This post is inspired by a discussion on Highlander's blog. On https://www2.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=5760993&postID=2126398597000378614, she wrote, "...Even following treatment for AIDS, it will still be found in the semen and is capable of replication and infection of body cells again... Which led me to wonder whether the scriptures have been right ? Is that why all 3 monotheistic religion have always advocated chastity and the prohibition of fornication and adultery? Could it be their method of warning us about this killer disease in a way that is graspable by our limited psyche /knowledge 2000 years ago, and so have to disguise it as based on morality? How to inculcate morality in us? One husband per wife ? family virtues etc…"
I commented, "...Chastity norms meant to secure a stable family as a base of the society, rather than to protect people from STDs. If God didn't want us to die of AIDS (and of other STDs - syphilis has for centuries been as lethal as AIDS is today), why didn't He give humans natural immunity against pathogens causing STDs?"
Highlander replies, "You cannot explain to people of a certain mindset about STD so you tell them to be chaste because that is a virtue etc..But then you create STDs so that the ahem no offense meant 'unchaste' gets it . whether is is Syphillis , AIDS or simple chlamydia infection which can cause such havoc though right ? That's how God tests our strenght because it is difficult to overcome desire and humankind will be human after all :P."
I'll cite also two other bloggers who posted relevant comments.
The Lost Libyano: "Who said god didnt want people to die from AIDS. Quite the contrary he sent it to kill people, millions of people, just like he sent syphilis, and just like he sent the black plague, which wiped out 2/3 of Europes population, and he will send much more. "
Um Haleema: "I wonder what message he was trying to send to the babies born with aids and innocent 'pure' people that get aids through blood transfusions."
After this introduction of citations, I'll continue with new text.
The original Highlander's post didn't quite clarify what she thought about the origin of STD-causing pathogens. Has God set rules to protect us from germs created by someone else, e.g. the devil? Or are these germs created by God himself to punish us if we neglect His rules? Then, in the comment, Highlander was explicit that it was God who created the pathogenic bacteria and viruses.
Diseases definitely are an important theological problem. Most believers think that they are trials God sends to us. When this cannot apply, most notably when a young child has a fatal disease, they think that for some reason unknown to us God needed to take the child back right now. Although this is not my view, I generally like it because it doesn't label the sufferer as a sinner.
However, about sexually transmitted diseases (and occasionally about other infectious diseases, such as the plague) some believers think they are God's punishments. Notably the puritans. I wonder how many puritans, Highlander included, can be such wonderful, good and tolerant people while admiring such a nasty God.
While do I find this God nasty? First, because he has invented germs to punish people having unauthorized sex but nothing specific to punish true villains. There are no germs for murderers. What am I supposed to think of a God who finds making love worse than killing?
Second, because STD-causing pathogens don't punish just the "sinners". They are not precision bombs. They are weapons of mass destruction. They infect the innocent as well as the "guilty". If a rapist has a STD, he will transmit it to his victim. If an adulterous husband contracts HIV, he'll later infect his wife, even if she has never had sex with another man. And if they conceive, the baby will very likely be infected, too. Among other sexually transmitted diseases, Highlander mentioned the chlamydia infection. But if we call the pathogen by its full name, Chlamydia trachomatis, we'll imagine another picture: children who hopelessly scratch their eyes burning from pain and gradually lose their vision (see e.g. http://www.trachoma.org/trachoma.php).
Third, God hasn't saved all these goodies for humans. He has created STD-causing pathogens also for other species, where chastity (and other moral categories) simply makes no sense. In fact, HIV-1 and 2 are evidently viruses of non-human primates which recently discovered us as a new host species. So, if we are to regard AIDS as God's punishment (which I don't recommend), it is rather a punishment for invading and destroying the last remaining habitats of our little brothers.
I wonder how people can live under such a God and still enjoy life. I would be rather depressed. It seems much worse than living under Qaddafi. Of course, where the majority of people have a God like this one, they also tend to have a ruler like Qaddafi. But if you live under a dictator, you can attempt emigration, dream of a revolution or simply remember that sooner or later he will die. None of this applies to God. You cannot escape Him even by suicide.
Still, there is a way out. You could, like the girl in the Labyrinth movie say, "You have no power over me", and find a gentler God. Mine would be one who loves equally all His creatures. When they clash, He doesn't intervene and lets them have a fair fight. However, this would be just a biologist's God. Other people are likely to prefer a tyrant God to one who holds HIV and treponema as close to His heart as humans. Besides, all religions I know explicitly postulate a special status for the human species.