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HIV: What's God Got to Do With It?

July 15, 2013

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Gradually, the main religions we know today came to prominence, usually achieved by subjugation and killing. If you didn't believe in our gods, you were heretics and deserved to die. Did any of those gods step in and stop the inherent unfairness of all that? Never, because man had been given a free hand.

In the case of Christianity, one of many so-called prophets caught the public's imagination and the stories around his birth, life and death became the basis of the most popular religion the world has ever seen. The fact that his teachings bore little relation to the manner in which religion in his name was imposed on others seems to have been overlooked.

What would have happened if the Romans had succeeded in eliminating Christianity? They came within a whisker of doing exactly that. Would we still be worshipping Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto (god of death, not the planet or the dog!) today? The popularity of religions were accidents in history, determined by power struggles and conquest and each religion justified its actions by claiming to be the one true faith. The main religions fought brutal wars against each other and still do and the struggle for dominance goes on.

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So why did people put up with it all? Let's take the case of Christianity. The Catholic church of Rome established its power base during the centuries when European man was at a very low ebb. Later, other branches of Christianity broke away but always accompanied by vicious struggle, death and destruction. The point was that in the so-called Dark Ages, (after the fall of the Roman Empire and the decline of pagan religions like the Norse (Viking) and Germanic gods), a vacuum appeared which Christianity was perfectly placed to fill. Life in those centuries was short and often brutal. Wars raged across the continent, starvation and subsistence living was normal and various plague outbreaks decimated European populations. Life was unbelievably tough and often terrifying. It was into this sort of social anarchy that the Church brought both order and fear. Its Popes were often power-hungry politicians with few moral scruples and the Vatican and Rome was a political super-state determined to dominate the world.

The Catholic Church sent out its priests to literally put the fear of God into the people. Heretics were tortured and burned and the KGB, Stasi and FBI could learn nothing from the Inquisition, who imposed the word of God and the church's rules for living with brutal efficiency. It was a win/win situation for the church. Threats of eternal hellfire and being torn to pieces by demons and the Devil were enough to intimidate an already terrified people. Life was hard enough but if you weren't going to get respite in the afterlife, it wasn't worth living at all. Worshipping God according to the rules of the church became a no-brainer -- the alternative was everlasting damnation.

If you didn't follow the rules you knew where you would end up, either in this life or the next but as with all human organizations, corruption ensured you could buy your way out of trouble by purchasing Indulgences from the ever-present priests and monks. Guilt and fear became the currency of the church's teachings and it was exploited for power.

By the time the age of enlightenment arrived, the church, although by now somewhat more fragmented, was so entrenched in people's lives that any ideas that maybe all the mumbo-jumbo was actually little more than fairy tales, was regarded (and still is) with horror. Furthermore, the 18th and 19th centuries saw the rise of the missionary movement and the urge to convert all other believers to Christianity. Nations warred with nations; papists warred with Protestants and meanwhile the native peoples were subjugated, robbed and converted, all in the name of God and colonization. That's the reason why Christianity is such a widespread religion across the world; not because it's the one true faith but because it was imposed on the weak by the strong. This is not damning Christianity to the exclusion of other religions. They've all done it at various stages in their history and the rise of Islam was also founded on war and conquest and despite having many basic concepts in common, it could be argued that the most important struggle of the 21st century is that between Islam and Christianity -- it's been that way since the Crusades.

So that brings us to the present day. Personally, I cannot understand why any LGBT person can be a person of faith, if that faith condemns him or her for even existing. But I have to accept that many LGBT people are religious and are sincere in their beliefs. I hope that's not because of fear of offending God, priest or family, or fear of not going to heaven. I am, however, perfectly willing to believe that LGBT people are religious because they sincerely believe in the inherent and theoretical tenets of love, goodness and doing unto others as you would be done by.

I was brought up in the 50's and went to church, joined the choir, was confirmed etc., and I did all that because my parents thought it was what you had to do even though they rarely showed their faces in church themselves. To be fair, when I started questioning, they told me that I should wait and make up my own mind when the time was right.

I wasn't Catholic but even in the 21st century, I know Catholic LGBT men and women who are still racked with guilt and fearful of consequences if confession isn't adhered to, or their sexual behavior disregards the norm. Is that what religion is meant to be; adherence based on guilt and fear? For many gay people, that's exactly what it is.

Then we have the added complication of being HIV positive. How has religion reacted to the virus?

Well, condemning condom use as a preventative measure for a start. How can the Catholic Church sentence so many adults and unborn children to death, or a life with disease because their parents aren't allowed to wear condoms!

Thanks in part to evangelist extremists in Africa, we're seeing the modern phenomenon of African countries imposing draconian laws in an attempt to stamp out homosexuality, all in the name of Christianity.

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This article was provided by TheBody.com.
 

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Matthew (Pittsburgh, PA) Thu., Aug. 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm EDT
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!!
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Comment by: Dale (Las Cruces NM) Wed., Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:30 pm EDT
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
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Comment by: Rayven (Houston Tx) Wed., Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:14 pm EDT
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.
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Comment by: Charles L. Fox (SD Cal) Fri., Jul. 26, 2013 at 10:16 am EDT
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.
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Comment by: Afrikan Soul (North-West, SA) Fri., Jul. 26, 2013 at 4:12 am EDT
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.
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Comment by: Andrew (Sacramento) Fri., Jul. 26, 2013 at 12:32 am EDT
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?
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Comment by: Dave R (Amsterdam) Tue., Jul. 30, 2013 at 10:56 am EDT
"...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 (Norwich, CT) Thu., Jul. 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm EDT
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.
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Comment by: Rita (Johannesburg, South Africa) Fri., Jul. 19, 2013 at 7:48 am EDT
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"
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Dave R (Amsterdam) Sat., Jul. 20, 2013 at 5:17 am EDT
Hi Rita,
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 (Mexico City) Thu., Jul. 18, 2013 at 6:21 am EDT
Lets hope God doesn't judge you harshly for your words. We all have to account for our lives when judgement day comes around.
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Comment by: Cerise (Austin Tx) Tue., Jul. 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm EDT
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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