Oh, I’m all over this one. A Sevier County, Tennessee man is suing his church because he says the Holy Spirit knocked him over during a service, which resulted in him falling over and cracking his head open. He’s had two expensive and painful surgeries and still feels pain from it.
Among the other rather obvious defenses to the lawsuit is the doctrine of intervening and superseding causation — in other words, the Holy Spirit knocked him over, which was, after all, what the man wanted to happen. The injury was, therefore, an Act of God — literally — and not the church’s fault.
Ah, the plaintiff will rebut. But the church exists to invoke God and indeed has a history of invoking the Holy Spirit its parishioners. Other parishioners have been in-visited by the Holy Spirit before and given up control of their bodies to the Spirit, so the church knew what could have happened and therefore should have taken appropriate precautions. Like providing padding. Or, I don’t know, helmets.
The church will almost certainly defend itself, however, by invoking the doctrine of comparative negligence. Tennessee has a modified comparative negligence rule, meaning that if the defendant was not 50% or more responsible for his injuries, the plaintiff recovers nothing. The question then becomes what the church could have done to prevent this injury. As a practical matter, the answer is obviously nothing. You can’t pad the floors of a church on the off chance that someone might be in-visited by the Holy Spirit even if you’re invoking that very entity.
The utter silliness and unnecessary nature of the event underlying the injury is apparent to me. But then again, I’m not a charismatic Christian who thinks the Holy Spirit exerts physical force, makes people speak in tongues, or otherwise interferes in day-to-day human activity. If I were a Christian who believed in supernatural entities, I would have to wonder how this man could tell that it was the Holy Spirit that moved him to injury and not an evil demon — and if it was the latter, how such a demon could have got in to the church in the first place, unless the church was really engaged in devil-worship — but by now you see how astonishingly silly this entire exercise has become.
There is, of course, no such thing as the Holy Spirit. No supernatural force knocked this man over. He fell. The man was dancing or cavorting or doing whatever he was doing to “act Christian” and impress his friends there. It got out of hand, he lost his balance, he fell, he got badly hurt. It’s his own damn fault. The only thing the church is guilty of is encouraging that sort of behavior — but a rational, intelligent person would not have fallen for it.
Here, then, is proof that religion really does hurt people.