Sunday, May 29, 2011

Proclaim - Church Presentation Software

Here's an interesting piece of software, shortly to be released, that allows the production of presentations in churches using internet cloud-based technology. Check out the video below to see a brief presentation. You can sign up to be notified when free trials become available.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What is Your World View?

Here's an interesting little quiz that attempts to identify your world view based on a series of questions.
Make sure you realise it's limitations as there are certain assumptions behind some of the questions (eg, what does the quiz author mean by 'spirituality'?). But it's an interesting exercise. My world view, according to the results of taking the quiz, is postmodern. It is true that I do consider some aspects of postmodernism to be legitimate - but for much I have a modified view.
The quiz is fun and thought provoking - click here to give it a go!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Movie Review: Oranges and Sunshine


Oranges and Sunshine is an extraordinary movie of a modern day humble hero – Margaret Humphreys – who uncovered a horrendous secret shared by the governments of the UK, Australia, and Canada until 2010.

Margaret (Emma Watson) was a social worker in Nottingham who accidentally uncovered the organised mass deportation of more than 130,00 children to Australia as late as 1970. These children, who were given into care by single mothers who were ashamed to publicly acknowledge they had a child out of marriage, were told their mothers had died and that they would be better off starting a new life in Australia – a land of oranges and sunshine. Until Mrs Humphreys started to delve into the case of one of these children who came to her for help in finding her mother, this mass “migration” program was not publicly known. Working against incredible odds including threats on her life and government resistance, Margaret persisted and exposed one of the most embarrassing cover-ups of our age.

Oranges and Sunshine is a compelling, moving story told without sensationalism. While the movie, at one point, feels like it is going to get bogged down, it quickly recovers and carries the viewer on an emotional journey that leaves us speechless that such a thing could happen in a civilised society. These children were used as slave labour, abused, and suffered the loss of their identities with no concern for their welfare – although it was all done in the name of helping. Emma Watson is very good as the social worker thrust into this journey and she is well-supported by great Australian actors Hugo Weaving and David Wenham. I initially thought that using well-known actors would spoil the power of the story – but it wasn’t long before I forgot that as I was caught in the web of the story.

There may be some flaws in the movie – but these flaws should be overlooked and everyone should see this incredible story which demonstrates that even our own “civilised” societies can easily fall into rationalised evil in the name of good. Don’t miss it.


Opens in Australia on 9 June.

Book Review: Breaking the Spell

Daniel C Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon is a book that every person interested in religion should read. It’s been on my reading list for some time but I have, of course, heard a lot about it before opening its pages. Christian critics, in particular, have labelled Dennett’s approach to religion/spirituality as reductionist and his argument based on the already discredited idea of the meme proposed by Richard Dawkins. But a good deal of the critiques I have read have quite plainly misunderstood what Dennett is on about.

In his book, Dennett wishes to achieve two aims:

Firstly, he wishes to argue that religion should be examined in the same way as we examine any other area of human experience. Religion has been protected from careful scientific scrutiny on the ubiquitous assumption that it is outside of the domain of science. But Dennett provides a compelling case for its urgent analysis. There is so much we don’t know about religion (despite continual claims for its benefit to society or, vice versa, claims that it is the centre of much of the strife in the world) and it has so much influence/impact on society. But there seems to be a social assumption that it is off-limits to inquiry. It is time for that to change.

Secondly, Dennett wishes to propose a possible theory of the evolution of religion as a natural phenomenon in human history. If the first of his wishes is that religion be open to scientific inquiry, then there needs to be a testable theory of religion. In the second half of the book, Dennett constructs a coherent theory of religion’s origins, development, and status in society. But he recognises that all he is suggesting are hypotheses and that they may very well be contentious. He quite openly concedes the contentious nature of some of his proposals including the idea of memes.

Breaking the Spell achieves both of these aims and in a highly intelligent, witty, and respectful manner. Dennett raises some profoundly important issues and provides a wealth of well-informed information on the state of religion in society. My preconceptions of this book were “blown out of the water”. Dennett is honest, plain speaking, and eminently reasonable, constantly acknowledging the limits of our (and his) knowledge about religion.

Religion has nothing to fear from Dennett’s approach – unless religious believers fear what we so frequently say we seek – the truth. It is about time that the sorts of questions Dennett poses in relation to religion were confronted and dealt with and that believers stopped hiding behind the “sacredness” of religion suggesting that its examination is off limits to those who do not believe.

Dennett does not claim to be stating the truth about religion. What he does do is plead for religion to be transparent to inquiry and that the “spell” it holds over society and culture be broken by answering the most basic questions about it. Then we can make fully informed decisions about the role of religion in society, how children are raised in relation to religion, and how religion relates to politics and culture. And why wouldn’t any intelligent Christian or follower of any other religion want that? After all, the truth will set us free.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Movie Review: Source Code

Duncan Jones's (Moon) superb Source Code presents us with another intelligent sci-fi (Inception is the other recent one I'm thinking of) which bodes well for the genre.

A soldier (Jake Gyllanhaal) wakes up on a train not knowing anyone and not knowing how he got there. There's a woman sitting opposite him who knows him - but he's not who she says he is. And when he visits the bathroom to look in the mirror, the image staring back at him is not him! In the middle of his disorientation a bomb explodes and the train is blown to pieces. Instead of dying, he finds himself inside a capsule and discovers that he is part of a mission to catch a terrorist who has already blown up the train he is traveling on - somehow he's been transported back in time to minutes before the explosion. He experiences the same 8 minutes over and over again, including the explosion, until he is able to find out who the terrorist is in order to prevent another impending disaster.

Source Code is a very intelligent piece of sci-fi. Gyllenhaal plays the part of the soldier in a way that makes his character very human and conveys the anxiety inherent in his situation with his usual sensitivity. The other performers don't measure up to his skill, but the plot carries us along so that we don't worry about the mechanics of the film - it is fast paced and totally absorbing.

And it's intelligent! I won't give any more of the plot away except to say that the story touches on all sorts of philosophical themes - the nature of life and death, the nature of time and reality, and the ethics of science that occurs on people who may not be able to give their consent - for example on their body after they die.

Source Code is a refreshing movie that confirms the talents of director Duncan Jones. Source Code is more accessible than the very good Moon. Do everything you can to see Source Code.

Positive Review
'Director Duncan Jones achieves a strange and winning amalgam, a gripping action film that also works as poetry.' - Mick LaSalle/San Francisco Chronicle
Negative Review
'Somewhere under all that bloat is the greatest short subject of all time.' - Elvis Mitchell/Movieline
Content Advice
some violence including disturbing images, and for language.
AUS: M15+
USA: PG-13