Monday, March 08, 2010

The Retreat into Scripture - Protected Sex

What should be the focus of atheist and secular activism in America and around the world?

This question comes up in two contexts. I've addressed it with respect to a meeting that was held last week between the leaders of several secular organizations and some representatives of the Obama administration.

It will come up next week in the World Atheism Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

From a moral point of view, I do not have any difficulty answering this question.

The single biggest problem that these organizations should address is the fact that people who cannot think are determining policies leading to maiming, death, disease, and destruction on a massive scale.

There are lives at stake.

I have objected to the proposition, and I continue to object to the proposition, that "religion" is to blame for this. Religion merely means the belief that one or more supernatural deities exists or has existed. This proposition implies nothing about how we should behave and is fully compatible with the thesis that this deity created a universe that we can know through science.

However, we would not be wrong to say that some sets of religious beliefs are directly responsible for these consequences and it is perfectly legitimate to condemn those religions on those grounds.

From here, let us pick some examples that would probably show up as the most destructive sets of beliefs that some people refuse to question because they have attributed it to a religious source.

One set of beliefs that is leading to the massive spread of disease and poverty in Africa - the unfounded, foolish, set of sexual prohibitions and prescriptions being pursued even by many of even the largest religious organizations. As a matter of their adherence to their outmoded ways of thinking these organizations are contributing to the deaths of literally millions of people due to preventable diseases - including infants - and the orphaning of untold numbers of children.

The easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to prevent the sickness, death, and poverty surrounding sexual transmitted disease is to use a condom during sex. The best way to promote the use of condoms during sex is to make this a part of our moral universe. That is to say, to praise those who use condoms, and to condemn those who do not.

An aversion to sex without a condom in the vast majority of circumstances is an aversion that people in general have many and strong reasons to promote - reasons that relate directly to the effect this desire would have on reducing the total amount of illness, death, and poverty in those cultures that adopt it.

This means praising those acts that exhibit this aversion, and condemning those actions that exhibit the absence of such an aversion.

We hear a lot about how charitable religious institutions and religious people are - about their willingness to help others and take care of the sick and dying and to take in the orphans left behind. We do not hear enough about the fact that they are responsible for the sickness and death and the orphans that they then take care of. If not for their idiotic and outdated sexual attitudes, there would not be so many sick, dying, or orphaned people in need of the care they generously provide.

We also do not hear about the fact that many of these organizations profit from the care they provide to others. It is a loss leader - a willing to get in contact with people that one can then sell a bill of goods that is the Church. By offering a bit of care and kindness, the Church gains a convert, and the contributions to the leadership in terms of money and political and economic control over the citizens is often worth far more than the cost of the care the organization has provided.

We can see how important it is to these organizations to use their 'charity' as a way to grow the church and to profit from the gains of new converts by the shrillness of the wailing we hear when they are told to offer those services without all of the religious marketing that often goes with it. This gives us a hint as to how much interest a particular organization has in helping those in need, versus how much interest it has in harvesting those people.

So, if one is looking for a moral cause - one directly linked to a particularly wide spread set of religious beliefs - one that is responsible for death, disease, and the orphaning of children on a huge scale - the effect that certain religious teachings (Note, not 'religion' itself - this type of illogical overgeneralization is classic bigotry and hate-mongering) has in promoting these ills in parts of the world that can least afford it deserves to be a high station on the atheist 'to do' list.

There are, literally, lives at stake in that particular issue, and children by the millions suffering preventable harms. When the defenders of those policies retreat into scripture to defend their actions then that can also be condemned. "Your retreat into scripture to defend your contribution to this massive wave of destruction across whole continents is as despicable as the retreat to scripture made by suicide bombers and political opportunists. It is worse, in fact, since the bomber will take out a building or a supermarket, whereas your organization takes out huge regions of whole continents. Their body counts are in the tens to hundreds. Your body counts number in the tens of millions."

Now, these organizations would likely counter that, "If people actually followed our advice, then there would be no disease either. The spread of sexually transmitted disease is an effect of sex out of wedlock, which is something we condemn."

Against this, the correct response is that, "Your teachings violate known facts about human psychoogy and biology. We have more than enough scientific evidence to know that the human brain does not function the way that those dead peasant sheep herders who invented your morality thousands of years ago thought that it functioned.”

This is how science works. It compares situations and takes objective measurements. It tells us that there if we use Option A that 100 people per die, and if we use Option B only 60 people will die. In light of this kind of evidence, those who go ahead and choose Option A are morally responsible for creating a situation in which there are 40 more deaths than there would have otherwise been. The way to reduce the incidents of disease, save lives, and reduce poverty is to promote a moral aversion to unprotected sex.

People who insist that scripture gives them the right answer at the cost of human lives and well-being are not people who have any reason at all to demand that their views be treated with respect.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Now, these organizations would likely counter that, 'If people actually followed our advice, then there would be no disease either. The spread of sexually transmitted disease is an effect of sex out of wedlock, which is something we condemn.'"

"Against this, the correct response is that, 'Your teachings violate known facts about human psychoogy and biology. We have more than enough scientific evidence to know that the human brain does not function the way that those dead peasant sheep herders who invented your morality thousands of years ago thought that it functioned.'"

How does that response pertain in any way to the organizations' counter, much less successfully refute it?

KipBond said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KipBond said...

> Religion merely means the belief that one or more supernatural deities exists or has existed.

"Religion" almost always means more than that.

Eneasz said...

How does that response pertain in any way to the organizations' counter, much less successfully refute it?

Religions could counter that the best way to avoid disease is to have a body that is so toxic to invaders that no foreign agent could ever get a foothold in it. The correct response to this is also that their teachings violate known facts about human biology. The facts actually are important.

Blas said...

The easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to prevent the sickness, death, and poverty surrounding sexual transmitted disease is to use a condom during sex. The best way to promote the use of condoms during sex is to make this a part of our moral universe. That is to say, to praise those who use condoms, and to condemn those who do not.

Do you have any scientific prove of this? I mean a epidemiological study ahre enforcement of use of condoms reduce the STD, deaht and poverty?
Is not more cheap and scientifically proved that non promiscuity reduces STD? That is already condemned by religion. What you are asking for is religion allows promiscuity by with a condomn.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the "the facts actually are important," but the relationship between the facts and the response is far from apparent. How does saying that "it is within people's power to avoid casual sex, thereby avoiding STDs" in any way "violate known facts about human psychology and biology"?

Eneasz said...

Blas - you left out the key word "effective". Yes, abstinence is cheaper and safer than condoms. It is also very ineffective because it fails with very predictable regularity. The failure rate of abstinence is over 60% (and that's just among those who are actively using abstinence as their form of protection), which is much higher than any common contraceptive. So if you want to give your children the BEST chance for getting pregnant and contracting STDs, advocate for abstinence-only.

Anon - it is also within people's power to avoid any contact with a non-sterilized surface and only breathe through a filter. How many actually do so?

Anonymous said...

The number of people who abstain from risky sex is far, far greater than those who would consistently breathe through filters or avoid non-sterilized surfaces. It's also far, far easier to do the first than it is to do the other two.

It is absurd to suggest "psychology" or "biology" somehow disproves this simple observation.

Eneasz said...

I see you put the qualifier "risky" in there. Since sex with a condom is much less risky than remaining celibate, I assume you consider sex-with-a-condom to be a form of abstaining? In that case I would agree with you that abstaining from risky sex is the best thing to teach. You confused me at first because normally the term "abstaining" is used to mean "remain celibate until marriage".

Blas said...

But the point is: If religion is so innefective to enforce what you call abstinence, why you want they asking for recommend use of condomns? Why do you care what religion says'

Anonymous said...

No, by "risky" sex I mean, at a pretty reasonable minimum, sex with somebody you don't know well enough to know whether or not they'd have an STD. Nobody who preaches abstinence says "never have sex."

The question remains: how does psychology or biology disprove the idea that people are fully capable of choosing whether or not to abstain from having sex?

Eneasz said...

Blas - I mainly care when they tell people NOT to use condoms, because that is literally destroying lives.

Anon - so basically "don't be a total slut." I'm ok with that too, I think it's good advice. I'd say "use condoms too", just in case, and also to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

I don't know where you live, but everyone I've ever heard preaching abstinence has said "don't ever have sex (until you're married)". Seeing as you can't get married at 15 anymore, this is a recipe for disaster.

The question remains: how does psychology or biology disprove the idea that people are fully capable of choosing whether or not to abstain from having sex?

Perhaps you've never met any humans? Otherwise you'd know that the vast majority of them have a need for sex that almost rivals their need for food, especially during the adolescent years. People do have some level of control, but saying they are fully capable of choosing to abstain is as ignorant of human biology as saying they are fully capable of never sneezing.

Blas said...

I mainly care when they tell people NOT to use condoms, because that is literally destroying lives.

1) They saying not be promiscuos.

2) Why you care if they destroy their lifes following their faith. Are you against the free will?

Eneasz said...

1) They're saying "don't use condoms"

2) I'm against a wealthy multi-national organization spreading lies that will result in the suffering and deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. If that makes me "against free will", so be it.

Anonymous said...

So, having sex with someone you might not have any intention of committing to or know well enough to know whether or not they have an STD is akin to sneezing. I think that's about all I need to know.

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Blas said...

"If that makes me "against free will", so be it."

At least you recognized, if God do not exist free will is an ilusion, but I want to keep it.

public sex positions said...

I was the Queen Mother of answering my son's questions... and sometimes giving him more information than he actually needed. He knew where babies came from by the time he was in kindergarten. And somewhere in second grade, he flipped someone off in his classroom, and got hauled into the principal's office, where he was lectured and placed into his mother's hands.

And this mother then proceeded to give him the full lecture on what flipping someone off actually means, with a full discourse on consensual vs. non-consensual sex. The lecture continued up to the time when I took my car in for an oil change... and as we were walking through the door, greeted by the man behind the desk, my son turned to me and said, "Mama, when I get to be big, I'm not going to put my penis into anyone except the woman I love."

I watched the nice greeting man literally slide under the desk. My son was seven.