Friday, January 28, 2011

in favor of organized (anti-theist) religion

1) If I had a visiting teacher, I would ask for this. I'd just go get my own, but I've got a vicious flu, and the merits (and road safety) of going out are dubious. Sadly, I disposed of my most recent one some months ago by pointing out that being called as my vt didn't give her the right to call me "baby" and "hon"--not after pretending I didn't exist through two years of classes together and a year of sharing a bus stop. No exploiting the system for me. Quel domage.

2) This, in the words of William J. Doherty's The Intentional Family, is the problem with being an atheist:

"For American families across all income strata and ethnic groups, religion provides a primary source of rituals of community. The great majority of American families belong to a religious organization of some sort, and on a typical weekend 41 percent of all families with children attend a religious service. In addition, families who are members of religious institutions are also more active in nonreligious community groups and organizations than are people who do not affiliate with a religious institution. In other words, religiously active families tend to be involved in all sorts of rituals of community."

Although, take note, "tend to be" does not mean "are," as I can attest to from my own intensely religious, but community starved and ritual hungry, upbringing. Doherty goes on to describe how his young family had benefited from the experienced multi-generational church community.

"What were the odds of us having someone like Judy and the other families be part of our community if we were not involved in a religious organization? Not very great. We could have tried to create a three-generational community around ourselves, but this would have been a full time job for a struggling young couple who were new to the area. A neighborhood community would also have been a possibility, but generally there are not weekly rituals of connection in most neighborhoods during with you can interact with dozens of people at different phases of the life cycle. The reality is that the most widely available source of family rituals of community is a church, synagogue, or mosque."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

we'll strip-mine the other planets later

I was puttering around at sociological images and saw this:

which really got me thinking. I consider trash disposal the least of our problems--but how huge it is, even this one thing. How horrifying. So I took inventory--what can I do? And what will I do? Because now that I consider my own life of value, not just my survival, the resources these efforts take compete not only with what I should do but with what I want to do.

Regarding possible changes, I'm struck by the role of community in determining how much it will cost me to make them. I'm lucky to have the housemates I do; they're fun, interesting, and smart, and I'm safer for living with them. But we have different priorities. Like usual for adults living together at our age, we're much more a mismatched boarding house than a unified household.

Maybe if I lived with crazy hippies we could sometimes eat together, and share in cooking and gardening, which would reduce need for convenience foods. We could get rid of the air conditioner and clothes dryer, make a group commitment to buying second-hand, share our cars and bicycles. There is nothing about these economies that inherently binds them to families and older adults. It's only preference, and a lack of infrastructure to put together relatively stable households with young people of similar values.

Lack of community damages us ecologically on a lot of levels. I use unnecessary resources most when I'm sad. Considering that young adults have high suicide rates as a group, I suspect I'm not alone in using material resources to manage depression when a stronger social network would do it better. People (even people who identify as anti-social) are happiest on average around other people.

It also creates the helplessness we face when considering environmental issues. Solar panels for your house are an attempt to replace unsustainable infrastructure you've already paid for once as "clean coal" plants and the attending medical bills. Using public transport and a bicycle means paying twice for transport--first through hefty tax-funded subsidies to the gas-guzzler system, then in the time and money it actually costs to ride your bike and take the bus.

There's a certain amount that every individual can and should do for the environment. Eating as sustainably as possible, conserving water and energy, not buying more stuff than we absolutely need, and carefully choosing what we do buy and use are measures we all ought to get used to. These are cultural standards we need to create.

But ultimately--in a country where car is a better predictor of employability than a high school diploma--the decisions that break us are made at a policy level. Personal and even cultural change are necessary but not sufficient. Political action using real power is the only way to necessary systemic change.