There are two problems with this super-simplistic moral equation of ‘pope + anti-condom propaganda = death’. First, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, since AIDS is most widespread in minority-Catholic African countries, where most people are not in thrall to the men of Rome; and second, it is underpinned by some deep, dark prejudices of its own, prejudices that make the Vatican’s pronouncements seem relatively mild in comparison. The idea that a pope speaks and Africans die – or as one supposedly rationalist writer describes it: ‘the power of ideas to do great evil’ (1) – is based on a view of Africans as fundamentally incapable of judging the moral worth or factual accuracy of ideas, and as being little more than empty vessels waiting to be filled with popish bull. It ironically rehabilitates the old Christian-crusader view of Africans as needing to be saved, only disguised in anti-religion lingo.
As an atheist and a skeptic, I sometimes have trouble challenging my own ideas with the same kind of scrutiny I challenge others'. This article points out some facts that are not consistent with the current "party line" on the Pope and his effects on the fight against AIDS in Africa.
Read it and let me know what you think. Are we overestimating the power of the Catholic Church in Africa?