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.