In the debate over whether or not gay marriage should be legal, I’ve often seen Christian right-wingers cry that marriage is a religious act. Although many marriage ceremonies involve religious text or traditions, marriage didn’t form from Christianity by any means.
There’s plenty of archaeological evidence of ancient marriages. Marriages were once considered a contract between two families. Fathers would often marry their daughters off to someone whose family was deemed valuable or powerful. The families would enter a sort of alliance, wherein the families would support each other. Women in the ancient world were often considered property and their importance was found in the title of being someone’s “wife.” Women were considered vessels in which men would grow their offspring and spread their genes, therefore spreading the family’s “empire.”
In ancient times, men would often have multiple wives to produce more children and make the family more powerful. Polygamy also served the purpose of fulfilling duties. For example, polygamous families who lived on farms never had a shortage of hands to get work done quickly and efficiently. In ancient Greece, wives were meant to be baby-making machines and housekeepers. Men in Greece were often expected to have sex with courtesans for pleasure; the wives were simply child-bearers and kept the house clean and safe.
Wives weren’t for emotional support. Ironically, in those times, the most ideal situation was for people to marry someone of the same sex. The most elite members of society who had no need to reproduce, or could afford servants to keep up with the housework, often married someone of the same sex. It was understood that people of the same sex could understand each other’s emotions and provide support.
Early Christians believed that celibacy was the most ideal thing for a person to commit to. Marriage only became acceptable because its purpose was procreation. Early Christians believed that sex was evil, but was tolerated for married couples who wished to spread their genes. Thus came the idea of abstinence before marriage.
Only in recent centuries did it become ideal for people to marry someone because they were in love. Marriage has become a symbol of great affection between two people. Married couples often support each other emotionally and financially. To think that marriage is only for procreating and that men and women have specific roles is sort of barbaric. Humans are much more advanced than that these days.
In Franklin County, Virginia, an atheist couple who wanted to get married in the courthouse were turned away by one judge-appointed officiant. The judge agreed with the officiant, and sent the couple to a different officiant. The new officiant agreed to marry the couple. Although the problem was easily solved, it just goes to show that religious discrimination of married couples still exists.
Marriage is a legal right of everyone, and the fact the officiant turned the couple away because of religious bigotry should have been enough to get him fired. He’s a public servant, which means he should serve every member of the public and leave his personal beliefs at home.
Christians who want to claim that marriage is specifically a religious act need to crawl out of the rock they’ve been living under. Many couples choose not to have children, or simply can’t have children. Many Christians may argue that marriage is for procreating, but with the world quickly running out of resources and facing overpopulation, it’s a good thing that marriage is evolving out of the old idea that it’s meant for making babies.
Couples in the United States are embracing the idea of religious-less marriage ceremonies– and instead focusing on the love they have for one another. If they choose to turn that love into a human being, that’s ultimately their choice.