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Monday, November 18, 2002
Take a look at this article and tell me that the Flat Earth Society hasn't taken over the White House:,0,7803300.column

President Bush's base includes a fair number of people who believe that all nonmarital sex, gay or straight, casual or loving, promiscuous, monogamous, or onanistic, is morally wrong. That is a silly, anachronistic moral belief, rejected in practice if not in ideology by the vast majority of the country, but it is their's to have if they wish to hold it. But few things anger me more than when these sorts of beliefs end up corrupting the sciences. Twenty years ago, they tried to do it with evolution, by enacting a "balanced treatment" law in Lousiana that required the teaching of "creation science" alongside evolution, even though "creation science" was nothing more than teaching that scientific evidence either supported or did not refute the natural history recounted in the Bible. Thankfully, the US Supreme Court struck that curriculum down as unconstitutional.

Now, the religious right is waging war on condoms, making false and stupid statements in an effort to scare people away from relying on them. Let's be very clear on this: anyone who says that condoms are not effective against disease or pregnancy is either an idiot or a liar. That person is not a scientist. I am not a scientist myself, but I am able to say that with 100 percent conviction. A condom is a physical barrier. Yes it can break. Yes it can slip off. Yes people forget to use them sometimes, or engage in risky activities such as oral sex without one. Yes there are some diseases that transmit from or to the base of the penis and are thus transmittable despite the use of a condom. But a person who claims or implies that a condom is not at all effective against disease or pregnancy is akin to someone who claims that a fence doesn't keep out burglars. The claim refutes itself.

The White House's campaign, therefore, is nothing short of disinformation. Taking truthful information off of websites, reassessing the government's position, etc., simply means that the White House does not wish to tell the truth on this subject.

All this would be an interesting study in throwing a bit of red meat to the political base, if condoms weren't such a life-and-death issue. Unwanted pregnacies destroy the lives of women and children, they trap people in loveless and abusive relationships, they cause people to drop out of school and take dead-end jobs or go on welfare, they lead to abortions that conservatives claim to loathe. Sexually transmitted diseases are a life and death issue as well.

Already, schools that receive federal sex education funds are not allowed to mention condoms in their sex ed. classes, except to say that they fail, slip, and break. How many kids might decide it's not worth it to use a condom because of that incredibly misleading information? How many might end up pregnant, or HIV positive? If the official federal government position is that condoms are not effective, will condom manufacturers be required to take the truthful claims that they are off of their products? Will condoms have to be taken off the market? It's not a silly question; the federal Pure Food and Drug law requires that over the counter medical products be safe and effective; if the government decides that condoms are ineffective, they could be prohibited.

And the truth is that this has nothing to do with science. The religious right likes the idea of sex having consequences, because they feel: (1) that such consequences will deter nonmarital sex, and (2) that even if they do not deter such sex, the people who engage in such sinful activities are only getting their just deserts. Remember that many people claimed not so long ago that HIV was God's punishment for homosexuality, and Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson also said that 9/11 was a direct result of God's "withdrawing His protection" of the US due to our tolerance of homosexuals. For the religious right, devices that prevent pregnancy and disease are bad things. (I should add they have other biblical reasons for this position, including a belief that the agrarian imperative that humans go forth and multiply still has application in the modern world.)

There are also related flat earth policies that spring from the same impulses of religious conservatives, including, specifically, an opposition to international family planning programs that is supposedly based on language that might condone abortion but in fact is consistent and unwavering whatever language is put in the program disclaiming support for abortion. Religious conservatives oppose birth control as well as abortion, so they use the more controversial issue of abortion as a cover for their programs that continue to foist poverty and patriarchy on the third world by denying them access to contraception. (This was a central facet of Christopher Hitchens' justly famous critique of Mother Theresa.) Another example is the push to force welfare recipients into marriage. The reason welfare recipients don't stay with the fathers of their children is usually due to the fathers' abuse or irresponsibility, or the lack of love between the partners. Government-enforced shotgun marriages do nothing for poor women except satisfy the moral scolds who hate the idea that some unmarried woman out there might be having sex.)

But the religious right, and its supplicants in the Bush administration, knows it can't win on the moral issue. Although many folks in the South espouse these traditional values (though there is no evidence that they actually practice what they preach), and even Clinton was careful not to openly endorse masturbation (he fired Joycelyn Elders over it) or sexual freedom (Saturday Night Bill practiced it, but Sunday Morning William always was contrite for it), any politician who campaigned on trying to stop people from having sex outside of marriage would be killed in the polls. So instead of the honest, losing argument that condoms are immoral, we get the dishonest, unscientific argument that condoms don't prevent pregnancy or disease.

Science is a threat to religious belief, no doubt about it. The fact that we can now enjoy sex with anyone we want to while running only a minimal risk of disease or pregnancy is a tremendous advance. Think of all the people who are in better relationships, who derive more sexual satisfaction, who have gotten in touch with their bodies and their orientations and have found the people who really make them happy because of the fact that you no longer have to risk killing yourself or ruining your life by having sex. Religious zealots who have political power are dangerous precisely because they will fight to stop the advance of science, harming all of us, including those who do not share their religious belief and whose lives they have no right to ruin. But fighting scientific progress in no way changes scientific truth. Zealots placed Galileo under house arrest for life for his heretical conclusion that the earth revolved around the sun. As the sentence was read, Galileo is said to have muttered "e pur si muove", which translates to "and still it moves". All the while the White House and its supporters scream and yell about the ineffectiveness of condoms, they will continue to prevent pregnancies and save lives. Truth marches on.

Ya know, there's quite a bit of context missing here about what Christians believe about the sanctity of sex. Painting with broad brushes make a nasty and smeared canvass. Not all conservative Christians disdain birth control. (I have a vesectomy, for example)

Some do. Some don't, and the doctrines argued about deal with context of ages past when the culture and economics and support system were vastly different than today. But enough of that.

What we DO say in fair unison is that sex is important to human relationships in marriage and that outside this context is a recipe for trouble. That's why the contract exists in the first place. It is about conditions and contexts for the care and raising of the next generation as it is the common media overemphasis on love and the extension of prom night and your toes curl on the first kiss and all that crappola.

Please ignore my snark with the handy cartoons. I couldn't resist.

Yes, some of us are prudish and have not read the Song of Solomon and sex should be taught neither prudish NOT promiscuouly, agreed. And it IS important, but at the same time I for one as a conservative am averse to some of these policies due to a lack of emphasis on context of things like marriage and falling under the pressure to treat people like objects of animal or zoological studies rather in need of something firmer in relationships. Thus the societal (not necessarily always religious) engineering of the contract of marriage. Yes, there are exceptions to this when the baby daddy leaves town and mom and her infinate wisdom in choices of man-flesh needs a fresh love life and leaves one bum for another due in large part to common degradation of culture and media and crap from Hollywood starlets who make millions about how glorious single mommyhood is.

Fair enough. Touche. Sometimes government needs to step in and save a life no matter the context of how the moron got where she was and where her manflesh traipsed off to.
But policies that hand out buckets of condoms and jellies along with the wheat and candy that don't take into account THAT culture's expectations nor ours are doomed to utter failure--even for the vaunted supposedly neutral goals of liberals. Problems can and should be attended to yes, but it's better to nurse the wounds of broken hearts and learning the protocals of marriage rather than not getting married at all and considering this all just supersition of fuddy-duddyness and shirk hearth and home for temperal pleasures, when in fact beyond religion most societies have a built-in encoding and engineering about the proper context of sexual relations. This keeps babies in relative safety and (assuming you think this is of SOME value, though many libs don't) and reduces the need for government intervention of which has only magnified the cultural and social costs of Generation Valtrex.


As to this ludicrous but rather stubborn continuing Flat Earth mythology concocted by the early materialists in order to slam Christianity, and with some small help from guys like Boornstein?

You remember me from Slate, no?

Lord Wakefield?

I know you're smarter than that, brother.

Myths die hard, but Christians are not the ones who really flatearthed things so far as historians can tell, and I might add that Galileo's story, like that of Copernicus, is missing context is well. The Church got after them NOT on religious grounds but felt those two were not proving themselves according to the common Aristolian modes of thought that the Church actually DEFERRED to the science of the day.

The Scriptures had no say in the matter, but MEN of the day did. And to these the Church deferred to the learned Aristotelians at the time.

This Progress meme in scientific triumphalism from guys like White is missing VAST swatches of context.

Wish I had more time, but I don't, and as your post is as interesting to comment on as it is frustrating at finding a new myth peppered in with every third sentence, I wish I could say more.


But back to sex, libeals and conservatives and the Church and the secular relam alike have all failed this realm's desperate need for instruction, especially among the young. The Church has not done it's part in training for marriage, for the most part, and has left this up to common culture and Dad's winks at condoms in the pocket while Mom looks the other way when little Johnny's limo pulls up, and the secularists are simply clueless and wish to make policy out of condom drops but cannot for the life of them, in the age of multi-culti, PC-ism, and a penchant for the prurient interest (which if taken too far is antithetical to society and leads to hedonism and nihlism) find solutions either.
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