24 September 2011

Aids, Atheists, Condoms and Catholics

Some prominent British militant atheists, like Polly Toynbee and Richard Dawkins, have accused the Roman Catholic Church of being responsible for the deaths of millions of people in Africa from Aids, because of their teaching that the use of condoms (and other forms of contraception) is morally wrong. This, claim these atheists, has caused millions of Africans to die from Aids.

Hat-tip to The Pittsford Perennialist: Is the Pope Responsible for the Deaths of Millions of Africans? for the link to this article:

Shameless Popery: What Impact Does Catholic Teaching Have on AIDS in Africa?
This is a common meme. Arch-atheist Richard Dawkins used this same argument to argue that the Catholic Church was in the running for the major institution that “most deserves the title of greatest force for evil in the world.” So let's tackle this argument head-on: Is the Catholic stance against contraception responsible for the AIDS-related deaths of millions of Africans?

Well, why not see what the data says? After all, these are the same atheists who routinely crow about being interested in real knowledge and reason, rather than faith. So let's put their faith to the test. If the Catholic Church's teachings against condoms are causing millions of Africans to contract AIDS, we should expect to see heavily-Catholic countries with far higher AIDS rates than their non-Catholic counterparts. So I decided to compare the rates by region and by country.

The post is quite interesting for the comparative statistics and graphs it gives for the rates of Aids infection, though one could perhaps argue for a long time over the accuracy of the statistics and the reasons for the differences.

But there is really no need for these statistics to show that the arguments of the atheists are not merely wrong, but also remarkably stupid.

I think it is generally accepted that Aids is a sexually-transmitted disease (STD). And one of the main reasons for its spread is sexual promiscuity.

The Roman Catholic Church, however, teaches that sexually promiscuous behaviour, such as fornication and adultery, is morally wrong. If using a condom is regarded as morally wrong, so is fornicating.

So why should people like Richard Dawkins and Polly Toynbee assume that people who have chosen to ignore their church's teaching by committing adultery will suddenly start observing it by not using condoms while doing so?

They might well not use condoms while committing adultery, but it is highly unlikely that their church's teaching on contraception will influence them when they have already chosen to ignore its teaching on adultery.

Or perhaps they think that Tom Lehrer's satirical song about the Irish lass who murdered members of her family one by one is a serious piece of sociological research:

And when at last the police came by
Sing rickety-tickety-tin
And when at last the police came by
Her little pranks she did not deny
To do so she would have had to lie
And lying, she knew, was a sin, a sin
Lying, she knew, was a sin.

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