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February 5 - 11, 2003
The Village Voice


Erik Baard's "The Guilt-Free Soldier" [January 22-28] warns about the latest breakthrough in psychopharmacology, a pill that dissolves the moral sense: "Every value he learned as a boy tells him to back down, to return to base and find another way of routing the enemy. Or, he reasons, he could complete the task and rush back to start popping pills that can, over the course of two weeks, immunize him against a lifetime of crushing remorse."

This piece of pharmaco-mythology, characteristic of our age, is extraordinarily naive. Drugs act on the body, not our moral sense. Scientists will never develop a drug that will annul our moral sense. Nor need they do so. Such a drug was discovered thousands of years ago and has been successfully used by people everywhere: It is called "religion." Clergymen confidently assure combatants on all sides-Israelis and Palestinians, Americans and Iraqis-that God is on their side. This has successfully tranquilized billions throughout history and there is no evidence that the power of this "drug" is waning. To the contrary, it is becoming more powerful before our very eyes.

Thomas Szasz, M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus
Upstate Medical University
State University of New York, Syracuse

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