HIV: What's God Got to Do With It?
July 15, 2013
This article is adapted from a piece that originally appeared on PositiveLite.com, Canada's Online HIV Magazine.
"GOD: The belief that there was nothing and then suddenly god appeared from out of nowhere and made everything after that ... and hates gays!
Makes perfect sense!"
My mother always said: "Never, ever talk about politics, sex and religion with friends; it will only get you into trouble!" Well, I guess the sex boat has long-sailed and we can't talk about HIV without talking politics, so that just leaves religion. Dangerous waters maybe and some people may never read anything I write again after reading this but I've grown to believe that sex and politics are at the heart of religious attitudes when it comes to HIV and LGBT people and always have been, so how can we avoid discussing it?
At this point, I have to disclaim and set out the foundation behind this article. To avoid having to say after every sentence that I truly believe that people are entitled to believe; to have faith and to abide by the rules of that faith, I'm saying it now, so that there'll be no misunderstanding. People have every right to have a faith or a religion, and to worship a God but with my personal proviso that they don't push it on me and don't try to judge me by their own religious ethics. Like liberals used to say about us in a half-assed attempt to be accepting: let them do it "in the privacy of their own heads, homes and churches." However, watching governments make anti-social decisions for fear of a religious backlash; or priests and pastors telling us to repent or go to Hell; or bigots of every nationality using the tenets of Christianity, Islam, Fascism, Communism or Capitalism to back up their hatred of us; no, I don't have to put up with that anymore and I'm not going to.
I personally lost religion on June 9, 1972, the day after South Vietnamese planes dropped a napalm bomb on Trang Bang in Vietnam. The world famous press photo image of a naked little girl and her friends running crying down a road with the dogs of war behind her, ruined religion for me. It was a mistaken raid; the planes weren't acting on orders from a religious group and weren't aimed specifically at a religious movement (unless you can call Communism a religion) but the point is that any God and all gods let it happen.
From the Vietnam War onwards, we were confronted by instant images of armed conflict in our living rooms every day. We saw death and destruction and witnessed what man was capable of doing to other men, women and children. Today, we're almost immune to real-life horror. We've seen the faces of dead children in the famine regions of Africa; we've watched as lines of men and boys lined up to be executed in the Balkans and we can count the dead bodies on the streets of Syria, and we barely bat an eyelid anymore.
My point is that God has always let it happen, without intervention. According to fundamentalists, AIDS is god's wrath on homosexuals so we deserve to die and some Christians, Muslims and others are still prepared to kill us with impunity in the name of their god. So God will apparently intervene and give his blessing to the battle to eradicate homosexuality but he won't intervene when it comes to the torture and deaths of innocent men, women and children of all faiths in wars!
Of course, religious leaders across the world will claim that God gave man free will and that's why man's inhumanity to man dominates our news reports. That's always been the excuse and was invented in the early days of most religions to explain why god is love but won't stop the killing. In that way, the churches could exert authority, make laws in his name and let God off the hook when people saw murder as being somewhat unfair. Yet certain groups, mainly minorities like us, can be hounded to Hell because conveniently God and his assumed instructions in the Bible or the Quran say so.
Of course, the hypocrisy of it all became clear to me during the worst years of the AIDS crisis, when images of the dead and the dying and the suffering were burned onto my retinas and won't go away. With the world baying for our exclusion, isolation and even elimination and the rabid fundamentalists of all faiths preaching the vengeance of God and basically telling us we only have ourselves to blame, I had my own epiphany and concluded there is no God, there are only scheming, manipulative men who will use fantasy to frighten people into hatred and intolerance.
Gods were invented to explain the inexplicable. When Neanderthal people looked up at the night sky and saw blankets of dazzling stars above their heads they had no means of rationalizing what they were seeing. Earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, pestilence and all manner of other terrifying natural disasters were completely unpredictable and destructive and ancient man just couldn't see why. In order to cope with it all, they had to give reason to the chaos, in terms they could understand and maybe accept.
In that way, the first supernatural, or other-worldly beings were created to fill in the gaps and provide some sort of logic to the illogical. It happened in every society across the planet and mythologies grew up to frame daily life and make some sense of it all. Of course it was only a matter of time (given man's proclivity for domination and rule) before the strongest religions tried to eliminate the weakest and impose their own values on others.
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Comment by: MG
Wed., Apr. 8, 2015 at 3:38 am UTC
The most sensible thing on the subject I have ever read. Keep it coming. Thanks By the way I'm 77 year old straight male,EX-christian Sunday School teacher Thank you again Mark
Comment by: Matthew
Thu., Aug. 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm UTC
Please let's not bring religion into this!! I have recently rediscovered my relationship with God and let me just say that having faith in something is extremely comforting and personal! I'm a gay man living with HIV for over 6 years now, and I am very open about my status and the need to inform and educate people so we can as a world community, end this epidemic. Whatever name you call your god is your choice, and if that doesn't suit you then do what you need to to feel secure and strong to make it through life as healthfully and happily as possible!! And please, when referring to God, keep in mind not all Christians are Catholics!! My God, Jesus Christ, is very loving, merciful, and non-judgemental. As my youngest sister said to me just over a year ago when I asked her, "How can I have Faith in a God that condemns me for being true to myself and everyone I encounter?? I'm a gay man with HIV!!" Her response, "Matthew, in God's eyes there isn't one sin that out ranks another sin, there aren't different levels of sin, sin is sin!!" And with that said, my life has become so much easier, less stressful, and I am extremely thankful that my life took this awesome change!! It works for me and it might or might not be right for others, let's not dwell on religion, let's focus our efforts to educate others so we can, as a World Community, stop the spread of HIV!! Sure I'm a gay man but I didn't get infected by being promiscuous, or an IV drug user, or even from blood transfusions, I got mine from my ex of 8 years, who I truly adored and was totally faithful to, and well, obviously, he was neither of those things to me. But such is life, I've embraced my diagnosis, stick to my daily meds regimen, and do my best to be the "healthy" face of HIV, and that no one can catch it by touching me or whatever other phobias they may have!! The main point I'm trying to make is: Please be honest about your
status!! And love yourself and be thankful for all you have!! Peace!!
Comment by: Dale
(Las Cruces NM)
Wed., Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:30 pm UTC
I really like this post because finally someone's come out and said what we all think but daren't say out loud sometimes. You blasted open the hypocricy of it all and I also can't understand why anyone HIV positive or even gay could possibly believe in god and religion. It just don't make any sense at all. Thanks for this I'm going to send it around my friends
Comment by: Rayven
Wed., Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:14 pm UTC
I get so sick of you people who think you're bigger than God. How dare you imagine you can say such things when we all know God has his reasons for everything that happens and who are we to argue with Him. Maybe you should look at the reasons why you have HIV and stop putting the blame on God.
Comment by: Charles L. Fox
Fri., Jul. 26, 2013 at 10:16 am UTC
Good piece. This article really made me think. I'd like to think I was a good Christian and you won't stop me believing in God but there's no doubt God's representatives on Earth sometimes leave a lot to be desired. You don't mention abuse of children by Catholic priests but that whole scandal certainly shook my faith in the church.
Comment by: Afrikan Soul
Fri., Jul. 26, 2013 at 4:12 am UTC
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Dave R has spoken his. I was brought up to believe that marriage was ordained by God. I became a pentecostal Christian in the quest for peace in this world and in the hereafter. I set out to live as a one-woman husband only to find out that I married an extremist Christian woman who won't raise her legs during love-making; who felt we must have calendar markings for days of sex and Sundays excluded for sex because it is a holy day. A fully grown young man that I was, what would have been the outcome? Needless to mention the marriage is practically dead since I tested positive. Thank goodness, I was living a continent away from my religious wife when it happened. Let each person cast judgment and aspersion as they freely choose to. I have got only one life to live and no one, not even the Pope will assist God in writing His judgment on me. The church failed me and I feel disappointed in myself that despite all my critical worldview, I fell into the trap of a woman who had no love for me.
Comment by: Andrew
Fri., Jul. 26, 2013 at 12:32 am UTC
Well, with due respect to the author, that was a painful and incomplete rant that we've all heard before.
Religion is not God - it is purely a construct of man. I am not and have never been a member of any religion. I've never even been to church unless weddings and barmitzvahs count. But I find value in spirituality. But that is strictly my personal relationship with a vague idea of god, or spirit, or energy that, when I seek it, has a profound and tangible effect upon my life and the world around me.
Groups of scientists around the world have set out to prove God exists & of course they failed. What they did find is that when a human has what they call a spiritual experience, their brains, bodies, and by extension, their souls are positively affected.
So what is to argue about?
Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Dave R
Tue., Jul. 30, 2013 at 10:56 am UTC
"...So what is to argue about?"
What's to argue about is the fact that religions and a significant proportion of their representatives and spokespeople want to do me and people like me harm. I think that's something to argue about.
Comment by: John-Manuel Andriote
Thu., Jul. 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm UTC
I guess it depends on what your view of "god" or "God" is. If you can only imagine a god/God that is the projection of people's mother/father/grandfather-in-the-white-robes, then I see why all the other projections of the evils that humans commit against one another onto this "god/God." If, though, you believe--as I do--that what we call god/God is simply the beginning of all life, the source of the electricity that sparked life into existence, that sparks each of our heart to begin beating, that is the mathematical source of all symmetry that manifests at every level of nature, then you don't see god/God as responsible for humans' actions. This god/God simply "is," though I believe he/she/it is benevolent and that harmony and what we call love are characteristics of this god/God. Religion, on the other hand, is simply humans' way to try to explain and understand god/God/what can't be explained. Accept that there are mysteries, and a central mystery at the core of all that is, and you don't feel the need to have morally troubling situations--humans dropping napalm bombs on other humans--explained in terms that make god/God culpable for not "miraculously" intervening.
Comment by: Rita
(Johannesburg, South Africa)
Fri., Jul. 19, 2013 at 7:48 am UTC
Yes, your arguments are solid and sound. Except - what about hetrosexuals living with HIV - like myself? How can I blame God for what I chose to do? All through history, as you so aptly describe, man's lust for control has brought about death and carnage. For a Christian like myself, it is illustrated right from day 1, at creation, when man wanted to be equal to God. God's biggest gift to man - a will to decide - was at the root of all we are suffering. I wonder how many times God has regretted not making us just mere puppets....but then I guess somebody would have blamed Him for doing that as well. The injustices we are all suffering (not only gay people, as gay people would love to believe)is of our own doing. And by the way, God does not hate Gay people. He loves everybody. It is people, pretending to know the Mind of God, who want to attribute this attitude to Him, but instead it is only illustrating their own petty little minds. In the end, religion and worship is a very, very personal thing, between the worshipper and his Maker. Stop being blinded by people's attitudes and see a loving God who has made provision for an eternity of love, peace, harmony and no more suffering for everybody, yes even Gay people, after this imperfect, silly, short little bitter interlude we call "our life"
Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Dave R
Sat., Jul. 20, 2013 at 5:17 am UTC
Thanks for taking the time to respond to this post. You're quite right, LGBT people are not the only victims of HIV and we are guilty sometimes of thinking it's all about us when of course millions of heterosexuals are also infected and stigmatised. I do apologise if I gave the impression that we're an exclusive club, that wasn't my intention.
My problem with a god or gods is that although he, she, or they, may have slipped up in giving us free choice; he or she is supposedly omnipotent and an all powerful god of love and could have changed his or her mind countless times through history to save millions of innocents and good people. After all, it must have been obvious that 'free will' for mankind doesn't work! In your part of the world where so many unborn babies and young children carry the virus, how can they be said to have had the 'will to decide' as you put it? The church got round that one by claiming that we're all born with original sin...does that make any sense to you?
I do agree with you though that God doesn't hate LGBT people; people hate LGBT people (and many others who are different) and use their gods and their bibles to justify it. Everybody with HIV has reason to feel hard done by; it's how you live your life with it that counts but discrimination from your own faith doesn't help.
Comment by: Maria Perez
Thu., Jul. 18, 2013 at 6:21 am UTC
Lets hope God doesn't judge you harshly for your words. We all have to account for our lives when judgement day comes around.
Comment by: Cerise
Tue., Jul. 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm UTC
I completely agree. I dont understand how anybody can believe in God anymore. God has let gays down in so many ways.
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