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Background to the study

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The concept of suicide has drawn global attention following the increase in the number of suicide cases being reported. Suicide is has predominantly featured a number of discussion and literatures including Shakespeare. The concept is dated back in the beginning of humanity and it is as old as human generation. For instance, more than 200 years ago, European countries banned literatures on suicide because they encouraged attempt suicide through imitation. Kant Immanuel observed that organic characters in the society are responsible for the rise in the rate of suicide. Using Apocrypha in the Old Testament, Kant identified a number of ways through which people commit suicide (Arruñada, 2009). These diverse means include hanging, burning, poisoning, abdominal bursting, stabbing, and evisceration.

The church has its policies and norms that define the character and the expectation of the church. From the Christian point of view, these teaching are well defined in the Holy Bible Commandments that are against death and suicide. Based on the work of Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine of 1284, the church enacted doctrines that were aimed at denouncing members who committed suicide. By 1943, the Catholic Church, through Pope Pius XI strongly condemned suicide by alluding that it is a corporal sin worth unforgiving (Becker & Woessmann, 2011). However, the 21st century has come with changes to the earlier position of the church on suicide, including contextual and ethical considerations commonly preferred in making any religious judgment relating to suicidal behavior.

In studying causes of the suicide in the modern society can be explained by social and theological differences between the Catholics and Protestants. Although studies have established that there are no significant differences between the Catholics and Protestant, the likelihood of committing suicide varies across these two Christian faiths (Colucci & Martin, 2008). Even after the confounding factors have been controlled, the differences in acceptance of suicide still exist.

Statement of the Problem

The society we live in determines and dictates our social characters and believes. The social and societal forces potentially affect our course of action and daily activities. Our personality and personal choice and highly influence by the social forces within our living areas. This covers from our socio-economic to political actions that are dictated by the surrounding we reside in. the society has a power to influence individual decisions. For instance, in choosing our marriage partners, we tend to believe that the power of ‘love’ is the sole foundation (Clinard, & Meier, 2011). However, research has established that it takes more than the mere emotional attachment. The choice of our marriage partners is influenced by social forces. Some of these forces that have a say in our personal choices include, economic and financial power, religion, family background, and education and other social determinants. This research paper focuses on suicide as a social issue and the sociological theories that attempts to explain this social issue. In particular, this papers attempts to determine the differences in the rate of suicide between the Protestants and the Catholics.

Research Questions

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a)      Is there a significance difference in the rate of suicide between the Protestants and the Catholics when compared in the twenty first century?

b)      Has the teachings and the religious fundamentalism theories and beliefs has a role to play in these differences of the rate of crime and suicide among Christians of different faith?

c)     It is true that currently, men are more likely to commit suicide compared to women? Would social forces and theories explain the differences in the rate of suicide between men and women?

Related Literature Review

A numbers of studies have shown that there is a significance differences in the rate of suicide among different religions. Comparing the two largest religions (Catholics and Protestantism), it is observed that religion has a hand the differences in the suicide rates. A study accorded by Professor Becker and Ludger Woessmann demonstrated that there is a strong link in the rate of suicide between different religions, in particular the Catholics and Protestants. According to the research findings, it was revealed that Catholics are least likely to commit suicide as compared to the Protestants (Kornblum, & Smith, 2011). The two professors further attempted to explain these differences using the self-selection theory in which religion philosophy is founded on. As explains Professor Becker the fact that Protestants are more prone to committing suicide than does the Catholics, “but, whether that is because they act from a religious perspective is a different story. People might say that they become Protestants, not to commit suicide, of course, but they might elect to become Protestants for all kinds of reasons that happen to correlate with suicide behavior” (Berrios &Mohanna, 2010).

The research was aimed at establishing whether this high of suicide among Protestants was coincidental or causal. In their findings, they realized that such higher cases of suicide were causal. According to their finding, it was revealed that Protestants are three times likely to commit suicide than the Catholics. They draw a conclusion that Catholicism as opposed to Protestantism had the potential of reducing the rate of suicide among her faithful (Clinard, & Meier, 2011; Kornblum, & Smith, 2011). Although their study failed to offer a substantial explanation for these differences in the rate of suicide, they proposed three hypotheses to explain the role of religion in suicide.  

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Possible Findings and Theories

The first hypothesis was founded on the individualism and communism theory of religion as explained by the founder father of sociology, Emile Durkheim. According to Durkheim, in his Suicide text of 1897, protestant were more likely to commit suicide because of their religious ideologies that emphasized on individual autonomy or individualistic theology. On the contrary, unlike the Protestantism, Catholicism place greater value on communism as they were communitarians (Berrios &Mohanna, 2010). Being an individualistic religion than congregation, during hard times or troubling moments, Protestants often find themselves alone without the support of fellow Protestants. On the contrary, the Catholics believed in the power of congregating as a group and living as a community in times of trouble and tempting moments (Clinard, & Meier, 2011).

Secondly, Woessman and Becker related the differences in the rate of suicide between these two religious groups on the variations in understandings of grace. The same hypothesis was held by sociologists who asserted that Catholicism teachings emphasized on the rewards and good fortunes that come from good work and punishments as the rewards for sinful acts. Protestants on their part believed that good deeds do not necessarily earn God’s grace (Berrios &Mohanna, 2010). As a result, sociologists believed that Catholic teaching and beliefs regarding suicide are more internalized and stricter than those of the Protestants, hence, lower rate of suicide.

Finally, it was hypothesized that Catholic’s regular confession of sins before the Catholic Priests, Pope, or Cardinals had a role in the differences in the rate of suicide between the Catholics and the Protestants. Protestants on their part do not recognize any form of sacrament. According to the Catholic religious ideology, it is only suicide that could not be confessed and get forgiven by the priests. This made catholic who believed in the power of confession as a way of avoiding Hell’s punishment to be least inclined to committing suicide (Berrios &Mohanna, 2010). In conclusion, this research emphasizes on the power of social forces in our daily actions. For instance, religious difference contributes to the differences in the crime or suicide rates in the society.

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