Alert reader Sigmund called my attention to a 3-minute video on the BBC News website, “Ashamed to die: stigma of HIV/Aids in America’s south.” (The title comes, as the site notes, from an upcoming book by Andrew Skeritt.) Rather than rewrite Sigmund’s take, I’ll just reproduce it here. Do watch the video.
I thought I’d draw your attention to a small item on the BBC website about a town in the south of the USA that has a big HIV problem (they claim this is common in the south).
It is interesting to me for two reasons.
First, this is a disease that has a treatment strategy that is derived from evolutionary biology (a combination therapy that simultaneously hits several viral specific pathways, rendering it improbable that the virus can mutate into a resistant form). In treatment terms it is enormously successful and is a model that cancer biologists are aiming to replicate.
The second is the religious aspect of the piece. The piece focuses on a female pastor who seems to have dropped her religious teachings about sexual behavior in favor of practical measures such as handing out condoms and encouraging people to get tested and treated —in other words,it is a good example of religion being pushed into a moral change, not by any theistic insight, but through applying basic secular morality to the situation.
As I said in my debate with John Haught, there’s neither a method nor an inherent trend in theology to reassess and alter its moral stands in view of changing conditions. Religious morality appears to change under only two conditions: either secular morality moves ahead of religious morality, causing it to change (e.g., treatment of women and gays or, in this case, condom use and birth control), or scientific advances show that the scriptural basis of religious morality is simply wrong (e.g., there’s no Adam and Eve and hence no Original Sin).
If a religion’s moral dictates remain fixed in stone for centuries, even under the press of secular advances, then that religion loses adherents. This, of course, is what is happening to Catholicism in so many places.