Christians, Sex and Misery

‘Consider, for instance, the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is now the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. The virus infects over half the American population and causes nearly five thousand women to die each year from cervical cancer; the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that more than two hundred thousand die worldwide. We now have a vaccine for HPV that appears to be both safe and effective. The vaccine produced 100 percent immunity in the six thousand women who received it as part of a clinical trial. And yet, Christian conservatives in our government have resisted a vaccination program on the grounds that HPV is a valuable impediment to premarital sex. These pious men and women want to preserve cervical cancer as an incentive toward abstinence, even if it sacrifices the lives of thousands of women each year.

There is nothing wrong with encouraging teens to abstain from having sex. But we know, beyond any doubt, that teaching abstinence alone is not a good way to curb teen pregnancy or the spread of sexually transmitted disease. In fact, kids who are taught abstinence alone are less likely to use contraceptives when they do have sex, as many of them inevitably will. One study found that teen “virginity pledges” postpone intercourse for eighteen months on average—while, in the meantime, these virgin teens were more likely than their peers to engage in oral and anal sex. American teenagers engage in about as much sex as teenagers in the rest of the developed world, but American girls are four to five times more likely to become pregnant, to have a baby, or to get an abortion. Young Americans are also far more likely to be infected by HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The rate of gonorrhea among American teens is seventy times higher than it is among their peers in the Netherlands and France. The fact that 30 percent of our sex-education programs teach abstinence only (at a cost of more than $200 million a year) surely has something to do with this.

The problem is that Christians like yourself are not principally concerned about teen pregnancy and the spread of disease. That is, you are not worried about the suffering caused by sex; you are worried about sex. As if this fact needed further corroboration, Reginald Finger, an Evangelical member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, recently announced that he would consider opposing an HIV vaccine—thereby condemning millions of men and women to die unnecessarily from AIDS each year—because such a vaccine would encourage premarital sex by making it less risky. This is one of many points on which your religious beliefs become genuinely lethal.’

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 10-11

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Squirrels are from the family Sciuridae meaning ‘he who sits in the shadow of his tail’.

At the start of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro boarded a ship called the ‘grandma’.

Jiang Qing, the wife of Chairman Mao had a pet monkey who was her constant companion. She dressed it in silk, fed it fine foods and trained it to attack people as they walked through her garden.

Mafia means ‘beautiful’ in Sicilian dialect.

Currently, the Dutch spend about 5% of their national budget on defence every year. Nevertheless, the Dutch have never successfully defended their land territory in their nation’s existence.

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In 1994, 35,000 Americans insured themselves against being kidnapped and eaten by aliens.

English: Smallest pub in the UK

The Nutshell, the smallest pub in the United Kingdom

Alligators have no lips. Ironically, you can drown an alligator by holding it underwater.

In the Netherlands, marriage between more than two individuals prohibited; however, a samenlevingscontract (literally, ‘living together contract’) may include more than two partners.

The Nutshell is a pub in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England, claiming to be the smallest pub in Britain. Whatever the truth to its claim, the pub is certainly diminutive, there being very little room for more than ten or fifteen customers to drink at the downstairs floor at any one time. The pub measures 4.57 × 2.13 metres (15 × 7 foot), and is three floors high. In 1984, a record number of 102 people were squeezed into the pub.

The male line in the Roman family tree was Pater (father), Avus (grandfather), Proavus (great-grandfather), Abavus (great-great-grandfather), Atavus (great-great-great-grandfather), Tritavus (great-great-great-great-grandfather).

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In 1950, less than 10% of Africa had been mapped.


A chess board with two rather artistic pieces

In the Netherlands, a 90-year-old marriage is called granite – ‘graniet’ in Dutch.

Africa covers a fifth of the land area of the planet but contains only a tenth of the world’s population.

The main exports of the African country of Niger are uranium and chickens.

A great international linguistic variety is shown by the words: Gwyddbwyll, Ajedrez, Catur, Ficheall, Daba, Male, and Chesu which all mean ‘chess’ in Welsh, Spanish, Indonesian, Irish, Bengali, Estonian and Japanese respectively.

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Dunglish is an interlanguage of Dutch and English sometimes known as Dutch English. It is a language term for the typical mistakes native Dutch speakers make when speaking English. Here are some examples of serious Dutch English linguistic accidents:

“I can stand my little man”
– Dries van Agt (former Dutch prime minister)

Transliteration of ik kan mijn mannetje staan, a Dutch idiom meaning roughly “I can stand up for myself”. The inevitable misunderstanding needs little explaining.

“Golden showers”
– Frits Bolkenstein (former leader of the Dutch Liberal Party)

Bolkestein repeatedly referred to economic prospects as “golden showers”, as he was clearly unaware of the term’s quite obvious sexual connotation.

“The Dutch are a nation of undertakers”
– Joop den Uyl (former Dutch prime-minister)

The Dutch verb ondernemen is literally the English verb to undertake (as onder is under, and nemen is take). The Dutch noun ondernemer is thus literally undertaker; in English however, the French loanword entrepreneur is used. (In Dutch, the word begrafenisondernemer means funeral director.)

– Pieter Gerbrandy (former Dutch prime-minister)

Gerbrandy once had a meeting with Churchill in London. Gerbrandy entered the room and shook Churchill’s hand, saying: “Goodbye!” Churchill responded: “This is the shortest meeting I have ever had.” Gerbrandy had erroneously translated the Dutch goedendag meaning “good day”, which in Dutch can be both used as a greeting and a valediction.

“I fok horses”
– Joseph Luns (former Dutch foreign secretary)

One of the best quoted examples of Dunglish was said to have taken place between the Dutch foreign minister Joseph Luns (a man whose main foreign language was French, the language of diplomacy prior to World War II) and John F. Kennedy. At one point Kennedy inquired if Luns had any hobbies, to which he replied “I fok horses” (the Dutch verb fokken meaning to breed). Likely taken aback by this strangely obscene reply, Kennedy asked “Pardon?”, which Luns then mistook as the Dutch word for horses (paarden) and enthusiastically responded “Yes, paarden!”

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Dutch Bible Belt

The United States and the Netherlands share a regional social-religious phenomenon called the Bible Belt, also known in the Netherlands as the Bijbelgordel. In both countries the Bible Belt is a strip of land which is inhabited chiefly by a concentration of segregated conservative Protestants.

Areas where the Political Reformed Party recei...

The Dutch Bible Belt with religious prevalence shown in red

The Netherlands, best known abroad for its liberal policies on sex, drugs and homosexuality, is also home to a Protestant Bible Belt. It is a world away from big cities like Amsterdam or Rotterdam, where society is a lot more free and diverse.

Just 90 minutes’ drive from Amsterdam and its temptations is a village so devout that swearing is banned, women refuse to wear trousers and the bank machine does not dispense cash on a Sunday.

The Bijbelgordel stretches from Zeeland, through the West-Betuwe and Veluwe, to the northern parts of the province Overijssel. According to official figures 41 percent of Dutch have no religion, 30 percent are Catholic, 12 percent Protestant, 6 percent Reformed Protestant and 6 percent are Muslim. Currently, the traditional Dutch churches have around 250,000 members.

The Protestant faith in the Netherlands is fragmented. Besides the traditional Protestant church, there is also a more fundamentalist Reformed Protestant Church, formed in the 19th century.

When Flanders and North Brabant were reconquered by the Spanish army during the Eighty Years’ War, their Protestant inhabitants were required to either convert to Catholicism or leave. Many emigrated north of the border, particularly during the Twelve Years’ Truce of 1609 – 1621. Many of them later became staunch supporters of the pietist movement known as the nadere reformatie (further reformation).

In Bijbelgordel communities, a strong religious tone in public life is accompanied by conservative outlook and an emphasis on traditional values: a preference for large families (protected sex is frowned upon); children attend special religious schools; parents are suspicious towards state-run vaccination programmes; women are not allowed to ‘rule’ in a professional capacity and are not expected to work when they start a family.

The Bijbelgordel differs from Dutch society in many aspects, amongst them a regular Sunday church attendance – often twice on a Sunday. The region also bears a strong contrast to the traditionally Catholic provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg in the south and northern parts of the Netherlands where Sunday church attendance averages between a mere 2% to 3% of the population. Overall, the Netherlands become increasingly secular with every passing year.

In the Bible Belt however, conservatism slows this trend. The doctrine of the faith plays a central role in the life of the more fundamentalist communities. Consequently, they typically oppose the liberal ways of Dutch life – perpetuating their segregated outlook on life. Nevertheless, secularisation is causing the Bible Belt to slowly shrink and become clustered into ever smaller societies.

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Ladybirds or Coccinellidae are named after Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, the name deriving from Our Lady’s bird.

Madonna of humility by Fra Angelico

Mary was often depicted wearing a red cloak, and the seven spots on the Coccinellida septempunctata species symbolized her seven joys and seven sorrows.

In Dutch and in French, a ladybird is called lieveheersbeestje and bête à bon Dieu respectively, both meaning Our Lord’s animal.

People from a certain area in the eastern part of The Netherlands called Twente call the insect mariabeestje, and the Germans call them Marienkäfer (both meaning Mary beetle or Mary-chafer). The Irish Gaelic name bóín Dé translates into God’s little cow.

Before Christianity starting spreading across Europe, ladybirds were called freyafugle in Old Norse, meaning Freya’s bird. Freya means lady, and the goddess Freya was associated with love, beauty and fertility but also with war and death. She was considered the most beautiful goddess of all.

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“Do you hate being a girl? What’s it like? Is it like being a bug?
I imagine bugs and girls have a dim perception that nature played a cruel trick on them, but they lack the intelligence to comprehend the magnitude of it.”