My eldest son and I were making the daily commute to school this past week, and we ended up on the discussion of extending human life to hundreds of years. He’d overheard a news article about slowing down the aging process, which got him thinking. Naturally, I’m somewhat against extending human aging. I think if we don’t die out in a reasonable time frame, society will stagnate. The younger generations keep human society always moving forward to bigger and better advancements.
I was explaining this to my son, and he almost immediately realized another downside to extending one’s life span. What would be the cut off? And how would that be decided? Further than all that, I pointed out not only how would a limit to age be set, but is it really a good thing to live two hundred years? Does a longer life span mean one will find success and wealth? Or just an extra one hundred and fifty years of working in a gas station instead of forty?The realization that an individual with an extended life time could possibly spend three times longer in a dead-end job was staggering to my son. But I wasn’t done with that thought.
Surely, gaining an extra hundred years would mean that eventually, humans would be forced to re prioritize their life goals simply because they possess more time to work on them. Would we humans then take more time for education? Or would many of us continue to follow our instincts of creating families and working our extra time away? And we never jumped into how much more social program would be needed. Instead we moved on to other good subject matter involving PS4s and Steam games. After I dropped him off to his school, I went back to the social risks involved with the extension of human life. For a brief few seconds I found myself justifying selective extension if the individual was an asset to society. I’d fallen into the murky pit of eugenics.
For those who aren’t familiar, eugenics is often defined as a controlled and purposeful evolution of human races by controlled breeding practices. In today’s day and age, this is being considered (and experimented upon) on the genetic level. World War II saw the horrors of eugenics gone wrong after hoping for a more perfect German race. Extermination of millions of Jews, homosexuals, and more, all in the name of advancing the German gene pool. But Germany didn’t get this idea on their own. In fact, they had a role model that was already doing another form of eugenics that later would eventually bring about Germany’s defeat.
There was a mandatory sterilization policy for the disabled here in the United States that started in the 1930’s, and lasted until the end of World War II. One could say that the Nazis took a page from the land of the free and went a whole step further, all thanks to our own eugenics programs we had already implemented. On top of these practices gone wrong, you can see a type of spiritual eugenics within many religious families, and even in biblical doctrine during this time, but it wasn’t dominating in society yet. I found it a rather disturbing realization that there is a weird belief of a family line being stronger through mutual religious faith.
This started to really take hold after World War II when many churches began abandoning some of their support for sterilization and other pre marital screening programs.
Many only marry within their particular brand of faith, believing they are truly ensuring a home blessed by their god of choice. When a spouse strays, some truly believe that suffering will follow their families for generations. A strongly united faith means a strong marriage, and a strong family. This line of thinking is the reason why so many spouses feel shattered, betrayed even, when their partners question – or worse, abandon – faith.
The irony in the scope of all this mental meandering I did this week would be it occurred to me many religious faiths don’t approve of biological eugenics whatsoever anymore. In fact these groups abhor anything related to it, like stem cell research for example. This wasn’t always the case. At one point in time many religious leaders did support science in order to achieve a closer goal of absolute morality, but they’ve since parted ways with such aspirations.
One of the most well-known practices the leaders of faith utilized was the screening of couples who wanted to get married. Quite literally, couples had to be medically certified healthy not just in body, but in mind as well, and had to obtain a certificate from the doctor that did the exam. No certification of well-being? No marriage. Still, World War II brought most of these practices to a grinding halt, causing religious leaders to transition to a more intangible type of scrutiny through the use of spiritually based eugenics.
A more insistently doom like attitude has begun to be harbored towards marriages outside of a family or community’s common faith. I had a pastor who loved to use apostle Paul as the final word on marriage. He would always quote I Corinthians 7:39 and II Corinthians 6:14, respectively, and only needed a few words in those verses to sum up everything you needed to know about marriage. Pastor Grove would always insinuate that by demanding a husband to “belong to the Lord”, the marriage was only about God, and your potential husband was more of a personal perk, something not needed except for your own lust. Additionally, he would always point out not just the vulnerability of the marriage because of the unequal “yoking”of spiritual belief, but would go the step further to point out one’s children were also at a disadvantage. Children supposedly being more susceptible to evil influences since the parent who doesn’t pursue a higher relationship with Christ weakens God’s will in the lives of the next generations.
Gotta love how easy it is to automatically interfere with a divine plan. I know, it doesn’t even make sense because on the other side of the coin, everything is supposedly according to His will. Spiritual purity, or what I like to call a religious social form of Darwinism, has been implemented throughout the religious communities of America in full force since the end of World War II. Women and men of any faith in this country, but especially in Christianity, aren’t just looking for strong teeth and high intelligence in their partners. Nowadays, the strength of faith or the proverbial “genuine God-fearing” descriptors are being demanded and advertised in dating profiles everywhere.
Religious zeal and piety are the personality traits du jour, and without them many suitors don’t stand a chance within their own religious communities. Some will rely on church elders to help set up potential introductions to love matches instead. While one could still easily pursue a love outside the superstition fed pastures of the local church flock, it isn’t mandatory, though. But as I mentioned earlier, there is most certainly a sense of trepidation about one’s faith and eternal future of the family when in a relationship with someone who differs spiritually. It’s discouraged and I’ve experienced firsthand having alternative dating opportunities trotted out within weeks of a relationship being made known within a church group.
An insistent belief that my own faithlessness would not only taint my deity worshiping suitor, but that I would potentially produce spiritually week children, pervaded every conversation when my back was turned. This is religious eugenics in full display. While on the surface, it would seem silly and harmless to practice this type of intangible scrutiny, spirits aren’t real after all, I do see it as emotionally harmful. I can’t say it is bad for the gene pool, just the psyche of the person carrying the genes.
In a religious sense, marriage is ultimately about your deity. Marriage is considered a selfish desire, even by the apostle Paul. Which is strange, since I thought we were encouraged to go out and multiply. But you know, biblical rules and stuff. Your having common interests with your potential wife or husband outside of this divine love doctor’s prescription for your libido doesn’t mean jack in the long run, and many make the mistake of making their personal desires trump that of their relationship with a god. That “god fearing” descriptor is the main ingredient for a successful marriage, successful children, and eternal bliss. So, when a partner loses faith, it’s a huge loss for all involved. That’s why churches and its members seem to practice such pushy quality control standards when their younger members are dating. This is the overarching eugenic social standards that puts such a high price on women’s virginal purity. We bring sin on our unborn every time we exchange lustful glances with that cute guy at the check out register. We are stacking the deck against our young, and their children, and their children’s children!
On some levels, I want to say this type of eugenics based thinking is silly, ridiculous, not effective, and harmless. But I can’t. It demonizes both partners. If you are not a believer and your partner is, you are a taint on the relationship. You are the ultimate source of all the problems that might possibly arise in the relationship, or at least the main contributing factor. If you lose faith during the course of your union, everything will still fall at your feet. The wife’s shoe habit might be breaking your bank, but she wouldn’t be desiring such copious amounts of worldly things if you weren’t a portal straight from Hell in your own household.
Ultimately, social eugenics in religion isn’t really about the actual human beings meeting the standard of what is demanded of them according to the doctrine they are following. It’s all actually intended to keep the doctrine unchanged.
It isn’t about the players of the heaven or hell monopoly game, but the construct being played in. That’s why you see adherents stay within their branches, and are practically brainwashed into to doing so. You have to keep the message the same. For every discrepancy, a question will be asked, an apologetic will be created, and teachings might vary because of it. The message can change quite a bit in a household where one is Catholic and the partner is Jewish. And if the different message takes root in the mind of the differing partner, or worse, a generally accepting attitude of the changed doctrine develops in their minds? It could pass down to their children that attend the church. This is the spiritual weakness and ways of the world you hear being cried about when interfaith relationships occur. And that could take root in the minds of other church members too.
Let me state the obvious here: Ideas are powerful things. We all know this just from history alone. Inventions, repression, revolution, war, and success, all find their motivations in something that just started off as a simple thought that grew and spread. It isn’t something easily discarded when it inspires a deeper consideration. The best way to prevent this potentially cataclysmic event of unfettered thought and exploration of authority? Social eugenics help keep the membership consisting of the same ideology through methods of controlling relationship and marriage structures, and by doing that, the integrity of the doctrine being utilized is protected from change.
For me, the master practitioners of this have been and probably will always be the Catholics. If you are marrying, and either of you are not Catholic, you have to take a course called Pre-Cana. This is required regardless of belief, but here are some of what you must have discussed prior to marriage if you are Catholic and want to have that dream Catholic church wedding.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops considers the following topics as “must have conversations” before couples marry:
Conflict Resolution Skills
Family of Origin
Marriage as a Sacrament
Natural Family Planning
Theology of the Body
Unique Challenges of Military Couples
Children of Divorce
Yeah, that’s pretty intense, but it gets better. If your partner is of a different faith, and won’t convert? No Communion for anyone not of the Catholic faith at the wedding. Talk about awkward. Can you imagine running up there to get your swallow of Jesus and half of the attending family aren’t allowed to join you, including the person you are marrying? That’s extremely alienating. The conversion process is even more intense, but really not necessary to go into for this particular essay. I’m sure you are getting my point here about protecting the program by controlling the people.
Belief is always about protecting the rule book. It’s easy to dismiss the players without ruining the game because you can recruit more. Many believers don’t understand that religion is difficult to maintain on its own, and hardly expendable with all that is invested in it. It’s a lucrative investment, since it helps to foster an environs where everyone playing on the field have somewhat of a unified outlook on life financially, politically, and personally. It’s an army ready for action when needed, no matter if the majority opinion is correct or not. The movie “The Book of Eli” summed up spiritual eugenics for me quite nicely: