Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/233

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
221
CATHOLICISM, PROTESTANTISM, AND SUICIDE.

cause no other race is so jealous of its own purity, its own customs, and especially of the faith of its fathers, as the Jewish. In every country where the chosen people has been spread, it has always preserved the moral Semitic character, while it has sometimes modified its physical characteristics, as when becoming fair where formerly dark-skinned; the religion of the God of Abraham is the only bond which now unites its scattered members. This strong influence of race obliges one to proceed cautiously in attributing to the Mosaic religion the little tendency of Jews toward suicide. In the most ancient history of Palestine not more than ten suicides are mentioned, and their greatest number belongs to a less pure Jewish period, when, through the Babylonish captivity and through the false prophets, they lost all trace of the ancient law. Already, among the last Jews who had to struggle against the invading Roman power, suicide had become more frequent Josephus); but, while dispersing themselves among other nations over the face of the earth, the descendants of Abraham have always shown and still show among their moral characteristics an habitual resistance to suicide, although the same can not be said with regard to madness.

The influence of other religions may be studied without being perplexed with the question of race. It is true that the people called Latins have remained faithful to Catholicism, while the reform of religious thought was the exclusive work of the Anglo-Germans; but it is likewise true that, in countries of mixed religions, statistics have always shown the hurtful or beneficial effect of each. At first sight it is indeed perceived that the purely Catholic nations, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, stand on the last step of the scale of suicide, while those exclusively or mostly Protestant take the first grade; it suffices to cite Saxony, Denmark, Scandinavia, and Prussia. In countries of mixed religions, then, the inclination toward suicide diminishes in direct ratio to the predominance of Catholicism. Looking at the aggregate of statistics collected by us for the most recent years, it is inferred that the frequency of suicide is, in states of Catholic religion, on an average of 58 per million; in Protestant states, 190; in the United or non-united Greek, 40; where there is a mixture of Catholic, Protestant, and other sects, 96 per million. Countries of the Greek religion, then, give the smallest proportion; but here comes in the great influence of Slavism, which would be sufficient to neutralize all others, as we already found was the case with regard to climate and anthropological characteristics. With our results, those of Wagner, Oettingen, and Legoyt agree; this latter author having calculated, on the statistical documents of Bavaria, Prussia, Würtemberg, and Austria, that the tendency to suicide is, among Protestants, 102·7 per million individuals; among Catholics, 62·3; among other Christians (Greeks, United and the Orthodox) 36·2; and lastly, among the Jews, 48·4 per million.