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The Church of Szasz
January 12, 2007 — 10:13 pm

There was an interesting blog entry on Reason’s Hit and Run yesterday about a Scientology exhibit in the Missouri capitol building. To quote the piece:

The “Industry of Death” exhibit is sponsored by the Church of Scientology and makes a host of outrageous claims about the field of psychiatry. Twenty-five percent of psychiatrists sexually abuse their patients. Psychiatrists deliberately kill about 10,000 people a year – sounds about right. And for the big surprise, psychiatrists were responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – guilty by association, at least, since psychiatrists are responsible for the existence of terrorists and suicide bombers.

Though the whole Scientology vs. Psychiatry issue was well aired during Tom Cruise’s apparent national melt-down last year, I still find the whole thing rather disconcerting. The fields of psychiatry and psychology have done a rather nice job of fending this nonsense off, so that’s not what really bothers me. I’m just wondering why the Church of Scientology was allowed to set up the exhibit in the rotunda of the Missouri capitol building. After all, the separation of church and state does not just apply to Christians, right?

It turns out, this wasn’t really all that important to those who replied to the article. Many more people seemed to focus in on one of Radley Balko’s personal statements. He, Radley Balko (the piece’s author), adds an addendum to the post by saying:

I part ways with many of my fellow libertarians on the issue of mental health (that is, I disagree with those who think mental illness isn’t real, and that psychiatry is a crock).

The whole conversation immediately devolves into a libertarian vs. psychiatry issue, with proponents of Thomas Szasz on one side and those who have suffered real mental illness on the other.

Now, I never really heard of Thomas Szasz until two years ago when Eric and I were walking around Powell’s book store in Portland, Oregon. I was looking for some general psychology books and he said something to the effect of, “If you want a libertarian perspective on psychology (or psychiatry), you should pick up something by Thomas Szasz”.

I inquired just who the heck Thomas Szasz was and Eric informed me that he was a libertarian writer who did not believe in the whole concept of “mental illness”, or something to that effect.

I never really gave the issue another thought. I mean, in my experience, mental illness was entirely real and I didn’t care if Mr. Szasz was a libertarian or not…he was simply wrong. I still haven’t picked up anything by him, though currently I’m not opposed to the idea of investigating further.

From what I could glean from the comments, Thomas Szasz has a problem with how psychiatry treats the individual in order to fit them into some societal world view. Cure the individual and society will be better for it…stuff like that. Dr. Szasz also harshly criticizes the psychiatry field for involuntarily medicating and committing individuals for spurious reasons.

OK, I can identify with those beliefs. Maybe this Szasz guy isn’t so bad after all, I don’t know. We’ll see if I have time later on to delve deeper.

What really cracked me up, however, was the appearance of the above picture in the comments section. Those two individuals are Tom Cruise and none other than Thomas Szasz. Now, I have no idea under what context this picture was taken and I draw very few conclusions from it.

It is pretty damn funny when you think about it though.

UPDATE. It appears that Thomas Szasz and the Church of Scientology have a working relationship with each other. Hmmmm. That makes me a bit more reluctant to take him seriously.

— Justin M. StoddardComments (0)

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