Sharing the Virus
I heard today that a friend of a friend (which doesn’t make a friend, apparently, but he’s not my enemy) is dying of AIDS and refusing medical treatment because he considers his condition a judgment of God for his ‘sins’ – the sins in question being engaging in homosexual sex. Well, fair enough… assuming that he isn’t using public funds for his medical expenses, it isn’t any business of mine how he chooses to die.
He’s choosing to punish himself, and what is freedom if not the ability to do what you want with your own life? It isn’t like he’s one of those bitter people who felt the universe owed them some consideration, and got bitter seeing simple bad luck as injustice, and chose to share the virus. No, this is a guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly, I’m told, a gentle unassuming and inoffensive guy, as sweet a Hell-bound sin-infested reprobate as you’d ever wish to meet.
I can’t help but see it as deeply saddening, though, that our mutual friend – a very good-hearted woman in most ways – was in absolute agreement that he deserved to die in agony, and only hoped that the horrors of his demise from this life would mitigate the tortures he was slated for in the next life they both believe he is headed for.
Not avoid them, mind; they’re both convinced that an eternity in Hell is what he will get, and what he deserves for wanting sexual congress with other men (actually having such congress is apparently just icing on the diabolical cake). Never mind that he didn’t choose to have those desires, and fought them (somewhat unsuccessfully, obviously) his whole life – he deserves to die, in torment, and continue in torment after he dies, for the desires he never wanted and fought against. Innate conditions are sufficient justification for Hell.
I’m told by my friend (I don’t know the dying man in question) that God isn’t responsible for those innate desires of his. That’s impossible, apparently; they’re evil desires, and God is infinitely good, and evil cannot come from good. God didn’t create evil, only the preconditions which created evil (viz. free will), so it isn’t His fault, any more than the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory were responsible for the deaths of the women who worked in that firetrap.
God did choose that the kind of unrequested evil desires her friend has (which are apparently Adam’s fault, or maybe Eve’s – Sin in general is inheritable, though not everyone is unlucky enough to inherit sins of inappropriate sexual desire) should be unavoidably punished by eternal torture, though. God chose what was sin and what wasn’t, we’re told.
We’re TOLD. Via priests, and via their chosen scriptures, we’re TOLD this and other things. We’re told all kinds of things by all kinds of people, of course; politicians and lawyers tell us what the laws of human society should be, scientists tell us how the world is and try to figure out why. The differences are stark, though; human laws ultimately govern only through collective human consent, and any scientific theory must bow before the brute facts.
If, like my friend and my friend’s friend, we accept Christianity at face value, there is no such limitation on it. Our human choice is limited to a one binary fork: obey God in every arbitrary particular and you may spend eternity praising Him, or fail to do so and spend eternity being tortured. Best hope you’ve grokked His desires correctly, or else… well, it’s a binary fork.
That’s the rub, of course; if you accept that premise, then you either believe you know what God wants you and everyone else to do, or you don’t (in theory). If you don’t, then you are limited to using your human reason to figure out what is good and what is evil, just like atheists do. In practice, of course, theists always claim to know what God wants, in broad at least, and often in stunning detail. The big theisms nowadays all have written scriptures, and if you interpret them correctly (professional help is seldom hard to come by) they’ll tell you what to do.
In the case of my friend’s friend, of course, his scriptures tell him that the desires of his body are sinful, even though he’s filled with hatred of those aspects of his self. Depending on which priest or preacher within Christianity he heeds, he has little or no hope of avoiding eternal torture; some sects say he might get lucky and die in a state of grace, i.e. immediately after confessing he’s felt an unwelcome desire and before he feels another, while others say he’s simply predestined to Hell and no two ways about it.
The thought that he’s going to suffer eternally hurts my friend’s friend, as you’d imagine, far more than does the actual disease he’s going to die from – in no small part because of the mental virus of his religion, which prevents him from seeking proper medical care.
I’d certainly condemn him if he deliberately spread the HIV virus, and thereby risked the suffering and death of others. He isn’t doing that; he is, however, actively spreading the mind virus of religion which is exacerbating the physical virus and, by his own account, causing him far more suffering in this life (without even offering him much if any hope in the putative next) than that physical virus will. So is his friend, also my friend, from whom I heard his story.
Should I approve? I think not. Down with disease – physical or mental.