Religious Beliefs

What is the most widely accepted belief about suicide? How is suicide different from “self-selected martyrdom”? Have all “suicide bombers” identified themselves as Muslims?

Classic sources universally condemn all manner of deliberately ending one’s own life, for whatever reason. Most of those sources make it crystal clear that individuals who choose suicide as a way out will be punished severely in the next life. Unfortunately, terrorist methods over the past couple of decades have increasingly resorted to the use of “suicide bombers” to take vengeance on people identified by the perpetrators as enemies of Islam. Most such perpetrators have chosen to distort the ancient and unambiguous prohibition of suicide by relabeling such self-destructive behavior “self-selected martyrdom,” arguing that God not only forgives such conduct but indeed rewards it for its unselfish defense of Islam against infidels. An investigation of forty-one earliest such Middle Eastern incidents occurring between 1982 and 1986 in Lebanon identified and traced thirty-eight of the perpetrators in detail. Twenty-eight of them were avowedly secularist and most belonged to communist or other leftist Arab organizations; three were Christian, including a young woman who was a primary school teacher; only seven of the thirty-eight were known to have espoused a distinctly religious ideology. These figures apply explicitly only to Lebanon during a four-year period that saw no other such action elsewhere in the Middle East, and they hint at the enormous complexity of the issue and the multiple motivations behind the tactic. In an environment in which the vast majority of Americans assume with certainty that all such actions are purely “religious,” data like this require a closer look across the board.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Religion Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App