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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Suicide and the 'Impure' Soul

New research says moral bias against suicide often comes from disgust over a tainted soul.

By Matthew Hutson
The Atlantic
Originally published January 9, 2014

Around the world, about one million people die of suicide each year, according to the World Health Organization. Each death causes immeasurable harm: Friends, family members, and coworkers suffer loss, guilt, and confusion, and the immediate victim loses a future. Many of those friends and family members consider suicide to be morally wrong. But new evidence shows that people who consider suicide wrong might have other reasons than the harm it brings. There is a more abstract—and at the same time more visceral—consideration at play.


The notion that suicide is wrong because it taints the soul might sound foreign to atheists. But even when only non-religious liberals were considered (those who rated themselves below the midpoint on religious belief and political conservatism), the wrongness of the suicides was still predicted by ratings of purity and not by ratings of harm. According to Rottman, the pattern holds even among people who gave themselves the lowest possible rating on religiosity (1 of 7). Concern about the soul’s purity is not just for church-goers.

The entire article is here.
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