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If Youth Knew, If Age Could 17 — Family: The United Nations and Conservatism

2023-01-04

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/03/22

Dr. Herb Silverman is the Founder of the Secular Coalition for America, the Founder of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, and the Founder of the Atheist/Humanist Alliance student group at the College of Charleston. He authored Complex variables (1975), Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt (2012) and An Atheist Stranger in a Strange Religious Land: Selected Writings from the Bible Belt (2017). He co-authored The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America (2003) with Kimberley Blaker and Edward S. Buckner, Complex Variables with Applications (2007) with Saminathan Ponnusamy, and Short Reflections on Secularism (2019), and Short Reflections on American Secularism’s History and Philosophy (2020).

Here we talk about family.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Conservatives take the family as the fundamental unit of societies, the building block. It becomes a divine mandate in many theologies and religious social commentaries.

The United Nations is fundamentally allied with this vision in its foundational and associated documents with the description of the family as the fundamental group unit in the society.

An almost unacknowledged unifying vision between a nationalist and a globalist vision of the world. So, why is family fundamental? They both seem right from different views of the world.

Dr. Herb Silverman: A family is usually viewed as people connected by blood, adoption, or marriage. The question then becomes how we should treat family members. Surprisingly, I like what Jesus said about blood relatives, though with some objections and a different perspective.

This is from Mark 3:32–35: A crowd was sitting around Jesus and said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And Jesus replied, “Who are my mother and brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and my mother.”

Of course, I disagree with defining family in terms of faith. On the other hand, there is something to be said about counting friends we choose after we are born as more important than people we are related to through no personal decisions. I would say that family is fundamental if we include those we are close to, whether or not we are related to them.

Nevertheless, even if we are not close to blood relatives, I think we owe them respect and help when they are in need. I have no siblings and wasn’t particularly close to my parents, but I know they made many sacrifices for me and I appreciate that they tried to raise me as best they could. I also tried to make things comfortable for them when they became too old and sick to care for themselves.

Jesus challenges our notions of family loyalty when he says, according to Luke 14:26, “Whoever does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Perhaps this is why when Jesus’ family heard what he was doing, they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21). In John 7:5, we learn that even Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe him.

Christians continually bemoan the breakdown of “family values” in our culture. Do they only count as family members those who worship Jesus the same way that they do?

I don’t think Christians can take much solace in the Hebrew Bible, where many men had more than one wife. In fact, according to 1 Kings 11:3, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Perhaps Solomon’s brain was not his most noteworthy organ.

When it comes to nationalist and globalist views of family, I include extended families, who go beyond the nuclear family of father, mother, and their children. It can include aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, all living in the same household. In a lot of cultures, the extended family is the basic family unit.

Many families move in with one another for financial and emotional support, especially when children are involved. Demographic and cultural shifts, such as the increasing number of immigrants and the rising average age of young-adult marriages, along with difficulties in finding jobs paying a living wage, have also created a need for extended families. Approximately 49 million Americans live in homes containing three or more generations.

Jacobsen: Most people want a family. Most will create one. What are some good principles for getting from point A to point Z?

Silverman: You can create family by first establishing close and fulfilling relationships. Sometimes these relationships are formed when you get involved with activities you enjoy. This is a good way to meet people with whom you have things in common. When it comes to coupling (as in dating), it’s important to make sure the other half of your couple is a friend (and contraceptives have been considered). You should be honest, not just about your feelings for the person, but also about your perceived weaknesses and fears.

When the relationship grows closer, you might consider living together. By now you should have discussed boundaries, what you feel is permitted and what is not. Is it an exclusive sexual relationship? If it appears that this loving relationship might become permanent, you may want to consider marriage. But first discuss what you both want out of marriage. Financial arrangements? Kids? If so, how many and how should they be raised? Such plans might change, but it’s still a good idea to discuss such things in advance.

Though couples usually marry with the best of intentions, about half of marriages end in divorce. I recommend couples-counselling before considering divorce, especially if kids are involved. I definitely don’t recommend following Mark 10:9, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” This means, according to the Catholic Church, that a woman should stay in her marriage even if her husband abuses her. There is a Catholic out, known as annulment, in which the Church can declare that the marriage was never really valid. It can be expensive to get such an annulment.

My wife is an adulterer in the eyes of the Catholic Church. She is married to a second man (me), even though she received a civil divorce from the first many years ago. The Catholic Church does not recognize or permit a second marriage like hers when the first took place in a Catholic Church. I enthusiastically endorse my wife’s two divorces: one legally from her first husband, and one metaphorically from the Catholic Church.

Jacobsen: How do you keep a family life, or simply a family without children, fresh, vibrant, and stimulating rather than dull, a deteriorator, and stultifying?

Silverman: You sometimes hear that in a marriage, two become one. I disagree. I think it’s important for two to remain two. While each has his or her interests, it’s good for couples to also have lots in common, things that they enjoy doing together. Often one of the partners develops an interest that the other partner has. It’s also nice to share new adventures.

If you don’t get along with a family member, perhaps a relative, that’s fine as long as you don’t resent it and hold a grudge. Such feelings not only make the relationship worse, but they can also hurt your body and your mind.

To keep a marriage from stultifying, it helps to have a sense of humor. Most mornings my wife says to me, “It’s so nice to wake up next to you.” She laughs when I respond, “I’m sorry I can’t experience that pleasure.” Despite the cliché, I don’t know what it means to be “beside myself.”

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Silverman.

Previous sessions:

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 1 — Freethought for the 21st Century

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 2 — Freethought for a Multipolar World

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 3 — Coming of Age in an Ever, Ever-Irrational World

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 4 — Bridges are the Rainbows

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 5 — We Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, No-Time Soon: Supernaturalistic Traditions and Naturalistic Philosophies in the Future

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 6 — Age is Numbers, Youth is Attitude

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 7 — The Nature of Nature in the Nature of Time

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 8 — Serendipity, Luck, and Love

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 9 — Guidance Without Expectation of Reward: or, Thus Saith the Landlord

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 10 — Nature’s on a Roll, or a Rigamarole, or Somethin’: Plural Processes, Dynamic Dynamos, and Good Enough

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 11 — Morrow’s Fantasia: My Tomorrow’s ‘Tomorrow’

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 12 — By ‘Soul,’ We Mean Psyche: The Complete Human Being

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 13 — Sifting Sense and Nonsense: B.S. Detector, the Baloney Detection Kit

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 14 — A Rational Life Includes Non-Rational Parts

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 15 — All Things Bright and Wonderful, and Unknown: What Do We Know, Really?

If Youth Knew, If Age Could 16 — Take Some Time: Virtues and Virtuous Habits

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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