Friday, June 06, 2008

Religion Causes Cancer

Atheists are fond of pointing out how dangerous religion can be. Apologists are quick to point out that in fact, it's dogmatic fundamentalism that is dangerous, and moderate religion is really quite sane, sensible, and even helpful. And to be fair, the nastiest, most violent and most shocking (and most tele/photogenic) acts are committed by religious (and other philosophical) extremists and dogmatists, in defense of their faith against infidels, interlopers, crusaders and baby-killers.

But what most apologists (and some agnostics/atheists) ignore is the fact that moderate, sensible and sane religion, at its root, must sometimes deny reality, and the consequences for this are often grave. The most public example is in the States, where politicians collect pastors like trading cards--though we've all see how much havoc god can wreak once he's in the White House--but more pervasive, more fundamental, and more damaging (on an individual scale, in addition to a societal one) are the religious pre-and proscriptions regarding sex.

I've posted before (albeit briefly) about my own sexuality and how it was impacted by my religious upbringing. To be brief, no great lasting damage has been done, but I still resent that I was made to feel dirty because I was 13 and horny all the time. But god has a lot to say about out naughty bits (and in fact he's responsible for calling them naughty bits, I suppose), what we're allowed to do with them, where we can put them, when we can use them, with whom we can use them, and the fact that using them at all is really a necessary evil.
The fact that god gave us these things, made them really fun and then forbade their use as part of god's plan, or evidence of god's love or intelligent design, and not as a figurative and literal "fuck you" to mankind seems to escape them, or at the very least is blasphemy. Yet another bit of mental contortion that "moderate" religion requires.

No religion seems to be exempt, as far as I can tell. I can't imagine that the Buddha would have an issue with condoms, buttsex or the pill, but I never met the guy, so I don't know. I do know that he suggested we eliminate desire to eliminate suffering, and while that's a good idea, it takes more indifference than I have. I like sex, and I also erversely enjoy any suffering that comes along with it (because sex, while fun, is never simple, and usually very complicated). Iran doesn't have gays, apparently, because Sharia Law forbids it, and marrying several little girls seems to be cool with FLDS folks, Hindus have some funny ideas about marriage and widowhood, and gay people seem drive many religious folks into a frenzy.
And finally, we're all aware that the Vatican's position on condom use, even when it can help control an epidemic, is that condoms actually spread AIDS. To be fair, that was only one Archibishop, but the official Vatican stance is that condoms don't stop the spread of AIDS, which is a fine point, but an important one. I am constantly surprised when men who are supposed to be moral authorities baldly lie to support their dogma. It's one thing to be ignorant, another to be stupid, but to break one of the commandments like that requires real faith. I ought to be used to it by now, but I must be ridiculously naive.

And now, the statements of old virgins (in theory) about sexual morality are putting thousands of girls at risk of STDs in Ontario, and once again claiming the moral high ground. I suppose I should not be surprised by this, considering the stance of the Catholic Church on sexual morality and all the attendant problems, but it makes me furious nonetheless.
The Halton Catholic School Board has decided that it will not include a vaccination for HPV in its regular vaccination regime given to students. Here's the rationale:

Providing the HPV vaccine to Grade 8 girls in its schools sends a "contradictory" message to Catholic students and should end, says a motion before Halton's Catholic board from its vice-chair.
I know what they're trying to say about the "contradictory message". It's the same reasoning they use for not allowing condom machines in the bathrooms. It's this: "Sex outside of hetrerosexual marriage is wrong, and any actions we take that reduce the risk of negative consequences of any other sex are tacit approvals." Incidentally, the Vatican's position on condoms is killing young, married women in Africa, a fact which is ignored, because it doesn't seem to fit into the Pope's schtick. Besides, somebody, somewhere, had extramarital sex, so maybe these women deserve to die.

The message that they should be sending, in the context of their faith, is this: "Sex outside heterosexual marriage is wrong, but should you choose to do it, at least use your fucking brains."

(IMO, the message they should send is this: "Use your fucking brains, particularly about sex.")

The message that they are sending is this: "Sex outside the traditional, narrowly defined concept of heterosexual marriage is wrong, and you deserve whatever happens as a consequence, even if it's not your transgression. Incidentally, sex within marriage is for precreation, not recreation, and condoms are still bad, no matter the reason, so go ahead and kill your wife."

Shorter: "God wants you to die because you had sex."

I'm not being extreme. I'm not using hyperbole. The school board is saying that dogma is more important than the health of their daughters. The church is saying that it knew what was best for us 1700 years ago, and nothing has changed. HPV has been linked to cervical and oral cancer. It is asymptomatic, meaning you don't know you have it, unless you get regular pap smears. Men don't know if they're carrying it, until aberrant cell growth becomes malignant. It's a pretty effective virus: it hides for a long time, allowing the carrier to spread it liberally. Same with HIV. None of this matters because the Bible is clear on contraception. (Huh?)

I despise the Catholic Church for its stance on condoms, particularly in Africa, where the need is highest. This is tantamount to winking and nodding as the Third Reich went about systematically eliminating Jews, Roma, homosexuals and Jehovah's witnesses. AIDS has already killed more Africans than the Nazis ever dreamed of (more than 20 million worldwide), and a simple piece of rubber can slow it down. It almost makes me wish there was a hell so that the Pope could be punished for the millions of deaths on his hands.

The crimes of the Catholic Church against its women (and other women, too, by extension) are particularly near and dear to my heart, because I married a Catholic, and my daughter was baptised last year. Millions of dead Africans are incomprehensible, and far away to boot, but the life of my daughter is vital, and therefore a powerful symbol for me: she is every woman who will get cancer because her partner had sex with someone else, possibly before she even met him/her; she is every wife dying from her husband's visit to a prostitute; she is every woman forced into the sex trade by poverty or drug addiction, or slavery; she is every child abused and left ill-equipped by abstinence-only sex education; and she is every man, woman or other; gay, straight, transgendered, or other who feels sinful, damned and unworthy because he or she likes to have sex.

I'll do my best to protect her and equip her properly, because I can't do much for the millions of others.

My daughter will not be ashamed of her body. She will not be ashamed or afraid of sex. She will get the vaccination when the time comes. She will not get her sex education from a man who has repeatedly protected sex offenders. She will learn how to protect herself, even if her church, her school and her mother (I hope this won't happen), disapprove.

She will not die, simply because she's a Catholic.


More Information:

On the Halton Board's Decision, and the reaction to it; on the vaccination in question; the original Vatican document on contraception, Humanae Vitae, and a 2003 document on family values; on Archbishop Francisco Chimoio and his horrible lie; on the Vatican's official position that condoms don't stop AIDS, and the consequences.
I'm not finished with the church and sexual morality, but this is long enough already

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