Monday, July 16, 2007

How the West Really Lost God by Mary Eberstadt


Review No. 143
June & July 2007
Table of Contents

FEATURES:
How the West Really Lost God

By Mary Eberstadt

A new look at secularization.

http://www.hoover.org/publications/policyreview/7827212.html

Consider as subsidiary evidence this tantalizing fact: Differences in fertility rates within the United States itself also track broadly with differences in religiosity. The Northeast pattern closely resembles that in Western Europe, whereas the South and border states are correspondingly higher. And the rate is also high among the well-educated and well-off population of Latter-Day Saints.

Something about having larger families is making people more religious, at least some of the time.26


not only that religious people are inclined toward the family, but also that something about the family inclines people toward religiosity.

First, there is the phenomenological fact of what birth itself does to many fathers and just about every mother. That moment — for some now, even that first glimpse on a sonogram — is routinely experienced by a great many people as an event transcendental as no other. This hardly means that pregnancy and birth ipso facto convert participants into zealots. But the sequence of events culminating in birth is nearly universally interpreted as a moment of communion with something larger than oneself, larger even than oneself and the infant. It is an elemental bond that is cross-cultural as perhaps no other — a formulation to which most parents on the planet would quickly agree.

Thus does a complementary religious anthropology begin to emerge, grounded on the primal fact that the mother-child and father-child bond, as no other, appears to push at least some people toward an intensity of purpose they might never otherwise have experienced. And it’s not as if birth is the only familial experience that has this transcendental effect. So do other common family events that defy ordinary, atomized human pleasure-seeking, including, say, the selfless care of an ailing family member, the financial sacrifices made for those whose adulthood one may never live to see, even the incredible human feat of staying married for a very long time. Further, in binding those alive to relatives both past and yet to come, family is literally death-defying — another feature that might make it easier for those living in families to make related transcendental leaps of the religious variety. Third, families and especially children also transform people in other ways — and not just by clipping adult wings, turning the former midnight rover into a man in slippers watching O’Reilly at 8 pm, but also in what may be the deepest way of all. All men and women fear death; but only mothers and fathers, and perhaps some husbands and wives, can generally be counted upon to fear another’s death more than their own. Just as there are no atheists in a foxhole, so too would there appear to be few in the nursery or critical care unit, at least most of the time.

Perhaps women who are mothers tend to be more religious because the act of participating in creation, i.e., birth, is more immediate than that of men. Perhaps that fact inclines women to be more humble about their own powers and more open to the possibility of something greater than themselves — in brief, more religiously attuned. Or perhaps for both mothers and nonmothers there is something about caring for the smallest and most vulnerable beings, which is still overwhelmingly women’s work — after all, even power mommies employ women to do it — that makes it easier to believe in (or hear, depending on one’s personal belief) a God who stands in a similar all-caring relationship to relatively helpless mortals of every age. Maybe the general sex differences in religiosity have something to do with explanations like these.

But the majority of people... learn religion in communities, beginning with the community of the family.

Trying to believe without a community of believers is like trying to work out a language for oneself

For there is nothing fixed or inevitable about today’s low birth rates or (bearing in mind that fertility is just one of several measures for the vitality of the family) low marriage rates or, for that matter, notions about the desirability of the natural family itself — in Europe or anywhere else. All these measures of family vitality have fluctuated throughout history, sometimes radically so. Both the low birth rate and the waning of marriage among Roman patricians, for example, were of sufficient concern under the emperor Augustus as to result in the imposition of the family-friendly “Julian laws” (incidentally, pronounced a failure by Tacitus a hundred years later). During the modern Depression, to take a very different example of flux, the birth rate in the United States was roughly two children per woman; only a historical blink later, in the years of the Baby Boom, it was four. Moreover, even the nations of Western Europe – now home to some of the lowest birth rates on earth — all experienced a baby boom recently enough to be within the living memory of those who are in late middle-age today.

There is also another less tangible but nonetheless real reason why one can imagine a turnaround both in marriage rates and family size.34 The world has not experienced these historically low rates of natural family formation for long — or their attendant problems. Single motherhood, for example, though cheered by feminists a generation ago in the name of “liberation,” is now widely seen for what it really is: an inhumanly difficult task for almost any woman to execute, let alone the poorer and more vulnerable women among whom it has become common. Similarly — though it is politically charged to say so at a time when gay marriage, polygamous marriage, surrogate births and other novel family arrangements are being championed — a generation of social science has established that children do best when they grow up with married, biological parents in the home and that children who do not enjoy that advantage are at higher risk for a large number of problems.35 It is interesting that both marriage rates and childbearing among relatively affluent educated American women now seem to be on the uptick for reasons that have set sociologists quarreling. Maybe learning from the recent past, in particular from the problems that have arisen from other kinds of family structures, is one reason for that change.

And of course one of the largest of these parental considerations — access to education — is also susceptible to political change. In the United States, where most urban public schools are seen as substandard and undesirable, parents in such areas often make decisions about family size based on what it costs to send children to school elsewhere. Any number of factors — restoration of public education, meaningful tuition tax credits, innovations in home-schooling networks — could affect that calculation in another direction.

People of the future may well appreciate better than many of us today the particular human joy not only in one’s own offspring, but in their offspring too.

There is plenty of reason for pessimism about what the future holds for religious belief if by “pessimism” one means further decline. Divorce and illegitimacy — to say nothing of maternal surrogacy, polygamy, polyandry, multiple parenthood, and related political experiments involving children that defy the empirical evidence about what’s best for them — all these and other forces are battering the natural family. The more we modern people experiment with it, retooling it to suit our material desires, our political agendas, our busy lives, the more we would appear to risk losing what it is that makes many people religiously inclined in the first place. Nevertheless, in the religious anthropology proposed here — and contrary to that of secularization theory — there is nothing inevitable about the decline of the natural family and thus, by implication, religion too.
To argue by analogy, it appears that the natural family as a whole has been the human symphony through which God has historically been heard by many people — not the prophets, not the philosophers, but a great many of the rest. That is why the conventional story of secularization seems to be missing something: because it makes its cases by and to atomized individuals without reference to the totality of family and children through which many people derive their deepest opinions and impressions of life — including religious opinions and impressions.36

Tags:

Awakening To Our Awful Situation, Warnings From the Nephite Prophets By Jack Monnett

This is the beginning of my discussion of this book I am reading. I resisted buying this book, when I saw it on the shelf I thought "another end times a coming book." But as I was purchasing my dried fruit from my favorite whole foods store Kitchen Kneads, the owner went to the shelf got this book and highly recommended it to me. Thus on his recommendation I purchased the book. Also I appreciate Joel Skousens books and he wrote the foreword in the book. In the back of the book it summarizes this..

In the preceding pages we have learned that:

1. Constitutional safeguards have been broached by government under the guise of expediency and preserving freedom.

2. Engineered emotional fervor has been used to propel America into foreign wars.

3. Wars have been intentionally used to siphon the wealth of nations and to consolidate it into establishment control.

4. In most instances, the content of media and formal education is controlled.

5. Sovereignty and the right to determine national standards and ideals among individual nations is being relinquished to the United Nations.

6.Although vociferous denial to the contrary, evidence demonstrates that government individuals and agencies have fostered the drug trade in the United States and positioned other countries to comply with illicit drug demand.

7. The motives and methods of today's power usurpers parallel those of the Gadiaton Robbers of Book of Mormon times.

I do not expect this to be your grandmothers "conspiracy book" I am expecting some actual factual information and insights into today political situation.

Here are some interesting links I found, I am posting them her for me to look over in more detail later.

http://www.deepdoctrine.com/old/index.html
http://www.lifeschoolk12.org/shop/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=215&osCsid=17a8c967849cd552bfbedfedf276da54
http://www.literature.org/authors/doyle-arthur-conan/poison-belt/chapter-06.html
Jeanine
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” ~ Aldo Leopold

Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Common Sense" by Thomas Paine

A post I wrote in my Modern Mothers Group

Kerry and I have decided that we would like to study something together. We decided that we wanted to study "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine. We found an online subscription where we can receive this in parts in our email three times a week. We would love it if anyone else in here wanted to read it with us. Here is the link.

http://www.dailylit.com/books/common-sense

"A long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason."

I loved this statement. Our society is truly like this. Many things that are "standard" for society are assumed to be correct or right. Kerry's favorite statement right now has been "question everything". I think that there are many things in our lives that need to be questioned. Kerry was telling me that she wanted to teach her children to be self thinkers, so that they can see through standard lies. After discussing this we decided that one of the best ways to raise a self thinker is to read classics. Thus we are starting by reading Common Sense.

"Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher."

Thomas Pain explains that humans naturally like to live together in community. "In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same." I believe this is true. We humans crave community and interaction with other humans. Thus, we now have online communities like this one to bring like minded people together.

For a little while community can prosper without laws. But eventually "they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other; and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue." Thus laws are a necessary check and balance to keep society for regressing.

I enjoyed reading this such common sense, and hope some of you will join us in reading and discussing this.

Tell me what you think.

Jeanine
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” ~ Aldo Leopold

Follow the discussion here.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Modern_Mothers/message/993
and here
http://www.dailylit.com/forums/book/290

"Common Sense" by Thomas Paine

A post I wrote in my Modern Mothers Group

Kerry and I have decided that we would like to study something together. We decided that we wanted to study "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine. We found an online subscription where we can receive this in parts in our email three times a week. We would love it if anyone else in here wanted to read it with us. Here is the link.

http://www.dailylit.com/books/common-sense

"A long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason."

I loved this statement. Our society is truly like this. Many things that are "standard" for society are assumed to be correct or right. Kerry's favorite statement right now has been "question everything". I think that there are many things in our lives that need to be questioned. Kerry was telling me that she wanted to teach her children to be self thinkers, so that they can see through standard lies. After discussing this we decided that one of the best ways to raise a self thinker is to read classics. Thus we are starting by reading Common Sense.

"Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher."

Thomas Pain explains that humans naturally like to live together in community. "In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same." I believe this is true. We humans crave community and interaction with other humans. Thus, we now have online communities like this one to bring like minded people together.

For a little while community can prosper without laws. But eventually "they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other; and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue." Thus laws are a necessary check and balance to keep society for regressing.

I enjoyed reading this such common sense, and hope some of you will join us in reading and discussing this.

Tell me what you think.

Jeanine
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” ~ Aldo Leopold

Follow the discussion here.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Modern_Mothers/message/993
and here
http://www.dailylit.com/forums/book/290

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Let children be children

San Francisco Chronicle
Let children be children
Is your 5-year-old stressed out because so much is expected?

Penelope H. Bevan

Sunday, June 3, 2007

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2007/06/03/INGE5Q5QCO1.DTL

I was watching one of my second-grade girls try unsuccessfully to tie her shoes the other day, and I thought, "This is a person who is supposed to be learning plural possessives?" I think not.

We've just finished test time again in the schools of California. The mad frenzy of testing infects everyone from second grade through high school. Because of the rigors and threats of No Child Left Behind, schools are desperate to increase their scores. As the requirements become more stringent, we have completely lost sight of the children taking these tests.

For 30 years as a teacher of primary kids, I have operated on the Any Fool Can See principle. And any fool can see that the spread between what is developmentally appropriate for 7- and 8-year-old children and what is demanded of them on these tests is widening. A lot of what used to be in the first-grade curriculum is now taught in kindergarten. Is your 5-year-old stressed out? Perhaps this is why.

Primary-grade children have only the most tenuous grasp on how the world works. Having been alive only seven or eight years, they have not figured out that in California there is a definite wet and dry season. They live in high expectation that it will snow in the Bay Area in the winter. They reasonably conclude, based on their limited experience with words, that a thesaurus must be a dinosaur. When asked to name some of the planets after he heard the word Earth, one of my boys confidently replied, "Mars, Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter and Canada!" to which a girl replied, "No, no, no, you gotta go way far outer than that."

Research has shown that it takes approximately 24 repetitions of a new concept to imprint on a young brain. The aforementioned plural possessives come up twice in the curriculum, yet they are supposed to know it when they see it. This is folly.

Currently, 2 1/2 uninterrupted hours are supposed to be devoted to language arts and reading every morning. I ask you, what adult could sustain an interest in one subject for that long? Yet the two reading series adopted by the state for elementary education require that much time be devoted to reading in the expectation that the scores will shoot up eventually. Show me a 7-year-old who has that kind of concentration. Show me a 64-year-old teacher who has it. Not I.

The result of this has been a decline in math scores at our school, because the emphasis is on getting them to read and there isn't enough time to fit in a proper curriculum. Early math education should rely heavily on messing about with concrete materials of measurements, mass, volume and length, and discovering basic principles through play.

There is no time for this. The teaching of art is all but a subversive activity. Teachers whisper, "I taught art today!" as if they would be reported to the Reading Police for stealing time from the reading curriculum, which is what they did.

It is also First Communion time in second grade. Yes, I teach in a public school, but First Communion happens in second grade, and it is a big deal, the subject of much discussion in the classroom. The children are excited.

A few months back one of my girls exclaimed, "Jeez, I have a lot to do after school today, Teacher. I gotta do my homework, go to baseball practice and get baptized." I laughed to myself at the priorities of this little to-do list, so symbolic of the life of one second-grader. But there was a much larger issue here. What is happening to their souls? You may ask, what business it is of the schools what is happening to the souls of these little children?

I will tell you. Any fool can see that those setting the standards for testing of primary-grade children haven't been around any actual children in a long time. The difference between what one can reasonably expect an 8-year-old to know and what is merely a party trick grows exponentially on these state tests.

Meanwhile, children who know they are bright and can read well are proved wrong time and again because of the structure of these tests. Teachers spend inordinate amounts of time trying to teach the children to be careful of the quirky tricks of the tests when they should be simply teaching how to get on in the world.

Twenty years ago, I had a conference with a parent, a Sikh, whose child was brilliant. I was prepared to show him all her academic work, but he brushed it aside and said, "Yes, yes, I know she is quite smart, but I want to know how her soul is developing."

The present emphasis on testing and test scores is sucking the soul out of the primary school experience for both teachers and children. So much time is spent on testing and measuring reading speed that the children are losing the joy that comes but once in their lifetime, the happy messiness of paint, clay, Tinkertoys and jumping rope, the quiet discovery of a shiny new book of interest to them, the wonders of a magnifying glass. The teachers around them, under constant pressure to raise those test scores, radiate urgency and pressure. Their smiles are grim. They are not enjoying their jobs.

Our children need parents and teachers who, like Hamlet, know a hawk from a hand saw, who know foolishness when they see it and are strong enough to defend these small souls from the onslaught of escalating developmentally inappropriate claptrap. The great unspoken secret of primary school is that a lot of what is going on is arrant nonsense, and it's getting worse. Any fool can see.

Contact us at insight@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page E - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle