Q: What is the significance of “egotistical suicide” and how does Durkheim relate it to religion? To start of, my understanding of “egotistical” suicide is to kill yourself, without thinking about the consequences that would have on the life of others. It’s a self-centered attempt to end your life because you lack restraints imposed by intense group participation in real life. But Durkheim did not see personal reasons as a factor of one killing his/herself. Moving over to what has been analysed in the readings by Durkheim. This reading concentrated on three main religions, Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism. According to statistics the rate of suicides by Protestants is way more than Catholics or Jews. Durkheim believed that this difference is due to the fact that Protestants are more individualistic or place greater emphasis upon individual autonomy, whereas Catholics are more communitarian, or place greater emphasis on church communities.
So in times of trouble, Catholics seek solace in groups and churches and Protestants might be more on their own. The reading also skimmed over the fact that Judaism also has a low rate of suicides or suicidal tendencies. Mostly because it is a very close knit community. How did they get so united or create these strong feelings of solidarity? According to Durkheim, because of the “long-standing hostility from the Christians to the Jews”. Because of this, they turned toward each other for support and thus became a compact and cohesive society in itself. The very nature of Jewish belies contributes to the fact that suicide rates are low amongst them . Like Catholicism, Judaism consists of a number of practices that minutely control every detail of their lives and leave very little space for individual judgement.
In conclusion, according to Durkheim, it is not the “content” of the religion that control the person but the community more to speak. The more strong and cohesive they are, the more integrated they are. However, after reading this, a couple of questions did arise in my mind. Firstly, can Durkheim’s theory be applied to recent times? His theory is based on community, those in a community will not commit suicide, but what about certain communities that actually teach that? By that I mean “killing themselves in the name of God” I don’t want to go into detail about this but I was only wondering if Durkheim’s theory is relevant to our times or not. Also, how did he actually collect the statistics for his theory?