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Austin Cline

Weekly Poll: Should Atheists Be Allowed to Marry?

By May 19, 2011

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Opponents of gay marriage are largely motivated by their firm belief that such unions are displeasing to God and that only divinely-approved marriages should be permitted. Unions which offend God should not be legal. In the past, this meant that conservative Christians opposed interracial marriages because it was God's will that the races be separate. Today it means that conservative Christians oppose gay marriages because it's God's will that marriage be between one man and one woman. Where will it end, though?

How long will it be before they start fighting for other kinds of limits on civil marriages based upon their beliefs about what their god wants? For example, should atheists be allowed to marry? Godless people cannot be united in "Holy Matrimony" and their marriages cannot in any way be based on the will of any gods. From a faith-based perspective, this makes godless couples just as much out-laws as gay couples today, or interracial couples in the past.

If Christian Nationalists who follow dominion theology get their way and enact laws which ban all sexual activity which is contrary to the will of their god, it's hard to see why godless couples wouldn't be included in the bans somehow. On the other hand, if a person finds it absurd to even consider banning marriage or sexual relations between godless people, then the door is opened to denying the validity of other faith-based restrictions.

If religion isn't a good reason to prevent atheists from getting married, how can it be a good reason to prevent gays from getting married? Homophobia in America is fueled almost entirely by traditional, orthodox Christian doctrine. What this means is that gay liberation won't occur without undermining traditional Christianity and religion-fueled prejudice.

Comments
July 5, 2007 at 10:53 am
(1) Child of Thorns says:

Didn’t 8% actually vote to bag atheists form marrying? Pretty disturbing…

July 5, 2007 at 10:54 am
(2) Child of Thorns says:

Sorry I meant ban atheists form marrying.

July 5, 2007 at 11:26 am
(3) tracieh says:

Another interesting question is: Should couples who can’t or won’t procreate be allowed to marry? Since this is another parallel with gay marriage.

No kidding, I attended, less than a year ago, the wedding of a JW couple. They were both grandparents, and well beyond child-bearing years. The preacher presiding talked on an on about the divine purpose of marriage and god’s plan being to procreate. It was truly humorous to see this elderly couple standing up before the preacher being told the purpose of their union was to bear children.

May 20, 2011 at 11:10 pm
(4) Sean says:

A very interesting thought. I have visited this concept myself in a sarcastic point of view. I brought it up that since my aunt can’t bear children does that mean her marriage should be nullified? All of a sudden people make EXCEPTIONS! And me? I had a vasectomy. Yes I have one healthy daughter. The decision to get “snipped” was purely economical. We cannot afford two children financially or psychologically. Now, I am a bisexual male and I willingly and gladly married a heterosexual female in a monogamous marriage. Today, of course, “equal” marriage (euphemism for marriage between two consenting adults regardless of gender) is legal here in Canada. There was much resistance. Yet the sky hasn’t caved in and life goes on. Even for straight people. Imagine that! So I don’t see what the fuss was about. At the time I did get married, equal marriage wasn’t yet legal although there were many constitutional (Canada) challenges which eventually led to the restrictive law being overturned.
Anyhow, we had to find a non-denominational minister who performed marriages to any eligible couple for a fee. Nowadays we can go to city hall but in our city that wasn’t an option at the time. We made it clear that we would make no vows to any god because that would be dishonest on our part and I wanted to mean every word I said on our wedding day.
I don’t believe children were an issue then although not so secretly I desperately wanted to be a father. Once it happened my procreative power was irrelevant. I woulddefy anyone who claimed that would be grounds to nullify my marriage.
Same with being agnostic.
Or bisexual.
Or having a disability.
Or being hopelessly ugly.
Or being short.
Once an irrational reason comes for nullifying marriage, a lot is stacked against me. No thanks.

July 5, 2007 at 4:52 pm
(5) Ben says:

Umm…the question specifies the answer already. ‘If marriage is a sacred institution authored by God, should atheists be barred from marrying?’ Clearly, the answer is yes, and that’s how I voted. But since marriage isn’t really a sacred institution authored by God, of course we shouldn’t be barred.

May 21, 2011 at 1:58 am
(6) Doris says:

I thought the same thing, since the stated condition is “If marriage is a sacred institution authored by God.” But I took it to mean “Since some people believe that marriage is a . . .”

July 5, 2007 at 6:01 pm
(7) Jan says:

What I would really like to know is who the 124 individuals are who voted yes to this badly worded poll… and also what planet they come from…

July 5, 2007 at 6:45 pm
(8) April says:

I have found nothing in the Bible about God forbidding pagan marriage, although believers should not marry unbelievers, which is what Christ refers to as being unequally yoked. God is angered by sex outside of marriage, whether it be premarital or adultery, including fantasizing. In fact, if divorced, neither person should marry again unless it is to remarry each other. God considers it to be adultery to marry a divorced person. God does not approve of divorce but set strict parameters to allow it because of the condition of our hard hearts. Marriage is symbolic of our relationship with God, whether we believe in Him or not. He desires intimacy and never gives up on us, even when we deny Him or walk away from Him. He is always willing to forgive us when we honestly seek it through Christ. Jesus Christ is referred to in the bible as the bridegroom of believers and heaven as the wedding banquet. Humans may not be serious about the sanctity of marriage, but God is and we will all be held accountable for our own lives. Homosexual and pagan marriage cannot be included in the same argument. Pagans do not sin by getting married, they sin by having sex outside of marriage, so it would be preferable for them to marry so that their sexual relations would not be sinful. Homosexuals sin in the very act of sex itself, even if they were to be married.

As for biracial marriage, it is ridiculous to say that God is against it. He is no respector of persons and is certainly not prejudiced. Be careful to judge Christian beliefs by God’s Word and true meaning and not man’s word because humans tend to twist God’s word to fit their own beliefs, which God himself calls hypocrisy. When we take God’s Word as written and intended for us, whether we like it or not, we keep His truths. The more you read and study the bible with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the more you know God and can discern the true meaning of scripture as He intends it for us, not as man interprets it for himself.

July 5, 2007 at 6:52 pm
(9) Farb says:

Marriage pre-dated anything resembling the monotheistic religions of the Fertile Crescent, its social purpose being the legitimacy of offspring for the purposes of inheritance, and a formalization of the prehistoric bargain between primates of opposite sexes to trade sexual access for child support.

Since gays can adopt, and adoption carries all the legal benefits of genetic descent, gays should be allowed to marry, but inasmuch as marriage was (pre-)historically a civil arrangement, churches need not be forced to solemnify those arrangements.

Banning marriage between atheists, or, for that matter, the infertile, would make for a delicious class-action lawsuit against any governmental agency so benighted as to try it, so I’m all in favor of watching them TRY.

BTW, since the Texas marriage amendment first defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, and then enjoined the state, or any agency of the state from creating anything “identical or similar to marriage,” doesn’t that make straight marriage in Texas constitutionally illegal, on the basis that nothing is more similar to a thing than the thing itself?

July 5, 2007 at 7:52 pm
(10) Andrew says:

April: So you know the mind of your god so well? Perhaps you can ask him if I should stone my neighbour to death for mowing his lawn on the Sabbath. I am also pretty certain that he eats lobsters and crabs too. Also I swear I once saw him dressed in cloth made from two different fibers.

Thank you for your assistance in this vital matter

July 5, 2007 at 8:04 pm
(11) Amos says:

How is this different from asking “If 1+1=3, what is the result of adding 1 and 1?”

Well, the answer to that question is 3. For the same reason, you’ve got to answer Yes to this.

The truly right answer is wrong in context of this question because we’ve got this ridiculous assumption determining our choice.

July 5, 2007 at 9:07 pm
(12) Ron says:

ANDREW! Dang it! I was going to say that!!!

July 5, 2007 at 10:38 pm
(13) rob says:

saying that homophobia is a christian constrct is pretty silly. as with all hateful things that religious people of all stripes rationalize through scripture, it’s an expression of idiotic fear and hatred that people justify with the nearest doctrine to hand. in the case of america, that’s the bible. anywhere else, they find some other excuse.

you can try to eradicate religion, which is a symptom of psychological imbalance, or you can try to eradicate the rot that leads to religion in the first place.

i vote for the latter.

July 6, 2007 at 3:25 am
(14) Ugo says:

“God is angered by sex outside of marriage”

April, assuming what you wrote above is true, then your god is a pathetic, little, omophobic, misogynistic, stupid wanker. Why should he care what two (or more) consenting adults do in their bed?

Isn’t it pretty obvious that the “laws” established by your so-called “god” are just the reflections of mores of Bronze-Age bedouin tribes? Religion is created by man, and so is marriage.

July 6, 2007 at 6:22 am
(15) Austin Cline says:

saying that homophobia is a christian constrct is pretty silly.

I didn’t say that. I said that homophobia in America is “fueled almost entirely by traditional, orthodox Christian doctrine.” There’s a difference between the two. Do you disagree with what I actually wrote and, if so, why?

as with all hateful things that religious people of all stripes rationalize through scripture, it’s an expression of idiotic fear and hatred that people justify with the nearest doctrine to hand. in the case of america, that’s the bible.

Are you saying that religion plays no substantive role in the perpetuation of hate – that it’s nothing more thana convenient excuse?

you can try to eradicate religion, which is a symptom of psychological imbalance, or you can try to eradicate the rot that leads to religion in the first place.

This suggests that religion plays no causative role.

If the “psychological imbalance” is a part of what it means to be human, then it can’t be eradicated. We can, however, eliminate or at least reduce some of its symptoms.

July 6, 2007 at 7:48 am
(16) Science Goddess says:

Sounds like Sharia law to me! Why can’t we understand that fundamentalists of ANY stripe are dangerous?

SG

July 6, 2007 at 12:16 pm
(17) ironicname says:

April says:
“Jesus Christ is referred to in the bible as the bridegroom of believers”
So if I beleive I’ve got to mary Jesus? But I’m a guy! If Jesus want’s that sort of thing he’s welcome, just not with me. I don’t swing that way. I also don’t think that I would bottom.

July 6, 2007 at 1:14 pm
(18) cbutterb says:

Geez, what a stupid poll. If you include a counterfactual in the premise, the possible answers can’t deny the counterfactual.

Is using words really that hard?

July 6, 2007 at 1:33 pm
(19) Austin Cline says:

Cbutterb: This is not an exercise in logic and, as such, there is nothing preventing one from denying the premise behind the question. Indeed, the first answer allows specifically for that.

July 6, 2007 at 2:43 pm
(20) Kagehi says:

On the contrary Austin, it “is” and exercise in logic. Mind you, this one isn’t that bad, in that it **does** give the option of denying the premise entirely. Most such polls consist of wording that makes the only “valid” answer, “None of the above”, but where you are prompted to simply choose the one that most directly reflects either the dogma you grew up with, or the least silly, but still incomprehensibly wrong, answer from the list. This is of course intended, so that honest and logical people *can’t* give a valid answer, so its only people that don’t understand why the answers are all bad, can’t think for themselves when it comes to moral issues or stupidly try to find the least offensive answer, so that their views gets expressed who answer them. And the end result is, it doesn’t matter “what” you answer in those cases, either you find 60% of people polled answering the with the most dogmatic answer, since 80% of them didn’t understand the question, or you get what ever group made the poll telling every one that group X obviously believes in Y, even though they don’t support Z, or otherwise they wouldn’t have answered Q. Or in other words, the least offensive answer is still a win for them, because it “presumes” that the disagreement is over interpretation of facts, not belief in what ever being is supposedly running it all.

You can’t win, if you don’t answer, only the crazies that wrote the poll answer, with the worst answer on the list. If you do, then they can claim you believe, but are denying God or some BS, based on the fact that all the answers “presume” that there has to be one for you to be “able” to answer it.

This one is, as I said, only better in that it provides an out. But it fails in that it still *assumes* a premise first, then asks people to base their answer “on” that premise. It should have been *two* questions. One – “Is it some divine thing that only God (which ever one that is…) condones”, and *assuming* you answer the affirmative to that, Two – “What is the most reasonable answer to the second question about *if* some set of people should be denied it?”

Cramming the two questions together in one sentence is bad form and *will* mislead, since some people, like in these comments, will answer from the *premise*, even when given the out, which severely derails the whole purpose of the poll, which I presume is to see how many people might believe such silly BS, not how many people are foolish enough to answer in the positive, even when they don’t believe its the right answer.

July 6, 2007 at 2:57 pm
(21) Austin Cline says:

But it fails in that it still *assumes* a premise first, then asks people to base their answer “on” that premise.

All questions assume premises, even if it’s simply in the choices offered as answers.

…which severely derails the whole purpose of the poll, which I presume is to see how many people might believe such silly BS, not how many people are foolish enough to answer in the positive, even when they don’t believe its the right answer.

Actually, an important purpose of the poll is to get people to think about the issue being addressed. A simple, short article isn’t quite as good — marketing research demonstrates, for example, that a question in an advertisement draws more attention to the ad than a simple declarative sentence because people are automatically inclined to want to give an answer. A poll, on similar grounds, draws more attention to the issue (since I’m not selling anything) and forces people to think a little more about the matter than they otherwise would. Voting, or just clicking to see the votes, increases the time spent on it as well.

Putting two questions in the poll questions further increases this, I believe, because it forces together the premise of the anti-gay zealots with a conclusion that few of them would be willing to countenance. The whole point is to force them together and insist that they be taken together — separating them is what allows for mental compartmentalization in the first place. Yes, some misunderstanding is possible (especially if the answers aren’t read carefully), but this isn’t an effort at scientific polling. It’s counsciousness-raising and whatever gets people to think about it issue more (and from a new direction) is good.

July 6, 2007 at 4:09 pm
(22) Kris says:

I’ve actually had this very same discussion with my father, a Methodist Christian. We were discussing whether gay marriage should be allowed, he arguing that it shouldn’t be allowed since being homosexual was a “sin” in god’s eyes (and since obviously all homosexuals are godless folk. /sarcasm). I argued that it wasn’t a religious institution anymore, especially since one can go to any courthouse and get married.

He then argued that yes, you could do that, but you had to be religious, to which I replied, that atheists get married every day and that the government recognizes heterosexual atheist couples because they’re straight and it has nothing to do with their religious/non religious views.

July 6, 2007 at 4:17 pm
(23) Austin Cline says:

I replied, that atheists get married every day and that the government recognizes heterosexual atheist couples because they’re straight and it has nothing to do with their religious/non religious views.

You’ve really got me wondering what he said in response to that….

July 6, 2007 at 5:59 pm
(24) R J says:

Your questions are worded so that any one choose either of the first two statement must set an absolute. I believe God instituted marriage. However I do not believe that it is only for Christians. The Jews came before Christians for starters, and it is obvious that “non Christians” or “non Jews” married in the old testament. So the question cannot be answered. Perhaps it should be worded so that a person isn’t trapped by your own leading statement.

No Atheists should not be banned from marriage.

July 6, 2007 at 8:29 pm
(25) truth machine says:

“Cbutterb: This is not an exercise in logic”

Rational thinking is an exercise in logic, and you fail. If you deny the premise, then the answer is of logical necessity “yes” — that consequence of material implication is one of the first things one is taught in logic. Since that’s not what you intended, you should have worded it differently; for instance “Does it follow from marriage being a sacred institution authored by God that atheists should be barred from marrying?” or “To be consistent, should those who think that marriage is a sacred institution authored by God also be opposed to atheists marrying?” But none of those polls provide interesting results, because we have no idea how many people who answered yes are intelligent atheists able to properly understand a question. It would have been a lot more straightforward to simply ask the question posed in your headline, which is a very different question than the one in the sidebar.

Also, in re
“Opponents of gay marriage are largely motivated by their firm belief that such unions are displeasing to God and that only divinely-approved marriages should be permitted.”

This isn’t true. Opponents of gay marriage are primarily motivated by their directions from their leaders, whom they sheepishly follow. And their leaders are motivated by the desire for Republicans to win elections. Gay marriage is not an issue that arose spontaneously from the populace, it was crafted as a wedge issue in right wing think tanks and propagated by the political apparatus first created by Richard Viguerie, who reinvigorated the abortion issue in 1980 in order to get Ronald Reagan elected.

July 6, 2007 at 8:31 pm
(26) truth machine says:

Pardon my unclosed tag, but it wouldn’t have happened if you had a preview button, like competent sites do.

July 6, 2007 at 8:32 pm
(27) truth machine says:

Trying to close that tag …

July 6, 2007 at 8:44 pm
(28) truth machine says:

But it fails in that it still *assumes* a premise first, then asks people to base their answer “on” that premise.

All questions assume premises, even if it’s simply in the choices offered as answers.

Are you really this thick? Kagehi clearly misspoke by saying “assumes a premise”; s/he clearly meant that it explicitly states a premise. Consider “If Bush has correctly interpreted the Constitution, should he be impeached for exceeding his Constitutional authority?” That’s nothing at all like “Should Bush be impeached for exceeding his Constitional authority?”, which could be taken to assume that he has in fact exceeded it. My answer to the second question is “yes”, because I agree with the implicit premise, but my answer to the former is “no”, because the premise is explicitly negated by the antecedent; it would be utterly irrational to impeach a President for doing something that, ex hypothesi, he didn’t do.

July 6, 2007 at 8:59 pm
(29) truth machine says:

the more you know God and can discern the true meaning of scripture as He intends it for us, not as man interprets it for himself.

Christians are such pathetic hypocrites. According to April, “man” interprets scripture, but she (not being a man?) “discerns” the “true meaning”.

P.S. I was going to vote “yes” in the poll (since I consider the antecedent to be false, it logically follows that the conditional is true), but that option isn’t even available. I do care, and I do know, so I can’t take the 3rd or 4th option, so I was forced not to vote at all. Next time, you ought to include “None of the above; the pollster is too intellectually incompetent to craft a set of choices that cover the full range of possibilities, other than with this catchall.”

July 6, 2007 at 10:00 pm
(30) Ron says:

A homophobic man that I know made this statement. “But the bible says it is an abomination” I said to him: If you don’t like gays, just say so! Be man enough to take responsibility for your words. Don’t hold up the bible and use it for a sheild!

July 7, 2007 at 7:57 am
(31) Austin Cline says:

Are you really this thick? Kagehi clearly misspoke by saying “assumes a premise”; s/he clearly meant that it explicitly states a premise.

I try not to presume that I can read the minds of others. It’s arrogant.

If you deny the premise, then the answer is of logical necessity “yes” …Since that’s not what you intended, you should have worded it differently

I’ll thank you not to presume that you can read my mind.

Gay marriage is not an issue that arose spontaneously from the populace, it was crafted as a wedge issue in right wing think tanks and propagated by the political apparatus first created by Richard Viguerie, who reinvigorated the abortion issue in 1980 in order to get Ronald Reagan elected.

Gay marriage was already being complained about by conservative Christians trying to stop passage of ERA.

Pardon my unclosed tag, but it wouldn’t have happened if you had a preview button, like competent sites do.

You’re more than welcome to use the “help” button at the bottom and make the suggestion to About.com. That might not be an intellectually satisfying and tossing around insults, though.

July 7, 2007 at 11:25 am
(32) tracieh says:

Ron: Your last point hits on personal responsibility. Christians believe they exercise personal responsibility by being personally responsible for doing whatever god tells them to do.

it’s out-of-wack, but that’s their perspective. They see themselves as the height of responsible behavior–even though they are at the lowest level, following without question, someone else’s dictates.

The person you are addressing sees, ironically, no problem espousing what “god said” as though it is his own belief; however, if you ask him why he would gay bash, he’ll say, “God said it…[not me].”

It’s the result of the mental conditioning of religion. The person isn’t thinking for him/herself–but they _think_ they are. And on some weird level, they actually _are_, because these dictates are being interpreted by them–although they don’t recognize it’s their own interpretation at work.

This is an example of the negative ravaging of the mind by religion. This is how it undermines one’s faith in oneself.

July 11, 2007 at 4:26 am
(33) DR.B.R.AGRAWAL says:

God is not created caste of Hindu, Muslim. christ. Jew as you are thinking of AETHEST.
Aethest are better understand the human being to get marriage of interracial also.
There are hundres, rather crores of intercast married people are succesfully living in the world with enjoying the life with futher geration without having any difficulty of gereaous caste spirit.
I AM RATHER MORE HAPPY TO SEE THOSE HAVING LOVE MARRIAGES THAN LOKING TOWARDS THE CASTE MATCH.AS THEY UNDERSTAND AND MARRY AFTER LOVING EACH OTHER
I am very much against the God is not fixed marriages in heaven but theast people have made such marriages
in blind faith of individual caste.
GOD WILL NEVER SEEN IN PICTURE OF WEDDING CONCERN AND HE IS NOT INTERESTED TO DISCREPANCY OF HUMAN BEING.

May 20, 2011 at 4:53 pm
(34) Borsia says:

I’m trying to make sense of what you have written here but it is nearly impossible. I’m guessing that English isn’t your native language. You might want to try using a translator, like Google translator, to translate to English and compare their version to your own.
I’m not trying to be insulting in any way its just a suggestion to improve your English skills.

July 16, 2007 at 10:50 am
(35) jdit says:

As far back as I can remember I do not remember such healthy debate as this over biracial marriage. Maybe there is more to this as political issue than an actual issue of Christian doctrine. I am pleased to see such healthy debate however regardless of the tangents – just remember to breathe!

May 20, 2011 at 8:28 am
(36) Coryat says:

“April(6):

I have found nothing in the Bible about God forbidding pagan marriage, although believers should not marry unbelievers, which is what Christ refers to as being unequally yoked. God is angered by sex outside of marriage, whether it be premarital or adultery, including fantasizing. In fact, if divorced, neither person should marry again unless it is to remarry each other. God considers it to be adultery to marry a divorced person. God does not approve of divorce but set strict parameters to allow it because of the condition of our hard hearts. Marriage is symbolic of our relationship with God, whether we believe in Him or not. He desires intimacy and never gives up on us, even when we deny Him or walk away from Him. He is always willing to forgive us when we honestly seek it through Christ”

Cool story, although you could include a unicorn or something to spice it up a little, know what I’m saying?

May 20, 2011 at 5:14 pm
(37) Borsia says:

Of course Christians want to claim that marriage is their idea and is their court on which they should be able to say who can play and who can’t. They come up with this based on what they claim the Bible says, which is usually not what is written.

However marriage is practiced by non-Christian religions and by non-theistic religions as well; Buddhists marry as do Hindus and western religions.

The first answer spells out the fact that marriage has become a civil union rather than a religious one. Even Christians are required to get a Marriage License from the government so their marriages are just as much a civil union as a religious one. This puts marriage in the public court and the government can’t ban anyone from playing. Current bans on gay marriage are going to fall as the courts rule more and more based on this.

I don’t see why anyone is having problems finding what they believe is a correct answer given the wording.

May 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm
(38) A says:

We should treat others as we wish to be treated! Kindess and peace for all! What goes around comes around! Let the GLBT wed!

June 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm
(39) Michael says:

Marriage is a religious rite and has been performed in ceremonies dating back for thousands of years. In the last one hundred years or so government has stepped in to participate and try to regulate this religious ceremony. So any atheists who believe in separation of church and state; should preclude themselves from participating in such a religious based government union.

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