The Death Of The Traditional Family

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A family vacation at the Great Salt Lake, Utah - October 2020

In my travels across Internetland I make an effort to engage in as many conversations as I can. I do this because I want to know that the beliefs and worldview I hold are as close to sound and valid as can be.This is an ongoing process that will never be complete, but it is important to me to live in the real world, and a large part of that is learning from the people around me and admitting when I’m wrong. Several times in these cyber-conversations I’ve come across the argument that the success of the West has largely to do with the Christian formula for families and domestic life. I looked into it once, but it seemed a little too Stefan Molyneux-y for my taste, so I let the idea float off into the wasteland of mildly intriguing internet tropes that get Steven Crowder and his ilk excited. Apparently, if I correctly recall the very cursory research I conducted, the reason the empires of the West became the dominant power, and have remained so throughout the majority of Modern Human’s history, is Christian Ideology; they pushed Christian ideals and forcibly converted all the pagans and heathens and infidels in their way, and that is why we have the internet and SpaceX and Quantum Physics and all the other amazing things we have today! I don’t entirely disagree with the premise, just most of it. There is no argument over whether the West was the big bully throughout the majority of our history, they absolutely were and still are. I do, however, contend the assertion that Christianity had anything to do with it, other than the obvious civic-cohesion, but you get that with any ideological grouping; Christianity just happened to be the lucky one.

Let me tell you a tale, dearest reader, of the Industrial Revolution; the period stretching from the late-eighteenth to the early-nineteenth centuries when machines and technology became robust enough to replace manual labor in many fields around the world, and the entire paradigm of work was revolutionized — men no longer solely toiled away from sunup to sundown in fields and farms and workshops, they toiled away in factories and foundries and warehouses. It did astounding things to societies, and it provided for an unprecedented boom in population. Rather than living out in rural areas to directly work the land, the majority of the proletariat moved or were born into densely populated cities, where the goods and commodities were transported to be processed and distributed. It wasn’t overnight, but over a relatively short time span cities grew to sizes never before seen or dreamt of. This transformed daily life for the families living in the developed ⃰ world. Rather than living in rural communities where it would be common to have several generations and branches of a family living together, many families moved to packed urban centers where space was at a premium and single family houses became the norm. Now, that sounds right, right? That was the accepted narrative for the majority of the twentieth century, until researchers uncovered evidence that the traditional Nuclear Family was the predominant form of domestic living among the English proletariat dating back to the thirteenth century. This research added support to the hypothesis that England, being the Christian nation that it was, and is, led the world and spread its culture due to its strong Christian ethic, especially the traditional Nuclear Family — one man, one woman, and however many children survived birth and early childhood.

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Demonstrators at a Trump Rally in Phoenix, Arizona — June 2020

Now, we’ve all heard the standard White, or European if they’re trying to be sneaky, Supremacy arguments before. They’re hard to sit through, and all pretty much boil down to nothing more than the mewling cry of dark man bad. These family-structure specific arguments, however, caught me a little off guard. They’ve clearly been crafted by individuals with a bit more dedication to the deception, if not more intellect; and they’ve even gained some mainstream traction, but that shouldn’t be a sign of credibility, as we don’t have to look far at all in our shared history to find academic and institutional support of racism. Along with the White-Christian supremacist argument that traditional family structure caused the West to become the dominant world-power during the modern age comes an insidious fear of progress and deep thought, and a rapturous love of the superficial.

There is a popular meme among conservative pundits, New Right influencers, and Christian apologists, that the traditional family is under attack. They argue that single mothers, and freakish weirdos who want to put their penises in everything with a hole and/or rub their vaginas on everything else, are directly responsible for their economic woes. They claim the reason crime and poverty are so rampant among traditionally marginalized communities is the lack of morals and the move away from the ideal Christian family. They ignore the history of systemic oppression and disenfranchisement, and pretend that income and wealth disparity is a consequence of poor choices rather than a feature of capitalism and a cause of these social issues. They purport that Liberals and Leftists are actively preying on their children and want nothing less than the destruction of America. They then sensationally plead for strong, mostly white, mostly Christian (or Ben Shapiro style Jewish), straight, cis-men to rise up and take the fight to these weirdos, for if they don’t, their entire way of life will be kaput within a generation! Sometimes they get so worked up that their words have immediate, violent consequences.

One argument that really gets to me is one championed by Cliffe Knecthle, and is quite popular among Christians today. Cliffe is a Christian Apologist who loves to assert that the overwhelming majority of atheists have ‘daddy issues’ and that they left the Church over personal damage rather than self-reflection and scrutinizing their beliefs. Hey, ho, whaddya know, I’m just one more atheist with a history of dysfunction and trauma and daddy issues! I get it, there sure are a lot of us. But your arguments are superficial and only serve to belittle both our traumatic pasts and our personal beliefs. Would you accept an argument that all Christians are just racist weaklings who need to see American Jesus as their protector and source of righteous entitlement, that they can’t get through life on their own so they use the Church as a crutch and a conduit to express their racist beliefs? I hope you wouldn’t, and I would never make such a horrible argument in the first place! Saying that our personal beliefs amount to nothing more than a way to process personal trauma is absurdly supremacist, not to mention lazy and selfish. And hey man, look at the millions of dysfunctional Christian families! I don’t think they are Christian just because they have issues, I think the opposite in fact — many of their issues stem from trying to reconcile the things they’ve learned in church and the things they see in the world around them, and many more are unique to their individual situation. You are smart enough to know that causation and correlation are different things, Cliffe. Look out, your bigotry is showing.

I don’t disagree at all that families are under attack. Families have been under attack for a long time under our economic system; we all hate it yet do nothing about it because we’re too tired or afraid or misinformed to fight it. Corporations and employers collaborate with policymakers to legally extract every last little bit of value from citizens and leave them with just enough to believe that someday they might make it, but ‘making it’ is more and more becoming a fairy tale in America. With debt becoming the primary form of purchasing power and material conditions continuing to deteriorate for the majority of Americans, with politics coming to resemble science fiction novels and films of the eighties, and with the wealthiest super-minority controlling the overwhelming majority of material resources, it’s no wonder we are feeling like we’re under attack! I feel exactly the same about the prospects for my family’s safety and well-being as you people, but I beg you to stop looking to some fictitious, whitewashed, idealized version of the past for answers and comfort. The answers and hope lie ahead.

The ideal family structure evolves in response to economic pressures and social paradigms, and it has done so since we humans have been capable of maintaining complex social relationships. We have to find a way to survive, food and shelter and social needs, and the modern way of life provides new opportunities to do so. The fact that we have become more open and accepting of each other, to the point that many of us feel comfortable pursuing genuine happiness rather than settling for someone else’s idea of what is proper, is not a bad thing. You people have got to realize that we on the left are fighting for humanity, we are fighting an uphill battle against the establishment, an establishment of old money and political power that wants us to remain docile and productive, and you are falling for their propaganda. They are taking advantage of you on both ends, first to exploit your labor and then to use you to support the narrative that the system is good and wholesome and we freakish weirdos are trying to steal all your hard-earned possessions and destroy your families!

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Family fun, Gilbert, Arizona — February 2020

I want a family where everyone is healthy and happy. And I want the same for you and your family. I don’t care how you manage that, and I’d love to help and be a part of that. You’ve got to stop believing these lies that are being handed down from on high. You’re being indoctrinated into the Church of Doing Nothing, of regression and apathy and insular identity politics. We’re not trying to take a single thing away from you, we’re not trying to live for free on your tax dollars, we’re not trying to violate your children or lead them astray; we’re protesting the organizations that exploit every single one of us, we’re fighting for recognition of our shared humanity, we’re trying to break down the walls that are holding us all back. Stop and think and really consider if you’d rather infringe on another’s rights or fight for your own.

⃰ I recently read a piece that suggested we stop using the term Developed to describe countries that fit the Western model, as it implies that societies who don’t conform are somehow less legitimate or sophisticated. I agree that this can absolutely be a consequence of using this language, which is why I am clarifying here — I do not think that industrialization and modernization says anything about the worth of legitimacy of any society, I am using it specifically in reference to industrial development and am saying nothing at all about the cultural and social sophistication and value of these groups.

Secular Humanist writer, photographer, and quintessential millennial dilettante. Check out https://threebillionbeats.com for more, you can even buy prints!

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