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

July 15, 2013

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This article is adapted from a piece that originally appeared on, 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!"

Dave R.

Dave R.

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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