Where I Cram My Ideas

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sapient on locking Christians away

"What do you think..."

Rhology asked for my take on a Brian Sapient statement. I don't know the original context, but here is the question as Rhology put it in a comment.
What do you think of the Rational Response Squad's Brian Sapient's statement that Christians are mentally ill and should be locked up in mental institutions?
This is a question that requires a multi-part response.

Christians and mental illness:

While there is a clear social factor involved, it has not to my knowledge been demonstrated that Christian beliefs amount to an "impairment of an individual's normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning"

It may be the case that some Christians have a sort of mental illness. However, Sapient's statement seems to be far too sweeping to have any weight to it, particularly since many Christians are as different from one another as night from day.

This part of the question, then, is a matter of fact. Is it in fact the case that those following the Christian faith (in all of its many forms) are mentally impaired from normal functioning?

No. Human beings do not by default behave rationally, nor to they typically have rational reasons for adopting any given belief.

Should they be incarcerated:

I'll start by stating that we as humans should be given the strong presumption of freedom. It is when human action causes or threatens immanent harm on others that we consider punishment or "locking away."

So the real question is whether we have reasons to keep Christians separated from the rest of society.


The answer depends on how "harm" is understood. In a desire utilitarian sense - as expressed in the first post on this blog - "harm" occurs when real-world human desires are thwarted. Because desires are the only reasons for action that exist, humans have reasons to promote good desires in others... good desires being those that tend to fulfill the desires of others.

One example of a good desire is "that the desires of others be fulfilled." *Not necessarily that "I fulfill the desires of others,"* so recognize the difference.

Are Christians more evil?:

We have no good reasons to believe that Christians (especially "all Christians") cause harm to other people, any more than any other group. Not all Christians cause a "mental illness" in others. There is no case that can be fairly made to say that Christians deserve to be jailed any more than any other group, and to make that claim amounts to bigotry.

The strong presumption of liberty we follow (since the removal of liberty is among the most desire-thwarting actions possible) stands until Sapient or others can provide reasons to believe Christians (especially "all Christians") cause or threaten more harm than other groups.

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