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> in common opinion, public health is an issue of crime and punishment.

Mh? It isn't illegal to get an STD, and you don't get punished for having an STD; yet our society actively tries to limit STD transmission. Not sure I'm understanding what you're arguing for/against.

Coincidentally, California issued an arrest warrant today for a man with TB who refuses to stay in a hospital. The state does have the power to make personal health issues criminal.


AFAIK in a lot of places knowingly transmitting an STD is a illegal. I guess the key part is 'knowingly.'

Knowingly, and presumably without the consent of the receiving party.

I haven't read those laws, but I can only assume that it is not illegal to have and STD and have sex with somebody if they are fully informed and accept the risk. Those laws are almost certainly more about consent than limiting the spread of disease.

Sodomy and fornication were illegal and prosecuted, mostly because they spread disease.

No, mate. It's illegal because bible. Those are justifications. For example, you are far less likely to transmitted diseases by sucking cock, but under sodomy laws, it's a crime.

Sure, it's illegal because Bible, but my take is, it's wrong in the Bible for rational reasons. The only thing is, they were rational for the time and place they were created in. Many of the rules various religions teach seem nonsensical, backward and barbaric to us today, but if you look at them through the lens of the context in which they were written, there's often a kernel of reason in them.

Case in point, sodomy and fornication may have been considered wrong because they spread of diseases. Many of the diseases we can treat easily today were probably debilitating and fatal back then, and they imposed a cost that society then could not bear.

Another example, adultery: most of the animal kingdom has no concept of marriage, but a desperately poor society may not be able to tolerate any bad blood brewed by adultery. When your primary resources are the productive youth of your society, you'd prefer them to be united in their toils (be it farming hunting of wars) rather than killing each other over petty jealousies.

Some parts of Islam seem overly brutal to us, but (AFAIK) it was forged in a society that mostly lived an unbelievably harsh tribal life in the desert. Consider theft in that context. Even a minor theft could cause somebody to lose their life, and hence thievery in general was deterred with very harsh punishment.

Sure, some rules were made purely for the benefit of a select few, but that doesn't affect the point that many others were reasonable for their time.

The problem with religion is that people still assume these rules as God's (with a capital 'G') own truth when they no longer make any sense in the modern day.

The "ancient public health initiative" explanation of religious taboos is a specious argument.

Yes, there are arguments to prove eating pork in the biblical middle-east was more dangerous than eating other kinds of meat. But to say that some wise and beneficent scholars recognized this fact implies there were prototype longitudinal surveys coupled with an ancient germ-theory of disease. It also doesn't explain the dozens of other prohibitions that have no relation to public health.

I suggest the book Purity and Danger[1] by Mary Douglas. She's a structural anthropologist who posits these religious taboos as extensions of the symbology dominant at the time.

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/Purity-Danger-Analysis-Pollution-Routl...

Such things are only ever made illegal when there's someone else that wishes to make life on earth a living hell to promote the sales pitch of a better life after death.

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