Last updated on: 7/23/2013 | Author:

Late 18th Century – American Evangelical Christians Reject Suicide and Euthanasia

“Enlightenment toleration of suicide proved to be temporary. Under the leadership of evangelicals…a vigorous religious counterattack gained momentum as the late eighteenth century drew to a close. The various waves of religious revivalism, starting with the Great Awakening of the mid-1700s, prevented secularists and agnostics on either side of the Atlantic Ocean from generating popular support for taking one’s life. These events dovetailed with the Second Great Awakening of intense evangelical fervor in the first years of the nineteenth century and strengthened the condemnation of suicide and euthanasia that stretched back to the earliest days of colonial America.

The rejection of suicide and euthanasia remained firm, even after many of the new states decriminalized suicide in the wake of the Revolutionary War. The majority of Americans rejected suicide’s common-law punishment…but no matter how sympathetic they were toward the suicide’s family, most Americans stopped far short of condoning self-murder. As late as the antebellum period there existed in the United States a firm consensus…against suicide and mercy killing.”