Marriage

AJWalton12
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Marriage

I'm wondering what other atheists think of the concept of marriage, I haven't heard it discussed before and it seems to be such a widely accepted practice.

 

Here's my thoughts on the matter in any case:  If you are lucky enough to find someone you "truly love" and these feelings are mutual, why would you need a ceremony to...I'm not even sure what...make it "official"? show the rest of the world? obey the will of god? I really don't know. If you are this fortunate, no archaic ceremony is going to make your bond any stronger.   I know if it just so happened that the marriage ceremony didn't exist, my parents would still love each other and would still be together.  Outside the human species, animals don't have marriages and I know there are numerous species that choose a mate for life and remain faithful.

 

What do you think?


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I wrote a rather in depth

I wrote a rather in depth article on the history of marriage and the mythology surrounding it.


 

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Quote: Outside the human

Quote:
Outside the human species, animals don't have marriages and I know there are numerous species that choose a mate for life and remain faithful.

Well, taking away the obvious point that no other animal is capable of the abstract thought necessary to create a marriage ceremony, we can make the observation that a rather small percentage of animals do mate for life, and the pairing is usually preceded by courting behavior by the male and then acceptance behaviors by the female.

Humans, contrary to popular belief, are not historically monogamous.  We're not as polygamous as some of the other primates, but we're definitely not monogamous.   Where myth and religion come into the picture is that they often tell us that people ought to be mated to one person for life.  As we trace marriage back to its origins, we discover that this is, most likely, wishful thinking. Marriage was certainly invented as a means to control wealth, not to symbolize love or affection.  In fact, marriage for love and affection is a remarkably recent development.

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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You forgot one important

You forgot one important reason to get married.  Legal reasons.  That little $50 marriage license transfers around 1000 rights and protections to the two people that are on it.  That is why my wife and I got married.  Not to show the world our love, but to have power of attorney.  Well, that and a damn good reason to head to Key West and party with friends and family for a week.

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I am absolutely with you. 

I am absolutely with you.  However it seems to me that it's pretty obvious you haven't been close to making that final step.

I'm sure they exist, but it is very very rare that you would ever find a women who would see eye to eye on this with you.  Most of them have been dreaming their entire life for their wedding day, and want it to be perfect.

I can see what the positive uses of marriage are, but not a single benefit of weddings.  However, if you are going to have one, I would strongly suggest going the route that my wife and I did.

 We went to an all-inclusive resort in the caribbean and invited 25 of our closes friends and family.  Once on the resort the wedding took about 45 minutes of planning and cost about a grand.  Back in the states we had a legal ceremony at town hall just to two of us to make sure that everything was legaly binding.

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V1per41 wrote: I can see

V1per41 wrote:

I can see what the positive uses of marriage are, but not a single benefit of weddings.

Some people enjoy them. That seems like a pretty clear benefit to me.


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Fish wrote: V1per41

Fish wrote:
V1per41 wrote:

I can see what the positive uses of marriage are, but not a single benefit of weddings.

Some people enjoy them. That seems like a pretty clear benefit to me.

 

Some can be enjoyable, but I doubt it would be worth the money.  You would be very hard pressed planning a 12-hour period for which I would spend tens of thousands of dollars on.

"It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan


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Always remember religion

Always remember religion poisons everything. So this would include love, sex and marriage. You don't need a god or government to sanction whatever relationships you have. You and your partners are free and decide for yourself what is appropriate. If a ceremony does something for you, then do it.

Just please stop having people who believe in ancient Jewish fairy tales get the government to regulate relationships between consenting adults.

The whole gay marriage debate is ridiculous because the government should not be sanctioning any relationship. There should be no marriage sanctioned by any government, this is a private matter. The governments job should be only to protect our liberty and promote the general welfare. I think the gay people that need the state to tell them they are "married" are just as loony at the Christians that need an imaginary god to tell them when it OK to have sex for fear of going to hell otherwise.

 

Taxation is the price we pay for failing to build a civilized society. The higher the tax level, the greater the failure. A centrally planned totalitarian state represents a complete defeat for the civilized world, while a totally voluntary society represents its ultimate success. --Mark Skousen


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V1per41 wrote: I can see

V1per41 wrote:

I can see what the positive uses of marriage are, but not a single benefit of weddings. 

Well for the Christian woman, it's all about demonstrating the submissiveness of the man. He get's down on one knee to propose(to his Queen). The wedding day is her day. It's in a church and a religion this is all about making hen-pecked demasculinized husbands.

 

How else would a Christian woman know how really pussy whipped her husband is without a church wedding to confirm this?

 

Taxation is the price we pay for failing to build a civilized society. The higher the tax level, the greater the failure. A centrally planned totalitarian state represents a complete defeat for the civilized world, while a totally voluntary society represents its ultimate success. --Mark Skousen


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Ignoring the legal matters

Ignoring the legal matters of marriage...the ceremony is kind of a "shout from the rooftops" thing. It's a wonderful celebration of how in love you are.


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Concerning marriage, Only

Concerning marriage,

Only you and your pal can decide what you should do. Many people are perfectly happy with a common law arrangement. Many people find the perceived security a worthwhile benefit. The benefits afforded by law for being married are worthwhile for most. You’ll need to decide.

Concerning a wedding ceremony,

Again, only you and your pal can decide what’s best for you. For many people, getting married is a big deal and they want to make it as big a deal as they can. For some it’s not a big deal and they find a local judge or official to pronounce them man and wife on the cheap.

I was married in October of last year. My wife and I created our ceremony. It was secular and still very beautiful. I wrote our vows with no lip service to a delusion. I worked lots of overtime to come up with the several thousand dollars we spent on the ceremony, dinner/reception and honeymoon. My wife is not an atheist but we were able to come up with a plan that kept me from blowing a gasket and her happy. I’m sure you’ll be able to do the same. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

Respectfully,
Lenny

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Madmen fed on fear and lies, To beat and burn and kill"
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Subdi Visions

Subdi Visions wrote:

Concerning marriage,

Only you and your pal can decide what you should do. Many people are perfectly happy with a common law arrangement. Many people find the perceived security a worthwhile benefit. The benefits afforded by law for being married are worthwhile for most. You’ll need to decide.

 I think you nailed it.

While I agree with previous posts that marriage is rediculous, I do concede that not everyone agrees with me, and since marriage doesn't really hurt anyone, I can't find any need to try to "ban" it or whatever.

My only problem is with people who think that marriage has to be with a man and a woman. As Bill Maher says, "either we are all drinking from the same water fountain, or we aren't". I still can't believe that our country is so completely un-progressive. The UK is so much more progressive than us. That just kills me!!!!!!

 But the day I get hitched, the last place it will be in is a church. Unfortunately my family will not be happy about it but they will just have to learn to suffer.

Scott 

 

When devils will the blackest sins put on, they do suggest, at first, with heavenly shows - Othello


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I rarely if ever see a

I rarely if ever see a happily married couple, some are happy for a while but for most it seems to be misery and despair. I like to think as a logical, free thinking person I have the ability and wisdom to learn from those who came before me. That being said I see no logic in subjecting myself to the misery of marriage.

If Jesus was born today he would be institutionalized as a schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur.


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There's a neat cultural

There's a neat cultural bias that happens with marriage.  You can see it in this thread, even.

Here is the fact about marriage:  Marriage was invented to help men control their property.

Not only was it invented for that purpose, virtually every change in the state of marriage has been instituted to account for changes in the way property was handled.  The very idea of courtly love, invented in the tenth or eleventh century, CE, was a reaction to the political and financial gains of women in the previous centuries.  Men had learned that powerful women with land were good to marry (for socioeconomic reasons) and the women had learned that they could be choosy about who they married.   Suddenly, the air was full of troubadours singing about how wonderful and undying their love and devotion was.   Funny that this love and devotion only became apparent when there was money involved...

In any case, culture changes, and love has changed.  Nevertheless, you want to guess what was the major factor behind the shift to individuals seeking out their "soul-mate" and finding true love, often in spite of their family's wishes to the contrary?

Industrialization.  When people became commodoties, leaving their own communities to work for factories, advertisers discovered the value of selling independence and sex to the young people who were leaving work and going to dance halls and amusement parks without supervision.

Even armed with all of this knowledge, most people today will say something like, "Yeah, that may be all true, but marriage has improved.  Now it's about love and commitment, and the legal stuff is also helpful.  It's about telling people how much you love each other!"

Here is the bias I spoke of at the beginning.  Just as theists will look all the evidence in the face and say, "Yeah, but I know Jesus lived, and he speaks to me in my heart," otherwise rational people will say, "Yeah, I recognize that the entire history of marriage is one of socioeconomic manipulation, but we've got it right this time!"

When we look at cultures that do not emphasize marriage, we find lots of people living together and having kids, and there isn't a significant difference between their separation rates and those of married couples.   (England comes to mind)

It probably won't matter, though.  The advertising monster has told us that marriage is the biggest day in a woman's life, and she'll get lots of presents, and everyone will dote on her, and she'll be the perfection of womanhood.  How can facts compete with this kind of marketing?

 

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The most common reason

The most common reason marriages fail is because people are not honest with each other from the beginning. They either pretend to be who they think their partner wants, or just never bother to talk about some issues.

If people are capable of having a healthy relationship, marriage does not change anything one way or the other.


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Maytacera wrote:

Maytacera wrote:

The most common reason marriages fail is because people are not honest with each other from the beginning. They either pretend to be who they think their partner wants, or just never bother to talk about

 

If the reason why marriages fail I think you got it. I think that's one of the most reoccuring reasons. It's no suprise when we court we got all the peacock feathers out but come time to live together the 'discovery happens; she hates it that you do the scratch 'n' sniff, you hate something else and it snowballs till one day you both realised "Who the hell did I marry?'

I married a women who I had lived with 5 years before. Which is of course looked down upon in the Christian faith. You're not suppose to co-habit before marriage. I sat through all the marriage classes not for my wife's sake but for the experience. It was amazing how so many people put on this facade that they had whilst talking about themselves and once they got comfortable (classes were about 7 weeks in total) the kid gloves came off and we would see full blown rows!!!! My wife brought the popcorn and I got the soda. If anything it has re-inforced my thinking that co-habitation is essential before marriage. I've told the marriage counselors that to their disdain. I am getting of point here, I think.

How is marriage life to a theist? Fantastic. If you read my intro you'd know I was born a Catholic. I'm not one since 18. It did cause some problems in the beginning when we wanted to get registered but I stuck to my guns and the accepted, thinking I'd change eventually. I haven't and my wife supports more all the way with my beliefs or the lack off it *lol*. Bottom line is I don't think it should matter to an atheist how she/he gets married because as long as your principles are solid, no amount of holy water or hands on your head is ever gonna make you change. It's just symbols and customs regurgitated throughout the ages.


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Sorry I screwed up the quote

Sorry I screwed up the quote function.


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I fixed your quotes.   No

I fixed your quotes.   No worries.

Actually, the fact is, most marriages fail because of financial problems, for the record.

 

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Ergh... Ok, so 'dishonesty'

Ergh...

Ok, so 'dishonesty' is not available as a cause of divorce in the statistics, and the point is taken.  However, the statement, "Divorce happens because of dishonesty" is misleading.  The institution itself is riddled with dishonesty, and the conventions which society expects of married people are literally dishonest -- with respect to human nature.

Any wonder people are dishonest after they're married?

 

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Maytacera wrote: The most

Maytacera wrote:

The most common reason marriages fail is because people are not honest with each other from the beginning. They either pretend to be who they think their partner wants, or just never bother to talk about some issues.

If people are capable of having a healthy relationship, marriage does not change anything one way or the other.

 

I couldn't agree more.  I will preface by saying that I've only been married for 8 months so I might be a little naive, but marriage shouldn't change a thing.  Everytime someone asks me how married life it, it's always the same answer from me "Same as before."  And why wouldn't it be? 

My wife and I have been together for 7+ years (which is a far more important anniversary than the wedding date) and things just keep getting better by the day.  The biggest disagreement we've had in the last couple years that I can think of is whether or not to tell our future kids that there is a Santa Clause.  If that is the largest of our worries, than I think we're doing something right.

"It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan


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Quote: I couldn't agree

Quote:
I couldn't agree more. I will preface by saying that I've only been married for 8 months so I might be a little naive, but marriage shouldn't change a thing. Everytime someone asks me how married life it, it's always the same answer from me "Same as before." And why wouldn't it be?

I don't mean to come across as if I'm anti-marriage. In some ways, I am, but for the most part, I think marriage is a relatively harmless institution. The thing that I want to emphasize is that it would be better if people got married knowing exactly what marriage is, and more importantly, what it is not, and what it has never been.

The thing that's most telling in your paragraph is that marriage hasn't changed anything for you. Honestly, it's my opinion that if marriage changes anything, then it was a bad idea to get married.

There is something that I think is the most dangerous aspect of our marriage-centered culture, and that is the facade of permanence for young people. Historically, there has never, ever, ever been a time when people who were married in their 20s could statistically expect their marriage to last 50 years. Most people in their 60s are not with the person they were with in their 20s. If you asked most people (and had them strapped to a lie detector), they don't really think they're going to die with the person they marry while they're young. (I suppose if they're naive, they might.)

The difficulties of ending a marriage, and the social stigma of being a divorcee, are the penalties for pretending that you are going to have one partner for life. I think that V1per41's approach is a good happy medium. If you can live together for most of a decade, you can start talking about marriage.

 

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Even financial problems are

Even financial problems are likely to be down to a lack of communication.

John and Jane get married. They never chose to talk about how they will handle finances because they were just too in love.

John buys a boat, Jane gets pissed because she thought they would spend the money on fixing up the house.

 


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Hambydammit wrote: There's

Hambydammit wrote:

There's a neat cultural bias that happens with marriage. You can see it in this thread, even.

Here is the fact about marriage: Marriage was invented to help men control their property.

Nope. Marriage predates any formal concept of property. Humans are naturally monogamous, though not with the strictness and rigidity that religion has brought to the concept. There have been marriage rituals for as long as there have been humans, as far as we can tell.

Hambydammit wrote:

Not only was it invented for that purpose, virtually every change in the state of marriage has been instituted to account for changes in the way property was handled. The very idea of courtly love, invented in the tenth or eleventh century, CE, was a reaction to the political and financial gains of women in the previous centuries. Men had learned that powerful women with land were good to marry (for socioeconomic reasons) and the women had learned that they could be choosy about who they married. Suddenly, the air was full of troubadours singing about how wonderful and undying their love and devotion was. Funny that this love and devotion only became apparent when there was money involved...

You've gone back about 1000 years, representing about a sixth of recorded history and maybe as little as a hundred thousandth of total human history. My view would be that this version of marriage bears all the hallmarks of one warped by religion, overpopulation and economics. It was never a common kind of marriage: most people had no grand alliances to make and therefore did in fact marry who they wanted to for no better reason than that they loved each other. The reason we have heard so much about this particular medieval kind of marriage is because the nobles wrote the books, and this is how they got married.

Hambydammit wrote:

In any case, culture changes, and love has changed. Nevertheless, you want to guess what was the major factor behind the shift to individuals seeking out their "soul-mate" and finding true love, often in spite of their family's wishes to the contrary?

Industrialization. When people became commodoties, leaving their own communities to work for factories, advertisers discovered the value of selling independence and sex to the young people who were leaving work and going to dance halls and amusement parks without supervision.

I don't think that those advertisers would have had anything to grab onto if all those tendencies weren't powerfully present in the young population to begin with. Men have been leaving their communities to chase girls from other villages for as long as there have been people. Shit, even chimpanzees do this.

Hambydammit wrote:

Even armed with all of this knowledge, most people today will say something like, "Yeah, that may be all true, but marriage has improved. Now it's about love and commitment, and the legal stuff is also helpful. It's about telling people how much you love each other!"

Here is the bias I spoke of at the beginning. Just as theists will look all the evidence in the face and say, "Yeah, but I know Jesus lived, and he speaks to me in my heart," otherwise rational people will say, "Yeah, I recognize that the entire history of marriage is one of socioeconomic manipulation, but we've got it right this time!"

We always had it right and all the attempts at socioeconomic manipulation have never been able to take us away from the fact that most men and women reach a point in their lives when they want to settle down with one other person.

Hambydammit wrote:

When we look at cultures that do not emphasize marriage, we find lots of people living together and having kids, and there isn't a significant difference between their separation rates and those of married couples. (England comes to mind)

If you think England doesn't emphasize marriage, you are drunk.

Actually, there is significant evidence showing improved social indicators for married people and their kids. Living together is probably almost as good if both parties are commited, but most people in this situation won't see the point of not having a marriage ritual. 

Hambydammit wrote:

It probably won't matter, though. The advertising monster has told us that marriage is the biggest day in a woman's life, and she'll get lots of presents, and everyone will dote on her, and she'll be the perfection of womanhood. How can facts compete with this kind of marketing?

Especially when the marketing actually delivers the advertised product!

 

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"Nope. Marriage predates

"Nope. Marriage predates any formal concept of property. Humans are naturally monogamous, though not with the strictness and rigidity that religion has brought to the concept. There have been marriage rituals for as long as there have been humans, as far as we can tell."

 

not...really no. Humans are far from naturally monogomous. They are just possessive.


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Quote:

Quote:
Nope. Marriage predates any formal concept of property. Humans are naturally monogamous,

I'm sorry. You're wrong. Humans are most definitely not monogamous. We have corroborating evidence from history, anthropology, biology, and for what it's worth, evolutionary psychology.

We're not as polygamous as some of our primate cousins, but we are not as monogamous as, say, the albatross. To be precise, we're mildly polygamous.

When we speak of marriage predating formal concepts of property, we are making a bit of an equivocation. Lasting mating bonds do predate formal concepts of property, but not the institution of government sanctioned legal marriage.

Quote:
It was never a common kind of marriage: most people had no grand alliances to make and therefore did in fact marry who they wanted to for no better reason than that they loved each other.

If you want to document this, I'll look at the evidence, but everything I've ever read on the subject contradicts you. (Everything by scientists, that is.)

In my essay on marriage, I went back about 2000 years, to the formation of the Christian Roman state. The reason I didn't go back farther is that the pre-Christian mediterranean concept of marriage was much more tribal, and did not resemble current marriage enough to warrant comparison.

Quote:
The reason we have heard so much about this particular medieval kind of marriage is because the nobles wrote the books, and this is how they got married.

Actually, the reason we know so much about this period is that they kept damn good records. Among serfs, marriage was not actually that common. What we would call common law marriage? Yeah. But not church/state sanctioned legal bonds.

Marriage contracts and wills are available for every class of landholder, from the kings down to the farmers... those few who had their own land. The historians and sociologists who study this stuff spend much more time compiling data from county records than reading poetry.

[edit: I misspoke slightly.  Written wills are a relatively recent invention, and are not that common in early medieval Europe.  I can't recall off the top of my head when they became common.  Before that, priests or officials would hear bequests (often in private.  Imagine the abuse!), and there were a LOT of laws dictating who you could and couldn't leave stuff to -- all of them benefitting the church in some way)

Quote:
I don't think that those advertisers would have had anything to grab onto if all those tendencies weren't powerfully present in the young population to begin with. Men have been leaving their communities to chase girls from other villages for as long as there have been people. Shit, even chimpanzees do this.

Humans are female exogamous, meaning that the females leave their families to move into the male's family. Not all primates are female exogamous, but most are.

Of course, the advertisers were latching onto something innate in humans. However, we can't make the mistake of claiming that because something is natural, it is good. For instance, our sweet tooth comes from an evolutionary adaptation towards ripe (and non-poisonous) fruits. If a fruit is sweet, it is good to eat. Prehistoric man had no refined sugar. In fact, refined sugar wasn't commonly available until the 17th century.

Now that we have industrialized sugar companies, it's cheap and easy to get. We still have our pre-agricultural penchant for sugar. We haven't had enough time to evolve different tastes. So, we love dessert and ketchup and coke. All of these things make us fat and give us heart disease.

Quote:
We always had it right and all the attempts at socioeconomic manipulation have never been able to take us away from the fact that most men and women reach a point in their lives when they want to settle down with one other person.

You're misunderstanding me. Humans do tend towards relatively monogamous (slightly polygamous) long term (2 years or more) relationships. I've never denied this. As we get older, we tend to have longer relationships. I've also never denied this.

My point is that the government sanctioned institution of marriage has never had the goal of furthering this ideal. It's always been used for sociopolitical manipulation, either to enforce a particular religious standard (like not allowing divorce) or to control property (as when the church became the largest single landholder in Christianized Europe in 400 years).

We have inherited many myths from the history of marriage. Most of them are based on distortions of truth, not outright lies. For instance, people do like to have long term partners. On the other hand, human lifespans have never been as long as they are now, and we have never before been faced with the likelihood of living fifty or sixty years after having our first child. The fact is that most everyone is with someone different at sixty than at twenty five. Regardless of what people say they believe, what they actually do is have a string of mostly monogamous relationships, most lasting less than twenty-five years.

You can argue that this is not the way it should be, but you cannot argue that it is not so. If you want to argue that it should be otherwise, you must develop a framework in which this is true, and demonstrate what goal it accomplishes. I'm very well read on the subject, and I don't know of any such evidence.

Quote:
If you think England doesn't emphasize marriage, you are drunk.

Recent statistics indicate that large percentages of young people in England are eschewing marriage and choosing instead to cohabitate.

Historical marriage statistics from England indicate that until as late as the sixteenth or seventeenth century, government sanctioned marriage was only common among the upper classes.

Quote:
Actually, there is significant evidence showing improved social indicators for married people and their kids. Living together is probably almost as good if both parties are commited, but most people in this situation won't see the point of not having a marriage ritual.

As I've said, I don't deny people's tendencies to form long partnerships. I'm well aware that couples are happier than singles, but you're overstating things. Childless couples (who do not wish to have children) give every indication of being as happy as couples with children (who want children).

There isn't much accumulated data on marriage vs. cohabitation with children, but the early indicators are that barring social stigma, there's no significant difference.

Your statement that most people will go ahead and have the marriage ceremony is evidence of what I'm talking about. By all indications, people don't need marriage. Other than the legal ramifications, it has no other objective function. Only the societal pressure to get married, or the stigma of unwed sex, or ostracizing non-conformists remains. These are all social constructs, not instinctual behaviors. (Actually, ostracizing non-conformists is probably instinctual, but it's not instinctually linked to marriage, per se.)

Quote:
Especially when the marketing actually delivers the advertised product!

Ahem.

Ok. I know a lot of women who would get very mad at you for suggesting that they're less than a perfect woman because they have decided not to have children.

I'm trying to get you to wrap your head around the distinction between mating bonds (natural, instinctive) and marriage (cultural, institutionalized). The laws regarding marriage through history have not been completely opposite human nature, of course. They also haven't been designed to promote individual happiness, either.

I'm really glad that your marriage is happy and that you love your kids. Really. I'm not trying to say that nobody should ever get married, and that people ought to just fuck anybody they want anytime. That's ludicrous, and it's also not part of our nature. My point is that the institution of marriage, along with the cultural myths that tag along with it, are not representative of efforts to make individuals happy. To the contrary, they represent the efforts of governments and religions to limit and restrict what people can and can't do, for the gain of the government and/or the religion.

If you're reading into my thesis that I believe nobody should get married, or that people are not relatively monogamous, or that we don't tend towards moderately long relationships, then you're projecting something that isn't there.

 

 

 

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Maytacera wrote: "Nope.

Maytacera wrote:

"Nope. Marriage predates any formal concept of property. Humans are naturally monogamous, though not with the strictness and rigidity that religion has brought to the concept. There have been marriage rituals for as long as there have been humans, as far as we can tell."

not...really no. Humans are far from naturally monogomous. They are just possessive.

Then how do you explain that people have been getting together and forming long-term, one-on-one, mostly exclusive relationships in every society and every culture regardless of geography, point in history, economic status and every other consideration for as long as there have been people? If it has always been a function of one person wanting to possess another person, then why have there always been such a massive supply of people wanting to be possessed?

Or is it your position that married people possess each other? In that case, they are still being drawn together by a perfectly natural impulse: the desire to possess each other. I don't care what you call the drive, it is natural, it is ubiquitous, and it results in monogamy. In my book, that makes people naturally monogamous. 

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To clear up another myth,

To clear up another myth, let's talk more about monogamy/polygamy.

The albatross is 100% monogamous.  They mate with only one partner, and stay attached for life.  This is extraordinarily rare in the animal kingdom.  Most animals find a new mate each mating season.  Some, like lions, apes, and wolves, have stratified mating, where the dominant male gets either all the females, or his choice of any, or some variation.

Monogamy and polygamy are terms used to describe how a species mates.  They are not normative statements.  In other words, we don't say that an ape should mate with all of the females in the group.  We say that he does.  Similarly, we don't say an albatross should mate for life to be a good albatross.

Now, the inescapable, incontrobertible, absolutely true fact:  Humans are polygamous.  It is extremely rare to find a mated pair of humans who live their entire life having mated with only one partner, and having lived their entire life bonded together.

Extremely rare.

Our particular brand of polygamy is most properly described as predominately serial monogamy, with significant instances of bigamy.  Depending on who you believe, anywhere from 30-60% of paired humans have had at least one episode of one of the pair taking another sexual partner while bonded to the first.

We have also had significant periods of our history where we have practiced sanctioned polygyny, where a man has taken multiple wives.  In game theory, this practice favors women, not men.  For a woman, one tenth of a very rich man is better than all of a very poor man, so if a very rich man takes multiple wives, all of them, and all of their children, attain higher social status.  In societies where polygyny is common, there is a significant number of males at the bottom of the social hierarchy who are forced to remain celibate.

 

 

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Quote:

Quote:
Then how do you explain that people have been getting together and forming long-term, one-on-one, mostly exclusive relationships in every society and every culture regardless of geography, point in history, economic status and every other consideration for as long as there have been people?

I've answered this. Humans have not always formed one-on-one bonds, but the tendency has been to form relatively stable, relatively long term bonds. You're actually quite mistaken that most cultures historically have favored monogamy.

In an ironic little twist, we can use the bible to illuminate this point. There are plenty of laws in the Old Testament dealing with how to treat your concubines and wives (plural). Solomon is a very famous polygamous figure.

If you do some reading on the pre-Christian Orient, you'll find that polygamy was the most common practice for a long, long time.

In virtually every society that has emphasized long term monogamy, there has been a booming prostitution industry, demonstrating further that people have often advocated monogamy, but have seldom practiced it.

Quote:
Or is it your position that married people possess each other? In that case, they are still being drawn together by a perfectly natural impulse: the desire to possess each other. I don't care what you call the drive, it is natural, it is ubiquitous, and it results in monogamy. In my book, that makes people naturally monogamous.

Whether married people possess each other or not is a matter of law. Human jealousy is a natural instinct, but it is also incredibly subject to cultural standards. You can demonstrate this to yourself if you like. Imagine if your wife was cast for a play, and in one part of the play, she embraces her onstage husband sensually. Though you might feel a slight twinge of jealousy, you wouldn't be mad with rage, would you? Now, imagine that you're in a bar, and when you come out of the bathroom, you see your wife in a corner performing exactly the same embrace on her ex-boyfriend. (You know, the ex-boyfriend that proves that your wife is not monogamous?) Totally different thing, right? Jealous anger, sadness, confusion.

The thing is, the two embraces are precisely the same, but their cultural significance is entirely different.

 

[EDIT:  Quick stats from Wiki...

Polygamy was outlawed in China in the Han Dynasty, but concubinage was legal, and common.

Before the founding of the People's Republic, it was common for merchants, government officials, and other powerful men to have up to hundreds of concubines.

In Hong Kong, polygamy was banned in 1971.

Both polygamy and polygyny were practiced by ancient Hindus.

In Islam (You know... largest religion in the world) polygamy is allowed and practiced.

End Edit] 

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Hambydammit

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
Nope. Marriage predates any formal concept of property. Humans are naturally monogamous,

I'm sorry. You're wrong. Humans are most definitely not monogamous. We have corroborating evidence from history, anthropology, biology, and for what it's worth, evolutionary psychology.

Do not. What we see through history is people getting together, in one-on-one, mostly exclusive long term relationships. And we see that in every culture and time, everywhere in the world.

Hambydammit wrote:

We're not as polygamous as some of our primate cousins, but we are not as monogamous as, say, the albatross. To be precise, we're mildly polygamous.

Actually, we're imperfectly monogamous.

Let me ask you this: why are people who are sleeping together regularly almost always mad if their partner sleeps with someone else? Remember, this is an impulse that occurs everywhere in the world and always has.

Hambydammit wrote:

When we speak of marriage predating formal concepts of property, we are making a bit of an equivocation. Lasting mating bonds do predate formal concepts of property, but not the institution of government sanctioned legal marriage.

I'm not talking specifically about government sanctioned legal marriage because IMO that is simply the latest form that the phenomenon has taken.

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
It was never a common kind of marriage: most people had no grand alliances to make and therefore did in fact marry who they wanted to for no better reason than that they loved each other.

If you want to document this, I'll look at the evidence, but everything I've ever read on the subject contradicts you. (Everything by scientists, that is.)

I can't document it...because peasents didn't write things down. But its common sense. What motive does peasent X, who has nothing, have to arrange a marriage with the family of peasent Y, who also has nothing?

My sense of these things just comes from the reading I've done in various places at various times. I've just never seen anything that suggests to me that human behaviour has changed fundamentally over the centuries. It's difficult and disruptive to get people to marry against their will.

Hambydammit wrote:

In my essay on marriage, I went back about 2000 years, to the formation of the Christian Roman state. The reason I didn't go back farther is that the pre-Christian mediterranean concept of marriage was much more tribal, and did not resemble current marriage enough to warrant comparison.

I think you are a lot more focussed on detail that I am. I'm calling any long-term pair bond a marriage, especially one that results in kids.

Hambydammit wrote:

Actually, the reason we know so much about this period is that they kept damn good records. Among serfs, marriage was not actually that common. What we would call common law marriage? Yeah. But not church/state sanctioned legal bonds.

A marriage by any other name...

Hambydammit wrote:

Humans are female exogamous, meaning that the females leave their families to move into the male's family. Not all primates are female exogamous, but most are.

Hah! I know a hell of a lot more men who have moved to be near their wife's family than the reverse. I don't think there's a rule in human behaviour about who goes where. I think the behaviour you are pointing to is a side-effect of predominantly male ownership of property, ie since the patriarch owns the house, he gets to say who moves in and he's always going to be easier with a female in-law than a male. In a state of nature, I think a new couple could go either way.

Hambydammit wrote:

Of course, the advertisers were latching onto something innate in humans. However, we can't make the mistake of claiming that because something is natural, it is good. For instance, our sweet tooth comes from an evolutionary adaptation towards ripe (and non-poisonous) fruits. If a fruit is sweet, it is good to eat. Prehistoric man had no refined sugar. In fact, refined sugar wasn't commonly available until the 17th century.

It doesn't matter whether the natural thing is good or not. If it is natural, people are going to do it and be unhappy if they are prevented from doing it. As far as society is concerned, natural might as well be defined as good because any other definition is just going to be ignored.

Hambydammit wrote:

Now that we have industrialized sugar companies, it's cheap and easy to get. We still have our pre-agricultural penchant for sugar. We haven't had enough time to evolve different tastes. So, we love dessert and ketchup and coke. All of these things make us fat and give us heart disease.

With no end in sight, despite the Heraculean efforts of public health agencies.

Hambydammit wrote:

You're misunderstanding me. Humans do tend towards relatively monogamous (slightly polygamous) long term (2 years or more) relationships. I've never denied this. As we get older, we tend to have longer relationships. I've also never denied this.

Then we are in perfect agreement, my man.

Hambydammit wrote:

My point is that the government sanctioned institution of marriage has never had the goal of furthering this ideal. It's always been used for sociopolitical manipulation, either to enforce a particular religious standard (like not allowing divorce) or to control property (as when the church became the largest single landholder in Christianized Europe in 400 years).

Yes, but people have embraced officially sanctioned marriage for reasons related to its natural roots. In a modern society, the priest or the judge takes on the role of the community leader and the official proceeding acts as the couple's announcement to the community that they are joined and that the community recognizes and approves of the liason and understands that a new family has been formed. I'm sure that these have been important elements of marriage for all history...certainly they are in the most primitive cultures we have studied. So, again, the behaviour will not persist if it doesn't jive somehow with natural tendencies.

Hambydammit wrote:

We have inherited many myths from the history of marriage. Most of them are based on distortions of truth, not outright lies. For instance, people do like to have long term partners. On the other hand, human lifespans have never been as long as they are now, and we have never before been faced with the likelihood of living fifty or sixty years after having our first child. The fact is that most everyone is with someone different at sixty than at twenty five. Regardless of what people say they believe, what they actually do is have a string of mostly monogamous relationships, most lasting less than twenty-five years.

The divorce rate is right around 50%. That means that half the people getting married are staying married until one of them dies, however long it takes. Out of the others, there is some percentage that are together for a very long time before they split up. Seems to me that most people must want to be in lifelong or nearly lifelong relationships.

Hambydammit wrote:

You can argue that this is not the way it should be, but you cannot argue that it is not so. If you want to argue that it should be otherwise, you must develop a framework in which this is true, and demonstrate what goal it accomplishes. I'm very well read on the subject, and I don't know of any such evidence.

I think the data you mention supports the idea that long-term marriage is both the ideal and the norm.

Hambydammit wrote:

Recent statistics indicate that large percentages of young people in England are eschewing marriage and choosing instead to cohabitate.

But they are getting married later.

Hambydammit wrote:

Historical marriage statistics from England indicate that until as late as the sixteenth or seventeenth century, government sanctioned marriage was only common among the upper classes.

 That's because it was expensive. It was still regarded as better to be married than not married.

Hambydammit wrote:

As I've said, I don't deny people's tendencies to form long partnerships. I'm well aware that couples are happier than singles, but you're overstating things. Childless couples (who do not wish to have children) give every indication of being as happy as couples with children (who want children).

I didn't say anything about couples with kids versus no kids! I was saying that kids do better when they have married parents.

Hambydammit wrote:

There isn't much accumulated data on marriage vs. cohabitation with children, but the early indicators are that barring social stigma, there's no significant difference.

You mean aside from the existential angst? OK, my bad, I couldn't resist...

Hambydammit wrote:

Your statement that most people will go ahead and have the marriage ceremony is evidence of what I'm talking about. By all indications, people don't need marriage. Other than the legal ramifications, it has no other objective function. Only the societal pressure to get married, or the stigma of unwed sex, or ostracizing non-conformists remains. These are all social constructs, not instinctual behaviors. (Actually, ostracizing non-conformists is probably instinctual, but it's not instinctually linked to marriage, per se.)

OK, now I understand that this will be difficult for an American to grasp, but you need to try to imagine a society where the government is actually viewed as a consensual governor of the community and people feel that their government leaders are their legitimate leaders.

Got that?

OK, under these circumstances, it is actually possible that ordinary people see some value in the official blessing of their union. They may actually view the proceedings of their community representative as creating more permanent and widely recognized acknowledgement of their bond than just the loose understanding among their associates that they are a couple. Believe it or not, the ritual does serve a purpose.

Hambydammit wrote:

Quote:
Especially when the marketing actually delivers the advertised product!

Ahem.

Ok. I know a lot of women who would get very mad at you for suggesting that they're less than a perfect woman because they have decided not to have children.

I didn't say anything about children! I said that marriage delivers the advertised benefits for women, which could be children but is also lots of other mushy stuff.

Hambydammit wrote:

I'm trying to get you to wrap your head around the distinction between mating bonds (natural, instinctive) and marriage (cultural, institutionalized). The laws regarding marriage through history have not been completely opposite human nature, of course. They also haven't been designed to promote individual happiness, either.

Ultimately, though, if people can't be happy within the institution, it will fail. We've seen lots of that in the last few decades.

Hambydammit wrote:

I'm really glad that your marriage is happy and that you love your kids. Really. I'm not trying to say that nobody should ever get married, and that people ought to just fuck anybody they want anytime. That's ludicrous, and it's also not part of our nature. My point is that the institution of marriage, along with the cultural myths that tag along with it, are not representative of efforts to make individuals happy. To the contrary, they represent the efforts of governments and religions to limit and restrict what people can and can't do, for the gain of the government and/or the religion.

I think that people like offical delarations and the acknowledgement of the powers-that-be more than you think. Yes, governments and religions have tried to hijack the institution (as all others) for their own purposes and have had varying degrees of success. But overall I think marriage is probably pretty close to its pagan roots in our deepest traditions.

Hambydammit wrote:

If you're reading into my thesis that I believe nobody should get married, or that people are not relatively monogamous, or that we don't tend towards moderately long relationships, then you're projecting something that isn't there.

As usual, we agree much more than we disagree. 

 

 

 

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I'm going to skip over a

I'm going to skip over a lot of your response because I don't care to get into semantic wars, and we're clearly using words differently. I believe if we really got down to brass tacks, I could demonstrate that you've got a rather skewed understanding of human history with regard to marriage and mating, but it doesn't appear that you are too interested in changing your views. It's ok.

Quote:
Do not. What we see through history is people getting together, in one-on-one, mostly exclusive long term relationships. And we see that in every culture and time, everywhere in the world.

Incontrovertibly false. I'm not near my library right now, but if you're really interested, I can get you some references and recommend some sociobiological and historical books for you.

What humans have done historically (and overwhelmingly) is form relatively long, relatively monogamous bonds, and have practiced significant bigamy, whether the state condoned it or not. (referring to mating, not marriage). Concubinage, prostitution, or polygamy has been notably present in every culture I'm aware of.

Quote:
Actually, we're imperfectly monogamous.

You're making a normative fallacy. We are what we are. Whether or not we should be another way is dependent on whether or not we can demonstrate the goodness of the goal. In other words, if people ought to mate with one partner for their life, we should be able to say:

"People who mate with one person for life attain X, where X is something unquestionably better than Y, which is what people who practice serial monogamy attain."

Humans are not forced to do what our instincts tell us to do. Some people, for instance, never eat dessert and drink unsweet tea. However, this tendency itself is a natural part of humanity. We have the capacity to adapt to a staggeringly large number of living arrangements, including but not even remotely limited to, monogamy.

Quote:
In a state of nature, I think a new couple could go either way.

You've actually got it ass-backwards. In an unfettered state, humans are predominately female-exogamous. It is precisely our culture which has created a state in which either kind of exogamy works. As it goes, we're not nearly as exogamous as many of our primate cousins. It's a weak sociobiological force in us.

Quote:
The divorce rate is right around 50%. That means that half the people getting married are staying married until one of them dies, however long it takes.

Not quite. The overall divorce rate is around 50%, for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, marriages, etc. (I actually think it's gone a bit higher, around 55%, but I might be wrong.) Consider:

Person 1: Married once for 20 years, widowed, died at 75.

Person 2: Married four times before 50, died at 55 while married.

Person 3: Married twice, once at 21, second at 40. Widowed, and died without remarrying.

Person 4: Married twice, both under 10 years, died 3 years into second marriage, at 70.

Ok, let's look at the stats: We've got ten marriages. We have five divorces, so a 50% divorce rate. The thing is, out of four people, only one fits the model of mating for life, and even she didn't really mate for life. She mated for 20 years, and lived single for many more. So with a 50% divorce rate, 75% of our population is polygamous. Not only that, but in each of these cases, if these people are representative of a typical American, they've had between two and ten sexual partners whom they didn't marry. [edit: changed from 7-10 to 2-10.  Typo.]

In other words, looking at the divorce rate is misleading, because it doesn't consider what the average person does. It just spits out averages, which are essentially meaningless in sociology.

Quote:
Out of the others, there is some percentage that are together for a very long time before they split up. Seems to me that most people must want to be in lifelong or nearly lifelong relationships.

The myth of marriage tells us that we want to be with one person for life. In reality, most of us are damn tired of our spouses after twenty years or so. Trust me, people a lot better versed than me have examined the stats in depth, and the reality is that without forcing people to stay married, most young (under 30) married couples will get divorced (most being significantly more than half.)

Quote:
I think the data you mention supports the idea that long-term marriage is both the ideal and the norm.

I'm at a loss to understand why.

Quote:
OK, under these circumstances, it is actually possible that ordinary people see some value in the official blessing of their union. They may actually view the proceedings of their community representative as creating more permanent and widely recognized acknowledgement of their bond than just the loose understanding among their associates that they are a couple. Believe it or not, the ritual does serve a purpose.

Ok. I know this is hard for a non-American to grasp (sorry... couldn't resist) but many of the really old traditions held in the older parts of the world may seem permanent and objectively better than other conventions, precisely because they've been around for so long, but they are still rituals, and are only as valuable as their cultural currency. It's quite true that in many parts of the world, marriage does not have the religious and big-brother-government stigma attached, and it is certainly a more functional ritual in some places than others, but it is still just a social construct and a ritual.

One more time, I'm going to try to make my point clear. I do not claim that marriage does not serve a cultural purpose. I think I've very effectively demonstrated in other posts that marriage itself (the government controlled legal union) has had very little bearing on the way people behave, except for when it was forced. When given the chance, people behave exactly as they have always behaved. Marriage does nothing to alter the essence of human nature, which is to be slightly polygamous, practice serial monogamy, and form the longest and most effective bonds around childrearing.

Quote:
Yes, governments and religions have tried to hijack the institution (as all others) for their own purposes and have had varying degrees of success. But overall I think marriage is probably pretty close to its pagan roots in our deepest traditions.

Tried to hijack? They invented it! I'm not talking about Christians, here. I mean much farther back. Before there was government, there was mating, and as far as we can tell, men mated with one, or relatively few females at a time. Officially sanctioned polygamy has been very common, particularly in east Asia and Africa.

I'm not as well versed in Pagan culture as some others, but unless I am completely wrong (and I don't think I am) most of the European pagan cultures were not strictly monogamous, nor were they our oldest or deepest traditions.

Quote:
As usual, we agree much more than we disagree.

I'm just a little stressed that you seem stuck on the idea that strict monogamy is in any way historically or biologically justified. Other than that, I think we're just talking across each other and using words differently. As always, not a biggie.

 

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I'm in total agreement with

I'm in total agreement with this: 

Hambydammit wrote:

Marriage does nothing to alter the essence of human nature, which is to be slightly polygamous, practice serial monogamy, and form the longest and most effective bonds around childrearing.

So I think you are perfectly right in saying this: 

Hambydammit wrote:

 I think we're just talking across each other and using words differently. As always, not a biggie. 

My view of monogamy bears little resemblance to the church and Hollywood's ideal of soul mates united for life and unable to contempate any other person in a sexual manner. Basically, I think that if you're coming home to the same person most of the time, you are monogamous, at least by primate standards. 

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Herein lies the

Herein lies the misunderstanding, then...

Wiki, because it's accurate about this:

In social anthropology, polygamy is the practice of marriage to more than one spouse simultaneously.

In sociobiology, polygamy is used in a broad sense to mean any form of multiple mating.

******

The point still remains that monogamy has not historically been ubiquitous, even if we apply it only to the concept of marriage. In fact, until as late as the twentieth century in many parts of the world, polygamy (marriage/concubinage) was still common among the powerful and wealthy, pretty much everywhere outside of Europe. (This fits with the most common model of polygamy from the animal kingdom, by the way. The powerful get multiple mates.)

In Africa, polygamy is still remarkably common, with 47 percent of marriages being multiple in Senegal (http://www.southerncenter.org/af_jan07_lesson5.pdf), though many parts of Africa are seeing a decline, as in Namibia, which is down from 24% to 12% between 1992 and 2000. (ibid).

From 1969, among pre-industrial nations:

 

As you can see, even with your definition, pre-industrial society, which is most representative of our very, very long past (Industrialization is less than two centuries old... human history... tens of thousands of years), is nowhere near to being primarily monogamous. Even in a global technology world, the majority of societies in the world still permit polygyny, although the majority of individuals are not wealthy enough to afford it.

As I've said before, I do not dispute the potential for happiness between monogamous married couples. I've been doing my best to emphasize the fact that our versatility is one of our best evolutionary adaptations.

The fact, though, is that the Western preoccupation with monogamy as the best or only option for human mating is NOT representative of human history, nor does it bear out under scientific scrutiny. The myth of marriage as an ancient ubiquitous longing for one man and one woman goes a long way towards propagating this misunderstanding.

If we're rational, then we can be rational about this as well as religion. Strict societal monogamy works in some ways, but it is by no means the only available mating/marriage option for humans, and it is most certainly not the dominant societal trend in history.  It also creates its own societal problems, but that's another topic.

 

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I think marriage is, at

I think marriage is, at least in Europe and the USA, important for legal and childcare reasons.

It does carry a certain ideology of essential companionship. If people want to get married, they should recognize the legal aspect and the realistic circumstance they are putting themselves into.

Too many people marry someone they have doubts about and think "oh, we'll work it out when we're married" or "marriage will fix everything". It doesn't.

*Our world is far more complex than the rigid structure we want to assign to it, and we will probably never fully understand it.*

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Quote: I think marriage is,

Quote:
I think marriage is, at least in Europe and the USA, important for legal and childcare reasons.

The reality that I've been trying to convey is that in Europe and the U.S., we hear the word marriage, and we hear monogamy. It's important for legal reasons where there's polygamy, too.

This, of course, goes back to my original point: Marriage is good for making sure that you pass on your estate, that you can legally see your kids, and that you have power of attorney if need be.

Marriage is government sanctioned mating that is not necessarily representative of humans' natural mating habits, nor is it necessarily indicative of the best arrangement for any one individual human. Evolution doesn't care about individual people, but governments do, and thus the disconnect when you institutionalize something as widely varied as mating.

I get aggravated when people get on a high horse about monogamy being the best way to marry because anthropology, history, evolutionary biology, and archaeology point to it as one of several effective mating strategies that humans have adopted, based primarily on ecology and availability of resources.

In America, monogamy works for most people because very few men have enough money to have two or more wives. On the other hand, women who want a career and children would do well to take a better look at polygamy, as it affords the opportunity to do both more effectively, with a second wife at home taking care of the kids, and two incomes. (Oddly enough, this has been a Mormon argument for many years, and it's one of the very few things they have correct about human nature!)

Of course, this is all moot, as it's illegal in America.

Feh... It's such a long topic. If I wasn't mouthing off in this thread, I could actually be writing scholarly material about it.

 

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Hambydammit wrote: The

Hambydammit wrote:

The point still remains that monogamy has not historically been ubiquitous, even if we apply it only to the concept of marriage. In fact, until as late as the twentieth century in many parts of the world, polygamy (marriage/concubinage) was still common among the powerful and wealthy, pretty much everywhere outside of Europe. (This fits with the most common model of polygamy from the animal kingdom, by the way. The powerful get multiple mates.)

But the sexual activity outside of marriage didn't imply any kind of socially recognized relationship and was usually transient and often a source of guilt and trouble and not just because the state or the church said it was. If society is an outgrowth of natural social behaviours (which I believe it is) then we should acknowledge the fact that liasons outside our acknowleged pair bonds are viewed very, very differently both inside and outside the relationship than the pair bond itself. Cheating may be common, but it is not a social norm.  

Hambydammit wrote:

As you can see, even with your definition, pre-industrial society, which is most representative of our very, very long past (Industrialization is less than two centuries old... human history... tens of thousands of years), is nowhere near to being primarily monogamous. Even in a global technology world, the majority of societies in the world still permit polygyny, although the majority of individuals are not wealthy enough to afford it.

There seems to be confusion in your examples between "third world" and "pre-industrial." Senegal and Namibia are third world countries...but certainly not pre-industrial. This is important because we can't refer to post-colonial nation states in Africa if we want to find out something about the natural behaviour of humans. These places are racked by overpopulation and war which has significantly reduced the number of males available for marrying. 

On the other hand, there are also problems with evaluating the behaviour of surviving pre-industrial people. Why? Because they are by definition abnormal. I think our best route to knowledge of this kind is through anthropology and paleo-anthropology and my reading there suggests to me that primitive human groups were mostly pair bonded with a few powerful males messing around with a few other girls on the side but still being bonded to a primary wife.

Here's a good discussion of this. 

Hambydammit wrote:

As I've said before, I do not dispute the potential for happiness between monogamous married couples. I've been doing my best to emphasize the fact that our versatility is one of our best evolutionary adaptations.

The fact, though, is that the Western preoccupation with monogamy as the best or only option for human mating is NOT representative of human history, nor does it bear out under scientific scrutiny. The myth of marriage as an ancient ubiquitous longing for one man and one woman goes a long way towards propagating this misunderstanding.

If we're rational, then we can be rational about this as well as religion. Strict societal monogamy works in some ways, but it is by no means the only available mating/marriage option for humans, and it is most certainly not the dominant societal trend in history. It also creates its own societal problems, but that's another topic.

Sorry, but long-term pair bonding reinforced by social tabboos around polygamy IS the trend in human history, the present circumstances of fucked up places like Senegal notwithstanding. Whenever there is a power shift in the society towards the males because of a shortage of men due to war, you see a loosening of the monogamous norm as women jostle for mates. But as soon as the women get the upper hand in the mating game, as they are sure to do, all things being equal, they enforce a monogamous regime for almost everyone. 

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My thoughts on

My thoughts on marriage?

For a couple in love, it's really unnecessary. Being atheists, there are no religious rules restricting what we can do before marriage, so getting married wouldn't change anything between my boyfriend and I from a physical standpoint. The things marriage would change are of course the legal benefits that we wouldn't otherwise have as a couple. Plus, we would never dream of having children before being married first.

But the essence of marriage is supposed to be love, and love doesn't (or rather, it shouldn't) change just because of marriage.

I feel that society has turned marriage into a "goal." Like, suck in your stomach, act really sweet, ignore all the problems with the relationship.. whatever it takes to make it down the aisle. Marriage has become the socially acceptable thing to do - not getting married somehow has a deviant stigma associated with it. Because of this, it's amazing what lengths people will go to to get married, and it's amazing what people will put up with within their marriages. A lot of people hope that marriage will change them or their future spouse, when this isn't the case.

That is unhealthy. If you are yourself from the beginning, make an effort to compromise, are faithful, etc... marriage won't change this.

 


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Quote:

Quote:
But the sexual activity outside of marriage didn't imply any kind of socially recognized relationship

I'm not sure how else to say this. In the European and American West, it has not typically been governmentally recognized, but please, let's not kid ourselves about the social recognition of powerful people having multiple mates. Even well into the 20th century, it was almost scandalous for a French Prime Minister (king, whatever...) not to have a mistress. Hugh Hefner, King Louis XV and Mme de Pompadour, Charles II, Fanny Hill, Moll Flanders, Angie Dickinson with JFK, Marilyn Monroe with JFK, Ann Boleyn, Jayne Mansfield with JFK, Lucy Mercer with Franklin Roosevelt, Eva Braun and Hitler... All of these are legendary mistresses and powerful men, both in literature and in real life. We clearly have a deep appreciation for powerful men with extra women.

Tilberian, I'm not trying to prove my point with examples. I'm giving you examples that illustrate that which is already widely known and accepted among anthropologists, biologists, and evolutionary historians/biologists, etc...

If you want proof that humans have always been polygamous, I can tell you about a half a dozen books you can read.

Quote:
and was usually transient and often a source of guilt and trouble and not just because the state or the church said it was.

GAH!!

I'm truly shocked to hear you say this. The guilt thing is very, very Western-centric of you. You're just saying what you believe, or want to believe. You have absolutely no data to back this up.

And speaking of transient, is it not me who has been trying, over and over, to explain that we are serial monogamists with penchants for extra on the side? You're proving my point. When men have been forced into strict monogamy, the ones who can take on a string of usually serially monogamous mistresses.

Quote:
Cheating may be common, but it is not a social norm.

Cheating is very common, and it is the social norm, but it is often (but not always) stigmatized. What you're missing is that a great portion of the world has not and does not define cheating the way you do -- having any other woman besides your one wife. You're still being very western-centric.

Quote:
There seems to be confusion in your examples between "third world" and "pre-industrial." Senegal and Namibia are third world countries...but certainly not pre-industrial. This is important because we can't refer to post-colonial nation states in Africa if we want to find out something about the natural behaviour of humans. These places are racked by overpopulation and war which has significantly reduced the number of males available for marrying.

[EDIT: I first suggested you should read the science, but I really think you have read some, and you're just viewing it through European/American colored glasses.] This is exactly why we can study them to discover human nature. Humans' adaptability is one of their strongest survival traits, and we have demonstrated it perhaps most dynamically in our incredible diversity (and social acceptability) of mating practice!

I know the difference between pre-industrial and third world. As I've said, I'm not trying to prove a case with examples, and I wrote that kind of hastily. I could write fifty or sixty pages of a book report from just about any respectable sociobiology text dealing with human sexuality to prove my point.

You're making a grave error here in assessing human behavior. Anything that exists in the world is a result of evolution. If it is happening, it is a result of natural processes. When a species encounters a change in environment, it either survives or it doesn't. Humans, unlike most species of animal, lives everywhere. We can do this because we can adapt more than any other creature of our size and limitations. One of our best adaptive traits is our ability to mate in extremely diverse ways.

Senegal's situation is one in which humans can live. I'm not suggesting that everyone loves it, but I'm pretty sure emperor penguins don't love hanging out in -50F weather all winter. You seem to think there's a 'perfect human condition.' What there is, is a remarkable adaptive mechanism -- mild polygamy -- that allows a great many adaptations to adverse environments.

Suppose we found out that a species of fish had learned to live in complete darkness, and had lost all of its sight. Would you suggest we not study that fish because underground caves are not normal for fish? What if it changed their mating habits?

You're insisting that humans ought not be studied as any other life form by insisting that we only recognize what you feel to be the best mating arrangement. Wow. Just, wow.

Quote:
On the other hand, there are also problems with evaluating the behaviour of surviving pre-industrial people. Why? Because they are by definition abnormal.

By what definition?

By what most people do? By your logic, homosexuals are abnormal. Care to trapse down that path for very long?

What if we define them as the majority because we've been pre-industrial for 99.9% of our history? Now you're abnormal.

Seriously, Tilberian, this normal/abnormal dichotomy you keep insisting on is a remnant from Freudian ignorance.

Quote:
I think our best route to knowledge of this kind is through anthropology and paleo-anthropology and my reading there suggests to me that primitive human groups were mostly pair bonded with a few powerful males messing around with a few other girls on the side but still being bonded to a primary wife.

Yeah. Mildly polygamous. Hasn't one of us been saying that for days now?

Oh, and from what I know of anthropology, it's not really known whether or not it was 'messing around on the side' or keeping a harem. There's simply not enough data to make a good case either way. Historically, on the other hand, it's been far more pronounced than messing around on the side. Huge harems for powerful men have been extremely common since the agricultural revolution.

Quote:
Here's a good discussion of this.

I'll have a look at that soon.

Quote:
Whenever there is a power shift in the society towards the males because of a shortage of men due to war, you see a loosening of the monogamous norm as women jostle for mates. But as soon as the women get the upper hand in the mating game, as they are sure to do, all things being equal, they enforce a monogamous regime for almost everyone.

Everyone except for the very powerful.

That's mildly polygamous, which is what I've been saying this whole time.

Oh, and let me quote myself from earlier:

"When men have been forced into strict monogamy, the ones who can take on a string of usually serially monogamous mistresses."

now you:

"But as soon as the women get the upper hand in the mating game, as they are sure to do, all things being equal, they enforce a monogamous regime for almost everyone."

You see, Tilberian, you're saying the exact same things as me, but you're enforcing a dichotomy on it. You're assuming that the state of females enforcing monogamy is the correct one.

Women are as sure to get the upper hand in the mating game in the same way that men are sure to get it back eventually. You know this, Tilberian! Evolution is about internal competition.

[edit:  That last paragraph was too vague and off the cuff...  Mating is competition.  Women are trying to get the most out of men, and vice versa.  Environment, external competition, disease, etc, are virtually certain to change the dynamics again, at which point the balance of power will change, and human mating habits will also change.  I'm smelling a hint of feminist dogma in your position, assuming that which is best for the female is optimal for the species...]

 

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Men should get married so

Men should get married so they can spend some time getting laid instead of posting diatribes about African mating practices on atheist web sites. Smiling

I think the women who've responded to the OP have do so clearly, concisely and accurately.

I have little to add except that I'm an atheist who married a theist. Aside from scripting our wedding very carefully so that I wouldn't have to do any God- acknowledging, religion had very little to do with it. The whole affair was pretty much a big party for us, our family and friends. Nearly 8 years and 2 kids later, we're still happy and together. We're tired a lot, to be sure, but I look at my kids and my wife and it makes me a pretty happy guy.

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Tilberian wrote:Maytacera

Tilberian wrote:
Maytacera wrote:

"Nope. Marriage predates any formal concept of property. Humans are naturally monogamous, though not with the strictness and rigidity that religion has brought to the concept. There have been marriage rituals for as long as there have been humans, as far as we can tell."

not...really no. Humans are far from naturally monogomous. They are just possessive.

Then how do you explain that people have been getting together and forming long-term, one-on-one, mostly exclusive relationships in every society and every culture regardless of geography, point in history, economic status and every other consideration for as long as there have been people? If it has always been a function of one person wanting to possess another person, then why have there always been such a massive supply of people wanting to be possessed?

Or is it your position that married people possess each other? In that case, they are still being drawn together by a perfectly natural impulse: the desire to possess each other. I don't care what you call the drive, it is natural, it is ubiquitous, and it results in monogamy. In my book, that makes people naturally monogamous. 

...If we are naturally monogamous, how do you explain human beings having 10-20 partners throughout their lives?

Humans are possessive. If Urg the caveman has sex with Ogita the cave woman, he develops an attatchment to her. If he sees her and Og getting it on, he becomes angry...not because he only ever wants to have relations with Ogita, but because he only ever wants Ogita to have relationships with him.


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Jealousy and possessiveness,

Jealousy and possessiveness, in an odd quirk of nature, are most likely what make us relatively monogamous.  Both males and females have a natural tendency to be polygamous, and the only thing that effectively reigns these tendencies in is jealousy.

Consider the evidence:  In strictly monogamous societies, we have first hand, undeniable evidence that at least 20% of females cheat.  Our evidence is babies.  In a well controlled, thoroughly defended study, it was discovered that approximately 20% of babies in monogamous marriages are the result of cuckolding.  Despite desperate efforts to prove that this is the result of male aggression, it is not.  Females marry the man who will be likely to stay faithful, and then sneak off and reproduce with the man who will be likely to make better babies. 

The thing that's so convincing about this is that women don't intend to do this, but they do it anyway.  Quite unconsciously, unfaithful women tend to have sex with their lovers more when they are most fertile.  In addition, at all times when they are with their lovers, their bodies tend to give them high retention orgasms.  Conversely, when a woman has a lover, her body gives her significantly less high retention orgasms.

(The nail in the coffin is that faithful women have less high retention orgasms with their husbands, at all times, than unfaithful women with their lovers.)

Lack of jealousy is a near 100% indicator of impending divorce.  It basically proves that the couple doesn't love each other any more.  Ironically, women who cheat are often still very jealous of their husband's time.  Though the evidence is weaker, primarily because few researchers have been brave enough to tackle the issue objectively, we have relatively convincing evidence that affairs are not accurate predictors of a lack of affection in the marriage, nor are they universal predictors of marital dissatisfaction.  The fact is cruel, but true.  People still cheat even when they're happily married.

The evolutionary impetus for jealousy, of course, is sperm competition.  If you think about it, men don't want to just have sex with a lot of women.  They want to have exclusive sex with a lot of women.  The only reasonable evolutionary explanation for this is reproductive success.  Why else would men have developed killer sperm unless there was rampant cheating?  Men know biologically that women are likely to have sex with multiple men.  Therefore, the men who developed a jealous streak guarded their women more closely, and were more reproductively successful.

If sexual access to women were the only factor, men wouldn't care about female infidelity.  In fact, they would probably welcome it.  If you have ten women in a harem, you're only going to get to one or two each day, leaving eight or nine with nothing to do.  If all ten are constantly nagging you for sex, you're going to be overworked, or over-nagged.  The reasonable thing would be to allow them to have other men when you're not with them.  Yet, this is obviously not so.  It is reproductive drive.  Men want to father children with many women, biologically speaking. 

Now, jealousy promotes monogamy, for both women and men are jealous.  The woman doesn't want to share resources with another wife or mistress, so she jealously guards her husband.  The husband jealously guards his wife so that she doesn't get another man.  Why would she get another man, though?  She has one!

The answer is that monogamy forces people to settle for less than ideal mates.  If you put 50 people in a room and put stickers on their heads, with a number from 1-25 (one for each male and female), so that others can see the numbers, but the individual cannot, and then tell them to pair with the highest number they can find, the results are startling.  People will stratify themselves.  The woman with number 25 will immediately be swarmed by people, and will recognize her value.  She will not pair with anyone but a 24 or 25, for the male with the 25 will also recognize his value.  At the bottom end, the ones and twos will not be able to find anyone to pair with them, and will end up with each other.

Once they are married, most everybody realizes that they can do better.  The ten who paired with an eight meets an eleven who paired with a nine.  Each benefits from upgrading.  Cheating is born, for it is not long term pairing that drives jealousy, but reproduction.  Both the ten and the eleven benefit from cheating on their spouses.  In the same way, both jilted spouses can also meet people in similar circumstances.  Yet, jealousy remains, and the need for childrearing and financial aid remains.  Women, whose ovulation is concealed, have an evolutionary advantage, for they can cheat without undue fear of discovery.

Dig this.  Across all cultures, relatives from the mother's side of the family unconsciously think a new baby looks like its father -- even when the researchers happen to know the baby is not the presumed father's.  Women are genetically programmed to convince fathers of paternity.

The evidence goes on and on and on.  Humans are designed to pair monogamously and then cheat.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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