On a Facebook page we were recently discussing an incident where a young man went crazy with a knife and gun, injuring and killing others. Sadly an all too common event in the US.
Whilst most of us present were of the opinion this man was clearly mentally ill, judging by all of the reports surrounding the case, the fundamentalist Christian present disagreed. She was adamant that this young man was under the control of demons.
Where you or I might say of somebody "they had their demons" and mean it metaphorically, she truly believes that they are literal.
This got me thinking on what the ramifications of such belief would be if the majority of the population believed as she did, and if the law reflected it.
Imagine a court case where a man went into a school with a machine gun and took the lives of dozens of innocent students before being subdued and arrested. His legal counsel tells the court that he is possessed of demons.
If somebody does something against their will and under duress they're generally not found guilty. Even diminished responsibility can result in a reduced sentence or acquittal. So what would happen to our gunman?
In all likelihood he would be found not guilty as he was not in control, the demons were forcing him to do these things. I can easily imagine a situation where instead of being sent to a secure psychiatric unit he would be sent to the local exorcist before being pronounced cleansed of his demonic controllers and released a free man, especially if he was savvy enough to tell them he repented his actions.
Given that statistics show that the US produces more serial killers than the rest of the world combined it's not a pleasant thought.
The irony is, whilst the gunman we were discussing has clearly got mental health problems, the Christian who insisted he has demons says she doesn't have mental health problems, even though she claims to speak directly to the Holy Spirit and Jesus, and to have two reformed demons living in her garage, whom she has chosen not to send to Hell as they've changed their ways.
No, I didn't make that bit up. I'm not crazy enough.
We've only got to look at history to see where a legal system can go if you leave the religious in charge. Trial by ordeal was always fun; the accused having their limbs severely burnt and then seeing if God healed them. If he didn't, they were guilty.
Would sure as hell make Judge Judy more entertaining.