Justifying coercion through religion and psychiatry

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Christians believe that their ideas about religion are true not only for themselves but for everyone. Psychiatrists believe that their ideas about psychopathology and psychotherapy are true not only for themselves but for everyone. The former attitude - as we know all too well - led to the forcible spread of the Christian faith and to the glorification of this practice. The latter attitude - although it is generally denied, especially by psychiatrists - led to the psychiatric campaigns of forcibly imposing "mental healing" on unwilling subjects. [...]

By separating church and state, religion was deprived of its power to abuse the individual and the state was deprived of one of its major justifications for the use of force. The upshot was a quantum jump toward greater individual liberty such as the world had never seen. By separating Psychiatry and the State, we would do the same of our age: At one fell swoop, psychiatry would be deprived of its power to abuse the individual and the State would be deprived of one of its major justifications for the use of force. The result would be another major advance for individual liberty - or, perhaps, the advent for another system of justification rhetoric and persecutory practice, replacing both the religious and psychiatric systems. [...]

I have said it before and will say it again: Actions speak louder than words. Violence is violence, regardless of how we explain it or explain it away. We in the West have long repudiated the legitimacy of violence in the name of God. So long as we do not similarly repudiate the legitimacy of violence in the name of Mental Health, the very term psychiatric help will carry an impossible load of ambivalence, rendering it useless, if not obscene.

source: Article 'Justifying Coercion Through Religion and Psychiatry' by Thomas Szasz; Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 27 No. 2; Spring 1987; Article adapted from a paper presented at the International Symposium: The Future of the Mentally Ill in Society, Jerusalem, Israel; October 1983