Condoms ‘may be’ less evil than spreading AIDS…

THE Earth turned out not to be flat, and now the Vatican may finally be starting to recognise that when it comes to down to it, wearing a condom might not be as evil as giving your partner AIDS. Wearing rubbers is a big advancement on advising abstinence only, and any eventual Vatican statement will be couched in the context of marriage (and isn’t a solution on its own), but there’s a good chance many lives will be saved.

  • Rubicon

    I’ll await the Vatican’s announcement with interest. A change of attitude is long overdue – even if it’s only in the qualified form you’ve suggested. Such a change will allow international aid efforts combatting HIV/AIDS to better cooperate with the RC Church and much improve outreach to rural areas.

  • David Michael

    I never did understand the Vatican’s 1960s’ stance about birth control, i.e. that abstinence is NOT birth control while condom use IS.

    Seems to me that a handful of men in frocks condemned many millions to death for no logical reason.

  • Westchick

    Does this mean that the Catholic church might stop their pratice of teaching people in Africa that condoms actually cause AIDS? Their actions in that continent show them to be the repressed evil little men that they so truly are.

  • David Michael

    Could be wishful thinking on my part, but I do feel that there’s a big shake-up coming in the Catholic Church.

    It’ll come from the laity not the clerics. The former it seems have a better grip on morality and ethical issues than the latter. Not to be too tangential here, but look at the priestly child rape scandals; terrible leadership shown there.

    I can’t see the centre holding for too long more. Most devout RCs I know desire a return to basics and the ethos of the early Church. They’re fed up with fat cats pontificating and showing bad example.

    Oops, that sounds like reformation, doesn’t it? 😉

  • Westchick

    David,
    Although I hope you are right, and the Catholic church is due a major shake up, I can’t see it happening. The church is too powerful in many countries across the world and there are too many very influencial people that blindly accept or agree with current church thinking. As for returning to the practices of the early church, I’m not sure that I would totally support that either. One of my major gripes regarding Catholicism is the total discrimination against women. (this is also true for most religions I’m just more against the RC’s cos I am one). For centuries women have been treated as second class citizens in their own place of worship and the arguement over contraception is just another way to repress women. Who has the greater risk through unprotected sex? A womea! Who is more likely to be publicly shamed through pregnancy outside of marriage (possibly not these days but…)? A woman!
    The question of whether or not using a condom is evil has always been debated by little men who have no interest in a woman’s wellbeing or welfare. Maybe the greater move from the Vatican would be to accept that women have a valid voice in the corridors of power and to start asking them what they think!

  • I agree with you westchick and have posted on this issue today.

    I think it is ironic that a neoconservative Pope might actually be leading a change of heart on this (he clarified that Purgatory did not actually exist a while back)

    All of the stigmata that you mention have been things which have been foisted on to women for cneturies by men. Trying to let lay men know that women are treated negatively is difficult enough, but when the men concerned wear black robes the difficulties are magnified greatly!

    There have been false dawns before and I think we should wait and see.

  • Occasional Commentator

    David: Most devout RCs I know desire a return to basics and the ethos of the early Church

    That includes celibacy for the laity too. How early do you want to go back and how selective should we be?

  • Westchick

    OC:
    At one stage priests were allowed to marry. maybe if we brought that back we wouldn’t have to problems with abusive priests that we do. Just a thought

  • DK

    What does the Bible say about contraception? Or am I being hopelessly niaive?

  • ncm

    It’s madness, and a large part of the reason that I’m now a non-practising catholic. A bunch of celibate men, saying that it’s evil to do the one thing that we’re programmed to do.

  • Westchick

    ncm,
    The madness of the catholic church is well documented and altho I do still consider myself a catholic, I find a lot of it’s teachings are highly distasteful. Not long ago my father was ill in hospital and our local priest came to visit him (not by request, hehasn’t attended church in a long time)
    The priest asked my father if he and his wife still had marital relations. (my father is middle aged and his illness was in no way related to anything sexual) On hearing that yes in fact they still have a normal married life, the priest turned to him and said, you do realise that finding a woman attractive is the path of satan and could tempt him to sin. Amazing, that now even sex within marriage is becoming a sin!

  • DK

    I believe that there is evidence that sheep stomach and intestine linings were used as condoms for many centuries, perhaps in Biblical times as well.

    High infant mortality in those days would have meant that a high social and moral premium was placed on producing many chidren.

    However, times have changed a little since those days. I dont think that it is heretical or even relativistic (even if there is mention of seed in the Bible) to think that such rules are due for revision.

  • David Michael

    Yep, it’s probably wishful thinking like I said. Oh well…

    By a return to the values of the early Church I thought more in terms of losing the palaces, art treasures, money, temporal power – in fact all the stuff Jesus never seemed to have intended for his Church. Luther had it right.

    Women will never get a fair deal in the present set-up unless more lay women are prepared to speak out. In Ireland it’s the bench-polishers who actually hold back change.

    Look what happened for example in the States when they had their own child-rape scandals. The people were up in arms, a diocese aws actually bankrupted because of the million-dollar lawsuits. Way to go.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Westchick said: The question of whether or not using a condom is evil has always been debated by little men who have no interest in a woman’s wellbeing or welfare.

    How do you know that? I’m quite sure they do have an interest in women’s welfare. Maybe they are just very bad at making decisions regarding women.

    This sort of ignorant baseless accusation is typical of the threads about religion on Slugger. I see no reason to doubt that the clerics are trying to do the right thing for women.

    I’m not denying for a second the hurt that has been and is caused to women, but just because you don’t like someone’s decision or the basis of their reasoning, it doesn’t give you the right to tell lies about their motives. A fact is a fact is a fact, even if it’s low on the lists of things you care to be accurate about.

  • lib2016

    I have very little time for organised religion and none at all for the people who lead it but this is getting tiresome.

    Luther was vehement in his condemnation of Galileo. That was the general received wisdom of the time and the snide remark at the beginning of the thread-header really doesn’t reflect credit on anyone.

  • Westchick

    OC:
    I know that what I said does sound extreme and prejudiced however in the history of the church most if not all decisions have caused whether directly or indirectly the suppression of women.
    I do agree that sex has greater significance inside the sanctity of marriage however the preachings of various popes and the clergy in general regarding contraception has always seemed to me to be very discrimnatory.
    The preaching in Africa, where many women contract AIDS from their husbands, that condoms actually cause AIDS is in no way in the interest of women.
    I’m sure you can think of many teachings that praise women but how much prctical effort has the church gone to to actually protect women?
    The point remains that the church would rather condemn a woman who has unprotected sex (whatever the circumstances and consequences) than help her to protect herself. This is my total belief and I haven’t despite being a catholic for 25 years ever found any evidence to the contrary

  • David Michael

    OC

    “I see no reason to doubt that the clerics are trying to do the right thing for women.”

    Ahem, so the men in frocks have women’s interest at heart have they? This is why they’ve always tried to keep them out of the church jobs (with the exceptions of bench-polishing, flower-arranging, cleaning and cooking) is it?

    They knew that a woman’s interest was best served in the kitchen?

    I remember the shocking intrusiveness of bishops and priests telling women how to best regulate their own bodies.

    Bottom line: the clergy never wanted women in the top jobs for fear the women would discover how easy it all was, and that they could probably do it better.

    It seems to me that women have more spirituality than men – to judge by church attendance, pilgrimage numbers, etc.

    But I could be wrong….

    How would men respond if a nun were to tell them that they were copulating the wrong way?

  • Westchick

    David,
    Very true, the arrogance of priests in relation to a woman’s body and a woman’s role is well known and not at all hidden.
    PS has anyone noticed that this is thread number 666 started by Gonzo? Could this be significant :-p

  • David Michael

    And that Gonzo is actually Oznog spelled backwards 🙂

  • Occasional Commentator

    David Michael: “How would men respond if a nun were to tell them that they were copulating the wrong way?

    Men would probably be quicker to listen to a nun before listening to a priest when it comes to sexual matters. That’s my guess anyway, as a male.

    Westchick: “I know that what I said does sound extreme and prejudiced

    I must admit I was a bit inflammatory myself in the tone I used.

    Westchick: “The preaching in Africa, where many women contract AIDS from their husbands, that condoms actually cause AIDS is in no way in the interest of women.

    I haven’t seen any evidence of that, but I wouldn’t put it past them after reading this about witchcraft, Christianity and child abuse in Africa. Christians in the Western World should lead a (theological) Crusade against this evil perpetrated in Africa in the name of their religion. Christianity has always made progress by, temporarily at least, adopting some aspects of local pagan religions but they should draw the line here.

    Come to think of it, they may well be working very hard to stamp this out, but maybe nobody is listening.

  • Westchick

    OC:
    I work for a third world charity and it frightens me what is witnessed in Africa with regard to AIDS.
    It is true that stories of condoms causing AIDS are taught by ‘religious’ men. In fairness most do also try and teach that abstinence is important.
    The culture of many of the people in Africa is such that women do not have the right to refuse their husband which leaves them open to disease. By not helping these women to protect themselves with condoms or femidoms the churches are guilty in many ways of negligent homicide.
    One of the things that is given to these men as a cure for AIDS is to sleep with a virgin. This results in very very young girls being raped and being exposed to the virus. This ‘knowledge’ obviously doesn’t come from any priest (as far as I know and hope!) but I haven’t seen anything of the churches doing anything to help prevent these outrages.
    While I am using extreme examples similar things are possible for women around the world, it’s not only african men who visit prostitutes or have sex with other women before returning home to their wife/girlfriend.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Always difficult to know who is most at fault in these situations: church leaders for invoking God as an excuse to discriminate against women, gays, scientists, pro-choicers and condom machines or the gullible for swallowing all their crap nonsense.
    Assuming that we accept people need to be protected from the religious abuse meted out by bishops, pastors and mullahs, we need to begin a process of proper regulation of religious institutions, whereby they are subject to the same constrictions as schools, youth clubs, care homes and anywhere else where the easily exploited tend to congregate.
    Preaching that infidels need blowing up, abortionists need shooting and condoms need burning are extreme incitments unnecessary death and suffering in my book. The last time I looked, contraceptives, early-term abortion and adult homosexuality were all legal in this country, while indiscriminate murder, child abuse and incitment of hatred were not. So where do govts get off on allowing this sort of delusional nonsense to be spouted at the gullible?
    Still I suppose we can’t expect much when the US president has a hot-line to God, the Blairs have their very own home-delivery priest, many middle east leaders hail straight from the 14th century and bumbling Bertie reckons the RC church should still have a special relationship with the state.
    Makes you wonder sometimes if you’re on the right planet.
    Still this (hopefully) change of heart from his pontiffness is at least a tiny step in the right direction.

  • David Michael

    OC

    “How would men respond if a nun were to tell them that they were copulating the wrong way?”

    “Men would probably be quicker to listen to a nun before listening to a priest when it comes to sexual matters. That’s my guess anyway, as a male.”

    As a male, I’d tell her to mind her own fucking business (literally). But that’s me.

    Westchick

    “I haven’t seen anything of the churches doing anything to help prevent these outrages.”

    To be honest I haven’t seen much sign of the churches doing anything about most REAL outrages. Did we follow the nonsense about ecumenism?

    This while children continue to be raped, the rapists get a rap over the knuckles, children commit suicide because of incest, etc. And the churches are galvanized over women priests….

  • Westchick

    David:
    I have to agree with you that most men I know (and women) would tell a nun where to go if they tried to give me sex advice.

    To be honest I haven’t seen much sign of the churches doing anything about most REAL outrages. Did we follow the nonsense about ecumenism?

    “This while children continue to be raped, the rapists get a rap over the knuckles, children commit suicide because of incest, etc. And the churches are galvanized over women priests….”

    To be fair to the Catholic Church, they do have other things to keep them busy…. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4368770.stm

  • David Michael

    Westchick

    “To be fair to the Catholic Church, they do have other things to keep them busy….”

    LOL My heart bleeds for the buggers. Whoops, mustn’t say “buggers”.

  • Westchick

    David:
    “LOL My heart bleeds for the buggers. Whoops, mustn’t say “buggers”. ”

    If the cap fits wear it, tho not in a contracpetive sense until Benni says you can!

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”I have to agree with you that most men I know (and women) would tell a nun where to go if they tried to give me sex advice.”

    I’ve never quite understood why it’s a heinous sin to use birth control (apparently preventing God’s will), but blokes having one off the wrist and spilling God’s seed all over the place is a harmless pastime. I would contend that if it was the male who gave birth, abortions would be carried out during lunchbreaks, and if women had the correct ‘tugging’ equipment, it would be an excommunicable offence.

  • Jo

    Masturbation is the sin of Onan, actually.

    I dont think the idea that it is harmless is Biblical in origin.

    Remember the old Monty Python song: “Every sperm is sacred”? 🙂

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Ah yes Jo the classic from ‘The Meaning Of Life’ — ‘God will make them pay for each sperm that can’t be found’.
    From what I can recall, Onan was frowned upon for ‘spilling his seed’ in his particular circumstances, but not for the act of mastrubation itself. Still, with sufficient imagination, I’m sure a few biblical scholars could have constructed a suitably heinous sin from this incident. The fact that they didn’t suggests that it wasn’t going to be possible to bash women or gays with it.
    The end result of course was that thousands of victorians went blind.

  • Westchick

    Gerry:
    “Still, with sufficient imagination, I’m sure a few biblical scholars could have constructed a suitably heinous sin from this incident. The fact that they didn’t suggests that it wasn’t going to be possible to bash women or gays with it. ”
    Apparently the sin in masturbation isn’t the act but what you think of when you are doing it..ie if you think of fornication then it’s as bad as doing it. In other words you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t

  • David Michael

    Gerry

    “The end result of course was that thousands of victorians went blind.”

    Lovely! 🙂

  • Jo

    Well if a man masturbates, he is performing the act of procreation without a woman present (except perhaps in paper or DVD image form)and therefore is “wasting one of Gods gifts.”

    However, if a woman masturbates, she isnt wasting any “gift” as she retains her egg for Gods Plan purposes. Ironically then masturbation is okay for a woman but not a man. A little bit of religion favouring women for a change?

  • Jo

    westchick

    Yes I had heard it was what one thought of that was the REAL problem. Nice example of mind-control at work there.

    Various mathematical differential equations have never really come into my mind at crucial times, although I daresay dreams of such calculus led to much sexual pleasure in the Wittgenstein household of an evening…

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”Apparently the sin in masturbation isn’t the act but what you think of when you are doing it..ie if you think of fornication then it’s as bad as doing it. In other words you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t”

    It’s beyond belief that people will actually believe all this nonsense. I’d recommend every sceptic to read ‘Six Impossible Things’ by Lewis Wolpert, a recently published little gem which sets out in detailed but readable form exactly why the human animal not only chooses, but needs to believe in the impossible. Which is all very well until some bright spark decides to exploit this human foible for the purpose of power, money and personal gratification. That’s the point where it becomes religion.

  • Mark

    Gerry lvs Castro – you can blame the gullible in the developed world, but while there are plenty here who will listen why should we expect people who have not had an education and are hungry not to listen to an educated person in a position of authority who may be working with the aid workers?

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”A little bit of religion favouring women for a change?”

    You may have hit on a first there Jo…….

  • David Michael

    OK, riddle me ree:

    I’m sterilized. That’s contraception, right? So I’ll be punished for that in the hereafter. (If I’d waited until, say, 2016, when it’ll be OK with Rome, then I would not be sinning.)

    But if – and let’s not be coy about this, when – I masturbate, I’m spilling no seed. Therefore I’m committing no sin according to the Bible, right?

    Important questions these 🙂

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”why should we expect people who have not had an education and are hungry not to listen to an educated person in a position of authority who may be working with the aid workers?”

    We shouldn’t Mark — targeting the people of the third world is equally abhorrent whether carried out by arms dealers, tobacco companies or exploitative delusionists from the world faiths.
    However, as the demented though disturbing ramblings of the American ‘Born-Again’ fundamentalists conclusively proves, neither education nor material wealth do anything to engender common sense. The whole notion of deity (almost invariably male) and it’s accompanying propensity for abuse by all-too earthly forces would suggest that perhaps we’re not the most advanced species after all.

  • Westchick

    David:
    As far as I can recall, (and I’m thinking back to my school days) you are only a sinner if you haev sex as a sterilised person. If you are sterilised and celibate then you are fine.
    However, if you think about a woman (or a man) you are committing the sin of lust, if not spilling scared seed so it still is a sin.
    The nuns explained it to us that not just the act of self abuse but the dirty thoughts associated were sinful.
    Sorry it looks like you’ll be joining me in the queue of sinners after all!

  • David Michael

    Yup, thought so, we’re both DAMNED!!!

    BTW, Westchick, your typo “scared seed” caused me to think with nostalgia on Woody Allen’s great movie 🙂

  • Westchick

    LOL,
    I didn’t even see that typo, and yet it’s very apt, would you not be scared with all that pressure on you to make a new life!!
    Apparently stress levels amongst sperm is very high because of job pressure from the vatican!

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”Therefore I’m committing no sin according to the Bible, right?”

    Good one David! I’m sure Mick is delighted by this turn of events; ‘Slugger O’Toole — notes on NI politics and having one off the wrist.’
    To attempt to answer your pressing question, as always it depends entirely on who’s interpreting the bible for you.
    I have friends who are variously Elim, Jehovah’s Witness, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland and Revivalist — they’ve all got their own quaint little notions — not celebrating Christmas, no blood transfusions, kids birthday parties are evil, you’ve got to babble nonsense to be ‘saved’, confessing minor misdemeanours to a bachelor in a box will get you far etc. They all claim that their delusions/beliefs are biblical, so I’m sure if you look hard enough, you’ll find a passage that mentions sterlised people as being the leaders of the free world. If you decide to form a church of the sterilised, you can count me out though.

  • David Michael

    Jeeze, the Church of the Sub-Genius has never looked better 🙂

    Praise Bob!

  • The Devil

    Okay so the Catholic church has given us their position on Rubber, can they now publicly state their position on PVC, chainmail, leather, and Gimp masks, and how many of their positions are horizontal.

  • Rubicon

    Sorry folks – not many of the posts here are informed by what is actually happening on the ground. So much of this thread is an expression of ignorance, ‘informed’ by liberal debates about collective guilt.

    This isn’t an issue made easily amenable to the choices you or I think we have. Yes, the status of women in countries suffering from HIV is crucial. It is not a feminist issue though – it is a human rights issue. The argument about rights for women has little to no opportunity for expression. The abuse of women (and young girls) in countries with rising HIV infection rates has to be seen before it can truly believed.

    Empowering women is essential to tackling HIV. Doing so will cut across the culture and power structures that cause the spread of HIV.

    Having seen this first hand I know the RC Church centrally is probably no more than trying to catch up. RC clerics on the front line have long since defied central authority. Perhaps the Church now understands that it needs to adapt. If it does it will do so minimally.

    That minimal change will have huge benefit – it will bring in to international aid an organisation that has contacts, organisation and presence where no other has. What this means in western feminist terms is far from being useful.

    Condoms may help – but not if it’s OK to rape your wife. “Will you put on this?” doesn’t have a listening audience. He’ll have his way on his terms – if you don’t like it – starve!

    Western feminism has little assistance to offer – it hardly experienced the hardship faced by women in the developing world.

    Having spoken with RC clerics in the front line I know they’ve a serious crisis of consciousness. They’ve been breaking the rules in the day and praying for forgiveness before they sleep at night. Many don’t sleep – the distress is just too great.

    If the RC Church do what is speculated many millions of lives will be saved.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”Having spoken with RC clerics in the front line I know they’ve a serious crisis of consciousness. They’ve been breaking the rules in the day and praying for forgiveness before they sleep at night. Many don’t sleep – the distress is just too great.”

    Point taken Rubicon, but seriously, after the shenanigans of the past few years, does anyone in the RC church really have the right to lecture anyone on anything? Would you take child-care lectures from Michael Jackson? I’m sure there are many good people in the organisation, but there were undoubtedly well-meaning nazi sympathisers too — when any organisation is as riddled with corruption and scandal as this one is, the only sane option is to bail out. The church has a predatory history of exploiting the most vulnerable in western society often in the most obnoxious and cynical manner, so how can they seriously expect to do good in the third world where the opportunities for this type of thing are so much greater?
    The fact that their workers on the ground are openly flouting the rules merely makes a further mockery of the whole decaying edifice.
    Surely it is possible to do good humanitarian work without trailing a lot of irrelevant and downright dangerous doctrinal nonsense into the mix?

  • The Devil

    ****** THE BIGGEST LOAD OF COBBLERS I HAVE EVER READ *****

    “Many don’t sleep – the distress is just too great.”

    Please someone come and pick me up off the floor i’m dying of laughter here….. do you seriously expect anyone reading that nonsense to belive a single word

  • Brian Boru

    While Catholic by upbringing, I don’t agree with the Church on divorce, homosexuality, celibacy, divorce, the role of women, or its abject handling of the scandals in the church. Hopefully this is a small step towards sanity on their part. But it’s too little too late.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”While Catholic by upbringing, I don’t agree with the Church on divorce, homosexuality, celibacy, divorce, the role of women, or its abject handling of the scandals in the church.”

    I think that just about covers the lot Brian. Apart from their appalling taste in frocks.

  • Ghost of PDN Past

    Good God! Wittgenstein???? I’m off to my study to track down the old tomes. You know, by the way, that none of this stuff is worrisome to the faithful at the Church of the Holy Pallet.

  • Rubicon

    Devil – it was just an observation, not a judgement. That observation includes the crisis of conscience that occurs as you care, watch and hold those who die.

    That you find that difficult to believe – fair enough. That you find it laughable disgusts me – and describes you.

    You may have the amusing quip now and then Devil – but this time I’m afraid you have just demonstrated ignorance.

    I’m not supporting the RC Church. I don’t (and didn’t) support their point of view. I have however worked with HIV victims in the developing world and simply posted the crisis of conscience the doctrinal dictates of the Vatican cause. These dictates have disabled many who wish to help from having the resources they need – having already set aside the hierarchy that tells them otherwise.

    Scoff if you must. It’s not easy out there you know – it could even break a cold hearted bastard’s heart without having doctrinal baggage. But – guess you need a heart to begin with – baggage or otherwise.

  • Rubicon

    Gerry Lvs Castro – your point is well made and in an ideal world I’d agree with you.

    The Church has great influence in many of the areas infected by HIV – but the epidemic is causing them to realise the waning limits of that influence.

    The priests and nuns I talked to were in areas where there was no international aid – only the RC church (and some Protestant churches) were there. Even the local government health centre wasn’t manned – just a building with no personnel. Personnel were supposed to be there of course – but they weren’t. It was a situation I saw repeated time and time again.

    The spread of HIV is largely caused by irresponsible males whose motivation is cash and self gratification. If the Church had been successful then these males wouldn’t be such a large problem. The RC priests and nuns I spoke to recognised this and passed condoms to women who were worried about being infected by their husbands. They knew though that this supply hardly ever made a difference – the wife either accepted unprotected sex or was beaten and then raped.

    Women were and are having a battle to be considered human beings. Female mortality was roughly the same as males – but they died around 10 years younger. Female infections typically occurred in marriage.

    When you’ve nothing at all – no right to say “no”, no right to property and no facility to leave a different consciousness emerges than that of arguing about the rights and wrongs. There’s no jury to hear your case. Instead you pray, look after your children and hope for the best.

    In this despair have moved in the “born again Christians” who’ve stigmatised those with HIV. Arriving at a village one evening I saw the corpse of a man pulled from a river. He’d been weighed down with stones and the villagers believed “he deserved it” – the pastor told them that “the wages of sin was death”.

    Condom use seems simple to us – it’s not elsewhere. First women don’t control their sex-life and have little to no control of their future outside of marriage.

    In this context the RC Church is right to point to morality. They have been careful in doing so and openly care for HIV victims when only they and the Anglicans would. The villages taken over by American born again “Christianity” cast HIV victims out.

    Sorry folks – but the RC Church has a point. The lack of morality in male behaviour is a real problem that a piece of rubber doesn’t cover over.

  • Brian Boru

    “I think that just about covers the lot Brian. Apart from their appalling taste in frocks.”

    Nearly by not quite. I am undecided on the question of the existence of a deity.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”Sorry folks – but the RC Church has a point. The lack of morality in male behaviour is a real problem that a piece of rubber doesn’t cover over.”

    A couple of points here Rubicon, mainly regarding male behaviour. You don’t have to watch reels of wildlife programmes to realise that, whether the fundies believe it or not, humanity is merely a jumped-up animal, and male sexual behaviour is often little better (and often worse) than a couple of dogs getting it on in the street.
    Western civilization has given sexual activity a veneer of respectability, or perhaps put another way, driven it underground, where it manifests itself in brothels, dimly-lit parks and the porn industry. The African scenario you detail illustrates the male in his natural habitat, and for the sake of all concerned, I agree with you that a large dose of morality is sorely required. Sadly the churches are in no position to give this lead, and this brings us to the oft-repeated argument that without religion there can be no morality, a rather curious notion given that some of the worst human rights abuses occur in parts of the world where religious faith is virtually mandatory.
    Regarding the RC church in particular, their record on morality and especially sexual morality is appalling, giving them no fig-leaf of respectability as regards advising others. It comes as no surprise that the ‘born-agains’ cast out HIV victims — these are after all amongst the most hypocritical of groups — happy to use science to cure their medical problems or bomb their supposed enemies but equally happy to condemn pro-choice doctors or evolutionists.
    The biblical character of Jesus would most certainly not have rejected AIDS victims, but the fundies have consistently concentrated on personal salvation and holier-than-thou morality at the expense of humility and Christian charity.
    I appreciate that ‘condom-culture’ is not prevalent in most parts of Africa, but the nonsensical RC edicts on the subject can only serve to discourage even the limited use of these life-saving devices and give males yet another excuse to ignore them.
    The African problem is vast and seemingly intractable, but sadly, the interference of dogmatically strait-jacketed western religious groups is unlikely to meet with any more success than the equally cack-handed attempts by Communism or Islam.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”I am undecided on the question of the existence of a deity.”

    That’s the biggest question of all Brian, and I think the only sane response is that of agnosticism. The atheist declares that he is certain there is no God — this is an untenable position, any more than he can be certain there are no UFOs or loch ness monsters — these things, however unlikely, just may exist. However, given the total lack of evidence for a deity, other than human myth and imagination, it does appear incredible that the world religions continue to thrive despite significant scientific advances. The only conclusion to be drawn is that a need to believe in something — anything, is a basic human need, whether you’re throwing spears in the Amazon jungle or performing brain surgery in Geneva. This process of belief is largely harmless and can actually be beneficial to mental health, but the problems occur when these beliefs are transposed into a group setting, with accompanying rules and delusions of superiority, resulting in doctrinal and often physical conflict of a primitively tribal nature. A particularly prescient example is on display in Iraq, where the Sunnis and Shiites have demonised each other to the extent of mass murder, apparently over a relatively minor point of early doctrine.
    By definition, the vast majority of world faiths and their offshoots consider themselves to have the absolute truth and all others to be in error. Logically therefore, by choosing a particular grouping, you are almost certainly going to be wrong.
    Therefore, whether you choose to have a ‘deity-relationship’ or not, you should strive to do as little harm to others and the planet as possible, and live by your own conscience and the laws of the state in which you reside.
    My own opinion is that personal belief is perfectly legitimate and not to be discouraged, but it should be kept between yourself and your chosen deity.
    Here endth the lesson.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Gerry Lvs Castro: “it does appear incredible that the world religions continue to thrive despite significant scientific advances”

    I don’t think it’s incredible at all. In fact, technological and scientific progress don’t really have any effect on religion in my opinion.

    Obviously, it has given a few religions a shock to discover that they don’t actually know the truth about physical things such as whether the earth goes around the sun or not. But then many religions didn’t waste their time on this sort of thing anyway. But the reality is that the big questions that religion deals with cannot ever be dealt with via science. The biggest one is:

    Why are we here? I don’t mean an assumption that we have a purpose (other than one we might decide for ourselves), nor do I mean why has life come to exist in the universe. I mean the question as to why the universe came to (time, matter, space) exist at all in the first place. Or to put it more simply, wouldn’t it make more sense for there to be absolutely nothing? The most sensible ‘outcome’ of all would be for there never to have been any matter, space, or time et cetera. I find even the existence of lifeless rocks to be amazing. Once the lifeless matter arrives, the development of life by evolution is actually quite a reasonable expectation.

    I’m an ex-atheist (now agnostic), but will never believe that science can tell us any more than make predictions about the physical arrangement of the universe. Come to think of it, the existence of consciousness (and dare I say the soul) are even more astounding than this physical universe we seem to be in. I think, therefore I am.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Goodness me OC this thread is becoming very deep and meaningful.
    I’ll agree of course that science can probably never answer the big questions, but let’s just take a quick hypothetical scenario. 200 people are diagnosed with acute appendictis — 100 go to hospital, and thanks to the appliance of science, are operated on. 99 are completely cured — one tragically dies on the table. The other 100 pray to whichever God they believe in. 99 of them die — the other one survives, possibly by a miracle, possibly through initial mis-diagnosis. Which group would you choose to be in?
    In this scenario, and countless others, science has indisputably worked, while religious belief has indisputably failed. As a result, where medical facilities are available, people will avail of them, even though it could be argued that having a medical operation is actually going against the will of God.
    However, when it comes to the big questions you posed above, science doesn’t have an answer, and being human, we need one. And what better way to postulate those answers than by creating a God in our own image? And better still a male God because, despite the fact that men don’t give birth and are theoretically dispensable in modern scientific terms, they presume to be the superior species.
    Where it begins to fall down of course, is the woeful lack of any evidence whatsoever for the world being created by a great big bloke with a beard. The two big holy books ceased to be edited centuries ago, because the supposed prophets and miracles mysteriously stopped appearing. There haven’t been any remotely reliable sightings of the big guy for centuries and there’s the added problem of all that universe out there that doesn’t appear to have been built with us in mind.
    I won’t say it’s big, but we’re living on the equivalent of a grain of sand in the sahara desert. Why would God confine his most important creation to such a minute area? Come to think of it, why would he only create two types of his most important creation — male and female, and yet spend lots of time and effort making millions of different insects? Could (whisper it softly) the male ego be the big problem here?

    Your ‘I think therefore I am’ argument is one which could literally go on for centuries, but assuming that the reality we perceive is indeed ‘real’, this is still no reason to suppose that ‘I think therefore the simplistic creation account of an anonymous author several thousand years ago must be correct.’

    Science certainly won’t answer the big questions in the near future, possibly never, but at least it operates in the sphere of perceived realities, whereas much religious thinking exists in the world of santa claus and the tooth fairy.
    I therefore respect and agree with your choice of agnosticism OC, and fervently hope that our findings will not result in us rushing out and murdering dozens of innocent bystanders for want of a divine moral compass.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Gerry Lvs Castro: “fervently hope that our findings will not result in us rushing out and murdering dozens of innocent bystanders for want of a divine moral compass.

    Indeed. If anything, I’m pleasantly surprised at just how good most irreligious people are. It must be that once somebody has ditched religion that have to struggle to decide whether to be good for its own sake (instead of for rewards in the afterlife) or to be bad. Therefore, the irreligious people who turn away from evil are more certain of their moral compass than many religious people, who can’t make up their mind.

  • Jo

    I knew I shouldnt have mentioned Wittgenstein 🙂

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Way over everyone’s head Jo — this particular thread has become far too philosophical and clever by half. Can we please all get back to sectarian squabbling.