Suicide, the intentional taking of one’s own life, has traditionally been condemned by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time, in some circumstances societies embracing the traditions of the world’s three major religions have sometimes encouraged suicide. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, German military officers facing disgrace and court-martial were often encouraged by senior leaders to commit suicide. Many Islamic extremist groups in the Occupied Territories of Palestine have recruited individuals to carry out suicide attacks against Israeli civilians and military targets.

In the Eastern tradition, there are instances in which suicide has been embraced. Until the practice was suppressed by British colonial officials, Indian widows traditionally immolated themselves in the funeral pyre of their husbands. The Japanese military inculcated a warrior ...

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