Thursday, January 3, 2013

Off and Running

I have officially started the experiment. On the first, I prayed for my husband to take up practices like reading the bible, and on the second, I  asked that he become generally more god fearing. Today I asked god to make him "open to admitting his sin".

No changes to report so far, unless you count starting to play the "Smurfs" online game change.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Blind Experiment on Prayer

OK_ I know it has been done before. Lots of times. But I want to do it. So I can have real, incontrovertible proof that yeah, I have "tried" it, and I am not just resorting to other people's interpretations.

I am crafting a blind experiment studying the efficacy of prayer. I love Pinterest, but one of the things I really hate about that site is all of the ignorant repins of so-called "prayer cures" for everything, but especially for misbehaving husbands (the site is heavily female dominated). I saw yet another of those pins show up on my front page today, so I decided to take action.

This is the pin I am responding to. I think I have the perfect test subject- my husband. He's male, he does stupid stuff on occasion, and he doesn't take well to constructive criticism from me on the subject of changing his ways. He certainly isn't a "godly" husband; even though he is nominally Lutheran, I, his Atheist wife, know more about the bible than he does.

So, I'll be praying for him every day for 31 days starting January 1st. I won't let him know I'm doing it. I'll watch him for any signs of change- this should be relatively easy to note, as many of the prayers ask him to exhibit qualities or partake in actions that are very abnormal for him.

I will "earnestly" pray- in order to satisfy the objections many religionists have to double-blind prayer experiments- that prayer, in the context of experiments is often not "sincere" enough since it comes from strangers or is simply a rote prayer recited for the purpose of the experiment. Of course, I find this all to be balderdash on face- religionists are always soliciting prayers from strangers for people in need, and rote prayers are the stock-in-trade of most pastors, priests, etc. who formally invoke the same prayers day after day, service after service. However, I want to tie up all loose ends, so I will be praying for someone I personally know, using the prompts from the site above to guide my spontaneous words to god on each subject.

As far as other objections- god doesn't care to be known, etc.- well, there is nothing I can do about that, except to say this- if I note any real, perceptible change in my husband after 31 days of prayer, I will gladly- and willingly- practice Christian faith from that time forward. Surely, god would wish to return this "prodigal daughter" to the fold.

So stay tuned. I'll be posting updates here about the experiment.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Enough With the "Pain Is Good"

Do you think pain is good? I'm betting no. Most reasonable people avoid pain- isn't that its purpose, to serve as a warning and a deterrent? So why, oh why this silly cult of Pain Is Good? I see it everywhere- from the twee little sports shirts that boldly proclaim "pain is weakness leaving the body", to wacky crap like this, which posits pain during child birth does everything short of unclogging your drains and reorganizing your closets.

Sure, sometimes pain is a necessary evil- you have to have the "pain" of intense workouts to train your body for sports play, or you have to endure a certain amount of pain if you want to give birth (even medicated delivery is NOT pain free). But most people don't play soccer because they like pain, or get pregnant in anticipation of labor pain. Why? Because that would just be stupid. Plain and simple. Pain is not "good".

Ok- I can understand the motivation for claiming "pain is good" in sports circles. It stands as a motivation of sorts, and works as a badge of honor- "I withstood the pain, I'm one of the insiders". I contend this is wrong-headded, as it often leads to people pushing too hard, to the point of injury, but I understand it. Childbirth? Not so much.

Maybe I could understand "pain is good" coming from moms who have Been There, using it in much the same way as the athletes do as motivation/approbation. But from a male midwife who has never given birth? Strange stuff, really.

Dr. Denis Walsh (that's PhD, not MD), asserts pain in childbirth is good because it regulates the process, and may aid in "bonding" between the woman and her baby. I'm here to call bullshit on those two claims.

1. If you have ever endured labor and delivery, you know you are not the one in control. All of the visualizations and breath control techniques in the world aren't going to stop or start contractions. That's a good thing, too- if you had to think about what you were doing, I'd wager it would be a much dicier proposition than it all ready is.

2. "Bonding" is utter nonsense. I was really worried about bonding, since there seems to be so much hand-wringing over it. I should have saved my worry for something else, like the misery of perineal tears. The truth is, you start out feeling a sense of responsibility to the baby, because that's what society tells us to feel, and over time, you begin to love the baby, as it develops a personality, and you begin to be able to interact with it meaningfully. I would guess that 99% of the women claiming to feel an instant "love connection" with their baby are full of crap. Sure, you feel a connection- this is YOUR baby, after all. You probably feel a sense of wonder, too. Babies are pretty amazing little things; from nothing-to-something in 9 months is pretty impressive. The little boogers can be downright cute, too, and people are programmed to like cute little things. But swept away with overpowering love for something you don't even know? Hardly. Women feel compelled to say that to bolster their "mommy cred", but conversations with real new mothers that go past the gloss paint a totally different picture.

So why, Dr, Denis, all the "Pain is Good" posturing?

Because Eve was weak! That's why. The whole natural labor movement, the concern that medicating women in labor and delivery "deprives" them of some key experience all goes back to the sexist idea that women are the Weaker Vessel, and they better toughen up...or else! Even for those who have discarded the trappings of fanatical religion, the core message is still found, intertwined in the conscious and subconscious of all who see women as lesser beings. I just bet Dr. Denis doesn't have a lot of real respect for his patients, and operates at a paternal level with them. Secretly, in his heart of hearts, I bet Dr. Denis thinks he could do better than these hysterical women, if he just had half a chance. He could bear the pain, easily! He could have textbook labor and delivery every time. And because nature so cruelly keeps him from demonstrating his perfection, he has to jab at those weak women sometimes, make them really feel the burn for their own good. Because life is unfair! And they shouldn't get to have all the fun, now should they?

Sadism just never gets old. I wish men and other people who never have/could have babies would devote more of their time to obsessing over something else that doesn't impact me.

Who's up for a good game of (fill in the sport)? Dr. Denis, I hope.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Blessing Myth

Why do I speak out against religion so much? Well, for one, I see it being used as a way to undercut the secular nature of our government, as a tool of repression (especially against women), and a cover for some of the worst intolerance of human nature. I also have a problem with the worldview that religious thought often engenders. The following is an example of that troubling worldview, and how it can remove the very legitimate right of people who have survived traumatic events to feel bad about what has happened to them, and understand it in the larger context of random chance. The "Blessing Myth" takes away the right of trauma survivors to mourn their loss, as well as the very real connection they have to every other person on Earth, who is just as vulnerable to random acts as the victim herself.

I watched this very sad video about a woman who survived a plane crash with her husband. And as I watched, I just felt more and more uncomfortable about the tone of the narration. The woman who was in the crash kept saying over and over what a "blessing" the whole event was. Blessing? A plane crash that nearly claimed her life, and left her with disfiguring, debilitating injuries was a blessing?

That just doesn't make sense. Now, I can understand trying to put a positive spin on the things that happen to you- I don't advocate wallowing in self pity. However, I think it is only fitting and appropriate to be allowed to grieve legitimate loss- and this is a story of legitimate loss. The woman hints at this when she talks about emotion "sweeping over her" as she touched her old clothes and yearned to be the person she was before the crash.

Of course she does. Anyone would. That is totally reasonable, and I don't see a reason to put an artificially happy face on the subject. The reason she does, of course, is to make a religious statement. God gave her this "blessing" so she could view her role as wife and mother in a new light. She feels more "divine" after the crash.

Aha. Now it makes sense. The "blessing" is that of rationalization. How could a "good" god allow such bad stuff to happen? He was "blessing" you, of course! It also fits neatly into the whole "place" of women meme- now this person can truly "appreciate" her role as wife and mother, since she almost lost it all. That nagging question she sometimes whispered to herself- "Is this really all there is to life?" is now decisively put to rest, because god has "blessed" her with this trial that makes her more aware of what she almost lost. And let's not forget the social aspect of this- her declarations of faith and her praise to god for her "blessing" cements her role in her religious community. Instead of being pitied, she is revered, because she was chosen by god.

So what's wrong with this? It seems like a win/win. The woman in question gets to feel better about the hellish tragedy she suffered, she gains status in the community, and the community gets to use her story to bolster their own faith and bring new members into their faith community.

Well, it's a win for everyone except for those who loose. For one thing, this mentality is exactly what leads to abominations like Pat Robertson's declarations that Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake in Haiti were forms of divine retribution. God doles out the blessings and the curses, right? I am sure there are religious people who could spin the tragedy of the plane crash survivor's story into a tale of divine retribution as easily as a tale of divine blessing.

For another thing, this kind of rationalization makes a sticky problem of human agency. Should people just accept what comes their way as god's will? Should people try to prevent bad things even if they suspect god is behind them? Think this is academic? Think again. Religionists have been saying for years that pain in childbirth, which can be prevented, shouldn't be, because it represents Biblical "justice". Even non-religious rationales which valorize the "natural" seem to think great pain is simply a price women should "pay" in childbirth (this is the subject of my next post, incidentally). The rhetoric of "blessing", however ironically, can be put to service- IS put to service- when justifying human suffering of every stripe.

And finally- I suspect that the recipient of the "blessing" looses to, as she is not allowed to feel the very natural feelings of grief after this event. Instead, she represses them, and puts on a happy face. She feels singled out, and different, because she cannot accept the story of her misfortune in the context of random chance. She was "chosen"- this wasn't "one of those things" that could happen to anyone. Difficult questions undoubtedly follow. If this is a "blessing", why do I feel like shit all of the time? Why was I chosen? Is my husband, who was injured much less severely, "less chosen"? Or, am I his burden, his trial?

In the wee hours, when these questions surface, this blessing must feel an awfully lot like a curse.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Unintentional Irony

Seen on a truck in front of me on the way to work: three Marine Corps decals, one Pro-Life sticker.


I can't think of any organization LESS "pro-life" than the Marine Corps. Can you?

My dad was a Marine. During the Vietnam war, no less. He told some stories that would turn your stomach. Valuing the lives of the Marines themselves seemed a low priority to the Corps; killing innocents was even less of an issue. I know many people* associate embryos and fetuses with "innocent" life**, but c'mon. I can't imagine there were many Marines in Vietnam who were instructed to spare pregnant Viet Cong operatives because of the "baybee". That's not how the Marines roll. Mom wasn't "innocent", so the embryo/fetus had to go in order to get the "guilty" operative. Collateral damage. Or maybe not. Apparently there were quite a few US servicemen who thought exterminating the whole lot was the way to go. And lest you think that is a vestage of a bygone era, the sad excesses of a time of exceptional barbarity, I bid you to remember Haditha. Never heard of it? Not surprising. Twenty-four civilians killed? Who cares. That's the price of war.

Apparently, though, when it comes to women exercising control over their own bodies, well, that's just murder. Plain and simple.

Semper Fi.

*Those who believe in preformationism. See my earlier post on the topic.
** "Innocent" life really has no meaning outside of a context. All life is inherently value-neutral. To the pregnant woman, the embryo/fetus wouldn't be "innocent" if it threatened to cause her bodily harm, social approbation, financial strain, or some other ill effect.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The President Wants To Brainwash YOUR Kids!

Isn't this the biggest non-issue ever?

Wow. The president wants to tell kids to study hard and make good grades. Or so he says. According to trusted sources*, Obama Bin-Laden really wants to recruit the kiddies into his Leftist Terror Cult-disarmingly called "The Rainbow Funtime Club". (The "rainbow" reference gave him away.) Anyone with a lick of sense** realizes that exposing their kids to this "speech" will allow Obama to implant deviant sexual urges and plans for Total World Communistic Domination directly into their cerebral cortexes via his insidious Brain-Blaster Ray.

You doubt the existence of such a device? How do you account for the acceptance of Obama's obviously forged birth certificate by the authorities? Answer me that one, huh?

Stop the madness! Pull your kids out of school so they won't be indoctrinated by Der Furher!

* People who fear a Freemason Conspiracy and have personally seen Sasquatch have been passing along a rumor to this effect.
** People who see Rush Limbaugh as a modern-day prophet.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nature Holds Court On Issues Of Assisted Reproduction

Wow- this was shocking to me, too! I stupidly believed that "nature" was not, in fact a sentient being capable of having opinions on the human practice of assisted reproduction, but Allan Pacey, secretary of the British Fertility Society, has set me straight on this matter. In a recent article reporting the death of the world's oldest new mother, Maria del Carmen Bousada, Mr. Pacey suggested that women as old as Bousada (66 at the time of the birth of her twin sons)should not be allowed to purchase assisted reproduction services.

"The rationale for all that is that nature didn't design women to have assisted conception beyond the age of the natural menopause...once you get into the mid-50s, I think nature is trying to tell us something," Pacey told The AP.

He added: "I think many people would worry about providing fertility treatment to women in their 60s. I think as a general rule, to embark on pregnancy when you may not see your child go to university is potentially a very difficult situation."

Hmm. Now, I may not be the Secretary of the British Fertility Society, and I sure don't have Nature's number on my speed-dial like Mr. Pacey evidently does, but I've got to wonder at the well... logical consistency of such a statement. Did nature really design pre-menopausal women for assisted reproduction? Isn't the point of assisted reproduction helping people who can't naturally conceive to have children? Wouldn't post-menopausal women be the very definition of people who can't naturally conceive? Wouldn't Mr. Pacey and the whole gang at the British Fertility Society be out of a job if they really believed that one shouldn't tamper with "nature's order" when it comes to conception?

Now, let's not forget the second part of the statement, where Mr. Pacey laments the "difficulty" of having a child when you can't commit to living long enough to see them through university. Again, does Mr. Pacey or the Society really believe not being able to certify that you will live at least 18-20 years after your child is born should disqualify you from buying their services? I had my son when I was 23. I have made it 10 years, but I can't know for sure that I'll make it a full 20. Who can? The Brits, I guess. Things must be a bit different in Britain (probably due to their chummy relationship with Nature),as people there must be able to foresee their lifespans if the Society uses this benchmark when providing reproductive services. Otherwise, upholding that criteria would pretty much put them out of a job as well.

So, what exactly is Mr.Pacey trying to say, then? Why would he actually be against allowing post-menopausal women to use assisted reproduction? I think I can make a stab at it.

What Mr. Pacey really meant to say was that the thought of old, wrinkly ladies having babies is gross! Eww! That "hole" has a "Do Not Enter" sign on it for a reason!! A woman's attractiveness is bound up with her fertility, and allowing old women to reproduce is just like saying they are attractive and have Worth in society's eyes, which is totally not true! Controlling a woman's fertility has always been the best way to control a woman. Young women must be kept in terror of having unwanted pregnancies or the bondage of mother and wifehood, and old women must have the "right" to claim the "legitimate" power of sex object and mother stripped from them. That's how we keep 'em in line!

See? Doesn't that make more sense? A fertility society doesn't give a gnat's ass about "natural order", nor are they overly concerned with who will take care of the kid once it's born. Neither does the rest of society at large, for that matter. If we did, we would outlaw all assisted reproduction. We would also have all new mothers designate a legal guardian for their child in the event both parents die before the child is 18 (not a bad idea, by the way). No, Mr. Pacey's remarks were just a nice way to jump on the gleeful "I told you so!" bandwagon the article represents while distancing the fertility biz from any hint of impropriety in doing what they do.

The real point of this article was to thumb a collective nose at Bousada for having the audacity to try to escape her societaly-imposed "crone" identity by having a child at 66 years old. By herself, no less. The narrative points out that Bousada's "crime" was justly punished- she died just two years after having the babies. Much clucking of tongues about the "poor children" being "orphaned" by their selfish mother will serve to reinforce society's narrative- women don't have the right to escape their proper fates. Those heavily invested in the patriarchy will try to use this episode to deny older women access to reproduction technologies allegedly to protect the "children", but that excuse is paper-tissue thin.

Of course, the article hints at the fact that Bousada was "reportedly" diagnosed with a tumor some time after the procedure took place. If she did, in fact, die of cancer, that will put a little crimp in the plotline, because as we all know, cancer can strike at any age. Its interesting to note that younger women who continue with pregnancies after being diagnosed with cancer or other illness are often considered martyrs, though they orphan their infants just as surely as Bousada did.

I wonder what Mr. Pacey and Nature have to say about that?