Separation of church and school

There is a big debate driving everyone a little crazy in Iceland right now. The Reykjavik Human Rights Committee published a report where they stated that there is a need to draw a line between the work of religious institutions and the school system. They suggested for instance that representatives from the church should be banned from going to the schools and that confirmation classes should not be held during school hours. They also recommend that instead of the schools calling in priests to help children with emotional problems/trauma they should call in trained professionals such as psychiatrists.

I think most people in Iceland agree with this. Of course the church should not be allowed to send priests to the schools to preach to children against the parents’ wishes! This has been going on for a long time and a lot of people are not happy with it. I remember having to fight my teachers every year about sending me to church on Christmas (I am not religious). Children of parents who are not Christian often feel left out when all the others are sent to confirmation classes. Representatives of religions other than the National Church are also vastly underrepresented.

It’s obvious to me that this is a good thing.

Of course many argue against it. The leading arguments seem to be: “What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s hurting anyone!” And “it never caused me any harm!” And “next thing we know they’ll be banning Christmas decorations and Little Christmas*!” Also “what happened to teaching children good Christian values? We are a Christian nation!”

I am going to tackle these arguments one at a time.

1. What is the harm?

Most (if not all) of the people who use this argument are Christian Icelanders. Many of them mention that they are not very religious themselves and seem to think that this justifies their argument. Kids who are Christian or don’t care aren’t likely to even notice the Church being there at all, therefore they don’t feel that they’ve been harmed in any way. What about muslim children? Hindu? Buddhist? Jehova’s Witnesses? These children do notice, they feel ostracized. Their parents feel that their power over what their children are being told has been taken out of their hands.

Sure, they aren’t going to be physically harmed, but it can cause them emotional strain. Besides, it’s not about whether people are harmed. It’s about their right to choose. It’s about parents’ rights over their own children. Whether some Icelandic, white, Christian dude felt he’d been harmed by it or not has nothing to do with it.

Like someone on Facebook said: “My friend’s mom smoked and drank while she was pregnant with my friend. This friend of mine is now a well educated, healthy woman. Therefore smoking and drinking during pregnancy isn’t harmful.” It’s a shitty argument!

2. Banning Christmas! Oh nooooo!

It is clearly stated in the report that they have no intention of banning Little Christmas and forbidding children from expressing their own religious beliefs. Christmas isn’t about religion to most kids in Iceland. I don’t think so anyway. I’m not religious and I celebrate Christmas (or yule more like). It’s a fun family tradition where they get lots of presents. It’s completely different from priests coming into the schools trying to recruit kids against the will of their parents. Even if they did ban Christmas celebrations in the school out of respect for non-Christian children, would that be the end of the world? No.

3. Good Christian values

I’m so tired of Christian people claiming that the Bible/God is the only source of “good values” and morality. The schools are supposed to teach children to have compassion and respect for each other, and the difference between right and wrong. They don’t need the church to do so. All these “Christian values” are actually for the most part human values and many of them are universal. Removing the Church from the school isn’t going to turn all the children into amoral monsters. If the parents want to instill “Christian values” in their children they can do so at home.

4. We are a Christian nation

Yeah, about that. We may be culturally Christian…but I don’t think most Icelanders are particularly religious. Even if this statement were to stand, it still wouldn’t be a valid argument against this move. The opinion of the majority is not always right and should never be used as an argument against human rights. Even though non-Christians are the minority they still have a right to be able to send their children to school and trust that they won’t have to suffer attempts from the Christian church to convert them.

 

 

*Small Christmas celebrations in the schools shortly before Christmas vacations begin.

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North Trip – Friday and Saturday

Akureyri, picture from google image search

My best friend Helga Dís and I decided a while ago that this summer we would go on a camping trip together to see Ásbyrgi, Mývatn and Dimmuborgir. Finally we settled on the weekend 2nd-5th of July. I had to go through quite a bit of trouble to free up this weekend at work, but eventually I managed to get Saturday, Sunday and Monday off, but I had to work on Friday morning so we didn’t leave until late.

The trip didn’t start off very well, we had to stop by at a gas station and have the front lights replaced. It was all good until the man who did it for us started having trouble getting the second bulb in. It ended up taking half an hour! Finally we could head out but then just before we reached the Hvalfjarðargöng tunnel we had a flat tire!! So I had to get out and change the tire with the heavy traffic whipping past me. I had just put the spare tire on and was about to put the bolts on when a police officer on a motorcycle arrived and helped me finish.

Finally we could get started. We stopped for a bit in Borgarnes. We tried to find a place to have the tire fixed, but there was nothing open so we simply headed on and drove to Akureyri. We arrived close to midnight and a friend of Helga’s parents let us sleep at his place for the night. It was wet and rainy, we knew it would be although we’d hoped it would clear up.

The next day we spent hours in Akureyri while a friend of Helga’s, Hemmi, gave her a haircut. I also had the tire fixed so we didn’t have to risk driving out into the middle of nowhere with no spare tire. We didn’t leave Akureyri until 2pm or so, but we drove straight out to Mývatn where we took a look at Dimmuborgir. On the way we also stopped and admired Goðafoss.

Goðafoss

I had been told that Dimmuborgir is gorgeous, other people had told me it was kind of disappointing. I usually like to make my own opinions on things however, so I arrived with an open mind. I love Dimmuborgir. It’s absolutely beautiful, I want to build a small house in the middle of it and live there forever! The place is well looked after and there are long hiking trails throughout the area. Helga and I took an hour long trail and I took a lot of pictures.

Dimmuborgir

The area around Mývatn is also beautiful, very green and vibrant and covered in small grassy craters. I will definitely go back there some day and spend some more time just looking around and enjoying the scenery.

Close to Mývatn there is a volcano called Krafla. There is a magma chamber under it which heats up the ground water and there is a big geothermal power station there. We drove up to the power station and took a look at a lake that formed in the Krafla crater, it’s called Víti which means hell. We also took a long hike around to see a geothermal lake and a lot of lava. It’s a beautiful place, even though there’s very little vegetation.

Víti

We returned to Akureyri after that and put up our tent. It was still raining, but luckily it was mostly a drizzle. That evening we went out with Hemmi and got drunk. We didn’t go to sleep until 4 in the morning. Akureyri is built on a mountainside and there is a long, very steep hill called Gilið (e. the canyon). It’s hell to walk up there when sober, but the only time we had to walk it we were drunk and then it was easy! Score!

Lava around Krafla

Today I have been to work, I went sea swimming and then cleaned my mom’s car so I’m exhausted. I will write about the Sunday and Monday part of the trip tomorrow.

Click here for the whole set of pictures from the trip over at Flickr.

Icelandic nature and a bit of feminism

ThingvallavatnToday I took my brother with me on a long drive to Þingvellir and Geysir. I took lots of pictures and clicking on the picture here on the left will take you to my Flickr where you can see the rest.

It was incredibly nice to get out of the city and just walk around for a while. The weather was lovely, the sun was out and everything was so very green and bright and beautiful.

Right now my brother and I are watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I usually love the Indiana Jones movies, even the new one. I absolutely hate Willie, the woman in this one. She’s so very annoying and so very stereotypically female (in a bad way). I’m just sitting here hoping that maybe at some point she’ll shut the hell up!

Anyway, have a few links.

When Teen Pregnancy is No Accident

Two new studies have quantified what advocates for young women’s health have observed for years: the striking frequency with which it is in fact young men who try to force their partners to get pregnant. Their goal: not to settle down as family men but rather to exert what is perhaps the most intimate, and lasting, form of control. (“Control” may also include attempts to force both pregnancy and abortion, even in the same relationship.)

Abortion not used as birth control

A Flinders University study of 965 women over 30 who used Adelaide’s largest abortion clinic found 62 per cent were using contraception when they became pregnant.

Nursing and Midwifery researcher Wendy Abigail said the vast majority of the remainder of women also had not wanted to become pregnant.

She said they were not using contraception for dozens of reasons such as: cultural bans, thinking they could never have children, having been raped or having had what was thought to have been “permanent” birth-control surgery.

Ms Abigail blamed primarily male politicians for perpetuating the myth that women used termination as a convenience rather than for emotional and medical reasons.

And a video: