November 26, 2002

Leftovers
       from verwheile doch...ruminations and factoids from the long Sunday read:
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John Updike's favorite theologians are Karl Barth and Soren Kierkegaard.
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I'm intrigued by the fact that religion is often considered by atheists as "wishful thinking" - something that people subscribe to make their death palatable. And perhaps that is true for some elderly. But for those of us whose death appears to loom in the far future, and given Christianity's difficult moral commands, it doesn't seem a very good explanation. Most people hardly save or think about retirement - why should we assume they are religiously motivated for something even farther away in time? Perhaps the motivation is that the believer thinks it is the best explanation for reality?

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I like "hey I'm onto something!" moments, even when lived vicariously. I got that feeling reading of Scott Hahn's discovery of an obscure book written fifty years ago by a Harvard professor. It wasn't listed on Amazon.com and they have a decent selection of out-of-print books. Mr. Hahn found Zimmerman's "Family and Civilizations" to contain an excellent descripiton of the devolution of families in great civilizations:

- "Trustee" family where the family obligations are considered sacred and extend through time (adultery is considered a crime and a sin)
- Nuclear family where family obligations are considered morally correct (adultery a sin)
- Atomistic family where obligations are considered something to escape (adultery as lifestyle choice).

Zimmerman wrote that no great civilization began without a trustee family situation and all great civilizations ended in an atomistic family situation. No civilization was ever able to reverse the trend, i.e. go from atomistic to nuclear or nuclear to Trustee. A one way throughfare.
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