Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why do Atheists get married?

Christians love to say that the purpose of marriage is to get your union recognized by God and to have children. Therefore, marriage is only for Christians -- or at least only for "believers" (Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.). It also means that marriage is only for people who can bear children or, at least, will adopt children.

It's a fascinating, narrow view of marriage since, according to the earliest references in the Bible, the joining of a husband and wife wasn't at all religious -- it was about ownership, about property, and often made official through sexual intercourse, including rape. It was about owning a woman and ensuring all her kids were her owner's -- her husband's -- through exclusive sexual relations. In fact, the earliest references to loving partnerships in the Bible aren't between a man and a woman; they are between people of the same sexes, first Ruth to Naomi (in the Book of Ruth, 1:16-18) and then Jonathan and David (in the First Book of Samuel, 20:41-42). Marriage doesn't evolve into a sacrament until much later in the Bible (yup, I've read it -- more on that in a later blog).

Yet, I'm married. We had a fantastic secular ceremony where there was nary a mention of a magical invisible friend, but where I did wear a fabulous dress (a green sari, actually), followed by a kickin' catered celebration with our friends and family -- and a LOT of wine, just like Jesus would have wanted!

As an Atheist, why did I want to get married? It certainly wasn't for religious reasons. It also wasn't to have children. And I certainly am not owned by my husband (which he would be only too happy to enthusiastically affirm).

I got married because I want this guy that is now my husband
  • to be able to see me in the hospital no matter what, and vice versa.
  • so that one of us can put the other on the company health insurance as soon as one of us works for a company that offers insurance.
  • so that he has access to all my assets and vice versa.
  • so that we can live in each other's countries oh-so-easily (he's German).
  • to be able to legally call each other family and have all the legal rights and privileges that come with that designation.
My husband and I didn't need marriage to love each other nor to live with each other, at least not in most countries. But we did need marriage so that in every circumstance life might throw at us, whatever government or company bureaucracy we deal with will see us as a family. And you only get that through being married. Or adoption. We went with marriage.

If any religion doesn't want to recognize our marriage because it in no way involves God or children, that's fine with me. I don't care whether or not they do. But if they try to deny us any of the benefits for which we got married, there will be Hell on Earth to pay -- and I will be the one to bring it.

It's one of the reasons I'm such an adamant supporter of marriage rights for gay people. I would be enraged if I didn't have access to my husband in the hospital, if an insurance company said, "We don't recognize your partnership as a family" -- or if a religious institution got the official word as to whether or not I have the legal right to marry. Yet that's exactly what happens to gay people. And if a government can decide that gay people can't marry because that's what the Christians say, it's only a matter of time before they decide atheists can't marry either. Scary.

On a side note: we really love our marriage vows, which we wrote ourselves. If you are looking for some inspiration for a secular wedding ceremony, drop me a line!

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