Marriage’s Decreasing Relevance
Atheism has some interesting overlap with a variety of topics. It’s been discussed that, since major religions systematically oppress women, there’s great reason for feminism and atheism to go hand-in-hand. Marriage is a big topic for LGBT+ activists, and overlaps with atheism because, hey, I haven’t heard a logical reason why certain couples shouldn’t get married. My question is: how much will marriage matter in the future?
I realize that much of our readership is under the age to get married (in most states you have to be 16 to get married with parental permission, or 18 otherwise). Just bear with me. I know that lots of you think your highschool sweetheart is the one you’re going to end up with foreverandever. I just hope to give you pause about your big plans.
There are several reasons to get married. Many people believe that they make a spiritual bond with their partner, and some people believe it brings them closer to their deity. Some wish to get married because it’s an official, symbolic recognition of their union. (This is the main reason I’d like to get married.) There are also legal and financial benefits granted to married couples by the government.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably not one of the ‘spiritual reasons’ people. There are individuals out there who really think they’ve met their soul-mate, and that they’re somehow achieving a higher level of spiritual fulfillment by legally and religiously solidifying their relationship. To an atheist, there’s not much ‘invisible stuff’ to a marriage, unless you count the ridiculous hormones and emotions involved. If the trends toward non-theism continue, and fewer people have religious reasons to get married, this “pro” to marriage will fade and become obsolete.
The symbolic recognition of a relationship through legalizing it is a completely subjective, feel-good reason to get married. The cultural importance that we place on marriage makes us think that it’s somehow beneficial to our livelihood to become married. Of course, it isn’t necessary to publicly declare your commitment to someone, and yet people conduct elaborate and expensive ceremonies for this purpose. I think that the pressure to marry, and the state of being married, are counterproductive to human happiness and development. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
A big part of why I’d choose to marry (since there’s no spiritual reason or need for public recognition) is that there are financial benefits. Here’s a neat summary of some of them. The ones that matter most to me are being able to pay less in taxes, be on insurance together, have joint ownership, and knowing that when I die, someone will have the authority to make sure that my body is donated to science.
According to the 2010 US census, the number of husband-wife households (because same-sex marriages aren’t recognized by the federal gov’t) decreased from 51.7% in 2000 to 48.4% in 2010. The number of unmarried couple households was 5.2% in 2000, and in 2010 went up to 6.6%. Those aren’t big changes, but it is a slight shift and might be indicative of a trend towards realizing that being married isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
And now, we segue (fun word!) to the part where I say lots of negative things about being married!
Like I said: the pressure to get married and the state of being so aren’t so great. Being pressured by our parents, friends, society, et cetera, cause us to focus a lot of our attention on finding a permanent, monogamous partner. Some people spend more time thinking about how they’re going to grow old alone or not be able to have kids (which is completely illogical; it’s called a sperm bank/adoption) than they spend thinking about their careers.
This might be news to some of you, but not everyone identifies as monoamorous. It’s a new way to think of romantic identities, but I, for one, identify as polyamorous. Some individuals can’t imagine being in more than one emotional/physical relationship at a time; it would probably suit me better than sticking to one partner. That being said, a society that pressures you to get married is also pressuring you to be monogamous within that arrangement. Humans aren’t all monoamorous in nature, and expressing this (by way of cheating or what have you) destroys relationships that could otherwise have been successfully poly with a little negotiation and perspective.
In addition to identifying as poly, I’m also pansexual. Being in a committed mono relationship from a relatively young age with a guy is extremely restrictive, in that I would like to be able to experience a relationship with, for example, a woman, and can’t. (At least as of yet–the jury’s not permanently out on that one.) Point being, strictly monogamous arrangements prevent the parties within them from being able to freely experiment. TEENS: Take this from someone with real experience and don’t decide right off the bat to commit to your high school sweetheart. Be a good Skeptic and think it through, thoroughly, as objectively as possible.
Contention between you and your partner about things like what you want to do for a career, where you want to live in the world, and your opinions on political issues are all really important. I hate winter; my partner loves it. Hence, I want to live somewhere winter doesn’t exist and he wants seasons. We also don’t agree about the importance of atheism in one’s day-to-day life. Eventually we will work out these differences. Maybe. XP
Basically all I’m trying to say is that there are some pros to getting married. Many people choose this path for their own reasons, and for many people it works. From my perspective, there are more cons than pros. (Another thing, it’s much more difficult to obtain a divorce than to simply dissolve a relationship.) I will probably still end up married, partly because of the free name-change.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt. I’m certainly no expert and I’m certainly not the average homo sapien.