Does someone go to Hell if they take their own life?
THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:
This question was posted shortly before the shocking suicide of superstar comedian and actor Robin Williams during an apparent bout with depression. Following that tragedy, conservative Christian blogger and Williams fan Austin Thompson posted an item of questionable taste, declaring “with great sadness” that “maybe Robin Williams is in Hell.”
The Guy usually sidesteps his personal opinions, but here would advise Christians never to speculate publicly about the eternal destiny of individuals by name. It seems improper, offensive, judgmental, and lacking in love. Also it’s a total waste of time since, as even Thompson correctly concluded, “only God knows.”
This sort of clergy malpractice occurred during the worst sermon The Guy has heard during decades as a religion reporter attending worship services. The preacher in question told of a troubled youth who had been disrespectful toward him and died soon afterward in a motorcycle accident. The sermon suggested that this lad’s defiance sent him to Hell for eternity, and seemed as upset about insulting the preacher himself as rejection of Almighty God. Moreover, this was a baptismal service, so think of the negative reaction of non-religious family members who were present!
Tommy should note that Thompson did NOT say Williams might be hellbound because he took his own life. Rather, this blogger’s theme was that Hell is a reality, Williams was a sinner like all the rest of us, and needed to follow Jesus as his savior. Thompson saw no evidence this was the case.
Williams joked around about religion, but he did this with everything. In 2007 he told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post that “I’m Episcopalian, which is Catholic Lite -- same religion, half the guilt.” But more seriously, the alcohol and cocaine abuser said “you get a real strong sense of God when you go through rehab” and that “having the idea of a really loving and forgiving God really helps if you’re an alcoholic.” He called his struggle with alcoholism “one of the coming attractions of Hell” and expressed warm appreciation for Christians’ therapy and charity work.
Church thinking about suicide has largely become much more sensitive due to modern psychology’s study of mental illness.
Continue reading Richard Ostling's article "Do people who take their own lives automatically go to hell?"