Tuesday, 12 June 2012

What Has Marriage Got To Do With Religion?

One of the issues currently causing near hysteria in religious circles is that of marriage. The Catholic Church especially is almost besides itself with rage and now the Anglican Church seems to have joined in the mass hysteria. All this is because, like several other countries, the government is considering introducing legislation to end the discrimination against homosexual couples and allow them to marry like heterosexual couples.

Currently, civil ceremonies are permitted between same-sex couples but these are not called marriages and are not legally recognised as such. By some bizarre form of logic, one Tory MP, Karl McCartney, has concluded that it will lead to child marriages.

In England and Wales recently, Catholic priests were ordered by the Archbishop of Westminster to read out a letter condemning the idea of marriage between people of the same sex.

A full transcript of the letter can be read here. In it, the authors clearly lay claim not only to the institution of marriage and the right to define both its form and its purpose, but also to the right to dictate what form our society should take with:

The law helps to shape and form social and cultural values. A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage. There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.

The arrogance of this is breath-taking in its audacity. No one elected them; they did not consult anyone; they are accountable to no one other than their own self-appointed church hierarchy yet they feel competent to dictate to us on matters of personal relationships and the form of society in which we are to live.

Abolishing one of the last vestiges of the times when clerics dispensed morality to the rest of us (often dispensing with it altogether for themselves) and meddled in the most private details of our lives, would be a major step on the road to freeing ourselves from the leash they had us on for centuries.

Marriage should be something people can freely enter into in whatever form they wish. If we want to incorporate some form of superstition in the process or base it on some ancient rites and rituals, we should be free to do so.

Likewise, if we want it to take some other, formal or informal form, or not have a marriage of any sort we should be free to do so. There is no reason save superstitious bigotry why a contract between people to hold goods and property in common should be restricted to just two people of different genders. There is no real reason why it should not be between any number of consenting adults of whatever gender. The physical relationships within that arrangement should be left to the individuals themselves.

There is no reason for any ceremony if none is wanted. There is no reason a marriage could not be registered by completing a form obtainable from the Post Office or posting a notice in the local newspaper, if the participants wish to make it official in some way. It could even be marked by drinks down the local.

And of course people should be free to leave it as and when they wish.

The only considerations where the state need be involved are those concerning care and welfare of any children and a framework of contract law by which agreements can be made and disputes settled if need be. Beyond that there is no place for the state to interfere in consensual personal relationships freely entered into. The state should not be in the business of creating victimless crimes just to give meddling bigots an element of control over our lives.

So what's causing the current hysteria? Why are these superstitious people so upset by the thought that we might be doing what we want to do, rather than what they want us to do?

The answer lies in the question: they want us to do what they want us to do because they want to control us. It's what they are using fear and superstition for. Making this bid for independence is undermining their power and authority. That goes against everything that religions were invented for in the first place.

It's time they accepted that they have lost the argument and have lost control. Civilised societies are quickly ridding themselves of the primitive, inhuman barbarities and meddling interference with which religions struggle to keep us in the dark ages the better to control us and the easier to earn a living 'ministering' to the damage cause by the superstitious ignorance they assiduously promulgate.




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5 comments :

  1. What I find especially angering is the way the religious groups protesting against the idea of gay marriage use the argument of history. "Marriage," they assert, "has always been the union of one man with one woman".

    Poppycock.

    Even using their own texts of choice, we can see that marriage - particularly of the powerful - frequently involved one man but plenty of women. So are they arguing for polygamy? It would be true to their belief that the textual basis for their superstition trumps rational thought.

    But worse, they understand nothing about how the christian church 'discovered' marriage in the tenth century. Up to then, it had always been considered a civil contract. Believers could choose to have that contract blessed by a priest, but it was only in the tenth century that anyone ventured to suggest that it was a sacrament.

    Worse still, they ignore a rite practised from at least the fourth century, the so-called 'spiritual brotherhood, which was a blessing for (male) same-sex unions. Although there is little evidence for its practise in the west after the High Middle Ages, a version is known to have survived in the Serbian Orthodox church until the eighteenth century.

    Even more bizarrely, the long established civil marriage between two men (such as that contracted between the Emperor Nero and his love Sporus) was a fact of Roman law that survived the christianising of the Empire in the fourth century. It was removed from the statute books only under Justinian's I in the sixth century, when a law prescribing homosexual acts was passed. The law worked retroactively, so anyone known (or even just suspected) to have broken it before it was enacted do was as liable to punishment (capital, of course) as those who broke it afterwards. Where did the loudest protests come from? The church, of all places! It was widely believed that the law had been dreamed up by the Empress Theodore in a political move designed to get rid of her vocal critics (she regarded them as enemies). We know this thanks to the historian Procopius, a confidant of Justinian's whose Secret History pulls no punches in its criticisms of Theodora. Procopius evidently didn't like her.

    This is all documented and published in James Boswells 1994 book, "The Marriage of likeness".

    Why these religious bigots insist on their own, distorted version of history to back up their reactionary fulminations, when it is so easily refuted, I don't know. I'm also puzzled by the lack of research by journalists who could - and should - be pulling them up on their historical errors.

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  2. Here in Australia, we have an atheist prime minister, Julia Gillard, who is opposed to gay marriage. It is somewhat ironic considering the atheist blogosphere's take on the issue, it's most supported in parliament here by a Christian, Senator Penny Wong.

    > There is no reason a marriage could not be registered by completing a form obtainable from the Post Office or posting a notice in the local newspaper, if the participants wish to make it official in some way. It could even be marked by drinks down the local. And of course people should be free to leave it as and when they wish.

    Defacto relationships, which is what this sounds like, have a much higher rate of relationship breakdown than marriages, causing hurt to the people who suffer the breakdown of those relationships, children and the societies they're a part of. If you redefine marriage to be something totally different, then it simply isn't marriage anymore. Personally I want to live in a society where marriage (real marriage, not one brought in a post office) is valued, and like all people I have a democratic right to have that view heard.

    > The answer lies in the question: they want us to do what they they want us to do because they want to control us.

    It's such terrible, terrible oppression not to have marriage relegated to the status of a bar crawl. Everyone who disagrees with that view of society is clearly a tyrant.

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    Replies
    1. Are you advocating that people should feel coerced into remaining in a relationship even when it has broken down, because they've been through some form or official ceremony, and that that would be a good thing? If not, I don't understand your point here.

      If so, how does the form of that ceremony, and any legal constraints on who and how many may enter into that relationship, affect its coercive function, please?

      >If you redefine marriage to be something totally different, then it simply isn't marriage anymore. Personally I want to live in a society where marriage (real marriage, not one brought in a post office)...<

      Ah! I see you feel you have the right to tell others what it should be and what form it should take. Who granted you this authority and when was this election held, please?

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    2. Julia Gillard is a vote-counting manipulator. I like her because I think she's been doing good things, but she is certainly opaque; when it starts benefiting her vote counts, she'll support same-sex marriage.

      "Defacto relationships, which is what this sounds like, have a much higher rate of relationship breakdown than marriages,"
      Not in the US. Not that anyone keeps stats on non-formalized relationships (that's hard), but the best estimates I have read say that non-formalized relationships, once they've managed to last for a few years, last longer than formalized relationships. Perhaps because there's more binding them together than a piece of paper.

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  3. Australian politicising aside, my own take on the whole matter, and I have aired my thoughts before on these pages is this:

    Marriage is NOT a natural human act, even alluded to in the blog above, it is an invention of religion to force us to maintain a relationship with a partner, to enforce our natural tendency to mate for life

    Every species on this planet has mating 'habits'. Some of the asexual style, where the male throws his fertilizing stuff to the wind and a chance female catches, like seen in flowers and other plants, while some are carefully carried to specific sites by birds and bees. Others see the female loose her eggs and let them open to a passing male to discover and do his thing, like frogs and some fish do

    Then we get to the sexual group, some use the shag-and-run system, seen especially in some small mammals, where the male takes no interest in what he has left behind, and the rearing thereof, he is busy out finding more females to fertilise (Thinks of human teenagers too)

    Some species mate using sexual or asexual methods, but remain together for the gestation and raising of the offspring, and others remain paired for life, spawning, gestating, and raising successive issues of offspring.

    Humans tend to fit into the last group, but biologists have learned that the tendency is for the male to remain until the last offspring is healthy, strong, and growing well, generally around 7 years of age, hence the '7-year itch'

    Religion didnt want any of that, so they invented Marriage to keep us tied in, cos that 7 year old needs food, educatin, and dressin', so the man better stay and provide longer, and we'll make it hard as hell to untie the link. There are still some places where you can't get a divorce, cos the guys in long robes and funny hats say so

    Parting company with a mating partner whose offspring have passed the 7-year mark should simply have the biological simplicity of walking away, altho many mating couples will remain paired, simply for the company. It's also called Love

    Perhaps the natural biological process would help continue the 'Survival of the Fittest' rather than medically supported survival of all to mating age

    ReplyDelete

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