My Photo

« About that Referendum... | Main | Marcus and the Sanctity of Contract »

March 17, 2009

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d834515c2369e201127971ed6228a4

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Try in Vain to Take Away the Pain of Being a Hopeless Unbeliever:

Comments

The Catholic Church is a wonderful example of a bad intellectual disease: thinking about complicated issues by starting from top-level and contentious premises (in this case, that every sex act must be open to the possibility of procreation) and then drawing ground-level moral conclusions no matter how perverse. If the Church lacked real-world influence, it would merely be an instructive rather than a destructive example. But as it is...

This is the same church that excommunicated some doctors in Brazil. Doctors who performed a medically necessary abortion so that a young girl (9 years old, I think) would not die as the result of pregnancy that was a product of rape.

And her rapist (who is also her father), what of him? He is still in the good graces of the church.

Every year, I think the Catholic Church has hit bottom, and every year, they show up with more dynamite and dig themselves a little bit deeper.

Sadly, the system that sustains the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is what keeps it unable to recognize when it has made a mistake in asserting that X is moral or that Y is immoral and unwilling to ever admit that it made a mistake. It's very much in the same position it was half a millennium ago -- and that did not work out for them very well at all until they reformed themselves with the Counterreformation.

The social and political success of John Paul II allowed the reactionaries to undo some of the reforms of the past half century and to impose these callous rules without any regard for the people they are victimizing, much like they ignored the rape victims while they protected the rapists. I do not think that John Paul II was a bad man, but intentionally or not he left the Church in the hands of those who do not care about the human beings who are part of their church.

Hilary went to the Catholic Church because she wanted information The vicar, or whatever, took her to one side and gave her confirmation

At the risk of playing devil's advocate here, I've always been puzzled as to why progressives think this is an important story. Surely individuals who don't follow papal teaching on any other question of sexual behaviour aren't going to avoid using condoms just because the pope says to; and I can't believe it's within the power of the RC church to seriously impede the distribution and availability of condoms in Africa, so long as governments and NGO's do their bit. So who cares what the Pope thinks?

A church which opposses suicide really has no business obstructing any health care initiative that saves lives *even* if it conflicts with other moral priorities the church claims to have. The fundamental principle of christian theology is that this life is the only chance any individual has to make good, or do evil, in the sight of g-d. That being the case taking any action which removes the individual from this world and prevents him or her from getting right with g-d before death is a very serious religious crime. If salvation is your aim and you don't believe in multiple lives allowing a person to die of AIDS when you could have prevented is potentially a form of soul murder since it denies him the chance for salvation. *Even* if you thought that the act--using the condom--was potentially sinful surely surviving to repent sins is the basic requirement for salvation. Dying without repenting, or dying without being able to do any further real good in the world, or *causing someone* to die unnecessarily before they have come to jesus has to be a bigger sin than using the condom in the first place.

I deeply resent the implication that the Catholic Church thinks too much and in too high level a fashion about morality. My complaint is that they refuse to think morally at all, as we know morality and they consistently confuse a childish, retrograde, materialist philosophy of morality (in which g-d obsesses about who puts the hoo ha in the wing wang and when) over a real morality of empathy, caring, and justice.

To make the point as clearly as the church just did in excommunicating the doctors for the abortion a church that refuses to excommunicate soldiers and high political figures for enabling or advocating executions and warfare simply doesn't have a moral leg to stand on. Everyone dies. Preventing death isn't really a moral stand but a childishly crazy stance since we can't prevent death ultimately. The church's pro life stance reduces itself to this--life for some and death for others. The church simply choooses to advocate for one set of deaths (deaths from AIDS) over other sets of deaths (deaths from old age for condom using people).

aimai

Compassion must be the guiding principle to spiritual beliefs or you're missing the point entirely.

i'd say it should be the guiding principle to all beliefs.

I do not think that John Paul II was a bad man, but intentionally or not he left the Church in the hands of those who do not care about the human beings who are part of their church.

i blame the magic white smoke.

RB,

At the risk of speaking for everyone, nobody prefers condoms. Giving people an "out" that they can claim is based on religious belief is irresponsible.

So, you are correct that many people don't follow their religions strictly. They do follow those teachings that they like.

Okay, I hate to be a broken record on this, but a person in a state of mortal sin (like, say, a child rapist) is *not* "in the good graces of the Church" until confession and absolution.

On a different point. RB, the problem with Rome's stance is not that they forbid the faithful from both having non-marital sex and using condoms. The problem is that Rome moves heaven and earth to make sure that the faithful do everything in their power to keep everyone, including those outside of Rome's sway from using condoms (and any birth control). All of which comes from a moral theology that has a really effed-up view of even married sex.

i'd say it should be the guiding principle to all beliefs.

True.

in which g-d obsesses about who puts the hoo ha in the wing wang and when

Although I am certainly no expert, as many a partner could attest, I believe you have the roles of the respective naughty bits reversed my dear Aimai.

RB,

Building off of what jrudkis said:

In Africa, some wives try to get their husbands to use condoms (and this is encouraged by AIDs activists) because men often contract HIV from affairs/prostitutes attended to while traveling for work (or otherwise) and then transmit the disease to their wives upon returning home.

The last thing we want is to give the men in those situations a religious justification for refusing their wives' wishes.

Also, what Andrew R said: they're not just passively issuing statements, they make decisions about who they will and won't work with, fund, endorse and cooperate with based on such condom policies.

There are a whole host (pardon the pun) of positions the Catholic Church takes that make no sense if you take their rhetoric about the sanctity of life at face value or subscribe to a more compassionate view of Jesus.

Pretty much all of these make sense once you realize that the Church's #1 and #2 priorities are punitive control of all sexual activity and the restoration of the Biblical gender hierarchy. These directives, particularly controlling sexual activity and punishing it when unauthorized, supersede all other considerations.

This may sound extreme and simplistic, but it's really not. Ignore what they say. Look at what they do. Look at the issues the Church spends the most time talking about, the battles it spends most resources fighting, and the way it weighs and punishes different sins.

There are worse things than extra-marital sex.

Well, the Church doesn't approve of intramarital sex, either, if a condom is involved

I figger anybody deluded enough to place the "health" of their "soul" over the preservation of their physical health is probably better off dead.

The Church's position on this is very simple.

AIDS is a disease. It's neither good or evil in itself; contracting AIDS harms the mortal body but has no effect on the immortal soul.

Condom use is a *sin*. Contraception not only defies God's command to be fruitful and multiply, but enables and facilitates another sin, extramarital sex, and all the spiritual damage associated with it.

If you don't think that the suffering of the body, which will last a hundred years at most, is negligible - in fact, irrelevant - when compared to the risk of *eternal* suffering in Hell, and that the Church would be abnegating its responsibility if it encouraged any sort of sin, even the sort that makes people healthier and happier, you're not a very good Christian.

Disclaimer: I am not a very good, or for that matter any sort of, Christian. But the teachings of the Church on condom use are completely in line with their belief that the welfare of the soul is immeasurably more important than the welfare of the body; that is to say, in line with the fundamental nihilism, the utter contempt for all human endeavors and the rejection of anything that benefits living human beings, that permeates Christian theology. People who write things like:

"Compassion must be the guiding principle to spiritual beliefs or you're missing the point entirely. At least, that was Jesus' take."
simply do not understand the message of the man whose Sermon on the Mount taught his followers to rejoice in their suffering - and the suffering of others - for the sake of an imaginary reward in a supposed Heaven.

simply do not understand the message of the man whose Sermon on the Mount taught his followers to rejoice in their suffering - and the suffering of others - for the sake of an imaginary reward in a supposed Heaven.

You are misinterpreting his point on the Mount if you think it is line with the Catholic view on condoms. That is not the kind of suffering he was talking about, nor the cause for its endurance.

Further, Buddhists have a similar view of corporal issues, and - again - place compassion above all else.

Contraception not only defies God's command to be fruitful and multiply,..

Certainly no more so than abstinence.

but enables and facilitates another sin, extramarital sex, and all the spiritual damage associated with it.

But if condom use detracts from pleasure, doesn't it rather discourage extramarital sex?

I was at the HuffPo site making a comment at the thread about Ratzi's cluelessness, and over an hour ago there were over 30 pages of mocking, snarky and angry comments...this is one of the most contentious and longest threads I've ever seen anywhere on any subject..,

The popster would do better work for the Church if he just sat quietly in a room playing with his rosaries...every time this little nazi opens his mouth he works to destroy the church further...

Contraception not only defies God's command to be fruitful and multiply,..

Certainly no more so than abstinence.

This is a very good response...though I guess since we know that abstinence fails more often than condoms, it is not completely accurate.

It sure is hard to square that with vows of celibacy.


But in any event, abstinence clearly violates God's will, is immoral, and anything immoral should not be taught in schools.

Ditto to Eric at 5:26 PM. Here is one example, from Luke chapter 13:

10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."

15 The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The synagogue ruler was referring to the fourth commandment: honoring the Sabbath Day, specifically by doing no work (Exodus 20:8-11). Jesus taught (and demonstrated) that compassion was more important.

Compassion must be the guiding principle to spiritual beliefs or you're missing the point entirely. At least, that was Jesus' take.

Who?

What Monala said.

Not to mention, the supposed biblical prohibition on fruitless sex is a perverse misreading of the Onan story. The text could hardly be clearer that Onan's sin was his refusal to build up his late, childless brother's house by impregnating the widow. That story is a small but significant part of the tale of Joseph: (1) Onan was killed for refusing to do his brotherly duty; (2)his brother's widow, Tamar, then seduced his father Judah in disguise; so that (3) Judah repented his inattention to familial duty. Judah's epiphany was a necessary precondition to his climactic reconciliation with Joseph -- and it would lose all narrative force if Onan's sin is not understood as sibling rivalry, a sin that is repeated again and again throughout Genesis. You have to deliberately remove all context from the verse about Onan to conclude that the problem with Onan's behavior was pulling out per se.

Actually, Judah's refusal to punish Tamar for her infidelity is another Biblical example of the importance of compassion, specifically elevating compassion over sexual morality. Tamar needed a child as support for her old age and a place in the community. Judah should have enforced the rules that would have let her get one properly -- so her scandalous pregnancy was condoned due to his prior, greater sin of negligence. Thus, the very story the Church misuses to prove that fruitless sex is sinful, acttually proves that compassion should override any such concerns.

What a news flash: Religion is fundamentally irrational. It therefore leads you to irrational positions. Irrational, that is, if you're not reasoning off it's own fundamentally screwed up premises. But frequently 'rational' if you've bought in.

But, you know what? This is small change. The Pope is spitting into the wind on this issue, it's not exactly the Church's most widely obeyed command.

Really, what you ought to be asking is, why the heck is AIDS so common in Africa? It's not the climate. And, much as you'd like to think it, it's not Catholic teachings. There are plenty of hot countries with lots of Catholics, and really low rates of AIDS. (Look at the Philippines.) Heck, AIDS rates vary radically from one African country to another, by a factor of ten to twenty.

Local governments with literally insane AIDS policies. Local superstitions about curing AIDS by giving it to somebody else. Eccentric local sexual practices. There's lots of reasons.

But the guy in the funny dress and his nonsense? It's not really that much of a factor.

I would say that the pope is a useless human being, but his intestines, no doubt, are suitable for strangling a king.

"Condom use is a *sin*. Contraception not only defies God's command to be fruitful and multiply, but enables and facilitates another sin, extramarital sex, and all the spiritual damage associated with it."

The question is: why is condom use a sin? It can't be because of the injunction to be fruitful and multiply: in that case, the church should abolish priestly celibacy along with all monastic orders. The better argument, I would have thought, is that using condoms enables people to have casual sex, etc.

The thing is, though: this makes the immorality of using condoms turn entirely on the motive one has for using them. If you use condoms with your spouse because you know that one of you is HIV-positive and you'd like to keep that number to one, you are not: engaging in sex the church disapproves of, trying to avoid pregnancy, or anything like that.

I suppose one could say: but the fact that condoms can be used this way just makes them BAD. But it's completely unclear why this argument couldn't be extended to guns, hands, or, well, everything.

So I really don't get it. The part about preferring salvation to avoiding HIV I do get. The part about that implying that one can't use condoms, on the other hand, I don't.

As I understand it, the Catholic Church normally allows a well-intentioned act with a bad side effect, so long as the good outweighs the evil. For instance, medically necessary surgery that incidentally causes sterility is allowed. The Pill is forbidden for contraception, but may be used to treat hormone imbalance. A pregnant woman with a life-threatening illness may receive treatment that causes miscarriage. I believe the Catholic Church even allows surgical excision of a Fallopian tube with an ectopic pregnancy on the dubious theory that it isn't "really" an abortion, but removal of a diseased organ.

So why can't a married couple in which one spouse has AIDS use condoms for disease prevention and treat the contraceptive effect as a mere, unintended side effect?

Forgive me, but I would like some real data on the consequences of the Pope's opinion before I care even a bit what he thinks.

Is there any evidence that the disapproval of condom use by the Roman Catholic Church is significant contributor towards the prevalence of AIDS in Africa?

I got married in the church and go to mass with some regularity (my heroes are people like Oscar Romero and this guy).

During the portion of the Pre Cana dealing with contraception, the level of contempt that the participants had for the lay worker (no pun intended) advocating the accepted methods of birth control.

Brazil is the largest predominantly RC country in the world. Birth control pills are sold over the counter. Condoms are available everywhere.

The church has lost the battle. The only Catholics I know who don't use birth control are either gay or celibate.

Sorry that should read

"During the portion of the Pre Cana dealing with contraception, the level of contempt that the participants had for the lay worker (no pun intended) advocating the accepted methods of birth control was palpable. I would have been embarrassed for the guy if he hadn't been such an officious little s#$%.

There's a site devoted to this type of thing [WTF Would Jesus Do?]:

http://wtfwjdbitch.blogspot.com/

I recommend.

Really, what you ought to be asking is, why the heck is AIDS so common in Africa? It's not the climate.

Genetic susceptibility may be a factor, as well as the popularity of concurrent sexual partnerships in some countries (the number of sexual partnerships is not necessarily high, but there are more people having a few "steady" relationships at a time than elsewhere, meaning that the virus can spread rapidly in the "sexual network" during the initial highly infectious phase). Nothing that would indicate that condoms are useless or counterproductive.

Compassion must be the guiding principle to spiritual beliefs or you're missing the point entirely. At least, that was Jesus' take.

Hell is a spiritual belief. (At the very least, it's not a scientific belief.) Telling people that hell exists is not, to first order, compassionate -- even if your message is "I offer you salvation from hell". The knock on Jesus has long been that he brought hell into monotheism. Hell is awful, hell is forever, and avoiding hell is worth any earthly price. If Jesus had merely preached compassion and kept quiet about hell, he might have been a more likeable, albeit less spiritual, character. At least, he would have afforded his followers less of an excuse to do earthly mischief. Mere compassion requires no spiritual airs; simple human decency (the sort that most Christians actually practice) suffices.

It's okay by me if people want to baptize simple human decency as "spirituality". I just don't see much point in the exercise. Throw in some extra baggage like the concept of hell, and "spirituality" gets downright annoying.

--TP

Andrew, roughly 1 in 6 people in Africa are Roman Catholics, and Catholics are in fact supposed to pay attention to what the Pope says.

While George W. Bush's work has certainly been more effective in preventing access to and use of condoms in Africa (in 2004, the US Global Gag Rule was extended to cut funding for family planning clinics that refused to promote "abstinence", ensuring that people who might have wanted to use condoms would find it more difficult to get them) I don't think it would be wise to entirely discount religious justifications for not using condoms - the conservative Christians in the US were all for the Global Gag Rule, and Obama's BFF Rick Warren is also active in the anti-condoms pro-abstinence movement.

In the end, denying people condoms and promoting abstinence as a "solution", does always come back to religion - Rick Warren and Pope Rat may be streets apart in most ways, but they are at one in thinking that homophobia and denial of access to family planning are two vitally important tenets of Christianity.

that's about 5% of the adult population.

If we can’t get a handle on this in DC

One in 20 city residents is estimated to have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and 1 in 50 have AIDS, the report said.

I think what it comes down to is that, in theory the Pope's teaching on this subject could have bad consequences, were very many people actually paying more than lip service to it. But in reality, most Catholics are ignoring it anyway, and almost all of the differences between AIDS rates in various countries, (Which differ by several orders of magnitude!) has to do with completely different factors. Primarily local sexual practices. Well, Duh! It's an STD.

People aren't paying much attention to the Pope's teachings on promiscuity, either, which if they did would dramatically reduce the spread of AIDS.

And, yes, abstinence IS a very effective way of blocking the spread of STDs. It's no more rational to mock it, than to attack condom use, if you're concerned about AIDS. Near as I can tell, most of the local differences in AIDS rates do actually come down to being a function of exactly abstinence. Or at least, the average number of sexual partners, which is related.

So the shoe's on the other foot on that front.

Brett-

As jrudkis pointed out, people hear what they want to hear.

Abstinence is a hard sell because everyone wants to have sex. There's strong motivation for that particular instruction from the Papa to be rationalized away. On the other hand, nobody really likes condoms, so that little gem gets followed to the letter. If 1/6 people in Africa are Roman Catholics, that does amount to a big problem.

And I don't think anybody "mocks" abstinence. Encouraging people to reduce the number of partners they have is all to the good. It's abstinence only that's the problem, because it's still a lot easier to convince someone to use a condom than to not have sex entirely.

It's about having multiple, realistic layers of defense.

Brett: And, yes, abstinence IS a very effective way of blocking the spread of STDs.

Promoting abstinence has the highest failure rate of any method of blocking the spread of STDs. As jack notes: people want to have sex. Telling them "don't" works about as well as you'd expect - ie, not at all: telling them "okay, this is how to have sex safely" works a hell of a lot better. Common sense. That the US has leaned so heavily towards funding the promotion of abstinence and cutting funds to effective methods of family planning/prevention of STDs, has been far more damaging than either Pope's message: but "did less damage than George W. Bush" is not a very high barrier to overcome....

I think what it comes down to is that, in theory the Pope's teaching on this subject could have bad consequences, were very many people actually paying more than lip service to it. But in reality, most Catholics are ignoring it anyway,

I love the way Brett calmly asserts that the pope, unlike every other religious leader in the world, has no ability to influence the behaviour of any of his followers, based on no evidence whatsoever.

Brett Bellmore's assumption that "abstinence" is an appropriate approach to an endemic, multi nation and multi community plague like AIDS just shows how confused right wingers get by the facts. *Married Women* in Africa need help getting their *recalcitrant sexually unfaithful* husbands to agree to use condoms. Counseling *abstinence* is not only meaningless in a situation where the woman doesn't get to choose whether or not to have sex but also *contra* the teachings of the Catholic and Evangelical churches on the important role of sexuality within marriage. Again--despite a celibate priesthood and a focus on abstinence before marriage the Catholic Church like the Evangelical churches promotes a patriarchal, male centered, model of the family which makes the choice of whether and when to have sex belong primarily to the male head of household within the context of procreation and submission. Sure, from a catholic/christian right wing point of view since the "purpose" of all marital sex is submission and procreation using a condom would be impermissible. But abstinence itself is also impermissible because it goes against the duty to be fruitful and multiply and to submit to a presumptive "god's will" that explicitly doesn't take into account health risks to the believer.

Please stop prattling on about "abstinence only" teaching in the context of a massive health care crisis among married people that foments a further health care crisis between women and their fetuses and babies. When the Church urges men to refuse to use condoms *regardless of their marital status or the status of their sexual partner* whther on the basis of blind ideology or faulty science the Church is making itself a partner in a compounding of errors that is truly life threatening. There is no question about that. Talking about Abstinence in the context of adult married sexual behavior is like proposing to cure AIDS by finding a ROC's egg. Its an utterly preposterous and mythical solution to a eral world problem.

And let's be honest about it. At least in this country the Catholic/Right wing argument *is not* that abstinence, ignorance, or religion will lessen the spread of AIDS through the heterosexual population and to innocent children. In the case where the state wanted to be able to test pregnant women for HIV/AIDS in order to help them get treatment for their fetuses/babies it was a Republican Representative who admitted that *getting AIDS* and dying of it was, in fact, the goal of the policies he pursues. Because children should die for the perceived or imagined sins of their parents. The Catholic Church is essentially making the same argument: death is nothing compared to the sin of contravening Church regulations on a sexual practice. This has nothing to do with efficacy of Abstinence or of Condoms. Its a straight up otherworldly argument that the rewards for the church and for its adherents is more important than the life of actual women and children affected by the sexual proclivities of the men in their lives. We know this because the arguments that condom use is not as effective as abstinence is utterly false, has been shown to be false in real world trials, and is secondary to the Church's real world position which is not that every avenue to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases should be studied and promoted by that the more sucessful a form of contraception/barrier to transmission is the more dangerous it is to the souls of the faithful. its not because condoms *don't work* that the Catholic Church hates them--its because they *do.*

aimai

The Pope has preempted Jesus. In fact, I'm sure the current Pope would subscribe to the maxim that "If you meet Jesus on the road, kill him."

Great Belle and Sebastian reference, and an even better article.

Biosparite,

Making a Grand Inquisitor reference and reflecting it as original thought is hardly a productive use of anybody's time.

AIMAI grabs the abstinence argument by the neck, hits it out of the park, chases it down, buries it, then erects a museum on the site so that future generations will know of its folly.

thanks cleek. Sorry for the run on sentences and many thanks for reading the long comment.

aimai

I was thinking what cleek was thinking, but he's much wittier than I so I witheld comment to allow for him to speak for the both of us.

"I love the way Brett calmly asserts that the pope, unlike every other religious leader in the world, has no ability to influence the behaviour of any of his followers, based on no evidence whatsoever."

That's not what Brett asserted.

Brett asserted: "But in reality, most Catholics are ignoring it anyway,"

"most" and "any" are quite different concepts.

Chris, is it less productive than quibbling about whether someone needs to cite a paraphrase of a well-known literary reference? Anyway, the use of quotation marks is an express disclaimer of originality.

We really need to start calling the Catholic hierarchy what it really is: a force for pure evil in the world.

Andrew, roughly 1 in 6 people in Africa are Roman Catholics, and Catholics are in fact supposed to pay attention to what the Pope says.

I admit it's logically puzzling why Catholics would ignore their church's prohibition on fornication, but adhere to its prohibition on condoms.

But then, as Ross Douthat illustrated, this kind of puzzling dissonance does seem to occur with some Catholics.

At any rate, if abstention from condom use kills, then the Vatican is breeding fewer Catholics. Someone get that man a copy of Darwin for Dummies.

"We really need to start calling the Catholic hierarchy what it really is: a force for pure evil in the world."

Few things are forces for "pure evil."*

I'm not Catholic, but some of these remarks are past hysterical over-statement.

(*Note exception for Red Lectroids from Planet Ten.)

Ok, I really don't understand this: People enjoy sex, (some) people enjoy smoking. Why is it reasonable to ask people not to smoke to avoid lung cancer, but not reasonable to ask men not to cheat on their wives to avoid spreading AIDS?

Especially when we know damned well that the proclivity to engage in the most risky sort of sexual behaviors is NOT hard-wired, because it varies greatly from culture to culture.

You ask me, it's nothing but a cop-out.

Ok, I really don't understand this: People enjoy sex, (some) people enjoy smoking. Why is it reasonable to ask people not to smoke to avoid lung cancer, but not reasonable to ask men not to cheat on their wives to avoid spreading AIDS?

Especially when we know damned well that the proclivity to engage in the most risky sort of sexual behaviors is NOT hard-wired, because it varies greatly from culture to culture.

You ask me, it's nothing but a cop-out.

Its reasonable to ask people not to smoke to avoid lung cancer--but its not reasonable to outlaw the use of masks by the people around them if they *can't* avoid smoking. Also, its not useful to ask someone who is dying of lung cancer to continue exposing themselves to carcinogens because "refusing" to smoke is against god's will.

Jeebus, try using your head before you make up these absurd analogies. The catholic church isn't merely *encouraging* people with AIDS to abstain from sex they are *actively preventing* people with and without AIDS from protecting themselves from aquiring or passing on the disease.

aimai

I admit it's logically puzzling why Catholics would ignore their church's prohibition on fornication, but adhere to its prohibition on condoms.

Not that puzzling: in each case, they're doing what they would want to do if there was no religious authority passing judgment. Further, men are using the religious argument as a means to disregard their wives' entreaties.

Further, what Aimai said, again:

The catholic church isn't merely *encouraging* people with AIDS to abstain from sex they are *actively preventing* people with and without AIDS from protecting themselves from aquiring or passing on the disease.

Not just words, actions - funding decisions, lack of cooperation with certain organizations, political lobbying, etc.

"but its not reasonable to outlaw the use of masks by the people around them if they *can't* avoid smoking."

Anybody who could say that in this context has no business complaining about absurd analogies. Sex isn't like breathing, you don't automatically have sex with everybody in a room just because you walk in and aren't wearing a condom.

The only people who can't avoid sex are rape victims. And it's not like they have much say in whether they use condoms.

But if you'd been paying attention, I WASN'T defending the Pope's stance on this, it's utterly irrational. What I was saying was that we ought to take a serious look at what actually is different between countries with 25 freaking percent AIDS infection rates, and 0.01 rounded up percent AIDS infection rates. Here's a clue: It isn't whether or not they're Catholics.

So, amusing as it might be to some people to attack the silly guy in the dress, it's nothing but a distraction. He's not the cause of this epidemic, it's doubtful he's even having a statistically significant impact on it one way or the other.

Brett: Why is it reasonable to ask people not to smoke to avoid lung cancer, but not reasonable to ask men [who] cheat on their wives to [use condoms to] avoid spreading AIDS?

Fixed that for you.

Broke that for me, I wrote what I meant. Usually do, I've got nothing but contempt for "Fixed that for you", and "Shorter "X"", and all the other rhetorical tricks that involve changing what the other person said.

Condoms are scarcely 100% reliable, and there are plenty of other reasons for not cheating on your wife or significant other.

"and all the other rhetorical tricks that involve changing what the other person said."

It's not a trick, and what you said is still there in your posted comment. It's a format of reply. You are free not to like it -- some people don't -- but it's not an attempt to fool anyone into thinking it's what you wrote.

What Gary said.

As the only self-professed RC in this thread, let me reiterate: I have never met a Roman Catholic who follows the Vatican's dictates on the subject of contraception when they do not want to have children. N-E-V-E-R, including some very devout Roman Catholics.

The Church has lost this battle, but don't know it yet.

Sex isn't like breathing, you don't automatically have sex with everybody in a room just because you walk in and aren't wearing a condom. The only people who can't avoid sex are rape victims. And it's not like they have much say in whether they use condoms.

As I understand official Catholic teaching, if a wife can't persuade her infected husband to abstinence, she is not permitted either to refuse him sex or to insist on a condom. She has to do her wifely duty and take her chances. If she gets AIDS, she can take comfort in the thought that she (and, presumably, any infected baby she may have) will die a martyr. And naturally the infected husband is going to use this argument against his wife as well.

Incidentally, Brett, I don't think any of us seriously dispute your point that husbands shouldn't be unfaithful. But people don't always do what they should, and any serious policy maker has to take that into account. If a philandering husband endangered only himself, we could dismiss that as his problem, but in fact he endangers his innocent wife as well.

So what's a wife to do if her husband is away on long trips much of the time and she doesn't quite trust him? Saying that she doesn't need condoms because he shouldn't cheat on her isn't much use to her in the real world.

Brett: Condoms are scarcely 100% reliable

But they are demonstrably more reliable than just deciding you'll never ever have sex ever again. That method has the highest failure rate.

(Having sex in ways that do not entail putting Tab A inside your partner is even safer: but for some reason many straights are hooked on the idea that if little Johnny doesn't get to play hide the wobbly helmet, it's not real sex.)

and there are plenty of other reasons for not cheating on your wife or significant other.

As above: no one is saying that cheating on your significant other is a good thing. Just that infecting your sexual partner(s) with HIV and other viruses because you won't wear a condom is worse. Both morally for you, and of course for all of your sexual partners.

Ok, I don't see why I'd have to make this any clearer, but I'm not defending the Pope's objections to condoms. (Why would I? Might have started out a Roman Catholic, but I've been an atheist since my teens.) I'm saying that they're widely enough ignored that they aren't significantly impacting the AIDS rate.

And that the Pope's views on promiscuity, also widely ignored, would lower AIDS rates if observed.

So he's a wash, doesn't matter one way or the other.

But, yeah, IF you're cheating on your wife, you should use a condom. You creep.

Now I want to reiterate the point I've been trying to make here, because I think it's fairly important: The AIDS rate varies from a high of about 25% of the adult population, to a low they round up to 0.1%.

It does this not on the basis of some countries having fabulously good medical care. It does this on the basis of cultural differences, differences in behavior, which majorly impact the transmission rate. Of which condom usage is just one.

Do I really have to point out that, if a behavior varies according to the culture you grew up in, it is clearly NOT hard-wired? And that you are thus probably capable of changing it, if necessary to avoid a gruesome death for you and those about you?

So, we should not leave off telling people to STOP SLEEPING AROUND, YOU MORONS!

It is, after all, a matter of life or death.

It does this not on the basis of some countries having fabulously good medical care. It does this on the basis of cultural differences, differences in behavior, which majorly impact the transmission rate. Of which condom usage is just one.

No, Brett. "Cultural differences" is just... wrong.

The spread depends on:

1. How widespread was the HIV virus IN THAT PART OF THE WORLD before Luc Montagnier identified it? (Prior to January 1983, AIDS was a grab-bag of rare cancers and respiratory infections that was presumed to have a common cause - no one could be sure what it was.)

In sub-Saharan Africa, HIV was extremely widespread even then. In the US or the UK? Not so much.

2. How easy is it to start using condoms? Are they freely and readily available wherever you go?

In the US and the UK, getting people to use condoms was a matter of merely changing cultural habits. A whole generation of straight men since the Pill had grown up thinking that if your partner's on the Pill, you don't need to bother with condoms. Generations of gay men had regarded condoms as something straights had to bother with, not gays.

3. How easy is it for people to spread the message that unprotected sex is dangerous unless you know your and your partner's HIV status because he and you have been tested?

It was not simply AIDS/HIV that made that cultural change. It was a pro-active health campaign, steered by angry LGBT people who were outraged at the indifference of their governments to a disease that - then - was typed at killing only people who didn't matter - Homosexuals, Heroin addicts, Haitians, Hemophiliacs, was an early staple: (there was a grim joke at the time "What's the worst part about having AIDS? Convincing your parents you're really Haitian").

If you want to know what the history of AIDS would have been like in the US or the UK if it had come in the 1930s when it was taken for granted that gay men lived lives of permanent secrecy and shame, before the advent of a widespread, available-to-all health care system, you only have to look at subSaharan Africa.

Indeed, in the UK at least, a prisoner in jail is still more likely to sero-convert than anyone outside: in jail, it's not allowed to have sex (so condoms are not provided); and it's not allowed to use IV drugs (so clean needle exchanges are not allowed).

4. How easy is it for a person who wants to know their HIV status to get a same-day, anonymous test, just as soon as they decide they want to know?

In the UK, dead easy. In Africa?

5. How easy is it for someone who wants to use condoms whenever they have sex, to obtain as many condoms as they need, reliable and to standard, for free?

In the UK, dead easy. In Africa? Provision of free condoms is exactly what most religiously-inspired AIDS work in Africa has been militating against. Rick Warren is best buddies with a Ugandan pastor that is known for burning condoms as part of his "AIDS ministry" - to demonstrate how vile and dangerous using condoms is.

That's a cultural difference of behavior, all right: and it sources right back to the conservative Christian fundamentalists in the US.

"It does this on the basis of cultural differences, differences in behavior, which majorly impact the transmission rate. Of which condom usage is just one."

But bouncing off what Jes said, this is both cramming a whole bunch of things - sometimes rather ill-fittingly - under "cultural differences", and weirdly individualistic. A lot of what we're talking about involves socioeconomic conditions and medical/public health infrastructure (or lack thereof), along with (often-related) ideologies, culture, customs, and campaigns.

Here - let's say that as a result of "moronic" funding guidelines you had to pick between two different approaches. You could promote either
1) abstinence-only education and fidelity in marriage - along with an attempt to provide the staggering amount of economic development required to drastically reduce the numbers of male labor migrants who spend much time working away from their families in urban areas
or
2) responsible condom usage, along with an attempt to fund distribution, clinics etc.
Now - remembering that you can only pick one - which do you feel is more likely to be effective, esp. given finite (very, very finite) resources?

"So, we should not leave off telling people to STOP SLEEPING AROUND, YOU MORONS!"

Ah, you should have spelled that "MORANS" - would've been much better . . . but anyway, I'm not sure exactly who here you think is an evangelical promoter of free love for Africa; I must have missed that post. In real life, reality-based folks tend to promote mixed strategies- not leaving off telling people (in all caps, no less) to stop sleeping around, but rather telling people to stop sleeping around, but whatever else, use a condom.

Jes mentioned Warren and his buddy Martin Ssempa: here's a bit more about what's going on as a result of influence by the reactionary religious right here and in Uganda:

"during the early 1990s, when many African leaders denied the AIDS epidemic’s existence, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni spoke openly about the importance of safe sex. With the help of local and international non-governmental organizations, he implemented an ambitious program emphasizing abstinence, monogamous relationships, and using condoms as the best ways to prevent the spread of AIDS. He called the program “ABC.” By 2003, Uganda’s AIDS rate plummeted 10 percent. The government’s free distribution of the “C” in ABC—condoms—proved central to the program’s success, according to Avert, an international AIDS charity.

. . . Two years later, [First Lady] Janet Museveni flew to Washington at the height of a heated congressional debate over PEPFAR. She carried in her hand a prepared message to distribute to Republicans. Abstinence was the golden bullet in her country’s fight against AIDS, she assured conservative lawmakers, denying the empirically proven success of her husband’s condom distribution program. Like magic, the Republican-dominated Congress authorized over $200 million for Uganda, but only for the exclusive promotion of abstinence education. Ssempa soon became the “special representative of the First Lady’s Task Force on AIDS in Uganda,” receiving $40,000 from the PEPFAR pot.

Emboldened by U.S. support, Ssempa took his anti-condom crusade to Makerere University in Kampala, where senior residents of a men’s dormitory promoted safe sex by greeting incoming freshmen with a giant effigy wearing a condom. According to Helen Epstein, one day after she visited the school, Ssempa stormed on to campus, tore the condom from the effigy, grabbed a box of free condoms, and set them ablaze. “I burn these condoms in the name of Jesus!” Ssempa shouted as he prayed over the burning box.

. . . By 2005, billboards promoting condom use disappeared from the streets of Kampala, replaced by billboards promoting virginity. “Until recently, all HIV-related billboards were about condoms. Those of us calling for abstinence and faithfulness need billboards too,” Ssempa told the BBC at the time. A 2005 report by Human Rights Watch documented that educational material in Uganda’s secondary schools falsely claiming condoms had microscopic pores that could be penetrated by the HIV virus and noted the sudden nationwide shortage of condoms due to new restrictions imposed by on condom imports.

AIDS activists arrived at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto in 2006 with disturbing news from Uganda. Due at least in part to the chronic condom shortage, HIV infections were on the rise again. The disease rate had spiked to 6.5 percent among rural men, and 8.8 percent among women—a rise of nearly two points in the case of women. “The ‘C’ part [of ABC] is now mainly silent,” said Ugandan AIDS activist Beatrice Ware. As a result, she said, “the success story is unraveling.”"

I don't think anyone's saying that the Pope's promotion of murderous sectarian dogma is solely responsible for the prevalence and spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. (As we can see, he has a lot of competition on that score). Nor is murderous sectarian dogma solely responsible for it. (Although wouldn't that count as "culture"?). There are, unfortunately, a whole host of factors - cultural, idelogical, economic, public-health-ish - pushing in the same bad direction, towards unsafe practices. Any attempt to make things better is fighting against gravity, so to speak. If these fanatical freaks running around shrieking about condoms and homosexuals (and their counterparts in Africa) were to use their ideological and material influence to promote strategies that work - to build up the ideological, behavioral, and organizational structures that make a difference - that would be a wonderful thing. Were they to ignore the whole issue, that would be a real loss, but at least they wouldn't be causing additional harm. That instead they are turning all these things to actively fight against what works . . .

It's not a question of whether - taken in some bizarre condition of absolute isolation - reactionary religious rantings by themselves cause this problem. It's rather, in the actual environment, how much harm they're doing.

Yeah Brett, I just don't buy that it's a wash.

Largely because IT'S NOT JUST WORDS!!!

As I've mentioned multiple times, we're not just talking about the rhetoric of the Pope. We're talking about, to quote myself in this very thread:

Not just words, actions - funding decisions, lack of cooperation with certain organizations, political lobbying, etc.

I'm saying that they're widely enough ignored that they aren't significantly impacting the AIDS rate.

And that the Pope's views on promiscuity, also widely ignored, would lower AIDS rates if observed.

So he's a wash, doesn't matter one way or the other.

Yeah, I don't buy that it's a wash either.

For one thing you're still trying to lever the fact that the prohibition on promiscuity is widely ignored into the conclusion that the prohibition on condoms is as well.

But there's all kinds of things wrong with that logic. Like, everyone clearly isn't ignoring them. And those that are ignoring one aren't necessarily ignoring the other. And these groups don't necessarily overlap - maybe there are responsible/well-informed people who are not using condoms, but NOT sleeping around, and then there's another group that is sleeping around, but using their religion as an excuse not to use condoms.

Also, if you don't think the Pope is doing harm here, contrast it with the counterfactual world where the Vatican actually takes a responsible position. Like say, they started telling people it's actually a SIN to put yourself or a partner in danger by not using a condom in a risky situation.

Suddenly, Roman Catholic prostitutes, wives of disloyal husbands, etc. have both a great excuse to say "sorry, we need to use a condom" AND the infrastructure of the church to help educate people and distribute them.

But, yeah, IF you're cheating on your wife, you should use a condom. You creep.

So, we should not leave off telling people to STOP SLEEPING AROUND, YOU MORONS!

I don't want to pick on you, and I'm not accusing you of anything, especially because I don't think you're quite saying this, but I do think these two statements, and maybe some others, come dangerously close to a strange thread I see sometimes in conservative thinking.

It's a tendency to sort of begin and end the analysis of certain kinds of problem with the word "should". As in, "People shouldn't have unsafe sex." Full stop. Enlightened Layperson touched on it a little above.

And even worse, sometimes there is an element of "it's not a real problem if it's based on people making mistakes."

I mean, it's absolutely true that there are all sorts of problems that would vanish overnight if everyone were perfectly virtuous, and nobody ever made mistakes: crime, drugs, HIV transmission, teen pregnancy, alcoholism, obesity, hunger among the working poor (I mean, everyone can afford a rice cooker, right? And why'd you drop out of high school in the first place anyway?)

Most of the time it's perfectly true, but you can't really learn much from that. There's no policy lesson there: If no one ever had sex when they shouldn't, there'd be no AIDS problem - and if the Earth were covered with water, we'd all be fish.

Real policy has to deal with the fact that people WILL make mistakes. Telling people not to make mistakes isn't enough. Neither is telling them louder.

You have to actually figure out how to make it easier to avoid mistakes, and how to make the ones people do make less harmful.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


  • visitors since 3/2/2004

April 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
Blog powered by Typepad

QuantCast