Posts Tagged “AIDS”

Apocalypse vasnetsovThe Religious Right loves to use disaster theology to bludgeon other people into obeying their own dour metaphysics. They do it because they believe their God is a terrifying cosmic tyrant who will, in fact, happily use disasters in order to terrorize humanity … and because of their own fear of him, they view fear as something that will motivate others to believe as they do, also. They either don’t understand — or worse, they refuse to want to admit — that disasters happen from time to time, regardless of any outside factors, and it’s impossible to verifiably ascribe them to an almighty cosmic entity who’s trying to coerce humanity into doing his bidding.

The latest example of a Religious Rightist using disaster theology to make others cower into doing as she demands, is Congressional candidate in Illinois’s 9th district, Susanne Atanus. The Arlington Heights, IL Daily Herald reports on what she said on the subject (WebCite cached article):

“I am a conservative Republican and I believe in God first,” Atanus said. She said she believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as in response to gay rights and legalized abortions.

“God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” she said. “Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”

Yes, of course, Ms Atanus. Everything bad that ever happened in this world, was caused solely by vile, insolent, God-hating mortals who dared reject your deity and his ways. Why, of course! How could it possibly have been otherwise?

</sarcasm>

What you see here is the childishness typical of the fervent religionist. They dislike something, so they claim their God also hates it, and they cast about looking for things they can cite which, as they see it anyway, demonstrate his displeasure. What they haven’t done, and can never do, is to actually show this relationship using objective, verifiable evidence.

They also can’t or won’t explain how it makes sense for an almighty cosmic deity to try to send a message to humanity in such a way. Consider: if he really wanted to make clear that he despises gays and abortion, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to be more explicit and direct about it? Putting such a message in the sky, in enormous letters that don’t move with the wind, would certainly do the trick. Making some kids autistic and some of the elderly senile, and dispatching tornadoes to flatten some towns, don’t constitute a clear message.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Repent-or-Perish signThe news out of Iowa these days isn’t good. There’s the salmonella-tainted eggs, which have hit a second producer in that state (WebCite cached article), of course. That’s been news for the last few days. The other Iowa news you likely have not heard about, is the religiofascist bellyaching that’s been going on there, over gays. This story is taking on a life of its own … sad to say.

It all started with a Republican legislative candidate’s idiotic rant about AIDS being God’s retribution against gays, as reported by the Iowa Independent (cached):

When the Bible says homosexuals should be “put to death; their blood shall be upon them,” the blood is really AIDS. Or so says Jeremy Walters, Republican legislative hopeful, in a series of posts on his Facebook. …

Facebook Rant of Jeremy Walters, GOP candidate for Iowa's 67th state House district

Walters uses the old Leviticus 20:13 to support his claim. Evangelicals love to trot out this and other verses as “proof” that God has condemned gays. What they forget is that other Leviticus passages also forbid a great many other things, including the eating of pork (Lev 11:7-8) and shellfish (Lev 11:10-12). Yes folks, that means no shrimp scampi or baby-back ribs for good, dutiful Christians!

As adamant as Walters is about this matter, it hasn’t previously been a cornerstone of his campaign:

On his campaign website, Walters makes no mention of same-sex marriage or gay rights at all, focusing instead on economic issues like property taxes, the estate tax and the state budget, as well as gun rights and education.

To its credit, the Iowa Republican Party has disavowed Walters’s words, again as reported by the Iowa Independent (cached):

Statements by a Republican candidate for the Iowa House that AIDS is punishment for the sin of homosexuality have been officially denounced by Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn. …

“Mr. Walters’ comments are inappropriate and in no way represent the beliefs of the Republican Party of Iowa,” Strawn said in a statement to The Iowa Independent. “HIV/AIDS does not discriminate and our hearts and prayers go out to any Iowa family facing this disease.”

That, at least, is pretty clear and unequivocal. This same story, however, reveals that Walters plans not to back down on his claim:

Walters told The Des Moines Register that he has no plans to remove the posting from his Facebook page, saying it’s only offensive to gay rights advocates, “because they know it’s the truth. Truth does hurt.”

Nonetheless, Walters’s remarks on gays and AIDS have been removed.

Even with the state Republican party clearly weighing against Walters, however, the matter still will not die. A radio host has angrily called bullshit on Strawn’s claim that “AIDS does not discriminate” … again reported by the Iowa Independent (cached):

The gay rights movement has worked hard to convince society that AIDS does not discriminate, but that is a lie, conservative radio host Jan Mickelson said on his WHO-AM show Thursday. …

“For the chairman of the Republican Party to say, ‘AIDS doesn’t discriminate,’ well of course it does,” Mickelson said. “It discriminates against people who engage in stupid behavior.”

“Lung disease doesn’t discriminate, but it’s probably a good idea to stop smoking,” he said. …

Mickelson said it all comes down to God’s law, or natural law, which “also applies to sexual disorders.”

Mickelson’s lung-disease scenario doesn’t quite work as well as he probably thinks it does; there are people who’ve been afflicted by lung disease, caused by environmental factors outside their control. Musician Warren Zevon, for example, died of a form of lung cancer which is triggered by asbestos; as near as anyone can figure, his exposure came during childhood, from his family’s carpet business (asbestos was a component of some carpet fibers until just a few decades ago). He didn’t ask to get lung cancer, and my guess is that no one knew his exposure to carpet fibers would cause it. So Zevon’s cancer cannot be called any kind of natural consequence of willful, “stupid behavior.”

At any rate, Mickelson may have realized he was stepping into a steaming load of manure of his own making, because his remarks after that point are almost incomprehensible:

So, does God punish homosexuality? Does he punish sodomy? Well, no, he doesn’t get off his throne and say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna get that guy.’ Well not directly,” he said. “Most of God’s laws, which another way of saying God’s law would be natural law, that is, law that is consistent with the nature of the universe because it was built in such a way, most of God’s laws are self enforcing. God doesn’t have to do anything. So if you skydive without a parachute, does God punish people who do that? No, but one of his inventions does. Gravity. If you skydive without a parachute, you’re going to die. Should you blame God for that?”

Mickelson kept spewing gibberish, even after callers challenged him on various points around this topic; read the article if you wish to see the depths of stupidity and inanity he stooped to in order to hold onto his religiously-motivated bigotry.

Folks, this is just another sterling example of “the Religion of Love” in action.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith.

Photo credit: Marshall Astor.

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… get out of the papal palace! Yes folks, Pope Benedict XVI is not happy. The source of his unhappiness? The backlash against him after he presumed to know more about epidemiology than actual credentialed epidemiologists. As I blogged previously, the Vatican is famously thin-skinned, so there’s no surprise. Here’s the AP report, via the Hartford Courant:

The Vatican says some negative reactions to the pope’s comments about condoms and AIDS during a trip to Africa were an “unprecedented” attempt to intimidate him.

Pope Benedict XVI said last month that condoms weren’t the answer to Africa’s AIDS epidemic and could make the problem worse. …

The Vatican said the pope’s comments were taken out of context and had unleashed an “unprecedented media campaign.” It says they were “used by some groups with a clear intent to intimidate, as if to dissuade the Pope from expressing himself.”

Actually I agree that — on matters that are not his to decide — the Pope should, in fact, not “express himself.” As an important, globally-known public figure, the Pope has a responsibility to measure his words and not just shoot off his mouth whenever he feels like it, on topics in which he has zero expertise. As Stan Lee has famously said (reflecting the words of FDR), “With great power comes great responsibility.” For better or worse, the Pope’s words carry great power. It is not wrong to expect of him — especially since he presumes to be the standard-bearer for morality in the occidental world — that he take care in how he exercises that power.

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Pope Benedict XVI recently weighed in on the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and made an astonishing claim, as the AP reported:

Pope Benedict XVI said condoms are not the answer to the AIDS epidemic in Africa and can make the problem worse, setting off criticism Tuesday as he began a weeklong trip to the continent where some 22 million people are living with HIV. …

In his four years as pope, Benedict had never directly addressed condom use, although his position is not new. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, often said that sexual abstinence — not condoms — was the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.

Benedict also said the Roman Catholic Church was at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.

“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane heading to Yaounde. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

The pope said a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease, as he answered questions submitted in advance by reporters traveling on the plane. His response was presumably also prepared in advance.

In the most technical sense only, the Pope has a point. Having less sex means less AIDS transmission. However, his position — that the only way to solve the AIDS epidemic in Africa, is for the entire continent to collectively stop having sex — is unrealistic to the point of being asinine.

It’s just not going to happen!

Not only that, the Pope is not an epidemiologist and has no expertise to rely on, in making this claim. He is looking at it in a purely idealistic or philosophical fashion. Few problems have ever been solved by idealistic means, however.

The Pope has, naturally, taken some heat over his claim, but continues to defend his indefensible claim, as Reuters reports:

The Vatican on Wednesday defended Pope Benedict’s opposition to the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS as activists, doctors and politicians criticised it as unrealistic, unscientific and dangerous. …

Asked about the criticism, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope was “maintaining the position of his predecessors”.

The Vatican also says condoms can also lead to risky behaviour but many contest that view.

Kevin De Cock, director of the World Health Organisation’s HIV/AIDS department, said there is no scientific evidence showing that condom use spurs people to take more sexual risks.

The Vatican’s claim that widely-available condoms increase irresponsible behavior, is akin to slippery-slope thinking, and for that reason, is fallacious. It might intuitively appear to be the case, but intuitive suppositions are not facts. The Reuters article quotes someone who actually is an expert in the field, who summarizes how stupid the Vatican is being on this matter:

“The pope saying they are not good is like someone saying travelling by air is not 100 percent safe, so we should not fly,” said Pat Matemilola, national co-ordinator for the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), a medical doctor who has been living with HIV/AIDS for more than a decade.

The moral of this story: Being a religious or spiritual figure — even one as revered as the Pope — does not make one an expert in fields one has never studied. Credentials matter; idealism, or worse, religionism, doesn’t.

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