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The Wages of Sin: Sex And Disease, Past And Present Paperback – 1 Jun 2002
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"Allen searches out the premodern origins of the prejudice against the ill that found such vehement expression in the age of AIDS.... [He] is at his most forceful and persuasive in his examination of the cultural war fought over AIDS, conjuring up a time when politicians invoked the lessons of Sodom and Gomorrah as activists staged 'die-ins' on the floor of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York." - Mathew Battles, Boston Book Review; "Ever since Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, Western religious traditions have linked sex to suffering. Allen uses the techniques of literary criticism to trace this relationship from the medieval diagnoses of 'lovesickness' to the AIDS crisis of our own time.... [E]xhaustively searching through medical and theological texts and illustrations, [he] builds a fascinating and sometimes shocking case." - Library Journal
From the Inside Flap
Throughout history, Western culture has often viewed disease-especially those diseases associated with sex-as punishment for sin. From leprosy to AIDS, "The Wages of Sin" offers a remarkable history of this perception, and explains how these ancient views continue to shape contemporary life and public policy.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
When early modern Europe was ravaged with 'The French Pox' in the 15th Century, it brought with it the same fear, prejudice and moral opinions that we saw when HIV was discovered in the 1980's.
Peter Allen's account,is drawn from very reliable resources (hence the 4 stars), and emphasises that human opinions and attitudes have not changed. However, the book does go in to great detail about the blind panic and hopelessness that victims of syphilis had to endure. Worse still, it was far better to let the disease run its course than die from the slow, agonising torture that the early modern physicians and doctors called 'treatment'. Unsympathetic physicians felt they 'deserved what they got' and the religious lobby thumped their holy books in defence of divine judgements. If you are a serious student of the history of medicine, this is a good bedside read; if you are curious as to what went on at this time, it's a great resource. Be thankful that syphilis is no longer a slow, painful, disfiguring and mind-destroying affliction.
If there is one message this book carries, it tells us that we no sooner conquer one disease, than nature conspires with fate to endow mankind with something far greater. Read it on the train/bus going to work and watch the faces of the others around you!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
In "The Wages of Sin" Allen sets out to educate the reader on three of the most prominent subjects in human history: disease, sex, and religion. While the three subjects are not ones you would normally knit together, Allen has created an engaging piece of work that shows how each of them impact the others and how they've each shaped our history to form the culture we have today. He focuses on issues from the late middle ages onwards, showing how opinions have changes over the years and how science and religion often clash when it comes to the subjects of disease and sex. I very much enjoyed reading about the social side of disease, sex, and religion and how people's opinions have changed (and in some cases not changed) in the past few hundred years. Through the course of the book Allen covers some almost unbelievable 'diseases' and opinions, one of which being "love could be an illness and sex a cure."
Overall, the book was incredibly insightful and filled with eye-opening facts. Allen has put a great deal of research into this book, making for an educating yet still enjoyable read. The tone he writes in is engaging, honest, and chatty, and he's structured the book so it flows easily, making for an easy read. This is definitely one of the most comprehensive books I've come across on the subject of sexual history and disease - second, more or less, to Sexuality: An Illustrated History by Sander Gilman.
Portmann examines Bernard Haring's account of illness. Haring is the most important Catholic moral theologian of the twentieth century; the Catholic culture Lewis fleshes out culminates in Haring, whose thinking about illness was remarkably sophisticated. Even someone as modern as Haring allows a link between illness and sin. Haring gives permission to celebrate the suffering of others who have broken God's law. Both Lewis and Portmann seem to think of Judaism as generally more compassionate than Catholicism. This point could be debated.
Wills turns to the question of whether Rome has responded compassionately to gay and lesbian people. You can guess what Wills thinks, just on the basis of the title of his penetrating book. Lewis looks much more closely at sexuality and sexual sins than Wills does. Who doesn't find the topic of sexual sins worthwhile?
The three books have just come to light. Like others that have preceded them, they make us wonder how Rome will respond to serious analyses of Catholic compassion.
The Wages of Sin is part philosophy, part religious studies, part cultural studies. It is interesting through and through.
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