Have you ever wondered where HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, came from? Science does not have a definitive answer, but for a Christian who believes that God created everything, God has to be its creator.
Not only did He create AIDS, along with every other horrible affliction, but He made sure it would spread like wildfire.
How is God to blame for this?
If we assume that an intelligent being created everything, including us, then there are many ways in which that being is to blame for the spread of AIDS. Here are just a few of them:
- To be the creator of everything, it would have to be the creator of AIDS.
This can not be blamed on our “sin” or our “fallen world” as some believers would have us think. Viruses like HIV are no random accident, they evolved or were created specifically to attack living hosts like people and force their bodies to provide energy and materials to reproduce the virus.
Sinning does not give you HIV, or murderers would be at least as likely to get it as homosexuals. It is a purely physical matter, and “sin” has nothing whatsoever to do with the existence of viruses.
- Humans have sex drives from a young age, starting around puberty.
While many people in western societies today believe that we should wait until marriage to engage in sexual activity, very few of them would support children getting married in their early teens or before.
If we have a creator, we were created with the ability and desire to have sex young, before we are ready to raise a family or even to make informed, responsible decisions about our sexual activities.
We can either assume that the intent of this creator is for us to have sex young and unmarried, to get married young, or to torment ourselves by waiting for many years after becoming sexually aware, until we are ready to settle down and start a family, to even begin exploring our sexuality.
None of these options seems very reasonable for a creator, and points more to the standard evolutionary strategy we see in most animals, to be ready to reproduce as young as possible.
Becoming sexually active early and unprepared can greatly increase a person’s chances of getting HIV/AIDS.
- Humans have non-monogamous tendencies.
It is true that in many societies today we promote apparently monogamous relationships, but we are not a truly monogamous species.
There are certain animals who mate for life and are not remotely interested in having sex with other partners, but these species are the very rare exception, and humans are most certainly not among them.
If our creator intended us to be monogamous, then why is it that so many people have strong sexual attractions to people other than their primary partners while the lowly prairie vole gets a chemical high that keeps it coming back to its mate and no other?
The explanation here again is purely physical in both cases, and has nothing to do with a “sinful nature”.
Other than intravenous drug use and blood transfusions, which are not natural activities, having sex with multiple partners is almost the only way to transmit HIV/AIDS.
- Many Christians favor “abstinence only” education based on the Bible’s insistence on female virginity at marriage and fidelity to her husband.
“Abstinence only” education has been shown repeatedly to have little positive effect, delaying the start of sexual activity little if at all, and leading to decreased use of effective contraception and disease prevention practices and greatly increased instances of oral and anal sex, which further increases the risk of disease transmission, when the uninformed teens eventually do start having sex.
This can be largely blamed on the teens’ ignorance, but that ignorance leads right back to the Biblically supportable Christian advocates of “abstinence only” education, which lays it again squarely at God’s doorstep.
- Many Christians discourage the use of condoms based on their interpretations of the Bible, and this seems to be a reasonable way to interpret it when you look at instances such as Genesis 38:9 where God kills Onan just for using the “pull out” method of contraception which God disapproved of (Gen 38:10).
Despite their apparent Biblical backing, this is one of the most egregious of wrongs done by “abstinence only” proponents and others who believe that God only allows sex for procreation and that the use of birth control and disease prevention devices such as condoms are sinful.
It is undeniable that the majority of people will have sex with more than one person in their lives, with at least one partner very often coming before or during (and outside of) marriage. Not only does discouraging condom use endanger the person who refuses to use it, it endangers everyone they have sex with, even if they are married, as well as their future children.
No matter what your religious beliefs are, no matter what you choose to do in your own life, discouraging other people from using any reasonable means at their disposal to prevent any kind of disease is indefensible.
The Bible’s God is again as much to blame for this as its followers though.
We could probably go on for pages about the way that God (or nature) is responsible for the creation and spread of HIV/AIDS, but let’s just look at one more current example of how religion is affecting AIDS related research. Circumcision as disease prevention.
In an attempt to make the barbaric Biblical practice of circumcision appear to be not only benign but beneficial, for the past few years many Christians have touted the supposed protection from AIDS that circumcision confers. While it may provide some benefits to some people in this respect, it is not reasonable to use these questionable studies to say that “this is why God told us to be circumcised, and He was right” or that circumcision should be promoted throughout the world.
This is particularly dangerous when it is touted as being very effective at preventing HIV transmission because this can easily be misconstrued to mean that circumcision is as effective as condoms at preventing the spread of disease when it is in fact nowhere near as effective. People may have their supposedly useless foreskins removed in an attempt to avoid catching HIV and then end up getting it due to their unfounded confidence in the efficacy of circumcision in disease prevention.
If foreskins are just harmful and useless for us to have, then why did God give them to us? Just so he could demand that we cut them off of our screaming infants, potentially seriously mutilating or endangering them with infections or diseases?
It is true that foreskins are not absolutely necessary parts of our bodies, but then neither are the outer parts of our ears, or our finger nails. In fact our finger nails often harbor dirt and disease, and they are susceptible to fungal infections and other problems. Do we rip them off of infants and prevent them from growing back for their health?
Of course not, because as with many of our body parts, there are benefits and dangers in having them, but it is not reasonable to start mutilating ourselves to prevent problems which are preventable in another way.
Even worse, while male circumcision may have some benefit for heterosexual men in preventing HIV infection, it may not work for newly circumcised men and it has no benefit for women or for homosexual men. Perhaps, as some famous preachers have suggested, AIDS is God’s way of punishing gay men? Having it spread to straight men and women must have just been an unforeseen accident.
Much more effective than circumcision are abstinence and condom use. Since abstinence only education is an abject failure, the consistent use of condoms must be promoted to people around the world from an early age, and condom use must never be stigmatized, demonized or have its efficacy lied about.
This is a largely social issue, but Christian leaders in the west and Christian missionaries around the world have a grave choice to make. They can encourage people to use effective methods of birth control and disease prevention, or they can follow their faith and discourage these methods while ineffectively promoting abstinence, thereby helping to spread God’s gift of AIDS.