The first great debate is over whether or not we ought to encourage the formation of committed relationships by the very young. The cause of this debate is the proposal, contained herein, that we specifically encourage choosing a person of the opposite sex as a "best friend" at the earliest possible age, and that we also encourage the eventual choice of this "best friend" as the "mate for life" for each of the children being raised in accordance with our moral creed.
Along the way towards setting down a complete moral code, I was struck by the focus of the ongoing moral debates in our present civilization over issues such as homosexuality, violence against women, the failure to form long-term stable families by our parents, and the increasing view of sex as an acceptable casual recreational activity between children as young as twelve or thirteen. I will not burden this piece with a complete recapitulation of the evils which flow from each of these perceived moral problems, but I will point out that to me, all of these problems seem to flow from one common "mistake" which we seemingly make while raising our children. That "mistake" is to enroll each child into one side or the other of the so-called "War Between the Sexes." Young boys are taught that girls are the "enemy" and that their "best friend" should be another boy. Young girls are similarly taught to abhor boys and associate with girls. I asked myself: "why is this so?" I came up with no good answer. I reject that these attitudes are in some way "natural;" they are clearly learned behavior, and therefore subject to change by teaching some new behavior. The only rational answer I could derive is that we seek to instill hatred between the sexes out of our fear that if we do not, boys and girls will naturally tend to gravitate towards one another and eventually will have sex. In other words, it appears to me that instilling a hatred for the opposite sex in our children is really an attempt to enforce our concepts of Victorian morality. We then choose to encourage homosexuality by teaching our children to find a "best friend" of the same sex. We also tend to encourage violence against members of the opposite sex (and in particular, violence against women) by teaching our children that members of the opposite sex are "the enemy," and we all know that, in any war, "the enemy" must be overcome by force and subjugated to our will. With the other social forces which act on our children, such as increased mobility and decreased attentiveness to the strictures of religion, it is no wonder that the ongoing "War Between the Sexes" has overbalanced the countervailing forces of religious imperative to marry, have children, and stay married for life. In other words, our high divorce rate is really a symptom of the fact that the forces which pull men and woman apart are now even stronger than they ever were, while the forces which bind them together are, at the same time, weaker than they have ever been. All of these social ills may be totally eliminated by one simple change: teach our children to pick a "best friend" from among the available members of the opposite sex, as opposed to the present rule of picking from among the available members of the same sex. There is only one down side to this choice: we must deal with the obvious issue of sex between these young people we are choosing to put together at so young an age. I refuse to believe that youngsters who have a year or more to go before they will enter puberty will have any real interest in sex as other than as an intellectual curiosity. Also, there is the fact that pre-pubescent youngsters really cannot physically do anything which might be actually harmful to one another, and that sexual harm of this sort really cannot be distinguished from any other form of physical harm which one person might inflict upon another. Accordingly, it appears that children who are paired up with someone of the opposite sex really cannot get into sexual trouble before puberty, and there can be nothing better for dealing with the pressures of puberty than the formation of a strong bond of friendship which has behind it several years of "living together" and adapting to the needs of each other. Current scientific studies tend to show that teen births are generally the result of casual sex, not long term relationships. A strong bond of friendship brings with it a strong sense of responsibility towards the other person in the relationship. In that context, pre-pubescent training in birth control methods and procedures, along with initial training along the lines of what we now call "sex education," would seem to be all that is required to ensure a low birth rate among our teen couples. Still, there will be the occasional baby to deal with, and it must be pointed out that the entire design of our proposed social order is created with the idea in mind of providing a support mechanism for teen births. Science has shown that the health of a women in her advance years will be significantly better the younger she is when she has her first child! To me, this means it is wrong to try to discourage teen pregnancy. Instead, we need to ensure that the parents stay together and raise their children. If you study couples who have been married for 50 or more years, you will find that they are "best friends" and/or have found ways to adapt to one another during their lives together. People are most adaptable the younger that they are. So, they are most amenable to the changes which are necessary to form a long term relationship when they are the youngest! This is clearly a major error of our modern society, in that it is pushing people to defer forming relationships until they are so set in their individuality that they will have extreme difficulty adapting their lives to another person. The problem of low birth weight babies produced by teen mothers can be overcome by: 1) ensuring that the father will be around to support the mother (so that she will not worry so much about keeping her figure so that she is still attractive for dating); 2) educating the mother; 3) providing proper prenatal care to the mother; and 4) having all members of the family and tribe active and involved in encouraging the young mother to bring a healthy baby into this world. Under the proposal herein, the father will "be around" because the couple will be formed into a life-long monogamous relationship long before puberty can render the female as fertile. The remaining points are accepted parts of our current society, and are easily incorporated into the Rules for Life as stated herein. For the young family after their first child is born, our society should be prepared to provide support to the whole family, in the same manner that it previously provided support to the individual children. There is absolutely no need to automatically declare that the presence of a baby requires the father to quit school, find a job, get a separate place to live for his wife and baby, and generally take on all the burdens of living a totally independent lifestyle! This, again, is a major error of our current system, which I believe we propagate solely to produce fear in the potential fathers and thereby allegedly discourage them from having sex in the first place. Support for young families is one of the primary reasons for creating a form of "tribal" loyalty. There has to be something which is larger than the individual family, and yet smaller than the community as a whole, which is prepared to take on the task of supporting young families in return for the future contributions which that family will make back to the tribe, or to society as a whole, just as we now take on the burden of raising our own children. It takes a great deal of contemplation to envision this idea in its entirety, because it is represents such a fundamental change to the way in which we have been taught to raise children. However, if the real goal of society is to promote the formation of life-long monogamous relationships between men and women, then this change is required to accomplish that goal to a greater degree than our present society now does.
Most of the arguments against this change have been addressed in passing in the argument in favor of the change. These include: 1) a natural tendency to form relationships with children of your "own kind" (which is clearly a form of prejudice); 2) the abhorrence of even the thought that young children might be having sex with one another (i.e., Victorian morality); 3) children are too young and immature to form long term relationships (to which I reply that they are too young only for the briefest moment, then the moment that they form their own personality, you expect them to form a life-long relationship with the other members of the family in which they are being raised, so why not a spouse? And immaturity is a question of proper training; solve any immaturity problem by proving proper training at an earlier age); 4) girls are not ready to bear children at such a young age (to which I reply that they are doing so now; and I never said we would actively encourage them to bear as many children as they might want at as early an age that they can, instead I said that we should encourage birth control and be prepared to support the occasional "mistake"); 5) young girls should never have babies (to which I reply that science says a woman has better health later in life the younger she is when she bears her first child, so go figure); 6) teen girls generally have babies which are "low birth weight" and therefore are at a substantially increased risk of having significant health problems (to which I say that this problem is clearly soluble with educational and support programs); and 7) a young couple is not financially capable of supporting a baby (to which I respond that this is a "scare tactic" to induce kids not to have babies, and is not a valid social criticism; if the kids themselves are being supported in some way, then why should that support not extend to their baby?). In short, I do not see any valid argument in opposition, and neither do I see any counter-proposal which has any realistic chance of eliminating the evils which this proposal clearly addresses.
It is obvious that the Agnostic Church has come down about as strongly as is possible on the "pro" side of this argument, for the reasons stated above. But in clear recognition of the controversial nature of the proposal, it is better to encourage a debate than to simply declare flatly: like it or lump it.
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