Martyrdom, Suicide, and Self-Imposed Death Religious Perspectives on Suicide

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2018-06-01
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Death is an element at the center of all religious imagination. Analysts from Freud to Agamben have pondered religion's fascination with death, and religious art is saturated with images of suffering unto death. As this volume shows, religious fascination with death extends to the notion of elective death, its circumstances, the virtue of those who perform it, and how best to commemorate it.

The essays in Martyrdom, Self-Sacrifice, and Self-Immolation address the legendary foundations for those elective deaths which can be categorized as religiously sanctioned suicides. Broadly condemned as cowardice across the world's moral codes, suicide under certain circumstances-such as martyrdom, self-sacrifice, or self-immolation-carries a dynamic importance in religious legends, some tragic and others uplifting. Believers respond to such legends presumably because choosing death is seen as heroic and redemptive for the individuals who die, for their communities, or for humanity. Envisioning suicide as virtuous clashes with popular conceptions of suicide as weak, immoral, and even criminal, but that is precisely the point. This volume offers analyses from renowned scholars with the literary tools and historical insights to investigate the delicate issue of religiously sanctioned elective death.

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