When Europeans Killed Others to Kill Themselves

Once upon a time in Denmark, some people wanted to commit suicide, so they murdered someone. They did the deed knowing that they would pay for their crime by execution. No, that doesn't make sense at all to us. People today tend to think of murder as a greater crime than suicide, although both are tragic, and a scheme to put them together is akin to double murder. But around the 18th century, it was a rational way to avoid eternal damnation, if you took the Lutheran church's teachings literally. The "loophole" went like this:

At the time, a common religious belief held that “if you took your life, you had absolutely no chance of going to heaven,” says Jeffrey Watt, a history professor at the University of Mississippi. But if you killed someone else, you could repent before the execution and have your sins pardoned, he adds, shedding light on the murderous intent. Essentially, you’d have a better shot at getting past the pearly gates if you killed someone else rather than yourself. And children were the preferred victims because they were more easily dispatched, and because folks believed that their young, innocent souls were more likely to make it to heaven, Watt explains.

Horrifying. The government of Denmark was on to these suicide-murders, but took some time and wrong turns to figure out how to stop them. Read about suicide-murders at Ozy. 


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