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Is there a spiritual cure for HIV?

William Crawley | 12:01 UK time, Friday, 25 November 2011

Sky News is reporting that "at least six people have died in Britain after being told they had been healed of HIV and could stop taking their medication", and they have evidence of evangelical churches in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow also claiming that people with HIV can be cured by spritual intervention.


These are extremely serious revelations which raise questions about the ethics of "healing" ministries in churches across the country. Not that every church or every healing ministry should be tarred with the same brush: responsible pastors would never advise anyone with HIV to stop taking their prescribed medicine, and those pastors would be the first to challenge those churches that have endangered people's lives with that advice.

Last month, the BBC reported on similar cases of HIV-positive people stop their medication on medication on the advice of pastors.

Click here for information on World Aids Day 2011.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    "Not that every church or every healing ministry should be tarred with the same brush..."

    Phew! Thanks for that qualification Will.

  • Comment number 2.

    I reckon Murdoch's empire is tainted and everything emanating from it should be taken with a pinch of salt. They don't like religion (ref. the Times semi-official atheism). I know Rupert Murdoch received a Papal knighthood, but for one thing i don't believe he personally retains any day-to-day control. I'm not saying there is NO story here, only that you have to look at the hidden agenda.

  • Comment number 3.

    There's a story here alright. Let's keep the focus on HIV and healing please. We can debate Murdoch on another occasion.

  • Comment number 4.

    Not that every church or every healing ministry should be tarred with the same brush...


    I'm afraid that won't stop the usual suspects from doing that very thing. We even have our very own professional practitioner of "universal tarring" from "Guilt by Association Inc.*", who has a research programme (via Google) sniffing out any crime committed by a churchgoer, thereby "proving" that Christianity is a great evil (alongside his research career, he also has a sideline in clairvoyance, and he employs his unusual gift to recommend something called "pre-crime capital punishment". What a lovely fellow, dontcha think?!).

    For the rest of us who believe in something called "rational and moral consistency", all I can say is: thank you Will, for that important qualification in your post (not that it will make the slightest scrap of difference to the embittered members of the "chip on the shoulder brigade").

    (* only applies to Christians, of course!)
  • Comment number 5.

    It will be an interesting debate around this - I wonder if those who support ex-gay conversion therapy will also support these peoples right to offer treatment to those who want it. That is after all the rational behind those peoples belief that they have a right to operate.

    My view is that the people who peddle such 'cures' should be prosecuted if possible for the impact they have up to and including manslaughter. I am sure fraud and 'passing off' charges could also be brought.

    This case was reported by the BBC in October

    BBC Report

  • Comment number 6.

    What stood out for me in the report was the testimony of Emmanuel ("god is with us"). Emmanuel stopped taking his medication and was under the misapprehension that he was cured of HIV. Believing that he was cured he started to have unprotected sex. If others infected with HIV act like Emmanuel many others are likely to become infected with HIV. I suggest that six deaths is the tip of the iceberg and agree with Dave that prosecutions should be brought against those involved in practices similar to those detailed in the Sky report. I am unsure, however, of the position in law of Emmanuel if his partner brought charges against him for infecting her with HIV. I do not think his defence that he believed himself to be cured would convince a judge.

    The BBC reported on something similar last month. An Evangelical Christian pastor is in the frame.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-15339825

  • Comment number 7.

    "Medical professionals have told Sky of at least six patients who died after being told by various churches to stop taking their HIV tablets" while Pastor's like TB Joshua's Church (reported by the BBC last month) make fraudulent AIDS cure claims become Millionaires. There's money in exploiting peoples fear & desperation to be cured. The last place people should go to get help & a sane outlook in situations like this is a Church it seems- I'd say that goes for most Conservative Churches

  • Comment number 8.

    There is also an important point that many of these pastors seem to originate from the African sub-continent. While other christians seek to wash their hands of this and distance themselves from this (and other abuses perpetrated by these christians) one has to ask who is responsible in the past and today for teaching them christianity in the first place.

  • Comment number 9.

    Call me doubting Thomas (or gerry) if you like, but i will not believe in the healing caper until i learn of a man or woman, boy or girl, amputee healed from ever having to wear their prosthetic limb again,

    If a healing ministry cannot heal HIV/Aids or heal amputees, what is it when it can't heal?

  • Comment number 10.

    for those who think that God can do all things let me poise this question, can he/she/it
    (god) steer a parked car?

  • Comment number 11.

    These so called healing ministries are far from it .....harming ministries more like. Totally irresponsible with very little understanding of life, the human condition, illness and disease, healing and God - should come with a gov health warning and yes they should be held to account. At the same time people need to be responsible for their health and choices and not give their power away to such organisations in the hope of the 'quick fix' or 'cure'. Interesting how the forces of evil come in my
    guises.....many in the name of God and religion.....but of course that is the point.

  • Comment number 12.

    This certainly hits all the right buttons for a bit of frenzied hand-wringing among trendy left-wingers. I don't suppose the BBC might like to investigate the illegal killing of unborn children in sub-Saharan Africa by organisations like Marie Stopes and the IPPF? I won't be holding my breath.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hadesphane, after making a statement like that, one would hope you set aside part of your income to help with food relief, clean water programmes & vaccinations in sub-saharan Africa- or is your 'frenzied hand wringing' about the welfare of African babies empty sophistry

  • Comment number 14.

    Ryan, #13

    I'm not sure if i've got this right. Are you saying it's OK to go to places where people are hungry, don't have clean water, and don't have basic medical provision, and illegally kill their unborn children?

  • Comment number 15.

    This is quite an insightful article-

    In their AIDS response, churches have clearly been constrained by judgment and dogma. Kay Warren of the Saddleback Church rightfully pointed out, "The Church is more known for what it is against than what it is for." A friend of mine, Dazon Dixon Diallo of SisterLove in Atlanta, once said she wants to make a bumper sticker that reads, "Jesus Please Come Back and Save Us from Your Followers!" The words of Martin Luther King Jr. are also very apt: "Yes, I see the Church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists."

    At the 2008 Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance in Mexico City, one religious leader spoke of the condemnation and judgment she has faced since declaring her HIV status.

    There are many examples of the influence of conservative Christian ideology and personalities on policy development. When [President Bush's] PEPFAR was being designed, there were multiple forces influencing its policies, such as the Institute for Youth Development and the Children's AIDS Fund, which had an ideology rooted in conservative Christianity. This challenge to the separation of church and state should have been revealed early on and dealt with head on. Instead, it led to policies that didn't follow the scientific literature or the actual experience of gender inequality and other dynamics. Ideological polices masqueraded as evidence to the exclusion of the proven effectiveness of condoms.

    The gender inequality in many churches also permeates the societies where they are influential. This has played out in messages stating that being faithful is protection against HIV, when for many married women this is a death sentence. Both partners have to be HIV negative and monogamous for this to be effective. Yet people are offered simple messages without caveats. Church-based instruction on submission to one's husband has led women to stay in relationships with unfaithful husbands and to suffer violence at their hands. Often, churches do not offer guidance on the protection of women, focusing instead on the "sanctity of marriage" and "'til death do us part," regardless of the risk to the often powerless woman.

    A group that was in charge of $330 million of AIDS funding was constrained in the prevention resources it could provide. The restrictions came from the ideologically driven PEPFAR guidelines, which mandate how much funding can be used for treatment and what emphasis must be placed on ideology. In addition, the organizational policies of Catholic Relief Services don't allow condom distribution or a full range of reproductive health services.

    Many in the church refer to the AIDS pandemic as an "opportunity for evangelism." Ken Isaacs of Samaritan's Purse stated "AIDS has created an evangelism opportunity for the body of Christ unlike any in history." Community Health Evangelism offers a presentation entitled "HIV/AIDS in Asia: A Window of Opportunity for Community Health Evangelism." This is troubling on at least two levels. First, there's the notion that people could be celebrating such a dread disease -- as if it was sent so that they could save more souls. Second, the idea of "bread in one hand and the Bible in the other" could lead to the coercion of people who are in a vulnerable position.
    This 'opportunity for evangelism' in the UK has led to people coming off their meds, believing they were cured, passing HIV onto loved ones & dying. All the while, Pastors who preach this become millionaires off other peoples pain & desperation
  • Comment number 16.

    Theophane,

    When you say "illegally killing unborn children" do you have actual evidence of illegal practices and have you brought such evidence to the authorities or are you simply moaning about something which you just wish was illegal?

  • Comment number 17.

    No Hadesphane, I'm curious to know what you personally do to alleviate the suffering of African babies- Do you personally set aside money for basic medical provision to help prevent the inhumane conditions they're born into?

    - A child in Africa dies of hunger every 5 seconds.

    - A child in Africa dies of measles every 60 seconds.

    - A child in Africa dies of malaria every 45 seconds.

    - A child in Africa dies every 3 seconds.

    Hadesphane, who exactly are you saving from death, some may say you are postponing death, so that children born into these inhumane conditions can suffer pain, hunger & disease beforehand- perhaps a higher number of births puts all those born under these conditions even less chance of survival.

    Hadesphane, perhaps (as I've said before) you could turn your attention to Catholic Latin America, where the abortion rate is astronomically high. Holland has the lowest rates of abortion in the world...go figure

  • Comment number 18.

    Mind you Ryan I am not sure what third world abortion rates and practices have to do with christians curing HIV by exorcism and prayer in the UK. Exorcism and healing are not unique to a small fringe of the christian faith and so although these examples are extreme any action taken would have repercussions where other such less extreme practises result in real harm (physical and/or psychological).

    It would be interesting to know how many exorcisms (and for what reasons) does Theo's church carry out ??

  • Comment number 19.

    The Pope's concerns about Africa seem to be somewhat different from Theophane's.

    https://ncronline.org/blogs/all-things-catholic/hard-questions-about-pope-benedict-africa

    It would appear that dear ol' Theo is himself a "frenzied, hand-wringing, trendy left-winger."

  • Comment number 20.

    "Priest charged with murder over 'exorcism'"

    It's not an HIV/faith healing case, but it illustrates the potential harm that faith healers can cause. First, let me be clear: this priest has NOT been convicted of a crime.

    The allegation is that the priest along with four congregants murdered a seven-year-old epileptic girl whilst attempting to drive demons out of her. Post-mortem results showed that the girl had suffered internal and external injuries. There is also an allegation of attempted murder, but that need not concern us.

    https://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2011/11/18/priest-charged-with-murder-after-exorcism

    It must not be forgotten that the Vatican has a Chief Exorcist, Father Amorth. Speaking at a conference on Thursday he said:

    'Practising yoga brings evil as does reading Harry Potter. They may both seem innocuous but they both deal with magic and that leads to evil.'

    Read more: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2066289/Yoga-work-devil-says-Vaticans-chief-exorcist-doesnt-like-Harry-Potter-either.html

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    5 Dave

    There was some good discussion on Sunday Sequence today about whether those who peddle such "cures" can be sued. It seems that they cannot, as they do not have a duty of care towards the person that they deceive. In some circumstances where an advisor is negligent in providing advice, and the advisee suffers economic loss as a consequence of that advice, there may be grounds for bringing a claim for damages. As things currently stand, however, these bogus healers can say whatever they like to vulnerable HIV sufferers without fear of prosecution. I can't see the government legislating for a change in the law any time soon!

    The cost of treating someone infected with HIV must also be considered. The annual cost of treating the 100,000 or so HIV sufferers in the UK is currently somewhere in the order of £750,000,000. If a person becomes infected with the virus the cost of their treatment to taxpayers over their lifetime will be between £280,000 - £320,000. Could not the government bring actions against these bogus healers for economic loss in some cases?

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017j7w3 (around 40th minute)

  • Comment number 23.

    This is an instructive link detailing steps which can be taken educationally to deal with HIV here at home, so that everyone in our multicultural society- whatever their beliefs or upbringing- is empowered to the same degree, and given the opportunity to make informed, intelligent choices- Sex Education that works

    Churches often fail in their duty to educate effectively & accurately when it comes to sex. Their reaction to sex is rooted in control. When that control prooves ineffective their approach frequently slips into immaturity, fear & ignorance, rather than resembling anything constructive, beneficial or supportive.

    When it comes to HIV/AIDs, there is a role for complementary therapies, but these have to be combined with a traditional medical approach- which often means antiretroviral drugs. People certainly shouldn't be giving money in desperation to clergy. Diet can often have profound beneficial effects on CD4 count

    Perhaps people regardless of sexuality, social class, location or belief should treat everyone they're intimate with as HIV+ and take precautionary measures when they engage in sex- the safest being a condom. Not that we should all become quasi Howard Hughes'esque, but we are animals. We carry disease just like every other animal- Internal parasites, lice, fungi- (like athletes foot), skin mites.. the list goes on

  • Comment number 24.

    Here's a general link- HIV & AIDS Prevention

  • Comment number 25.

    NB when I say-
    "Perhaps people regardless of sexuality, social class, location or belief should treat everyone they're intimate with as HIV+ and take precautionary measures when they engage in sex- the safest being a condom"

    In many cases, marriage isn't (& hasn't ever been) the best indicator of faithfulness & trust, but generally people in relationships where trust & openness are valued will have accurate knowledge of their partner's health & very often take STD/HIV tests before engaging in anything other than protective sex. It also has to be taken into account- given the nature of the society we live in- that adults may be entering relationships- (regardless of religious belief or social position) with repressed memories of sexual abuse or even rape & as a consequence might not be cognisant of any health issues

  • Comment number 26.

    I can't help wondering if this story, appearing - as it has - just before another 'World AIDS Day', is intended to deflect attention away from any pertinent discussion of the moral dimension of the spread of HIV and AIDS?

    I know a lot of people don't want to go there, but I submit that it is long past time that the issue was honestly confronted.

    Even the statisics confirm that the best protection against HIV and AIDS is faithfulness within heterosexual marriage.

    Seems the Bible has had it right for centuries!

  • Comment number 27.

    26. pastorphilip:

    The best protection against AIDS is abstinence from all interactive sexual activity.

    What's the fun in that?

  • Comment number 28.

    On a broader point to the question "Is there a spiritual cure... for whatever...?"

    It depends on what you mean by 'spiritual' and it also depends on what you mean by 'cure'.

    I've corresponded with people who claim to have been cured by prayer or by faith healers who, on closer interrogation, turn out also to have undertaken extensive medical treatment. So was it the prayer or the medical treatment - or both - that cured them?

    One way of finding an answer to this question might be to ask: is there a statistically significant correlation between the recovery from serious illness of people of faith versus people of no faith? If so, then that might indicate that prayer, etc or 'faith' in a more general sense, might serve some functional purpose.

    I've also heard people explain the death of a person as a 'cure' - God's 'cure'. The inference being that it was in the best interest of the individual in question to die. I've used the same rationale myself. When my dad died, I found myself thinking that this was all for the 'greater good'; whatever that means. I suppose it's a human way of rationalising bad things. Some of us use notions like 'God's will'; some of us use notions like 'for the best', etc.

    It doesn't move us any closer to working out whether belief in something or other can cure you from a serious illness like AIDS (as opposed to 'man-flu', which, as we all now, can be instantly cured by a hot water bottle and a hotter whiskey!).

  • Comment number 29.

    pastorphilip,

    Why should a faithful heterosexual marriage be any more protection than a faithful homosexual relationship ?

    I fail to see the relevance of sexuality in your submission except that it exposes the irrational prejudice of segments of your faith.

    I find it particularly sick and unchristian to use a disease and peoples suffering to further your moral crusade against things you do not like.

    If you really cared about this issue you would be encouraging homosexuals to form faithful relationships and encouraging lifelong marriage as a vehicle to support that. I guess you don't really care about the issue - you only seem to care about preaching your morals rather than about people.

  • Comment number 30.

    26 -"Even the statistics confirm that the best protection against HIV and AIDS is faithfulness within [a relationship where mutual trust, honesty & understanding are paramount]"

    Many relationships & marriages fall short of that- religion doesn't offer a panacea- but love & respect nurtured in a relationship are the best remedy to many ills in life. Even if such a coupling doesn't meet the criteria of a self-important religious class- faithful relationships should be valued.

    There also has to be honest acceptance people have consensual sex when they're not in relationships (& always have done) When equipped with the best information available, self-confidence & self-respect people invariably take safety measures to protect their own health & well-being.

    Pastor, I can't help but wonder what part you & your ilk play in damaging the self-confidence and psyche of sectors of the population when you petition sexual aparteid by stating faithfulness equates to 'heterosexual' marriage. Many marriages are conducted outside of religious establishments through civil ceremony & also encompass same-sex couples in some parts of the developed world. Marriage isn't religious property. The religious do not own it

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    An article published soon after South African Catholic Bishop Dowling made public his comments regarding condoms- Reform Catholics praised Bishop Kevin Dowling, current Bishop of Rustenburg, South Africa, for continuing to speak out in favour for an end to the Catholic hierarchy's ban on the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

    "Worryingly, many people think there is a 'cure' for AIDS - which makes them feel safer, and perhaps take risks that they otherwise wouldn't. However, there is still no cure for AIDS. The only way to stay safe is to be aware of how HIV is transmitted and how to prevent HIV infection"

    "Of the 5 million new infections in 2003, an estimated 600,000 to 700,000 were children, over 90% of who were infected through mother-to-child transmission"

  • Comment number 33.

    If we can abolish slavery, we can end abortion, and set aside a day each year when we remember all the victims of this cruel and barbaric practice.

  • Comment number 34.

    Theophane,

    And the relevance to the thread is ..... ?

  • Comment number 35.

    I have a theory that various indirect-to-completely-non-related personal issues get funnelled through the abortion debate. But here we have abortion getting funnelled through the HIV/AIDS topic. Or is it a funnel through a funnel?

    (Anyway, I hope it's wearing a condom.)

  • Comment number 36.

    Hello people,

    I've been away from the blog here for an excellent holiday in Thailand.

    On the subject of the pastor telling patients to not take their medicine, he has absolutely nothing to offer in terms of useful insight into how the world works. In the same way that other types of quacks and frauds like homeopaths, herbalists, etc have nothing useful to offer. They all distract attention from the thing that could in many cases be of help: proper medical science. And this focusing of attention on quacks and frauds has its price. The whatstheharm website currently has 368379 entries about people who died or suffered due to various forms of nonsense people believed in, including christain faith flavoured victims.

    https://whatstheharm.net/

  • Comment number 37.

    @34 & 35:
    Perhaps he just commented in the wrong thread. I've done that, too.

  • Comment number 38.

    Dave, post 18,

    You'll be disappointed to know that after the practice of exorcism had gone mostly extinct for centuries and become mostly a subject for movies, it is now getting serious attention from the Vatican again:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JFRqkHbuOo

    You wonder if they'll try to bring back witch burnings again as well.

  • Comment number 39.

    @38. PeterKlaver :
    Exorcism, as far as I know, has been used all along in the Church. It just isn't something they usually draw much attention to. I think each diocese has an exorcist-or at least the couple of dioceses I'm familiar with do.
    I don't have my facts & dates at hand, but I recall the witch trials/executions in the UK involved Protestants.And in the States it was Protestants hanging or in other forms, executing other unfortunate Protestants.
    Sadly,in researching I found a distant relation presiding over one witch execution in Scotland & a direct ancestor involved in the witch hunting here in America.
    Here's an article about what went on in colonial Connecticut which isn't as widely known as the Salem witch trials:
    CONNECTICUT WITCH TRIALS AND POSTHUMOUS PARDONS



    By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney



    https://www.cga.ct.gov/2006/rpt/2006-R-0718.htm

  • Comment number 40.

    mscracker

    The Church of England has an official exorcist in every diocese (over 40).

    peterklaver

    I wish I had some of the Thai sunshine!

    That is a good website you linked to - https://whatstheharm.net/

    The claim made by the Vatican's Chief Exorcist made be chortle: the difference between madness and possession by the devil can be seen in the person's eyes!

    Last month we were discussing Father Laurence Soper, a monk on the run from the police (wanted over child abuse allegations). The Daily Mail has discovered that he was living in Montenegro (where the European Arrest Warrant is not valid) and returned to the Vatican to empty his bank account.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2066730/Child-abuse-case-monk-secret-trip-Vatican-run.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

  • Comment number 41.

    @40 newlach:
    Thank you for the info re the Church of England. I didn't know that.

  • Comment number 42.

    Wotcha Dave.

    "And the relevance to the thread is..."

    Pastorphilip pointed to it at #26;

    "I can't help wondering if this story, appearing - as it has - just before another 'World AIDS Day', is intended to deflect attention away from any pertinent discussion of the moral dimension of the spread of HIV and AIDS?"

    So i said...

    "If we can abolish slavery, we can end abortion, and set aside a day each year when we remember all the victims of this cruel and barbaric practice."

    Mark my words.

  • Comment number 43.

    Theophane,

    Bit tenuous - even for you.

  • Comment number 44.

    Abortion isn't a big deal for the likes of you and i, but it means the world to unborn children.

  • Comment number 45.

    ...but OK Dave, let's move this discussion elsewhere, and to another day...

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    mscracker, newlach,

    Thanks for the info on protestant exorcists, I didn't know that.

    mscracker, thanks also for the link.

    On the practice of exorcisms, afaik there are more exorcists priests again now then there were for a long time before. But I don't know to how low their numbers had dropped before.

  • Comment number 48.

    Strangely enough the last conviction for witchcraft in the UK was Helen Duncan, in 1944. Before I discovered this I had always assumed that you would have to go back to the seventeenth century to find something like that. Bizarre indeed.

  • Comment number 49.

    @42.Theophane :
    I'm there with you 100% on right-to-life issues.
    But I think with AIDS & other STD's we have to be careful to remember that we can all be vulnerable. And if not us, then possibly our children.There are all sorts of diseases, viruses out there.You can be in a faithful marriage but any previous relationships may have caused infections as in HPV-often unknown, undetected,& not necessarily spread through sexual intercourse.
    We sadly have kids involved in all sorts of risky behaviors, & at younger & younger ages.Some STD's are also becoming drug-resistant.
    So, I think we can all be more aware & more compassionate.Also teach kids the truth re STD's.I think both the politically correct & piously correct versions of this info can put children at risk.

  • Comment number 50.

    mscracker

    It is not just the young ones who are involved in risky behaviour.

    "In the first six months of this year 70 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Wales, 26 of whom were among people aged 40 plus and six of those 55 plus."

    Read More https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/11/26/hiv-risk-being-ignored-by-wales-50-plus-age-group-says-terrence-higgins-trust-91466-29848280/

    Drug-resistant gonorrhoea is now a problem and gonorrhoea is quite widespread (spelling looks odd).

    "As many as 700,000 people in the United States are believed to get the disease each year."

    https://news.discovery.com/human/gonorrhea-resistant-drugs-110711.html

  • Comment number 51.

    50.At 15:08 29th Nov 2011, newlach wrote:
    mscracker

    It is not just the young ones who are involved in risky behaviour. "
    ***
    Thank you. You are quite right. I guess as a parent I tend to worry first about children, but I've read that HIV is spreading more quickly in the States among the "senior citizen" crowd possibly aided by the availability of Viagara & other drugs.
    Syphilis is also resurfacing.

  • Comment number 52.

    "Not that every church or every healing ministry should be tarred with the same brush..."

    Well then, lets hear every church condemn healing ministries for the superstitious hocus pocus they are.

  • Comment number 53.

    rjb, I just read the article on the pope in Africa. It gives me the impression that Ratzinger is completely in denial. He is quoted as saying

    "Christians must never remain silent in the face of corruption and the abuse of power."

    If only those word applied to abuse victims in Ireland too!

    About the wishes of people he says

    "they demand transparent governance"

    So the pope is now an advocate of transparent governance?!

    Despite Ratzinger saying protestant churches aren't real churches and insulting Islam, Ratzinger said

    "Everyone of good sense understands that a serene and respectful dialogue about cultural and religious differences must be promoted,"

    Does he ever listen to his own words?

    And finally the author of that piece says that Ratzinger holds that

    "Attempts by the church to dictate concrete political solutions end in disaster"

    Yeah right, the Vatican never wants to influence the political process, now does it?

  • Comment number 54.

    paul james post 52, that's not a bad point. But then they are probably too busy obsessing about small lumps of cells to have any time left to worry about real peoples lives being lost.

  • Comment number 55.

    PeterKlaver, #53;

    The article on the Pope in Africa will...

    "...give [you] the impression that Ratzinger is completely in denial",

    ...if you swallow the time-honoured western media distortions of all the things you mention - and omit to mention, as you do, that the Pope explicitly called for AIDS to be treated with conventional, recognised medical treatments. Then at the end you're not above a bit of distortion of your own;

    "Attempts by the church to dictate concrete political solutions end in disaster"

    'Yeah right, the Vatican never wants to influence the political process, now does it?'

    "influencing the political process" is the same as "dictating concrete political solutions" only insofar as both phrases contain the word 'political'.

  • Comment number 56.

    PeterKlaver, #54;

    William Wilberforce 'obsessed' about slavery, Martin Luther King 'obsessed' about civil rights. It would hardly be surprising to learn that people researching treatments for AIDS 'obsess' about that too.

  • Comment number 57.

    Theopane, post 55,

    Bringing up AIDS seems less relevant to my post that you responded to? How does that undo any of the points that Ratzinger says christians must not remain silent when faced with abuse of power, while his posse does everything to slence abuse victims? How does that remove the discrepancy between his call for respectful dialogue between religions when he openly expresses his lack of respect for protestants?

    post 56,

    You didn't get the point in post 54 that that was about christians being too obsessed with turning every subject into an anti-abortion rant (as you yourself sometimes do on the blog here), to have any attention left for other things, like speaking out against real people losing their lives, as paul james suggests?

  • Comment number 58.

    paul james, @52,

    I think you do the rest of the christian faith a disservice. They have horrendously preoccupied trying to reverse and correct the fundamentalisation of Africa (which give rise to beliefs such as those which started this thread) and condemning the various laws which increase penalties (even to the death penalty) for people being themselves. They are busy attacking this at the root cause and must have just missed this wee problem due to overwork.

    Oh......... actually they aren't doing that either

    I stand corrected - good point well made Paul.

  • Comment number 59.

    PeterKlaver,

    I agree with your point on the obsessions. It's interesting given Ryan's figure of a child in Africa dying every three seconds and the church is obsessing over contraception and abortion in which their actions maximise the birthrate and so the death rate. Seems like another paradox - to alleviate suffering it is necessary to sin, to refrain from sin maximises suffering. Of course to sin also leans suffering later in hell so there really is no escaping suffering in this religion, it and guilt seem to be it's main tenets.

    Slightly back on topic though the issue of the churches not standing up to these ministries is, in my opinion, an unwillingness to shine a light at the thin edge of the wedge lest all the other unregulated and cookie practices (exorcism, conversion therapy, faith healing DVD's, christian 'counselling' etc etc) come under scrutiny and are found to be just as baseless and in some cases dangerous. It is too much like looking in the mirror for them.

  • Comment number 60.

    @55.Theophane:
    I agree.I think pretty much what you see through the media regarding the Church is a distortion.And much of what you see in threads like these is negative,too. Something about the anonymity of the internet brings out folk's darker side, which is also a distortion. I believe most folks in their everyday lives are decent,civil, & quite different from their online cyber-personas.

  • Comment number 61.

    paul james (@ 52) -

    "Not that every church or every healing ministry should be tarred with the same brush..."

    Well then, lets hear every church condemn healing ministries for the superstitious hocus pocus they are.


    Well done for conflating two completely different issues. It doesn't surprise me that your comment has garnered the praise of ... ahem ... fellow atheists (well I never!).
    Not every church or healing ministry should be accused of encouraging people to refuse medical treatment. That is the point that William was making.

    But such rationality seems not to satisfy dear Mr James. Oh no. We cannot have Christians being "let off the hook" so easily. Such fair-mindedness does not sit easily with the prejudiced agenda of the "new atheists", who have an addiction to knocking what they call "religion" at every conceivable opportunity (I wonder why? Hmmm. I think I know the real reason).

    So here is your solution: if "every church" fails to "condemn healing ministries for the superstitious hocus pocus they are", then it must follow that all churches can be "tarred with the brush" of the abuse of healing ministries.

    Now that's logic for you!!! (Alice in Wonderland logic).

    The point is that William's post is not a criticism of "healing ministries" per se, but the abuse of such ministries. That is a point you seem to have overlooked. You seem to think that every church has to condemn something outright in order not to be associated with the abuse of that thing. It's as ridiculous as saying that anyone who does not condemn the idea of "money" ought to be found guilty of dealing in counterfeit money. The answer to abuse is not non-use but right use.

    The reason why most churches will not subscribe to the perverse atheist demand to condemn anything supernatural is because Christianity believes in the supernatural, and regards atheism for what it is: a load of utter nonsense. But believing in the supernatural does not mean denying the natural, hence most churches embrace natural healing and medicine, while also believing in God's ability to heal.
  • Comment number 62.

    mscracker,

    I am not quite sure who's 'darker side' you are referring to but if you think for one minute that I would not, and do not, express the same views (in the same way) in person as I do here then you are mistaken. As for anonymity I and some other posters (on both sides of the arguments) do not go out of their way to hide their identity - at least on this blog. It has to be remembered that the anonymity is there as much to protect the poster from loons as it is to provide unattributable cover at least in public although we are not truly anonymous which we would find out if we broke the law.

    That said I also disagree that the media or this blog are distorting anything unless you have some evidence that these 'negative' things which you refer to are in fact not actually true. I think blogs and the media provide a balance to the sugar sweetness that most religions try to portray themselves and their god as when those of us at the receiving end of their intolerance, prejudice and bigotry are portrayed as distorting and negative.

    Religions cannot insert themselves into peoples lives and not expect to be taken to task. It is no different to the unsolicited phone calls I get (selling unwanted insurance instead of unwanted fiction) - they get a real ear bashing that the mods here would never let see the light of day.

  • Comment number 63.

    LSV,

    You might have had a point if the greater church did not spend so much time condemning everyone else it does not agree with (such as atheism being utter nonsense or homosexuality for instance) but seems to have lost it's voice when things are done in the name of christianity. This is especially true when the church is responsible for proselytising and creating these extreme healing ministry monsters in the first place.

    Christians as a whole must take some responsibility for the effects of their missionary work and condemning practices which are damaging which have resulted from it might be a good place to start. Lighting the blue touchpaper and washing your hands of the impact is not a very responsible position.

  • Comment number 64.

    @62. Dave,
    I agree that anonymity is a good thing in that it protects those who post here.There are disturbed folk out in cyberspace.
    Being American, I'm not as familiar with UK laws, but it appears you have anti-sectarian/anti-racist laws which are enforced. Do they only apply if defaming certain faiths,peoples & ethnic groups?
    I believe in free speech & UK laws concerning racial/sectarian slurs probably wouldn't work here.We have trouble even enforcing obscenity use laws these days-just listen to some of our music lyrics.Pretty vile & degrading to women.
    So I'm always surprised to see those sort of comments here, but my guess is that folks use anonymity to vent & express negativity that wouldn't be appropriate elsewhere.
    Some venting of anger/frustration's healthy, but some of what I read here & in other blogs is very dark.

  • Comment number 65.

    Dave (@ 63) -

    You might have had a point if the greater church did not spend so much time condemning everyone else it does not agree with (such as atheism being utter nonsense or homosexuality for instance) but seems to have lost it's voice when things are done in the name of christianity.


    Ah, so Christians are not allowed to call atheism "utter nonsense"? Does that mean that atheists are NOT allowed to call theism / religion / Christianity nonsense? (I thought I would highlight this question, since the idea of "not having double standards" is a moral concept that many atheists seem notoriously unable to comprehend, for some reason!).

    Please clarify this point, as I would not want to think that you are being a hypocrite.

    (And since when has "disagreeing with a philosophy" been tantamount to "condemning those who hold to that philosophy"? You can try cunningly conflating ideas if you like, but you need to understand that there are those who will expose this sleight of hand. So don't expect to get away with it.)
  • Comment number 66.

    LSV@61

    Christianity believes in the supernatural, and regards atheism for what it is: a load of utter nonsense

    Has someone stolen your username old chap? even for you that's priceless!
  • Comment number 67.

    LSV;

    Judging by #66, it looks like there might still be a little bit of resistance left in these feisty atheists!

  • Comment number 68.

    Lsv, I beg to differ. There are religious elements here so immersed in 'double standards' they rarely come up for air. I'm sure you're equally aware of the religious hype & postering by some, often concealing the distinctly sobering fact that when it comes to issues such as child execution, abortion & human rights, the religious reality has torn right through the religious propoganda. Religion & its adherents seem regularly trapped in an Iron-age pre-modern mentality & there are too few good religious voices out there like yours, Rjb, mscracker & Peterm2. The only hope is to create some middle ground with a reasonable, humanistic approach by atheists & agnostics & a reasonable, gracious, sensible approach by theists in an attempt to create some semblance of harmony. The impression given is theists feel the secular world to be the enemy, the source of all woe & treat its proponents with no less chagrin- when really, it's the best buffer we have to Christian & Islamic fundamentalism in our multicultural society. The difficulty with religion is there's a real sense from the outside of no compromise, no pragmatism, nada. You & mscracker do a good job challenging that, but adversity is often met by the pious with a sweeping 'God is punishing us' for the 'sins' of the irreligious, rather than advance with a more nuanced, practical & knowledge-based approach. An approach that empowers when it comes to tackling HIV

    mscracker64- "just listen to some of our music lyrics"- There are whole genres of modern music that don't engage in that side of things

  • Comment number 69.

    logica_sine_vanitate,

    did I say "not allowed" - no - so don't put words in my mouth. Seems pretty common for some religious people to twist what is being said for their own devices. I thought you were better than that. Now when you realise that making up what you wanted me to say so you could use your double standard claim didn't work maybe you could actually comment on what I said or was it too close to the truth (which is why you tried your disingenuous deflection).

  • Comment number 70.

    Since exorcism was mentioned earlier in this thread and LSV expresses his belief in the supernatural while calling atheism nonsense, let me post today's Jesus and Mo cartoon. It neatly ties together the nonsense of exorcism and inconsistency of believers. :D

    https://www.jesusandmo.net/2011/11/30/snap2/

  • Comment number 71.

    Lingering stigma helps Aids epidemic ravage US South

    In the American South, HIV/Aids remains a silent epidemic.

    The American South has been quietly ravaged by HIV/Aids, even as the rest of the US has made great advances in treatment and prevention. As Michael Maher reports, the conservative region's reluctance to speak publicly about the epidemic has hampered its ability to fight it

    In no other part of the US are the death rates from the disease as high. Poverty, religion, culture and neglect have all played their role in keeping it this way.

    Andrew Skerritt, author of Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial, and the Aids Epidemic in the South says the innate conservatism of the region known as the Bible Belt, combined with poverty and lack of education among African-Americans, have hampered efforts to rein in the epidemic.

    "A conspiracy of hypocrisy, shame, false morality, cowardice and political opportunism conspired to keep Aids, 'God's curse on homosexuals', off the public policy list of priorities."
  • Comment number 72.

    @68. _Ryan_: mscracker64- "just listen to some of our music lyrics"- There are whole genres of modern music that don't engage in that side of things"
    ***
    True,& I'm thankful for that.
    Unfortunately, those better music choices are generally not the ones cranked up to full volume in the vehicle next to you at the stoplight. At least in the States.
    :)

  • Comment number 73.

    May the Good Lord give comfort and healing to all those affected by HIV and AIDS.

  • Comment number 74.

    71 Ryan

    Another important thing about the Southern States is that:

    "Medicaid eligibility set by southern states is the most restrictive in the nation, leaving many people with HIV unable to afford health care. In Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia, 40-65 percent of people diagnosed with HIV are not in regular treatment, compared with the national average of 30 percent."

    https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/11/26/us-southern-policies-fuel-hiv-epidemic

  • Comment number 75.

    paul james (@ 66) -

    LSV@61

    Christianity believes in the supernatural, and regards atheism for what it is: a load of utter nonsense


    Has someone stolen your username old chap? even for you that's priceless!


    Yeah, definitely someone else must be masquerading as LSV, because the real LSV would never dare say anything against precious atheism now, would he? I mean, all those thousands of words that LSV has kindly put into the public domain over the last few years speak sooo sooooo highly of atheism, don't they?

    As for "the supernatural"... how very naughty of me to suggest that Christianity affirms that God is not a blob of matter floating around somewhere. How very disappointing for the empiricists - they can't haul God into the laboratory and subject him to their "robust" (ha ha!) tests. How positively uncooperative of God, wouldn't you say, old chap? Perhaps that's why the sulkers have banished him to non-existence: "If you don't play the game by my rules I'm going to pretend you don't exist. So there! Boo hoo."
  • Comment number 76.

    Peter Klaver (@ 70) -

    Since exorcism was mentioned earlier in this thread and LSV expresses his belief in the supernatural while calling atheism nonsense, let me post today's Jesus and Mo cartoon. It neatly ties together the nonsense of exorcism and inconsistency of believers.


    The phrase "scraping the bottom of the barrel" seems to have popped into my mind.

    Can't think why.
  • Comment number 77.

    @74. newlach:
    I live in one of those Southern US states & Medicaid is not that difficult for those in need to qualify for.
    Here's a link :
    https://www.cms.gov/

  • Comment number 78.

    May theophanes lord wise him up to the reality of life and stop increasing the suffering.


    Much better to relieve suffering than just wring your hands.

  • Comment number 79.

    @78. Dave:
    There are many Faith-based AID's clinics.My daughter volunteered in one run by the Missionaries of Charity.
    Theophane & other posters might be volunteers, too. I wouldn't pre-suppose.

  • Comment number 80.

    PK@70
    Peter, while dear old LSV hoists his kilt with his protests of "No true Scotsman" have a look at the Exeter Report where even the cuddly, fluffy, constitutional Church of England details the process of exorcism. It's supernaturalfragalistic!

  • Comment number 81.

    paul james (@ 80) -

    Peter, while dear old LSV hoists his kilt with his protests of "No true Scotsman"...


    ???

    Do please feel free to elaborate. There's a good chap.
  • Comment number 82.

    Theophane (@ 73) -

    May the Good Lord give comfort and healing to all those affected by HIV and AIDS.


    As He is doing. As someone who has been involved with promoting a Christian response to AIDS in the developing world, I can confirm that it is not about heavy moral judgmentalism - quite the opposite, in fact.

    But nothing Christians can say will please the atheists. We are damned if we do, and damned if we don't. The only thing that will ever please these people is if we renounce our faith in God: "Oh you can have your Christianity as long as you get rid of all that silly supernatural stuff. I mean, c'mon. You don't really believe in all that God stuff, do you?"

    To which I reply: "Yep. Get used to it."
  • Comment number 83.

    no.81;

    paul james' latest fallacy is that true Scotsmen don't wear anything under their kilts.

  • Comment number 84.

    logica_sine_vanitate,

    The only thing that will ever please these people is if we renounce our faith in God


    Why do you have to make things up ? Is this why christians feel persecuted because they make up the things which persecute them ?

    mscracker,

    I have no problems with Faith-based AID's clinics as long as they are following the proper medical guidelines and not a faith - based modification of it. I hardly expect to see Theo handing out condoms to help HIV+ men not pass on the virus to their partners (be they male or female). I would also not expect them to be dishing out moral behavioural expectations in return for help (which is what Theo has previously supported on this blog under the guise of aid in Africa).

    If the aim of the clinics is pure altruistic help then I have no issue with them being faith-based or secular and applaud anyone who works with them. I know from my own personal experience that working with people who are HIV+ and ill has it's special problems.
  • Comment number 85.

    Dave (@ 84) -

    logica_sine_vanitate,

    The only thing that will ever please these people is if we renounce our faith in God

    Why do you have to make things up ? Is this why christians feel persecuted because they make up the things which persecute them ?


    Making things up?

    What planet are you living on, Dave?
  • Comment number 86.

    @84. Dave :
    Thanks for your comments.
    Yes, the AIDS clinic my daughter volunteered at followed proper medical protocol.They wouldn't be allowed to operate a clinic here if they didn't do that.There is no double standard in treatment, however Faith-based healthcare providers in the US are not required to prescribe or provide contraceptives or other procedures that conflict with their beliefs.There are plenty of other healthcare providers & free govt. health clinics which offer those.(Not to mention virtually every shop, gas station, & public restroom.)

  • Comment number 87.

    LSV,

    A planet that is 4.54 Billion years old.

  • Comment number 88.

    mscracker,

    No probs - I am not as anti religious as LSV would like to believe.

    Are there lists of procedures or actions which they are allowed to opt out of and even if they don't supply condoms do they recommend their use if a patient is sexually active. There is a similar thing here but it only allows pharmacies to not sell condoms and doctors to refuse to carry out abortions - I don't think there is any other conscience clause unless someone enlightens me.

    I am not suggesting for a minute that this applies in your daughters clinic's case but could a faith-based clinic refuse to hand out aids medication if it deemed it conflicted with their faith? I am just interested how far these opt-outs could go before a clinic could exist like the pastor who started us out on this thread.

  • Comment number 89.

    @88. Dave :
    Those are interesting questions. My guess is that our opt-out policies for healthcare providers & pharmacies would be similar to what you describe in the UK.
    I think for US Catholic providers sterilization procedures would be another opt-out choice, as well as referrals for abortions.
    I'm unaware of any licensed US healthcare providers who would not prescribe medication for HIV or any other ailment.
    The Christian Science denomination is one I haven't heard much about recently,but their philosophy I think, encouraged some followers to reject medical intervention. My own grandma did just that.She chose not to have her cancer treated but she lived to be 87, so who knows? Perhaps that was the better choice for her at that point in her life.

  • Comment number 90.

    PS:I see the Christian Science Monitor's still being published-at least online. They used to be a well respected newspaper, but I haven't heard much about them lately, either.

    https://www.csmonitor.com/

  • Comment number 91.

    Hey Theo
    Why doncha answer Gerry's Question,

    Why does god hate amputees?

  • Comment number 92.

    gerry (@ 10) -

    for those who think that God can do all things let me poise this question, can he/she/it (god) steer a parked car?


    A variation on the question posed to me at Uni: "Can God create a stone too heavy for him to lift?"

    Unfortunately for those who pose these cute dilemmas, there's a problem. Such amateur philosophers have failed to think through the terms by which they are working (a very common error, especially among those who subscribe to a particular view of reality).

    When the Bible says that "nothing is impossible for God", that means that the only things that are possible for God are things which could actually conceivably exist - i.e. something which is the opposite of "nothing" - something real, in other words.

    Ideas which contain within themselves a contradiction are self-evidently "nothing". A "square circle" is a rational impossibility, since it is a concept, which, by its very nature could never be realised.

    Since God is rational, and is the source and guarantee of all rationality, then his rationality defines what we understand by the terms "nothing" and "impossible". Something which can rightly be defined as "nothing" is, of course, impossible for God, as the Bible states.

    "Steering a parked car" is a contradiction in terms and therefore is an absurdity. It is something, which, by its very nature, cannot exist, and therefore qualifies as "nothing" (unless you enjoy just moving the wheels of a stationary vehicle!). Therefore it is impossible for God.

    Isn't it great that we have a rational God and not one who deals in absurdities?

    Of course, one of the greatest absurdities is the self-assemby of life hypothesis. Now that really IS impossible!

    And even more absurd is the hubris of those who appeal to "reason" while at the same time believing that it derives from the mere movement of matter!! You gotta smile at their efforts...
  • Comment number 93.

    paul james (91) -

    Hey Theo
    Why doncha answer Gerry's Question,

    Why does god hate amputees?


    Are you an amputee?

    Once you've answered yea or nay, then I will explain why I asked.
  • Comment number 94.

    LSV

    "Ideas which contain within themselves a contradiction are self-evidently "nothing". A "square circle" is a rational impossibility, since it is a concept, which, by its very nature could never be realised."

    Descartes thought differently, according to an informative Wiki entry on the Euthyphro Dilemma that Aboutfarce provided a link to not so long ago. For Descartes, god could make contradictions true.

  • Comment number 95.

    LSVs post 92 seems nothing more than a good amount of verbiage to mask that he is saying 'Hey, don't ask me any of those questions!'. Because those questions immediately and very simply demonstrate that the characteristic given to the christian god by many, omnipotence, is self-contradicting. He mentions the idea of a stone that is too heavy to lift. Contrary to what he says when trying to worm his way out of the indefensible idea of an omnipotent god, the idea of a stone that is too heavy to lift is not at all a rational impossibility to consider. It's a very real and possible scenario to consider. The question of whether god can make one just kills in a very simple way the idea of the possibility of an omnipotent god, christian flavoured or otherwise.

    It's a question he doesn't have a good answer to. Instead of realizing that, he is trying to persuade people that the question is flawed. It isn't, his reasoning is.

  • Comment number 96.

    gods are supernatural
    gods are rational
    gods are........(insert relevant proof by assertion)

  • Comment number 97.

    Lsv, before you wade into every thread thinking everyone is an athiest, have you read over any of Gerry's past posts? Have you kept on topic at all in this thread- apart from a sentence and a half in 82.
    I think Paul James 66 is pretty on the mark, you can be very thoughtful, insightful and deeply human in many of your posts, but at times it feels like you get riled up elsewhere then come here in JR Ewing mode :s

  • Comment number 98.

    paul james (@ 96) -

    gods are supernatural
    gods are rational
    gods are........(insert relevant proof by assertion)


    I don't know where "gods" came from in this discussion. I am actually talking about "God", who is certainly both supernatural and rational. In fact, something which is merely "natural" cannot be "rational", since reason does not derive from matter, and is therefore not itself a material thing. Have you ever seen "reason" floating around somewhere? Perhaps if "reason" is something material, you could market it. You might make a few bob. Perhaps you could start flogging it to your atheist colleagues (it might help them in debate)!

    I assume you've "done a Dawkins" on the "amputee" question??
  • Comment number 99.

    Peter Klaver (@ 95) -

    Contrary to what he says when trying to worm his way out of the indefensible idea of an omnipotent god, the idea of a stone that is too heavy to lift is not at all a rational impossibility to consider. It's a very real and possible scenario to consider.


    Well that answer just goes to show how little you have thought about this question.

    This question is an attempt to disprove the idea of the omnipotence of (the Christian conception of) God. It is not about trying to disprove the existence of God, or argue on the basis of some other idea of "God / gods". Can the creator of all things (which is the definition of "God"), create something more powerful than himself? Self-evidently not, since he is the source of all things, and therefore of all power. An effect cannot rise above its cause. Therefore the question is irrational, based on the definition of "God". An inherently irrational question is therefore illegitimate.

    However, if you want to use this question to redefine the concept of "God", then go ahead, but that is changing the terms of the discussion. Within the framework of the concept of God, which the question tries to disprove (and therefore on which the legitimacy of the question depends), the question itself is irrational.

    Therefore my point stands.

    Try again, Peter...
  • Comment number 100.

    LSV,

    Your post 99 is just a repeated attempt to say that certain questions (ones that show an omnipotent god to be self-contradicting) should not be asked. You said

    "Can the creator of all things (which is the definition of "God"), create something more powerful than himself? Self-evidently not,....."

    That is the very core of it. You just mentioned a range things god can't do. But instead of accepting how wrong your idea of an omnipotent god is, you just try to convince readers here that those would be wrong questions to ask, by essentially stating

    God can do anything, except a whole load of things he can't do. But I'll still say he's omnipotent. Don't ask those difficult questions that show me wrong!

    If you want to argue for the possibility of an omnipotent god, then you do so rather terrible by listing by your own initiative things your god can't do, and then trying to redefine your way out of it by adapting a meaning of the word omnipotence that suddenly includes limitations.

 

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