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.