Monday, February 23, 2009

Value added sex

There's a bit of a stir about a new government pamphlett that allegedly tells parents to keep morality out of sex talks with their children. What it is quoted as saying is: "Discussing your values with your teenagers will help them to form their own. Remember, though, that trying to convince them of what’s right and wrong may discourage them from being open.”

This seems rather sensible and innocuous to me. My reading of it is that it isn't telling parents not to talk of morality and values (unlike the media's reading), it is saying to discuss them rather than lay down the law, say it's black and white, right and wrong, do as I say.

I know that when I was a teenager, I did some stupid things and because I knew that my mother would be disapproving, I got into worse trouble than I would have, had I felt able to go to her sooner. If she had been even more strict and judgemental, I would never had gone to her at all.

I think it's most important to keep the lines of communication open, to be approachable as a parent. Teaching morality, values and self-worth to your children is something you do not through dictating their every move and thought, you do it through example, talking and giving them the opportunity to think things through for themselves.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Left Behind

Hahaha. You know the expression "so bad it's good"? Well, that's not true of this book. Oh no.

For those unaware, it's the first book in a series written by dispensationalist US Christian conservatives: didactic works intended to promote their theology as well as being novels.

Left Behind was unintentionally funny. Many of the plot devices were madly implausible - a super-duper fertiliser formula making Israel richer than oil nations and thereby bringing relative peace (until the Russkies try to kill them)? Agrarian based economies don't work like that, and even if they did, money is so unlikely to solve all Israel's problems! Carpathia's fantastically moving speech consisting of reciting the names of every country?!

Overall, it was poorly written, the characterisation rather basic, and the inner lives rudimentary. On the plus side, it was readable, if clunky. On the minus, its didacticism was overt and it had a hammer for those points and knew how to use it. It took crude potshots at all sorts of targets, from the Jews to family planning.

I found it impossible to take the novel seriously and snickered long and loud. For me, the best part was the naming of "Tribulation Force"* which was doubly a gift since it was very close to the end, thankfully. Oh me, oh my. Hahaha.

Needless to say, I shan't be rushing out to read any more of the several gazillion sequels, prequels and spin-offs from this stable.

*Not like G-Force, sadly.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In which I am a useless toothfairy

Now, being a toothfairy doesn't sound that arduous a task, but I somehow manage to make a hash of it everytime. I have a horrible habit of forgetting to don my wings and tutu, and more vitally, not remembering to exchange tooth for cash until too late. Morning comes and it's apparent that the tooth fairy got caught in traffic or possibly was overloaded by all the other children's teeth, so she'll swing by tomorrow night.

I guess my heart isn't in it.

It wasn't me that brought the tooth fairy to our house: I think she came through television, school and books. I'm not against her as such, either. I think she serves quite a useful purpose, in turning something a bit icky and potentially alarming & tears-before-bedtime into something exciting. If only I could remember to make the exchange before I go to bed. I generally decide to wait until she's thoroughly asleep, but by putting it off, the thought drops out of my head.

Santa, on the other hand, I could gladly dispose of. He wants all the credit for the presents and means that to sustain him, we're supposed to buy presents "from us" as well as the ones "from Santa".

What a rip-off merchant he is.

He didn't make it to our house this year, the scheming gloryhound bastard. According to unnamed sources (ahem), he decided our children had plenty of presents and went on to some less fortunate family.

Hey big Splenda

I heard a radio advertisement for Splenda today, which featured a woman getting her useless husband to promise to cook for Valentine's, and when he burnt the chicken getting what she really wanted all the time by getting to go out for a meal. "Women know how to get what they really want," apparently (manipulate, like you've never manipulated before!). And Splenda is something that women want cos it's sweet but it's not sugar.

Har-har-di-har-har. [/sarcastic laugh]

This advert peeved me on a number of levels: it casts the man as a pathetic idiot who can't cook and doesn't know what his wife likes. Plus, it has a woman pretending she wants one thing when she really wants another. Not only that but she deliberately engineers an opportunity for her husband to fail, potentially feel humiliated and certainly guilty. What a wonderful relationship.

How much simpler it would be just to say you want to go out for a meal. If he's asking, why on earth wouldn't you say what you'd really like? If you can't afford it, then you still can't afford it after one burnt chicken. FFS. I know it's petty and it's supposed to be funny, but it really isn't.

It puzzles me too, as it's an advert aimed at women as far as I can tell, since Splenda is apparently what we want. Bah!

finished: Wrath of A Mad God

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Prayer in a Petri(e) dish

I was watching The Wright Stuff this morning, and they were discussing the case of Nurse Petrie, (which is an excellent name for a medical professional, by the way, well done!) who is currently on suspension after asking a patient if she wanted her to pray with/for her.

There's a bit of a hubbub about this as it seems a fairly innocuous suggestion, but of course, it's about whether this breaks nursing guidelines regarding the promotion of personal faiths, ie. a patient should not be importuned by someone in a position of care/trust over them while they are vulnerable. It's one thing to have vicars and other spiritual types mooching about hospitals should they be asked for, it would be very different if a doctor, nurse or carer uses the opportunity to evangelise.

Not that this is necessarily what Nurse Petrie's actions amounted to, but this has to be the reason for the rule in nursing.

They had her, Caroline Petrie, on a phone-in, and she sounded a jolly nice woman. I was interested to discover that this was not the first incident, however. She had previously been asked not to give out prayer cards, which she described as "giving out Christian literature".

This first incident was clearly out of a nurse's remit, since doling out religious literature is promotion of a faith, whichever way you cut it. Something for the spare time, not work, unless you're a vicar, in which case it is your work. Presumably she stopped this activity after being called on it, and so, good, incident closed. But it does mean that this next complaint coming afterwards will be treated more seriously than perhaps it would have as a one-off; it comes from a background of blurring the boundaries.

So where do I stand with this business of "would you like me to pray for you?" Well, I wouldn't want her to lose her job over it, but unlike Matthew Wright, I don't think it's a polite question.

It's a loaded question (partly "crikey, this is serious and you're gonna die!" haha), and also is intrusive: as a nurse on a home visit, I don't think it's one she should be asking. She is in authority, coming into someone's home, presumably because that person is dependent on nurses and carers. It's not a sinister thing, but it's inappropriate. It puts the patient in a bit of an awkward position where refusing is making a big deal of it and might disappoint the nice nurse (unless the patient was my gran, in which case she'd angrily refuse treatment, but probably accept the prayer). Better perhaps to ask if they have access to religious services if they want them, along with any other needs, if "spiritual health" is the worry?

I'm quite happy for someone to practise their faith and I've no doubt that Caroline Petrie was coming out of a good place, but you don't practise your faith in someone else's home. It's not about her freedom to express herself, it's about doing it in a patient's home and in work-time, to me.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Dawkins Delusion

If I'd realised I only had three more pages to go, I'd have finished the Dawkins Delusion ages ago, but having read most of it in what, November(?) I'd put it down and failed to desire to pick it up again. However, I finally finished it a couple of weeks ago.

In the end, I'm not really sure what the point of this book was. Perhaps it was rushed out following the release of Dawkins' book. The blurb on the back tells me "it's a reliable assessment of the God Delusion", which suggests to me that it's marketed to people who don't actually want to read the God Delusion, but want to know what it said through a "safe" lense. Now I'm quite happy for people to choose not to read books that they know will bore or piss them off, but I think it's a bit wussy to hide behind someone else's skirts. Just say you can't be arsed with reading it and have done. But anywayyyy...

There are few petty points: the McGraths criticise Dawkins for his use of the word delusion, complaining that "although Dawkins does not offer a rigorous definition, he clearly means a belief that is not grounded in evidence"(p.1 Dawkins Delusion). This seems a redundant criticism, given that in his preface, Dawkins explicitly states his use of the dictionary definition "false belief, or impression"(p.27 God Delusion), rather than a technical or medical one. There's no need for them to intuit what Dawkins means by delusion, he'd already explained exactly what he meant. They go on to describe Steven Jay Gould as an atheist, when he identified himself as an agnostic.

The McGraths also criticise Dawkins for only having raving nut-jobs on the tv series he presented, Root of All Evil, and asks why there were no moderates.

chopped liver/Bishop Harries. Who can tell which is which?

It's inaccurate of the McGraths to say that "no representative figures were included or considered"(p.27 DD), when this normal-seeming fella appeared. Actually if you click on the link above, the full interview between Harries and Dawkins is eminently sensible and chilled. So how many liberal moderates like Bishop Harries would they want Dawkins to interview? Or is a CofE bishop unrepresentative of Christianity?

The McGraths also react to the God Delusion's points with a kind of "that's not my sort of Christianity" or "it's religion, Jim, but not as we know it", therefore it must not exist; or therefore it's an unfair accusation or strawman sort of Christianity which Dawkins argues against. But since they complain about the extremists getting all the air-time apparently, they must be aware that these people exist?

Dawkins is undoubtedly using a blunderbuss rather than a scalpel sometimes, but Christianity as a term covers a wide range of sects and some are fairly whacky. Whether individual or groups of other Christians would agree with them is not really the point, it's a big umbrella. To criticise something that big, some groups are going to be able to say, "hey that bit doesn't apply to us, therefore you are wrong about everything else"; but while the first part of that sentence may be true, the latter doesn't follow.

They also criticise Dawkins' lack of knowledge of theology. I don't think Dawkins spent a huge amount of time on the Bible in any event, but yeah, probably a fair point. But then Dawkins makes no claims about being an expert in theology.

By the by, it always puzzles me why a book that is supposedly the word of god requires so much explanation. I mean it gives people something to do, I suppose, a whole industry in apologia, contextualisation and head-rubbing. And often enough the resulting explanations seem relatively plausible. As in the bit in Kings where Elisha gets called baldie by children, and he curses them so two she-bears chow down on 42 of them. Obviously that's not the relatively plausible explanation, but rather, according to some commentaries, children was mistranslated - they were youths, and their taunts were mocking Elisha, his mentor Elijah and his god all at once. The yoofs came from a nasty town of calf-worshippers and were probably bad uns anyway. Not to mention they were possibly only mauled a bit, rather than splattered far and wide. It was early teen gang culture, served a bear-asbo from god. (Although if the Bible is god-breathed and inviolate, how do mistranslations occur?)

Where was I going with this? Oh yes, it's that it puzzles me that holy books require so much study, why they are not self-explanatory if they're really about a deity trying to show itself. What's with all the hoops?

Oops, I've wandered away from my book review, so bear with me while we reset course...

Alister goes on to tell an anecdote about a young man who was apparently very cross with him after a seminar about his book Dawkins' God, where he says that this fellow approached him complaining that McGrath had "destroyed his faith" in atheism or Richard Dawkins or both. This rather sets up the expectation of some splendidly smack-down responses to the questions raised in the God Delusion. But McGrath doesn't bring out these big guns in this book, so we'll have to take his word for it. Or perhaps we're supposed to go buy his other book.

The McGraths seem understandably miffed about some of Dawkins' language regarding theists, such as faith-heads: and yes, the tone of the God Delusion is strident at times. But it is a polemic. It's meant to be in-your-face-and-wrestle-you-to-the-floor sort of stuff, not kiss-you-on-the-lips-and-call-you-spanky.

I strongly suspect there are better replies to Dawkins' book out there than this one, but in its favour, it is mercifully brief.