a man honestly decides that death is best -- best for him and others -- and acts upon the decision, why should he be blamed? Certainly the man who kills himself is not a physical coward. He may have lacked moral courage, but not physical. It may be said that some men fight duels because they are afraid to decline. They are between two fires -- the chance of death and the certainty of dishonor, and they take the chance of death. So the Christian Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 IS SUICIDE A SIN? martyrs were, according to their belief, between two fires -- the flames of the fagot that could burn but for a few moments, and the fires of God, that were eternal. And they chose the flames of the fagot. Men who fear death to that degree that they will bear all the pains and pangs that nerves can feel, rather than die, cannot afford to call the suicide a coward. It does not seem to me that Brutus was a coward or that Seneca was. Surely Antony had nothing left to live for. Cato was not a craven. He acted on his judgment. So with hundreds of others who felt that they had reached the end -- that the journey was done, the voyage was over, and, so feeling, stopped. It seems certain that the man who commits suicide, who "does the thing that ends all other deeds, that shackles accident and bolts up change" is not lacking in physical courage. If men had the courage, they would not linger in prisons, in almshouses, in hospitals; they would not bear the pangs of incurable disease, the stains of dishonor; they would not live in filth and want, in poverty and hunger, neither would they wear the chain of slavery. All this can be accounted for only by the fear of death or "of something after." Seneca, knowing that Nero intended to take his life, had no fear. He knew that he could defeat the Emperor. He knew that "at the bottom of every river, in the coil of every rope, on the point of every dagger, Liberty sat and smiled." He knew that it was his own fault if he allowed himself to be tortured to death by his enemy. He said: "There is this blessing, that while life has but one entrance, it has exits innumerable, and as I choose the house in which I live, the ship in which I will sail, so will I choose the time and manner of my death." To me this is not cowardly, but manly and noble. Under the Roman law persons found guilty of certain offence were not only destroyed, but their blood was polluted and their children became outcasts. If, however, they died before conviction their children were saved. Many committed suicide to save their babes. Certainly they were not cowards. Although guilty of great crimes they had enough of honor, of manhood, left to save their innocent children. This was not cowardice. Without doubt many suicides are caused by insanity. Men lose their property. The fear of the future overpowers them. Things lose proportion, they lose poise and balance, and in a flash, a gleam of frenzy, kill themselves. The disappointed in love, broken in heart -- the light fading from their lives -- seek the refuge of death. Those who take their lives in painful, barbarous ways -- who mangle their throats with broken glass, dash themselves from towers and roofs, take poisons that torture like the rack -- such persons must be insane. But those who take the facts into account, who weigh the arguments for and against, and who decide that death is best -- the only good -- and then resort to reasonable means, may be, so far as I can see, in full possession of their minds. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 8 IS SUICIDE A SIN? Life is not the same to all -- to some a blessing, to some a curse, to some not much in any way. Some leave it with unspeakable regret, some with the keenest joy and some with indifference. Religion, or the decadence of religion, has a bearing upon the number of suicides. The fear of God, of Judgment, of eternal pain will stay the hand, and people so believing will suffer here until relieved by natural death. A belief in eternal agony beyond the grave will cause such believers to suffer the pangs of this life. When there is no fear of the future, when death is believed to be a dreamless sleep, men have less hesitation about ending their lives. On the other hand, orthodox religion has driven millions to insanity. It has caused parents to murder their children and many thousands to destroy themselves and others. It seems probable that all real, genuine orthodox believers who kill themselves must be insane, and to such a degree that their belief is forgotten. God and hell are out of their minds. I am satisfied that many who commit suicide are insane, many are in the twilight or dusk of insanity, and many are perfectly sane. The law we have in this State making it a crime to attempt suicide is cruel and absurd and calculated to increase the number of successful suicides. When a man has suffered so much, when he has been so persecuted and pursued by disaster that he seeks the rest and sleep of death, why should the State add to the sufferings of that man? A man seeking death, knowing that he will be punished if he fails, will take extra pains and precautions to make death certain. This law was born of superstition, passed by thoughtlessness and enforced by ignorance and cruelty. When the house of life becomes a prison, when the horizon has shrunk and narrowed to a cell, and when the convict longs for the liberty of death, why should the effort to escape be regarded as a crime? Of course, I regard life from a natural point of view. I do not take gods, heavens or hells into account. My horizon is the known, and my estimate of life is based upon what I know of life here in this world. People should not suffer for the sake of supernatural beings or for other worlds or the hopes and fears of some future state. Our joys, our sufferings and our duties are here. The law of New York about the attempt to commit suicide and the law as to divorce are about equal. Both are idiotic. Law cannot prevent suicide. Those who have lost all fear of death, care nothing for law and its penalties. Death is liberty, absolute and eternal. We should remember that nothing happens but the natural. Back of every suicide and every attempt to commit suicide is the natural and efficient cause. Nothing happens by chance. In this world the Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 9 IS SUICIDE A SIN? facts touch each other. There is no space between -- no room for chance. Given a certain heart and brain, certain conditions, and suicide is the necessary result. If we wish to prevent suicide we must change conditions. We must by education, by invention, by art, by civilization, add to the value of the average life. We must cultivate the brain and heart -- do away with false pride and false modesty. We must become generous enough to help our fellows without degrading them. We must make industry -- useful work of all kinds -- honorable. We must mingle a little affection with our charity -- a little fellowship. We should allow those who have sinned to really reform. We should not think only of what the wicked have done, but we should think of what we have wanted to do. People do not hate the sick. Why should they despise the mentally weak -- the diseased in brain? Our actions are the fruit, the result, of circumstances -- of conditions -- and we do as we must. This great truth should fill the heart with pity for the failures of our race. Sometimes I have wondered that Christians denounced the suicide; that in olden times they buried him where the roads crossed, drove a stake through his body, and then took his property from his children and gave it to the State. If Christians would only think, they would see that orthodox religion rests upon suicide -- that man was redeemed by suicide, and that without suicide the whole world would have been lost. If Christ were God, then he had the power to protect himself from death. But instead of using his power he allowed them to take his life. If a strong man should allow a few little children to hack him to death with knives when he could easily have brushed them aside, would we not say that he committed suicide? There is no escape. If Christ were, in fact, God, and allowed himself to be killed. then he consented to his own death -- refused, though perfectly able, to defend and protect himself, and was, in fact, a suicide. We cannot reform the world by law or by superstition. As long as there shall be pain and failure, want and sorrow, agony and crime, men and women will untie life's knot and seek the peace of death. To the hopelessly imprisoned -- to the dishonored and despised -- to those who have failed, who have no future, no hope -- to the abandoned, the brokenhearted, to those who are only remnants and fragments of men and women -- how consoling, how enchanting is the thought of death! And even to the most fortunate, death at last is a welcome deliverer. Death is as natural and as merciful as life. When we have journeyed long -- when we are weary -- when we wish for the twilight, for the dusk, for the cool kisses of the night -- when the senses are dull -- when the pulse is faint and low -- when the Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 10 IS SUICIDE A SIN? mists gather on the mirror of memory -- when the past is almost forgotten, the present hardly perceived -- when the future has but empty hands -- death is as welcome as a strain of music. After all, death is not so terrible as Joyless life. Next to eternal happiness is to sleep in the soft clasp of the cool earth, disturbed by no dream, by no thought, by no pain, by no fear, unconscious of all and forever. The wonder is that so many live, that in spite of rags and want, in spite of tenement and gutter, of filth and pain, they limp and stagger and crawl beneath their burdens to the natural end. The wonder is that so few of the miserable are brave enough to die -- that so many are terrified by the "something after death" -- by the specters and phantoms of superstition. Most people are in love with life. How they cling to it in the arctic snows -- how they struggle in the waves and currents of the sea -- how they linger in famine -- how they fight disaster and despair! On the crumbling edge of death they keep the flag flying and go down at last full of hope and courage. But many have not such natures. They cannot bear defeat. They are disheartened by disaster. They lie down on the field of conflict and give the earth their blood. They are our unfortunate brothers and sisters. We should not curse or blame -- we should pity. On their pallid faces our tears should fall. One of the best men I ever knew, with an affectionate wife, a charming and loving daughter, committed suicide. He was a man of generous impulses. His heart was loving and tender. He was conscientious, and so sensitive that he blamed himself for having done what at the time he thought was wise and best. He was the victim of his virtues. Let us be merciful in our judgments. All we can say is that the good and the bad, the loving and the malignant, the conscientious and the vicious, the educated and the ignorant, actuated by many motives, urged and pushed by circumstances and conditions -- sometimes in the calm of Judgment, sometimes in passion's storm and stress, sometimes in whip and tempest of insanity -- raise their hands against themselves and desperately put out the light of life. Those who attempt suicide should not be punished. If they are insane they should if possible be restored to reason; if sane, they should be reasoned with, calmed and assisted. Robert G. Ingersoll. **** **** COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. In the article written by me about suicide the ground was taken that "under many circumstances a man has the right to kill himself." Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 11 COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. This has been attacked with great fury by clergymen, editors and the writers of letters. These people contend that the right of self-destruction does not and cannot exist. They insist that life is the gift of God, and that he only has the right to end the days of men; that it is our duty to bear the sorrows that he sends with grateful patience. Some have denounced suicide as the worst of crimes -- worse than the murder of another. The first question, then, is: Has a man under any circumstances the right to kill himself? A man is being slowly devoured by a cancer -- his agony is intense -- his suffering all that nerves can feel. His life is slowly being taken. Is this the work of the good God? Did the compassionate God create the cancer so that it might feed on the quivering flesh of this victim? This man, suffering agonies beyond the imagination to conceive, is of no use to himself. His life is but a succession of pangs. He is of no use to his wife, his children, his friends or society. Day after day he is rendered unconscious by drugs that numb the nerves and put the brain to sleep. Has he the right to render himself unconscious? Is it proper for him to take refuge in sleep? If there be a good God I cannot believe that he takes pleasure in the sufferings of men -- that he gloats over the agonies of his children. If there be a good God, he will, to the extent of his power, lessen the evils of life. So I insist that the man being eaten by the cancer -- a burden to himself and others, useless in every way -- has the right to end his pain and pass through happy sleep to dreamless rest. But those who have answered me would say to this man: "It is your duty to be devoured. The good God wishes you to suffer. Your life is the gift of God. You hold it in trust and you have no right to end it. The cancer is the creation of God and it is your duty to furnish it with food." Take another case: A man is on a burning ship, the crew and the rest of the passengers have escaped -- gone in the lifeboats -- and he is left alone. In the wide horizon there is no sail, no sign of help. He cannot swim. If he leaps into the sea he drowns, if he remains on the ship he burns. In any event he can live but a few moments. Those who have answered me, those who insist that under no circumstances a man has the right to take his life, would say to this man on the deck, "Remain where you are. It is the desire of your loving, heavenly Father that you be clothed in flame -- that you slowly roast -- that your eyes be scorched to blindness and that you die insane with pain, your life is not your own, only the agony is yours. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 12 COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. I would say to this man: Do as you wish. If you prefer drowning to burning, leap into the sea. Between inevitable evils you have the right of choice. You can help no one, not even God, by allowing yourself to be burned, and you can injure no one, not even God, by choosing the easier death. Let us suppose another case: A man has been captured by savages in Central Africa. He is about to be tortured to dead. His captors are going to thrust splinters of pine into his flesh and then set them on fire. He watches them as they make the preparations. He knows what they are about to do and what he is about to suffer. There is no hope of rescue, of help. He has a vial of poison. He knows that he can take it and in one moment pass beyond their power, leaving to them only the dead body. Is this man under obligation to keep his life because God gave it, until the savages by torture take it? Are the savages the agents of the good God? Are they the servants of the Infinite? Is it the duty of this man to allow them to wrap his body in a garment of flame? Has he no right to defend himself? Is it the will of God that he die by torture? What would any man of ordinary intelligence do in a case like this? Is there room for discussion? If the man took the poison, shortened his life a few moments, escaped the tortures of the savages, is it possible that he would in another world be tortured forever by an infinite savage? Suppose another case: In the good old days, when the Inquisition flourished, when men loved their enemies and murdered their friends, many frightful and ingenious ways were devised to touch the nerves of pain. Those who loved God, who had been "born twice," would take a fellow-man who had been convicted of "heresy," lay him upon the floor of a dungeon, secure his arms and legs with chains, fasten him to the earth so that he could not move, put an iron vessel, the opening downward, on his stomach, place in the vessel several rats, then tie it securely to his body. Then these worshipers of God would wait until the rats, seeking food and liberty, would gnaw through the body of the victim. Now, if a man about to be subjected to this torture, had within his hand a dagger, would it excite the wrath of the "good God," if with one quick stroke he found the protection of death? To this question there can be but one answer. In the cases I have supposed it seems to me that each person would have the right to destroy himself. It does not seem possible that the man was under obligation to be devoured by a cancer; to remain upon the ship and perish in flame; to throw away the poison and be tortured to death by savages; to drop the dagger and endure the "mercies" of the church. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 13 COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. If, in the cases I have supposed, men would have the right to take their lives, then I was right when I said that "under many circumstances a man has a right to kill himself." Second. -- I denied that persons who killed themselves were physical cowards. They may lack moral courage; they may exaggerate their misfortunes, lose the sense of proportion, but the man who plunges the dagger in his heart, who sends the bullet through his brain, who leaps from some roof and dashes himself against the stones beneath, is not and cannot be a physical coward. The basis of cowardice is the fear of injury or the fear of death, and when that fear is not only gone, but in its place is the desire to die, no matter by what means, it is impossible that cowardice should exist. The suicide wants the very thing that a coward fears. He seeks the very thing that cowardice endeavors to escape. So, the man, forced to a choice of evils, choosing the less is not a coward, but a reasonable man. It must be admitted that the suicide is honest with himself. He is to bear the injury; if it be one. Certainly there is no hypocrisy, and just as certainly there is no physical cowardice. Is the man who takes morphine rather than be eaten to death by a cancer a coward? Is the man who leaps into the sea rather than be burned a coward? Is the man that takes poison rather than be tortured to death by savages or "Christians" a coward? Third. -- I also took the position that some suicides were sane; that they acted on their best judgment, and that they were in full possession of their minds. Now, if under some circumstances, a man has the right to take his life, and, if, under such circumstances, he does take his life, then it cannot be said that he was insane. Most of the persons who have tried to answer me have taken the ground that suicide is not only a crime, but some of them have said that it is the greatest of crimes. Now, if it be a crime, then the suicide must have been sane. So all persons who denounce the suicide as a criminal admit that he was sane. Under the law, an insane person is incapable of committing a crime. All the clergymen who have answered me, and who have passionately asserted that suicide is a crime, have by that assertion admitted that those who killed themselves were sane. They agree with me, and not only admit, but assert that "some who have committed suicide were sane and in the full possession of their minds." It seems to me that these three propositions have been demonstrated to be true: First, that under some circumstances a man has the right to take his life; second, that the man who commits suicide is not a physical coward, and, third, that some who have committed suicide were at the time sane and in full possession of their minds. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 14 COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. Fourth. -- I insisted, and still insist, that suicide was and is the foundation of the Christian religion. I still insist that if Christ were God he had the power to protect himself without injuring his assailants -- that having that power it was his duty to use it, and that failing to use it he consented to his own death and was guilty of suicide. To this the clergy answer that it was self-sacrifice for the redemption of man, that he made an atonement for the sins of believers. These ideas about redemption and atonement are born of a belief in the "fall of man, on account of the sins of our first "parents," and of the declaration that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin." The foundation has crumbled. No intelligent person now believes in the "fall of man" -- that our first parents were perfect, and that their descendants grew worse and worse, at least until the coming of Christ. Intelligent men now believe that ages and ages before the dawn of history, man was a poor, naked, cruel, ignorant and degraded savage, whose language consisted of a few sounds of terror, of hatred and delight; that he devoured his fellow-man, having all the vices, but not all the virtues of the beasts; that the journey from the den to the home, the palace, has been long and painful, through many centuries of suffering, of cruelty and war; through many ages of discovery, invention, self-sacrifice and thought. Redemption and atonement are left without a fact on which to rest. The idea that an infinite God, creator of all worlds, came to this grain of sand, learned the trade of a carpenter, discussed with Pharisees and scribes, and allowed a few infuriated Hebrews to put him to death that he might atone for the sins of men and redeem a few believers from the consequences of his own wrath, can find no lodgment in a good and natural brain. In no mythology can anything more monstrously unbelievable be found. But if Christ were a man and attacked the religion of his times because it was cruel and absurd; if he endeavored to found a religion of kindness, of good deeds, to take the place of heartlessness and ceremony, and if, rather than to deny what he believed to be right and true, he suffered death, then he was a noble man -- a benefactor of his race. But if he were God there was no need of this. The Jews did not wish to kill God. If he had only made himself known all knees would have touched the ground. If he were God it required no heroism to die. He knew that what we call death is but the opening of the gates of eternal life. If he were God there was no self-sacrifice. He had no need to suffer pain. He could have changed the crucifixion to a joy. Even the editors of religious weeklies see that there is no escape from these conclusions -- from these arguments -- and so, instead of attacking the arguments, they attack the man who makes them. Fifth. -- I denounced the law of New York that makes an attempt to commit suicide a crime. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 15 COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. It seems to me that one who has suffered so much that he passionately longs for death, should be pitied, instead of punished -- helped rather than imprisoned. A despairing woman who had vainly sought for leave to toil, a woman without home, without friends, without bread, with clasped hands, with tear-filled eyes, with broken words of prayer, in the darkness of night leaps from the dock, hoping, longing for the tearless sleep of death. She is rescued by a kind, courageous man, handed over to the authorities, indicted, tried, convicted. clothed in a convict's garb and locked in a felon's cell. To me this law seems barbarous and absurd, a law that only savages would enforce. Sixth. -- In this discussion a curious thing has happened. For several centuries the clergy have declared that while infidelity is a very good thing to live by, it is a bad support, a wretched consolation, in the hour of death. They have in spite of the truth, declared that all the great unbelievers died trembling with fear, asking God for mercy, surrounded by fiends, in the torments of despair. Think of the thousands and thousands of clergymen who have described the last agonies of Voltaire, who died as peacefully as a happy child smilingly passes from play to slumber; the final anguish of Hume, who fell into his last sleep as serenely as a river, running between green and shaded banks, reaches the sea; the despair of Thomas Paine, one of the bravest, one of the noblest men, who met the night of death untroubled as a star that meets the morning. At the same time these ministers admitted that the average murderer could meet death on the scaffold with perfect serenity, and could smilingly ask the people who had gathered to see him killed to meet him in heaven. But the honest man who had expressed his honest thoughts against the creed of the church in power could not die in peace. God would see to it that his last moments should be filled with the insanity of fear -- that with his last breath he should utter the shriek of remorse, the cry for pardon. This has all changed, and now the clergy, in their sermons answering me, declare that the atheists, the freethinkers, have no fear of death -- that to avoid some little annoyance, a passing inconvenience, they gladly and cheerfully put out the light of life. It is now said that infidels believe that death is the end -- that it is a dreamless sleep -- that it is without pain -- that therefore they have no fear, care nothing for gods, or heavens or hells, nothing for the threats of the pulpit, nothing for the day of judgment, and that when life becomes a burden they carelessly throw it down. The infidels are so afraid of death that they commit suicide. This certainly is a great change, and I congratulate myself on having forced the clergy to contradict themselves. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 16 COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. Seventh. -- The clergy take the position that the atheist, the unbeliever, has no standard of morality -- that he can have no real conception of right and wrong. They are of the opinion that it is impossible for one to be moral or good unless he believes in some Being far above himself. In this connection we might ask how God can be moral or good unless he believes in some Being superior to himself? What is morality? It is the best thing to do under the circumstances. What is the best thing to do under the circumstances? That which will increase the sum of human happiness -- or lessen it the least. Happiness in its highest, noblest form is the only good; that which increases or preserves or creates happiness is moral -- that which decreases it, or puts it in peril, is immoral. It is not hard for an atheist -- for an unbeliever -- to keep his hands out of the fire. He knows that burning his hands will not increase his well-being, and he is moral enough to keep them out of the flames. So it may be said that each man acts according to his intelligence -- so far as where he considers his own good is concerned. Sometimes he is swayed by passion, by prejudice, by ignorance -- but when he is really intelligent, master of himself, he docs what he believes is best for him. If he is intelligent enough he knows that what is really good for him is good for others -- for all the world. It is impossible for me to see why any belief in the supernatural is necessary to have a keen perception of right and wrong. Every man who has the capacity to suffer and enjoy, and has imagination enough to give the same capacity to others, has within himself the natural basis of all morality. The idea of morality was born here, in this world, of the experience, the intelligence of mankind. Morality is not of supernatural origin. It did not fall from the clouds, and it needs no belief in the supernatural, no supernatural promises or threats, no supernatural heavens or hells to give it force and life. Subjects who are governed by the threats and promises of a king are merely slaves. They are not governed by the ideal, by noble views of right and wrong. They are obedient cowards, controlled by fear, or beggars governed by rewards -- by alms. Right and wrong exist in the nature of things. Murder was just as criminal before as after the promulgation of the Ten Commandments. Eighth. -- Many of the clergy, some editors and some writers of letters who have answered me, have said that suicide is the worst of crimes -- that a man had better murder somebody else than himself. One clergyman gives as a reason for this statement that the suicide dies in an act of sin, and therefore he had better kill another person. Probably he would commit a less crime if he would murder his wife or mother. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 17 COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. I do not see that it is any worse to die than to live in sin. To say that it is not as wicked to murder another as yourself seems absurd. The man about to kill himself wishes to die. Why is it better for him to kill another man, who wishes to live? To my mind it seems clear that you had better injure yourself than another. Better be a spendthrift than a thief. Better throw away your own money than steal the money of another -- better kill yourself if you wish to die than murder one whose life is full of joy. The clergy tell us that God is everywhere, and that it is one of the greatest possible crimes to rush into his presence. It is wonderful how much they know about God and how little about their fellowmen. Wonderful the amount of their information about other worlds and how limited their knowledge is of this. There may or may not be an infinite Being. I neither affirm nor deny. I am honest enough to say that I do not know. I am candid enough to admit that the question is beyond the limitations of my mind. Yet I think I know as much on that subject as any human being knows or ever knew, and that is -- nothing. I do not say that there is not another world, another life; neither do I say that there is. I say that I do not know. It seems to me that every sane and honest man must say the same. But if there is an infinitely good God and another world, then the infinitely good God will be just as good to us in that world as he is in this. If this infinitely good God loves his children in this world, he will love them in another. If he loves a man when he is alive, he will not hate him the instant he is dead. If we are the children of an infinitely wise and powerful God, he knew exactly what we would do -- the temptations that we could and could not withstand -- knew exactly the effect that everything would have upon us, knew under what circumstances we would take our lives -- and produced such circumstances himself. It is perfectly apparent that there are many people incapable by nature of bearing the burdens of life, incapable of preserving their mental poise in stress and strain of disaster, disease and loss, and who by failure, by misfortune and want, are driven to despair and insanity, in whose darkened minds there comes like a flash of lightning in the night, the thought of death, a thought so strong, so vivid, that all fear is lost, all ties broken, all duties, all obligations, all hopes forgotten, and naught remains except a fierce and wild desire to die. Thousands and thousands become moody, melancholy, brood upon loss of money, of position, of friends, until reason abdicates and frenzy takes possession of the soul. If there be an infinitely wise and powerful God, all this was known to him from the beginning. and he so created things, established relations, put in operation causes and effects, that all that has happened was the necessary result of his own acts. Ninth. -- Nearly all who have tried to answer what I said have been exceedingly careful to misquote me, and then answer something that I never uttered. They have declared that I have advised people who were in trouble, somewhat annoyed, to kill themselves; that I have told men who have lost their money, who had failed in Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 18 COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. business, who were not good in health, to kill themselves at once, without taking into consideration any duty that they owed to wives, children, friends, or society. No man has a right to leave his wife to fight the battle alone if he is able to help. No man has a right to desert his children if he can possibly be of use. As long as he can add to the comfort of those he loves, as long as he can stand between wife and misery, between child and want, as long as he can be of any use, it is his duty to remain. I believe in the cheerful view, in looking at the sunny side of things, in bearing with fortitude the evils of life, in struggling against adversity, in finding the fuel of laughter even in disaster, in having confidence in to-morrow, in finding the pearl of joy among the flints and shards, and in changing by the alchemy of patience even evil things to good. I believe in the gospel of cheerfulness, of courage and good nature. Of the future I have no fear. My fate is the fate of the world -- of all that live. My anxieties are about this life, this world. About the phantoms called gods and their impossible hells, I have no care, no fear. The existence of God I neither affirm nor deny, I wait. The immortality of the soul I neither affirm nor deny. I hope -- hope for all of the children of men. I have never denied the existence of another world, nor the immortality of the soul. For many years I have said that the idea of immortality, that like a sea has ebbed and flowed in the human heart, with its countless waves of hope and fear beating against the shores and rocks of time and fate, was not born of any book, nor of any creed, nor of any religion. It was born of human affection, and it will continue to ebb and flow beneath the mists and clouds of doubt and darkness as long as love kisses the lips of death. What I deny is the immortality of pain, the eternity of torture. After all, the instinct of self-preservation is strong. People do not kill themselves on the advice of friends or enemies. All wish to be happy, to enjoy life; all wish for food and roof and raiment, for friends, and as long as life gives joy, the idea of self-destruction never enters the human mind. The oppressors, the tyrants, those who trample on the rights of others, the robbers of the poor, those who put wages below the living point, the ministers who make people insane by preaching the dogma of eternal pain; these are the men who drive the weak, the suffering and the helpless down to death. It will not do to say that God has appointed a time for each to die. Of this there is, and there can be, no evidence. There is no evidence that any god takes any interest in the affairs of men -- that any sides with the right or helps the weak, protects the innocent or rescues the oppressed. Even the clergy admit that their God, through all ages, has allowed his friends, his worshipers, to Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 19 COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. be imprisoned, tortured and murdered by his enemies. Such is the protection of God. Billions of prayers have been uttered; has one been answered? Who sends plague, pestilence and famine? Who bids the earthquake devour and the volcano to overwhelm? Tenth. -- Again, I say that it is wonderful to me that so many men, so many women endure and carry their burdens to the natural end; that so many, in spite of "age, ache and penury," guard with trembling hands the spark of life; that prisoners for life toil and suffer to the last; that the helpless wretches in poorhouses and asylums cling to life; that the exiles in Siberia, loaded with chains, scarred with the knout, live on; that the incurables. whose every breath is a pang, and for whom the future has only pain, should fear the merciful touch and clasp of death. It is but a few steps at most from the cradle to the grave: a short journey. The suicide hastens, shortens the path, loses the afternoon, the twilight, the dusk of life's day; loses what he does not want, what he cannot bear. In the tempest of despair, in the blind fury of madness, or in the calm of thought and choice, the beleaguered soul finds the serenity of death. Let us leave the dead where nature leaves them. We know nothing of any realm that lies beyond the horizon of the known, beyond the end of life. Let us be honest with ourselves and others. Let us pity the suffering, the despairing, the men and women hunted and pursued by grief and shame, by misery and want, by chance and fate until their only friend is death. Robert G. 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. **** **** SUICIDE AND SANITY. QUESTION: Is a suicide necessarily insane? was the first question, to which Colonel Ingersoll replied: ANSWER: No. At the same time I believe that a great majority of suicides are insane. There are circumstances under which suicide is natural, sensible and right. When a man is of no use to himself, when he can be of no use to others, when his life is filled with agony, when the future has no promise of relief, then I think he has the right to cast the burden of life away and seek the repose of death. QUESTION: Is a suicide necessarily a coward? ANSWER: I cannot conceive of cowardice in connection with suicide. Of nearly all things death is the most feared. And the man who voluntarily enters the realm of death cannot properly be called a coward. Many men who kill themselves forget the duties they owe to others -- forget their wives and children. Such men are heartless, wicked. brutal; but they are not cowards. QUESTION: When is the suicide of the sane justiciable? ANSWER: To escape death by torture; to avoid being devoured by a cancer; to prevent being a burden on those you love; when you can be of no use to others or to yourself; when life is unbearable; when in all the horizon of the future there is no star of hope. QUESTION: Do you believe that any suicides have been caused or encouraged by your declaration three years ago that suicide sometimes was justifiable? ANSWER: Many preachers talk as though I had inaugurated, invented, suicide, as though no one who had not read my ideas on suicide had ever taken his own life. Talk as long as language lasts, you cannot induce a man to kill himself. The man who takes his own life does not go to others to find reasons or excuses. QUESTION: On the whole is the world made better or worse by suicides? ANSWER: Better by some and poorer by others. QUESTION: Why is it that Germany, said to be the most educated of civilized nations, leads the world in suicides? Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 24 SUICIDE AND SANITY. ANSWER: I do not know that Germany is the most educated; neither do I know that suicide is more frequent there than in all other countries. I know that the struggle for life is severe in Germany, that the laws are unjust, that the government is oppressive, that the people are sentimental, that they brood over their troubles and easily become hopeless. QUESTION: If suicide is sometimes justifiable, is not killing of born idiots and infants hopelessly handicapped at birth equally so? ANSWER: There is no relation between the questions -- between suicides and killing idiots. Suicide may, under certain circumstances, be right and killing idiots may be wrong; killing idiots may be right and suicide may be wrong. When we look about us, when we read interviews with preachers about Jonah, we know that all the idiots have not been killed. QUESTION: Should suicide be forbidden by law? ANSWER: No. A law that provides for the punishment of those who attempt to commit suicide is idiotic. Those who are willing to meet death are not afraid of law. The only effect of such a law would be to make the person who had concluded to kill himself a little more careful to succeed. QUESTION: What is your belief about virtue, morality and religion? ANSWER: I believe that all actions that tend to the well-being of sentient beings are virtuous and moral. I believe that real religion consists in doing good. I do not believe in phantoms. I believe in the uniformity of nature; that matter will forever attract matter in proportion to mass and distance; that, under the same circumstances, falling bodies will attain the same speed, increasing in exact proportion to distance; that light will always, under the same circumstances. be reflected at the same angle; that it will always travel with the same velocity that air will forever be lighter than water, and gold heavier than iron; that all substances will be true to their natures; that a certain degree of heat will always expand the metals and change water into steam; that a certain degree of cold will cause the metals to shrink and change water into ice; that all atoms will forever be in motion; that like causes will forever produce like effects, that force will be overcome only by force; that no atom of matter will ever he created or destroyed; that the energy in the universe will forever remain the same, nothing lost, nothing gained; that all that has been possible has happened, and that all that will be possible will happen; that the seeds and causes of all thoughts, dreams, fancies and actions, of all virtues and all vices, of all successes and all failures, are in nature; that there is in the universe no power superior to nature; that man is under no obligation to the imaginary gods; that all his obligations and duties are to be discharged and done in this world; that right and wrong do not depend on the will of an infinite Being, but on the consequences of actions, and that these consequences necessarily flow from the nature of things. I believe that the universe is natural. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 25


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