Are Catholics mentally deficient?

The short answer is, “No.” Now for the long answer.

Miranda Celeste Hale has a post at Ex-Catholic Girl arguing against PZ Myers’ comment that Tony Blair must be “mentally deficient” for converting to Catholicism. Hale, who grew up Catholic (hence the name of her blog), argues that Blair’s conversion was rather “ethically questionable.”

Choosing to remain a member of and to support an institution that is as backwards, unethical, bigoted, and dangerous as the Catholic church marks one as, to varying degrees, ethically questionable, not mentally deficient. And to bring it back to Blair, I’d argue that choosing, as an adult, to become a member of the Church, marks one as much more ethically questionable than an individual who was raised Catholic and never managed to escape their childhood religious indoctrination.

That’s clearly a good distinction to make, one which recognizes the difference between having a belief system thrust upon you from your earliest days and choosing one of your own free will. None of us are to blame for the destruction others have wrought in our minds while we were too young to oppose it. But she has raised a question more provocative than Myers’ claim that Catholics are mentally deficient:

…choosing to remain a member of such a corrupt and dangerous institution does indicate that one is ethically questionable, at the very least.

This goes beyond the basic cognitive dissonance that plagues most believers throughout their lives. Is it ethical to belong to a religious organization that does such harm?

I’m guessing the answer from a person like Tony Blair would be, “But the Church does much good which outweighs the harm.” Indeed this was the gist of his debate with Christopher Hitchens, which inspired Myers’ barb, which inspired Hale’s retort, which inpired this post.

Living in Italy, most of the people I know formally belong to the Roman Catholic Church. Most of them are probably not believers in the true sense, although a few are. I have no doubt that they who are think their church is “the light of the world.” The majority try not to think about these things at all. Very few are openly opposed to the Church’s moral bankruptcy, of which a fraction have taken matters into their own hands and debaptized themselves. Apparently, they could no longer reconcile themselves to such an obviously incoherent worldview.

4 thoughts on “Are Catholics mentally deficient?

  1. Marc, my apologies for not commenting before now- I’ve been insanely busy lately. Anyway, I think you hit the nail on the head with: “The majority try not to think about these things at all”, especially the “try” part. I hadn’t previously made much of a connection between the cognitive dissonance/intellectual compartmentalization of religious believers and the “ethical compartmentalization” (for lack of a better phrase) that most members of the RCC engage in. Both types of compartmentalization involve the “try not to think about” aspect, and I imagine that it must be rather draining to constantly force yourself not to question the validity of your beliefs or the ethical implications of membership in the Church.

    1. Miranda,

      I don’t know if they “try” consciously or unconsciously. There is a lot of blocking out of uncomfortable facts, shoehorning, waffling. I remember my very Catholic Italian aunt once told me that America was founded by Catholics fleeing religious persecution. I told her it was Protestants. She got offended. I might as well have been debating the age of Earth with a YEC.

      I suspect the ethical issue is farthest from their minds, though, just as I think it’s far from most religious people’s minds. That’s probably why they’re so angry with the gnus, because we point out the ethical problems with religious faith.

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