Religion is part of society, and it is inevitable that the very existence of different religions in Singapore - whether Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or whatever else - will influence the way Singapore is run. However, it is interesting to consider how each religious group may seek to influence society according to its own beliefs.
We know for instance that the Catholic Church is strongly against the use of contraceptives. But we also know that the Ministry of Health provides health advice like this, on its official website:
Persons who engage in high-risk behaviour i.e. multiple sexual partners, casual sex or sex with prostitutes, are strongly advised to use condoms to reduce their risk of HIV infection. Condoms should be used consistently during every sexual encounter ..... Persons who have unprotected sex while engaging in high-risk behaviour have a higher risk of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).What if tomorrow you opened your newspaper, and found that the Catholics in Singapore are now loudly telling Parliament that the Ministry of Health should remove such advice from its website? That such health advice (to use condoms) offends their religion and is immoral like homosexuality? That Singapore is "not ready" for such health advice to be stated in a public manner?
Does this scenario sound absurd or unlikely to you? Perhaps it is. Yet the Ministry of Health's advice is against Catholic teachings - quite unmistakeably so. In Catholic thinking, the use of contraceptives is wrong, even if by a married couple. Contraceptives are regarded as part of the Culture of Death - a term coined by Pope John Paul II. Wikipedia tells us that the term:
"...... is used in contemporary political discourse in many countries, including the United States and Poland, to describe supportive positions on certain subjects, such as abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, poverty and capital punishment which adherents of opposing positions deem to be inconsistent with their concept of a "culture of life". Some commentators would add to that list homosexuality, contraception and other phenomena perceived to attack marriage and the family."See what many Americans are worried about in the US right now - "Bush Family Planning Appointee Called Contraceptives Part Of The ‘Culture Of Death’".
What are the possible implications of the Catholic Church being against the use of contraceptives? We don't have to use our imagination here, for real-life examples are readily available. See this article from the Guardian, which provides a somewhat international perspective "across four continents":
Vatican: condoms don't stop Aids
Steve Bradshaw, The Guardian
Thursday October 9, 2003
The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken by Aids not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through which HIV can pass - potentially exposing thousands of people to risk.
The church is making the claims across four continents despite a widespread scientific consensus that condoms are impermeable to HIV.
A senior Vatican spokesman backs the claims about permeable condoms, despite assurances by the World Health Organisation that they are untrue.
.... The WHO has condemned the Vatican's views, saying: "These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million."
The organisation says "consistent and correct" condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90%. There may be breakage or slippage of condoms - but not, the WHO says, holes through which the virus can pass .
Thank goodness the World Health Organisation is doing what it can to correct this misinformation. Still it is a tough battle. From the Guardian article, we get a sense of the actual, day-to-day difficulties of combating such misinformation.
For example, the article relates how the director of an Aids testing centre was prevented from distributing condoms, because of church opposition.
A video produced by the Catholic Church (presumably an "educational" video) shows a nun advising her choirmaster (who was already infected with HIV) not to use condoms with his own wife because "the virus can pass through".
According to the Guardian article, the Church has been reiterating these sorts of claims (that condoms don't help to prevent AIDS) .... across "four continents", and "as far as apart as Asia and Latin America".
I don't know if such claims are being made here in Singapore, and if they are, to what extent. But if they are being made in Singapore, then this, in my opinion, would constitute a public health hazard.
Of course, the problem is that if you spoke up publicly on this issue, some Catholics might well say that you're being religiously offensive. But think of it this way - if you spoke up publicly on this issue and raised awareness of the importance of using condoms, you would be saving lives.
As opposed to contributing to death. I mean that literally .... I'm not just referring to the "culture" of it.