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A . What Is A "Tribe" And Why Do I Want To Join One?

There are a couple of relevant definitions for the word "tribe,"1 but the primary reason for choosing that word (instead of some other word) is to properly distinguish a group of members of the Agnostic Church without using the traditional word for a religious group, "congregation." The word "congregation" denotes a group that comes together (or "congregates") for a meeting. That implies that the group is transient, and exists only when the membership chooses to get together for some reason. That implication is at odds with what is intended for the true function of the Agnostic Church, which is to provide a support system for families so that all family members find it easier to cope with a modern life style (remember, the Agnostic Church embraces science and technology, as opposed to seeing themselves as neo-Luddites). In thinking of a word to use to convey that different meaning, the word "tribe" comes naturally, because it conveys all of the intended results: members will live near to one another; members will attend religious functions with one another; members will look out for one another, and intervene in the lives of one another when it is necessary; members will assist one another throughout their lives, and the lives of all of their loved ones; and members will form a low level government to take care of the needs of the membership, providing the necessary linkage to authority figures who are not remote from the families they are intended to serve.2 The essential concept is that church members can create a voluntary association which amounts to a small town, and which can exist anywhere, even in the middle of the largest city. The concept of a "tribe" allows those small town values to continue to exist, wherever any significantly large group of members of the Agnostic Church can be found to be living. What the media preaches is that America has lost the "small town" values which made America great. This is not really true. The values were not so much lost as they were driven out by the atheist activists who insisted on absolute "minority rule" when interpreting and constructing the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.3 Those atheist activists have driven all teaching of moral values out of our school system, so that we are now raising our second generation of children with no values (and it shows).4 The existing churches have some problems in attempting to cope with the lack of values in our young people: 1) most young people will not attend church unless the parents go, and a majority of parents are too busy having fun on Sunday to bother with attending church, even if they still consider themselves to be believers (and many do not); 2) most young people receive such a humanistic and scientific indoctrination five days a week at school that those same young people are biased against acceptance of the moral and religious message preached for one hour a week at church; 3) most churches have not tried to change and become more relevant to young people; 4) more and more young people are coming to the conclusion that the existing churches are preaching a message which they just cannot accept, for any number of reasons; and 5) the overall decline of Western Civilization5 has led to a lack of commitment to belonging to any group defined in any manner.6 These difficulties may only be overcome with a persistent effort that establishes a methodology for providing daily reinforcement of moral and religious values, and a grouping that allows the children to fend off peer pressure at school by having a different group of peers as part of their "tribe" (church group). The elements of this approach would be familiar to anyone who was living a religious life in small town America. However, this program is a translation of small town America for use by agnostic America, living mostly in the cities and their suburbs. The net result should be a return to traditional "family values,"7 which everyone now preaches, but few do much to encourage. Thus, the principal reason for joining the Agnostic Church, and one of its tribes, is to adopt a set of family values which has real meaning, and which also provides some group security for the unexpected.

In the late 1950s, my own parents voluntarily joined a "tribe" of sorts. There were five couples that each lived in one of the homes on the same street in my home town. They were all good people, and they have remained friends for nearly 40 years, through a lot of good and bad times for all of the families. It was always an unwritten rule that if any of the parents were to be killed for some reason, the other members of this "tribe" would find a way to see to it that the children of the dead parents were taken care of. While this never happened, there was a strong sense of comfort in just knowing that there was always somebody to turn to if things in the family got out of hand for any reason at all. In those cases where bad things did happen, the "tribe" tended to chip in and pull together, making any sorrow easier to bear for the afflicted family. The tendency over the last century or so has been for families to disintegrate. If you include the effects of a very high divorce rate, you can easily understand why there are so many single people living alone, with absolutely no support system to look out for any children of any single parents included in that group.8 For a large number of reasons, larger family groupings are clearly more desirable than are small family groupings, with one or two adults per household.9 What is missing is that our individual quests for privacy has stripped us of our ability to live together and get along with one another. People are so afraid of a meddling mother-in-law, or of constant demands for care, that they refuse to take in an elderly person who can no longer live alone, and thus another elderly person gets shuffled off to a nursing home (at great expense to the family). We toss our children out the door as soon as possible, sending them off to college or work and to find their own place to stay. Recent experiments at communal living have clearly shown that this is a lower cost and emotionally more healthy way to live. We just need to find a way to do it on a larger scale, without having to build new homes to support that mode of living. We also need to avoid the known bad attributes of such modes of living, such as communistic property arrangements, group marriages, and so forth, each of which has been found to not contribute to the overall health of a small community. One model which ought to be studied for input in this regard is the Israeli Kibbutz, which appears to realize many of the goals which I foresee for our tribal culture, but apparently only in the context of a rural farming community. We should not be so restricted in our thinking.

1 Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Copyright 1971 by G. & C. Merriam Co.: "a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations, together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangers," or "a group of persons having a common character, occupation, avocation, or interest."

2 How many people have personal contact with a city council member, or some other high level official of the community in which they live? Most people live in cities which are large enough that most people have absolutely no contact with anyone in authority in the government (other than perhaps individual police), which tends to make government far too remote to the real needs of the citizens.

3 Mind you, I am all for the separation of church and state. However, that should NOT preclude our schools from instructing our kids on basic moral values! Of course, the eventual adoption of the principles of the Agnostic Church will obviate this distinction.

4 The first generation of valueless children was born in the 1960s and 1970s. Thus, the second generation was born in the 1980s and 1990s (assuming 20 years per generation).

5 This phrase refers to the overall thesis of Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West.

6 William Safire recently wrote a column about this phenomena, which he labeled as a "lack of loyalty," and he even included his own lack of loyalty to "brand name" toothpaste as a symptom of this problem. However, the column merely displayed his recognition of the symptom (lack of loyalty) instead of recognizing the disease (the death of Western Civilization, as defined by Spengler). This "lack of loyalty" was essentially predicted by Spengler, writing in 1914-1918, and Safire just figured it out in 1994, eighty years later!

7 Admittedly, the "family values" which the Agnostic Church is preaching are not the "traditional" family values, but a modified set of family values which the church believes can be rationally justified. The theory is that young people will respond to values for which they can see the rational justification, just as they now reject values for which they see no justification.

8 One example comes from a recent news story about three small children who were found with their dead mother (who apparently died of natural causes). Only the fact that the neighbors of this family were complaining to the apartment manager about the loud noise from the television set caused the children to be found before they were seriously hurt. If a tribe were responsible for that family, there should have been at least one call a day to that woman to make sure that she and her children were all right (she apparently had a known heart condition, and the father was apparently in jail).

9 People will tend to suppress violent tendencies in the presence of neutral "third party" adults, for example. Baby sitters would tend to be easier to come by. The problems associated with elderly persons living alone tend to go away. Of course, the principle reason is security, either for mutual protection (in case of "attack" by a criminal) or for a support system for the survivors of any family disaster.

Copyright 1994-1999 by the Agnostic Church

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