Pope Visits Africa; Unimaginable Slaughter Continues

The Pope is visiting Africa this week, where he continues to spread his message of hate, ignorance, and stupidity.

First up, the HIV/AIDS epidemic that currently kills over 2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa each year (see http://www.unaids.org/en/KnowledgeCentre/HIVData/GlobalReport/2008/ for more details).

There is absolutely no question that sexual abstinence is the best mechanism through which an individual can avoid getting infected with HIV. Abstain from sex and avoid I.V. drug use, and you’re virtually guaranteed not to get infected.

The smack-me-in-the-face-because-it’s-so-fucking-obvious problem with this is that people don’t abstain from sex. Human beings are human beings, and the human sex drive is strong. So how do we get around this little problem? Simple; we teach people how to have sex safely; to avoid risky behaviour, and to use condoms. Condoms are not as effective as abstinence, naturally; but they’re one hell of a lot more effective than nothing at all.

So if the Pope cares about ending human suffering, he should be championing the use of condoms, right?

Of course not. The Pope believes that the invisible creator of the universe disapproves of condoms; the Pope believes that the alleviation of suffering that would surely come from increased condom use is less important than ensuring that Yahweh is kept happy. Actually, the Pope believes that condom use wouldn’t alleviate suffering at all:

“You can’t resolve [the HIV/AIDS epidemic] with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde, Cameroon, where he will begin a seven-day pilgrimage on the continent. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

Perhaps the Pope would like to expand on exactly how condoms “increase the problem”? If the problem is pissing off the god of Abraham, then I imagine he’s right. If the problem is the >2 million Africans dying needlessly each year, then the Pope is hopelessly, murderously wrong.

The accumulating evidence tells us that abstinence-only sex education does not lower incidence rates of HIV and STD infection or rates of sexual activity.

This whole episode once again demonstrates the fundamental problem with religion; religion places concern for the sensibilities of imaginary gods above those of real flesh-and-blood human beings. I should point out that I have no doubt that there are deeply religious people who support the distribution of condoms in sub-Saharan Africa; these people, while doing great work, did not arrive at this state by way of their faith, but by way of their secular concern for human suffering (I’ll take what I can get, while noting that religion gives bad reasons to do good things, when good reasons are available).

This episode also highlights the impossibility of practicing religion in a vacuum. The Pope is free to believe whatever nonsense he wants to. Other rank-and-file Catholics are free to believe whatever they want; they’re free to go to church on Sunday and eat and drink Jesus and listen to a bunch of hateful crap. They’re also free to donate money to the Catholic church, the official position of which (and the one that is acted upon by its high-ranking officers in the Vatican) is that the slaughter of millions of Africans is preferential to a solution with known efficacy. Have you given money to the Catholic church lately? If so, you are participating in this, no matter what your personal beliefs about condom use are.

When are we going to grow up? When are we going to start demanding evidence for our beliefs before we sacrifice millions of lives? When are we going to see these allegedly “moderate” Catholics rise up and stop supporting a murderous organization like the Vatican? If moderate religion is the answer (which I strongly believe it is not), then lets see it. If I’m painting religion with too broad a brush, let someone come forward and explain to me how they, as a believer, are fighting against not just the killing in Africa, but against the organizations that are committing the slaughter. Religious moderates: the world can no longer endure your silence.

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8 Responses to Pope Visits Africa; Unimaginable Slaughter Continues

  1. CMH says:

    The Church’s stance is (and has been for a long time) to abstain from sex until marriage, and then sex should only be used for the purpose of reproduction (or at the very least, have the possibility of reproduction). Condoms and other forms of birth control remove the ‘possibility of reproduction’ part, and are thought to increase the chance of sex outside of marriage.

    And the smack-me-in-the-face-because-it’s-so-fucking-obvious part is, if you just listen to what the Church says you don’t end up with AIDS… or any other STD for that matter. On top of your prize of not dying, you might find yourself in a fulfilling, loving, monogamous relationship, where your partner also doesn’t have AIDS. You get the lovely experience of sex without a barrier, which feels so much better. Oh, and the icing on the cake? If invisible/cracker+wine god is real, you aren’t fucked in the afterlife. Shiny.

    The Pope and the Church isn’t killing any one. You don’t have to fuck, it’s a choice (maybe not for you, you’d need a semi-willing partner). Sounds a lot like some fools running around and sticking their pricks where they shouldn’t. There’s an easy fix for AIDS and immorality, all in one: Don’t fuck. If you do have sex, do it with your wife, the only partner you’ve had. Assuming you haven’t done any IV drugs or gotten a bad blood transfusion, you’re good to go. This has far greater efficacy than condoms, it just requires people with willpower.

    But willpower isn’t in much abundance now. We’ve got people like you who seem to think they’re hot stuff championing ‘the people’ by denying a greater being, thinking about the ‘real’ stuff. Repping it for the ‘good’ sensible people, who just want to promote the human race and what’s going on in the real world. This could all be a dream for all you know. You honestly think you know shit in the grand scheme of things? You are a weak toolbox, flavor of the moment pseudo-hippie with rage against whatever machine you can find.

    You keep raging bro. You’ll show those 1.1 billion how wrong they are. Damn murderers, the whole lot of them.

  2. edge100 says:

    The Church’s stance is (and has been for a long time) to abstain from sex until marriage, and then sex should only be used for the purpose of reproduction (or at the very least, have the possibility of reproduction). Condoms and other forms of birth control remove the ‘possibility of reproduction’ part, and are thought to increase the chance of sex outside of marriage.

    No objection here; this is the belief of the Catholic Church, no doubt.

    And the smack-me-in-the-face-because-it’s-so-fucking-obvious part is, if you just listen to what the Church says you don’t end up with AIDS… or any other STD for that matter.

    I agree with you. Abstinence is a better solution, no question. But the reason it has to be ‘either/or’, despite the evidence that abstinence-only programs do not work (as shown by the evidence I posted), is that the Catholic Church believes that Yahweh is disapproving of condoms. Before we go sacrificing human lives, don’t you think we should perhaps seek out some evidence that Yahweh exists at all?

    On top of your prize of not dying, you might find yourself in a fulfilling, loving, monogamous relationship, where your partner also doesn’t have AIDS.

    Sounds nice. So, why exactly do I have to be married to this person? You set up a false dichotomy; either a relationship is loving and monogamous and within a marriage, or is not loving or monogamous, and outside of marriage.

    Oh, and the icing on the cake? If invisible/cracker+wine god is real, you aren’t fucked in the afterlife. Shiny.

    Oh, didn’t take long to invoke Pascal’s Wager, did it? And what if Zeus is the real god? Or Thor? Or what if the Protestants are right, and transubstantiation is a crock of shit? Or what if the Jews are right, and you’re all worshiping the wrong Messiah? Or what if the real god hasn’t shown herself yet, and you’re all on the wrong track? Or what if there simply is no god, and you’re all wasting your time?

    It isn’t a 50:50 situation, where either Catholicism or atheism is right; unless you have some evidence you’d care to put forward showing that Catholicism is more likely to be correct than Thorism.

    The Pope and the Church isn’t killing any one. You don’t have to fuck, it’s a choice (maybe not for you, you’d need a semi-willing partner).

    They are killing people when they ignore the evidence that suggests that abstinence-only programs don’t work. They are killing people when they put dogma before real suffering.

    Look, condom distribution programs lower HIV infection rates. If that is what you really care about, then anyone who wishes to lower HIV infection rates should be all for it. No one is saying you can’t also advise people to abstain unless they’re in a monogamous relationship, but why not do both? The reason the Catholic Church doesn’t do both is that it believes that its invisible god hates condoms. Again, shouldn’t they be required to provide a modicum of evidence for this god’s existence before they go keeping condoms from people.

    Let me ask you something: if god does not exist, is there a good reason not to distribute condoms? Frankly, even if god does exist in the manner you seem to think he does, I still believe that human life is more important than placating to a god that sends bears to eat little children (2 Kings 2:23-25), but nevertheless, I’d like to hear what the human reason is for contributing to these deaths.

    We’ve got people like you who seem to think they’re hot stuff championing ‘the people’ by denying a greater being, thinking about the ‘real’ stuff.

    Show me the evidence, and I’ll believe. I’ve been quite clear about that all along.

    This could all be a dream for all you know.

    Quite right, and I’ve addressed this possibility in other posts, should you care to read the archives.

    You honestly think you know shit in the grand scheme of things?

    I’m not the one claiming to believe in human partenogenesis, resurrections, and talking snakes; you are.

    You keep raging bro. You’ll show those 1.1 billion how wrong they are. Damn murderers, the whole lot of them.

    Wow! Pascal’s Wager and argumentum ad populum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum) in ONE comment! You’re on a role with your logical fallacies.

  3. CMH says:

    I agree with you. Abstinence is a better solution, no question. But the reason it has to be ‘either/or’, despite the evidence that abstinence-only programs do not work (as shown by the evidence I posted), is that the Catholic Church believes that Yahweh is disapproving of condoms. Before we go sacrificing human lives, don’t you think we should perhaps seek out some evidence that Yahweh exists at all?

    Here’s the trick: if any person doesn’t believe in the Christian Catholic God, they DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO WHAT THE POPE SAYS. As a matter of fact, they shouldn’t listen. If Joe Pagan just happens to listen to the part about no condoms, but ignores the single, monogamous, lifelong relationship, this will just increase the problem.

    Lucky for Joe Pagan, the Pope isn’t going to run around taking condoms away from Pagan/Protestant/Atheist/Pastafarian Africans. No matter what he says, the condoms are being sent over there. The messages he makes only matter if you bother to listen and follow. He’s telling Catholics not to use condoms, which if they follow the other beliefs, they are unlikely to have HIV.

    Sounds nice. So, why exactly do I have to be married to this person? You set up a false dichotomy; either a relationship is loving and monogamous and within a marriage, or is not loving or monogamous, and outside of marriage.

    I didn’t said anything about marriage. I said that you get a loving, monogamous relationship with a partner without HIV. And if you make that relationship lifelong, such as in marriage, you can be pretty sure that they won’t spontaneously develop AIDS.

    Oh, didn’t take long to invoke Pascal’s Wager, did it? And what if Zeus is the real god? Or Thor? Or what if the Protestants are right, and transubstantiation is a crock of shit? Or what if the Jews are right, and you’re all worshiping the wrong Messiah? Or what if the real god hasn’t shown herself yet, and you’re all on the wrong track? Or what if there simply is no god, and you’re all wasting your time?

    I said “if” they’re right. If the Catholics are wrong, how were you hurt by it in your life? If the other religions/philosophies are right, they probably wouldn’t be offended if you live a monogamous lifestyle where you didn’t use condoms. If there’s no god and we’re all wasting our time, we still don’t end up with AIDS (though I’m not saying every person that doesn’t believe in god will… I am saying that the religion promotes monogamy and that if you follow it, you are unlikely to get HIV).

    They are killing people when they ignore the evidence that suggests that abstinence-only programs don’t work. They are killing people when they put dogma before real suffering.

    No. The people are choosing to have sex. Real suffering ends if the people choose to stop high risk behavior. This is not the church’s fault.

    The Pope saying anything is not stopping the distribution of condoms. They are coming no matter what he says; he’s telling Catholics not to use them. He’s also telling them not to have sex with anyone but their single, lifelong partner.

    Let me ask you something: if god does not exist, is there a good reason not to distribute condoms? Frankly, even if god does exist in the manner you seem to think he does, I still believe that human life is more important than placating to a god that sends bears to eat little children (2 Kings 2:23-25), but nevertheless, I’d like to hear what the human reason is for contributing to these deaths.

    I’ve already said what Catholics are taught, and that is the reason why they don’t like condom use.

    The bible should not always be read literally. It is a collection of books and should be read as such. Some books are certain history, others epics, others poems. The Church does not believe our god sends bears after stupid kids making fun of bald men. It was meant to make a point written by (what the Church sees) people with imperfect theology.

    Show me the evidence, and I’ll believe. I’ve been quite clear about that all along.

    Other than the existence of beings as complex as us being a statistical impossibility, I offer you nothing in terms of evidence. Show me evidence that a god doesn’t exist, and I’ll believe.

    I’m not the one claiming to believe in human partenogenesis, resurrections, and talking snakes; you are.

    If I believe/trust in it, so what? Followers trust in this, no one knows anything for certain, they just have faith. I said talk about knowing anything as fact.

    Wow! Pascal’s Wager and argumentum ad populum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum) in ONE comment! You’re on a role with your logical fallacies.

    Calling them 1.l billion rather than (1.1 billion – those that don’t follow condom beliefs – those who have fallen out with the church) sounded better. Next time I’ll make sure to claify.

  4. roscoe says:

    So, I felt that CMH’s response only further propagates the fallacy that Catholics are stupid so I thought I’d speak up.

    To CMH: It’s still Pascal’s Wager…sigh, read you ignorant zealot.

    The way I see it, to simplify things (like really simplify, so please give me the benefit of the doubt on this one and open-mindfully respond, cause calling the Church a slaughterhouse isn’t all that open-minded…) Basically, if a kid falls and scrapes his knee while jumping somewhere he shouldn’t have, his knee will be hurting. It seems as though you are arguing that, if one wants to limit suffering, it would be better to give that kid knee pads, because kids will be kids and will disobey and want to run around where they aren’t supposed to. It also seems that the Church would argue that we shouldn’t be running there in the first place, so we should engage in preventing kids from running there. Then you point out that saying you shouldn’t be running in the first place and distributing knee pads don’t have to be at odds with each other, and if the Church would really be about limiting human suffering they would give knee pads out. Basically, and correct me if I’m wrong, it ends up being a normative vs positive argument.

    Now, logically, the argument goes something like giving kids knee pads will encourage more kids to run around. But I find this argument is kinda fucked up because we are assuming that kids will run around more because they are no longer afraid of getting their knees scraped. So, it could be counter-argued that this particular argument assumes that people don’t engage in sex because they are afraid of aids, and furthermore, we should make people more afraid of aids, perhaps. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I never liked that argument. And plus, empirically, I think it’s not the case, though I don’t have proof, so take that with a grain of salt (I’ll look into it if the discussion really needs it).

    The only argument I think that can be made for not distributing condoms is to make abstinence-only education more efficient. Just because studies show that right now it isn’t effective does not mean that other types won’t be or that we shouldn’t strive to improve it, after all, if you really are a scientist, you should agree with me that the statistics in question can only tell you about the particular abstinence-only program on which the study was conducted, not about any other abstinence only, though it depends on how the regressions were computed and what variables were used (for instance, if enrollment in the program was a variable, or if certain aspects of the program are variables). I think the Church, given its beliefs, could better spend its money to improve its abstinence-only education so that it actually works.

    Also, it doesn’t do you any good to blast religion for being unscientific and unacademic when you aren’t even considering the rational arguments for a lot of these issues, rather you just assume I have my morals because God says so. I don’t, mind you, I do it because I have questioned my faith and realized, through philosophical discourse and reason, that the positions of the Church can actually hold water in a secular debate. I just hope you can be open-minded enough to accept at least that.

  5. roscoe says:

    Just found some interesting papers to check out. Clearly two papers isn’t all the proof necessary, but at least I hope to point out that there is some scientific basis for what the Pope has been saying.

    “Condom use. Condom promotion is effective in epidemics spread mainly through sex work, as in Thailand (7, 10, 11) and also, to some extent, among other high-risk groups such as MSM. Although condom use has also likely contributed to HIV decline in some generalized epidemics, there is no evidence of a primary role (2, 4, 10, 11). This is because consistent condom use has not reached a sufficiently high level, even after many years of widespread and often aggressive promotion, to produce a measurable slowing of new infections in the generalized epidemics of Sub-Saharan Africa. When most transmission occurs within more regular and, typically, concurrent partnerships, consistent condom use is exceedingly difficult to maintain (2, 4, 7, 10).” (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/320/5877/749)

    2 Southern African Development Community (SDAC), Expert Think Tank Meeting on HIV Prevention in High-Prevalence Countries in Southern Africa: Report, Maseru, Lesotho, 10 to 12 May 2006 (SADC, Botswana, 2006); http://www.sadc.int/downloads/news/SADCPrevReport.pdf.

    4 J. D. Shelton, Lancet 370, 1809 (2007).

    7 D. T. Halperin, H. Epstein, South African J. HIV Med. 26, 19 (2007); http://www.harvardaidsprp.org/research/halperin&epstein-why-is-hiv-prevalence-so-severe.pdf.

    10 N. Hearst, S. Chen, Stud. Fam. Plann. 35, 39 (2004)

    11 J. D. Shelton et al., BMJ 328, 891 (2004).

    So first off, feel free to criticize my take on these reports if I have some how skewed them, we would hate for the people reading this to be misinformed. What I meant to point out in that last quote was less an attack on condom use and more of a counter-argument for the need to stop abstinence-only education. If the argument points to the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education, then I can certainly points to the ineffectiveness of condom distribution. Sure, you could retort by saying that all we need is more condom use by the people, but then I could also say that all we need is less sex by the people. In this case, it seems as though empiricism can’t really give us a clear direction. Which, I remind you, is not surprising at all, given that empiricism is merely positive, not normative.

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/109751930/PDFSTART?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

    I include this link as well because it is a study that argues “that the promotion
    of condoms at an early stage proved to be counter-productive in Botswana, whereas the lack
    of condom promotion during the 1980s and early 1990s contributed to the relative success of
    behaviour change strategies in Uganda.”

    Let me know what you think.

    • edge100 says:

      Roscoe,

      Thanks for your replies to this (and other) posts. I will take the time to give a proper response (that’s why this blog exists, after all), but I’m a bit swamped in the lab this week, so it may come in bits and bytes. I haven’t forgotten you, I promise.

      Mike

  6. roscoe says:

    Thanks, Mike.

    I’ll be on the lookout. Good luck with your gels. lol

  7. roscoe says:

    Hey, so I know you’re probably still really busy (I am too, I’m procrastinating on my thesis), but I came across this while perusing the internet. I don’t have enough time to read this too. I’m still skeptical because it would seem almost too intuitive that education and use of condoms would lower HIV, so I don’t purport to have won any debate or anything. Clearly, we should not stop scientific research on this issue, that would be irresponsible. Anyway, here are the links.

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=92702

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