Marriage: Its Diversity and Character

By Vexen Crabtree 2004 Aug 18


1. The Diversity of Marriage

Marriage means many different things according to the time and place of the culture and people involved. What for some people are obvious assumptions are for others unthinkable. No-one is correct, there are simply different forms of marriage. It is the right of no culture to impose its own ideas of marriage on other cultures, and the right of no sub-culture or religion to control marriage taboos within their own culture. So some believe in multiple marriage partners, some believe in having only straight marriages, some believe in certain age restrictions. None are right, all are different.

Governments should allow their people access to all forms of marriage according to peoples' wishes but this is impossible. In order for legal contracts to have legal value, they must abide by certain known specifications. So in the West we have a particular type of marriage that is legal; other forms are illegal. What this does is alienate and standardize marriage, codifying traditions into unchanging legal codes and making them stagnant as society changes. What is worse is that in modern legalized culture, the illegalisation of forms of marriage not recognized by one set of institutionalized norms causes other unrecognized forms to become taboo, wrong and looked down upon.

Pythagoreans taught that marriage is unfavorable to high intellectual development. On the other hand, the Pharisees taught that it is sinful for a man to live unmarried beyond his twentieth year.

"The Woman's Bible"
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1898)1

A problem of modern cultures therefore is that we become biased towards our own form of marriage and come to consider any other form "wrong", "stupid", "silly", etc. So, those who practice arranged marriages consider those who marry freely and romantically to be silly, short-sighted pleasure seekers. This is not how romantic couples see themselves. They probably see arranged marriages as inhuman, inferior and oppressive. Both people lack understanding that other forms of marriage are different and mean different things. When one victim-of-culture argues that another victim-of-culture prescribes an immoral form of marriage, no agreement is possible because in arguing about "marriage" they are arguing about completely different things. In different cultures, marriage means different things.

And even within cultures, marriage means different things to different people. So apart from looking at a few forms of marriage outside of traditional Western ones, I also talk a bit about some internal differences in the West of how people think marriage should be.

We assume [...] that love is a precondition for marriage. But this assumption is not shared in cultures that practice arranged marriages. Moreover, until recently in North America, marital choices, especially those by women, were strongly influenced by considerations of economic security, family background, and professional status. [...] Cultures vary in the importance they place upon romantic love.

"Social Psychology" by David Myers (1999)2

2. Romantic Marriage versus Pragmatic Marriage

2.1. Romantic Marriage

By "romantic marriage" I mean to imply the following general scenario: Two people have met and have a growing friendship, complete with physical attraction and compatibility of character and interests. They may move in with each other after a while. They chose to marry and maybe become engaged for a while first. Principally this is their own choice however their families and friends can exert informal pressure. This is the principal form of marriage of the West in general. Those who live in a culture of romantic marriage frequently consider pragmatic marriage to be immoral, oppressive, inhumane, etc.

  1. Romantic marriage is said to be the individual's free choice according to what they themselves think is best for themselves

  2. It upholds individual freedom at the cost of social cohesion

  3. Devotion to emotional relationships but frequently only short-term commitment (as emotions change)

2.2. Pragmatic Marriage

Pragmatic Marriage is a marriage that is made possible by formal procedures of family or group politics. A responsible authority sets up or encourages the marriage. The authority could be parents, family, a religious figure or a consensus. The former two often start the process with informal pressure, social pressure, whilst the latter two often start the process with a formal system or statement. In both cases, the authority has a compelling veto over the marriage, and this system is socially supported by the rest of community so that to deny it is extreme and drastic. Arranged marriages are a form of pragmatic marriage. Once declared, an engagement is implicit, which follows through with a formal marriage ceremony. Those who uphold pragmatic marriage frequently state that it is traditional, that it upholds social morals, that it is good for the families involved.

  1. Pragmatic marriage is said to be traditional, upholding of social morals, and good for the families involved for pragmatic reasons

  2. Good for family or inter-group relations at the expense of short-term individual empowerment

  3. Devotion to permanent long-term relationship but at the cost of short-term problems during acclimatisation

Forced marriages where one partner has no choice at all are obviously an insult to Human dignity and rights, and should not be encouraged. It is possible to marry pragmatically without it being forced; both sides merely need to agree that such a marriage is good. Forced marriage at worst, is slavery, and at best is something that works (and of course, sometimes it doesn't work and causes misery). Due to its violation of Human rights, forced marriages are frequently outlawed in Europe and countries that respect individual freedom, for example "the Council of Europe has condemned forced marriages in Resolution 1468 (2005) on Forced Marriages and child marriages proposing specific measures to be taken by its Member States to eradicate this practice"3.

2.3. Differences of Opinion

If the family as a societal institution is weak, selection of a male from the field of eligibles is likely to be done by mutual volition; if the family is strong, by arrangement. If selection from the field of eligibles is on the basis of mutual volition, it is likely that love will be the basis of choice.

"The Encyclopaedia of Sexual Behaviour" by Drs Ellis and Abarbanel (1961)4

Whether marriage tends to be by the free volition of lovers (i.e., by choice) or is a familial affair, has much to do with how strong the family is in society. In the West, individualism and freedom are valued above the family. Children move away from the home and freely select employment, friends, a place to live and a lifestyle independent of their parents and family. In cultures where the family is strong, all of these things are family affairs: People spend most of their days, every day, in contact only with members of their family and extended family (cousins, etc).

Those who believe in romantic marriage will often criticize pragmatic marriage, saying that it is oppressive, inhuman, unfair, immoral and an affront to personal freedom. However it is not. Within cultures that have adopted more pragmatic marriages, the success rate is very high indeed. Nearly all couples learn to love and care for each other very deeply. It is just that the long-term happiness and stability is given more importance than the short-term. This applies also to marriages that are arranged as a means of increasing the financial stability of a family or the political cohesion of groups.

Those who believe in pragmatic marriage also have some traditional criticisms of romantic marriage, saying that it is short-term, overly based on sexual lust, immoral, debased, short-sighted and frivolous. However romantic marriage is not supposed to be the same life-long commitment as pragmatic marriages, the underlying assumptions are simply different. Short-term happiness is given more importance as a route to potential long-term happiness. Relationships that do not work will end. It is not that this is short-term, but that it is not seen as "worth it" to try out a relationship on the hope that it might work unless there is already an underlying romantic love. Hence personal (relationship) stability, not short-term lust, is the aim of romantic marriage.

Cultures that aspire to create relationships after couples marry are those with institutionalized practices of pragmatic marriage. Cultures that come to think that marriages should only be tried once a short-term compatibility already exists adopt romantic marriages. There are no grounds for saying that either method is more correct or that either set of ideas about marriage is more right. Most criticism of the "other" form of marriage to what one person accepts is based on misunderstanding, assumptions about marriage made from different cultural starting-points and personal ignorance about what different groups of people consider marriage to be.

3. Western Marriage

3.1. The Western World is Fully Devoted to the Idea of Romantic Marriages

In most "Western" countries, marriage is romantic. It is an individual choice made by couples. However great the pressures of friends and family are against marriage, they are free to do as they want. Romantic Marriage is so institutionalized in the West that other forms of marriage are illegal or borderline illegal.

Marriage comes in multiple parts. The first is the legal contract; at its bare bones this is what marriage is. But the culture and reasoning behind choosing to get married is varied. Love, relationships, tradition, family issues, etc, all come into play. It is our cultural expectations that give marriage more meaning than a mere contractual agreement. A good relationship does not need a legal contract to make the relationship good and if a legal certificate was required in order to make a relationship work, then the relationship wasn't a good one in the first place.

However there is a major advantage in marriage. It makes divorce a little difficult. Once you are legally bound to someone, separation becomes more difficult. So if a couple go through a difficult patch and it seems hopeless to continue, there is added pressure to carry on because of the effort required to legally end a marriage. If the troubles don't end then the relationship ends as it would with an unmarried couple, if they continue then the marriage itself saved them simply by making it slightly harder to split up! If a couple are sure they want to be together for a long time then marriage therefore has this added, non-legal, benefit.

Our culture, our upbringing and the stereotypes portrayed in the mass media and society all create certain roles that all of us are subconsciously pressurized into filling.

Marriage partners are also bombarded with role expectations and stereotypes of what it means to be a 'husband' and 'wife.' In general these 'roles' are detrimental to the relationship. People simply cannot fit into pre-set moulds or roles [...]. Healthy relationships, on the other hand, are entered into and maintained by individuals' free and loving ongoing choice.

Rev. Rebecca Deinsen (2001)5

These roles can be disastrous for an otherwise good relationship - the psychology of legal marriage is simply not right for some relationships. But then again, sometimes the psychology is right -- especially if the couple are suited to the roles or are not caught up enough in society's trappings to drift into roles that don't fit. Marriage therefore suits some relationships, but not others. It can be a benefit, or a detriment, to the long term health of a relationship.

3.2. The Short History of Romantic Marriage in the West

Modern marriage, "for love", is a relatively rare and new institution. Not only is monogamous marriage common in only 20% of present-day societies, but romantic marriage itself has only been common in the West for a few hundred years. According to the sociologists Anthony Giddens, Lawrence Stone and John Boswell, even as late as the 1500s modern ideas of romantic marriage had not found common acceptance. Religious authorities regarded marriage as a necessary, pragmatic solution to unhealthy sexual emotions, and not something to be done for pleasure, romance or affection.

Book Cover[In the 1500s] Individual freedom of choice in marriage and other aspects of family life was subordinated to the interests of parents, other kin or the community. Outside aristocratic circles, where it was sometimes actively encouraged, erotic or romantic love was regarded by moralists and theologians as a sickness.

"Sociology" by Anthony Giddens (1997)6

In premodern Europe marriage usually began as a property arrangement, was in its middle mostly about raising children, and ended about love. Few couples in fact married 'for love', but many grew to love each other in time as they jointly managed their household, reared their offspring, and shared life's experiences. Nearly all surviving epitaphs to spouses evince profound affection. By contrast, in most of the modern West, marriage begins about love, in its middle is still mostly about raising children (if there are children), and ends - often - about property, by which point love is absent or a distant memory.

John Boswell
Quoted in "Sociology" by Anthony Giddens (1997)6

The idea of romantic marriage, steeped in personal choice, coincidence and love, had begun to flourish in cities and urban centres. Until the 1800s, marriage was still a deal sought for practical advantage - a peasant could not maintain his holding on his own, without a committed and hardworking wife. When bereaved, a peasant married almost at once, often to whoever was simply most willing to work hardest. It wasn't until the 1800s that ideas of romantic marriage began to emerge from the cities.

The traditional conception of marriage as essentially a business contract, an arrangement based on mutual practical advantage in terms of property-ownership or the labour-power needed to work a peasant holding, the conception which had been taken for granted in pre-industrial peasant Europe, was now rapidly decaying. The idea of it as the result of free individual choice based on individual tastes and preferences was now seeping from the large city into the countryside and the smaller urban centres. In one small French town, for example, during the two decades after Waterloo, the average age of women at marriage was relatively high (about twenty-five) and about a third of brides were older than their husbands. Quite rapidly, however, the average age of marriage fell to twenty-one; and from about 1865 onwards only one woman in ten was older than the man she married. A basic aspect of human nature, the fact that, given a free choice, men prefer to marry women who are younger than themselves and who are physically attractive, was now increasingly able to assert itself.

"The Ascendancy of Europe 1815-1914" by M S Anderson (1985)7

Although romantic marriage was destined to dominate the ideas of what marriage should be in the West, it actually has a rather short history of less than 200 years of general acceptance.

3.3. Western Engagement

As with marriage, there are different parts to an engagement. I am talking here of engagement within the social norms of traditional Western marriage only; engagement is so varied in different cultures that it's too much of an exhausting task to document them fairly.

Public
The societal aspect; once engaged, a couple are displaying to the world that they are a couple. From then on, depending on the specific type of relationship they have, other people are actively discouraged from doing anything that damages the relationship or the wellbeing of the pair. An engagement is a display that signifies that you can no longer take into consideration just one person, but that his special other is always involved. They're a team.

Of course many relationships do this without the need for engagement, so, engagement is sometimes used as a "more serious" indicator. Some relationships are not suited to engagement - the love is deep enough and the duet work in a way that means that it is superfluous to the relationship.

Personal
But aside from the extra-societal element, there is the affect that being engaged has on the internal dynamics of the relationship. It means something to many people, and to those people being engaged feels right and helps solidify the relationship. (If the relationship "needed" it, it would be a bad relationship - no relationship "needs" such artificial, arbitrary pseudo-legal binds such as "marriage" or "engagement"). But for some a declaration of engagement is a declaration of love as legitimate as any other declaration.

Setting a date for marriage
Some feel that when you are engaged, you should set a date for marriage. But I see them as two completely different things. In a relationship you have the relationship itself; a good relationship doesn't need legal bindings, public displays, arbitrary societal displays, etc, all it needs is love and commitment. Both hold together the relationship. Engagement is one type of declaration of commitment, marriage is another.

An engagement is a public declaration of love without the interference of government laws. What place is there inside a loving relationship for the insertion of legalities? It has no place in the relationship proper, and its function can be purely practical. As such, marriage and engagement have different characteristics about them. It might suit a couple to be engaged and they may feel proud and loved to be engaged to their special other... but marriage might not be their cup of tea. It is understandable if people are dubious about letting Parliament dictate aspects of the relationship! But there is no such external element with engagement, it is purely a relationship issue with no legal bindings.

Engagement therefore suits some relationships even if they never get married. But in some relationships, marriage *is* suitable, if the practical legal benefits of marriage are wanted and both partners feel the same way about what marriage means. In such a circumstance, setting a date for a formal marriage is normal. (Otherwise it merely adds unnecessary pressure).

Sometimes no date is set because a couple honestly don't know when a good time will be to get married. Finance, time, family issues and many other factors can mean that marriage could be indefinitely delayed until situations change. In such a circumstance, setting a specific date is harmful.

But often the date has a meaning, so a date should be set. Especially if there is no pressure and the relationship suits marriage. The date itself will become an exciting, eternal event for the relationship and is frequently something to work for, building up the relationship stronger than before.

It entirely depends on the relationship and individuals whether or not they choose to engage and set a date, engage forever, or engage and then marry... different relationships will be aided or harmed by the various societal, legalistic and psychological factors of all those things.

4. Polyamory

Polyamory, or "being poly", is the acceptance of the potential for multiple loving partners within relationships. This may include sexual partners. Polyamorous relationships are not "cheating", but mutual love and honesty in relations that are not monogamous. The basis of such relationships are love, stability, compatibility, peace and personal and relationship honesty. Polyamory does not accept secret lovers: this is cheating by poly as well as monogamous standards. Excepting youthful "experiments", which are often just short-term promiscuity and unstable, gender-equal poly relationships are rare for Human Beings. Most Western cultures and religions are strictly (or at least legally) monogamous.

"Human Sexuality: Polyamory: Multiple Loving, Caring Relationships" by Vexen Crabtree (2000)

In the West polygamy, the marriage to more than one person, is often illegal. The crime is called bigamy. This illegality is morally wrong, as we said in the opening of this text, and is merely a case of proponents of one type of marriage stamping out other forms that they do not understand. This is likely to be due to the good old predictable reasons of ignorance, bias, bigotry and an unenlightened intelligence in matter of human compassion, imagination and tolerance. There is no fundamental problem with legalizing the practice; it is legal in other countries.

It is nearly always the case the when one form of marriage is institutionalized, other forms are oppressed. In the modern democratic world, it is not right to centrally enforce such odd restrictions on love & relationships as long as the practices are consensual.

Many religious groups and cultures have practiced polygamy, from major religions such as Islam and some Arab countries, to communistic communes in the USA such as the Oneida Community8, the Mormons (historically, they do so no longer), and many others. Unfortunately in some of its incarnations it has also been misogynistic and oppressive, but modern-day polyamory in Western countries is not so. Despite Western reservation about polygamy, it is normal practice in over 80% of existing societies across the globe. Even where it is accepted, most adults remain in monogamous relationships so it is not as if accepting polygamy will cause cataclysmic social changes.

Book Cover

Polygyny (long-term simultaneous unions between one man and multiple wives) is legal in some countries today, and polyandry (long-term simultaneous unions between one woman and multiple husbands) is legal in a few societies. In fact, polygyny was accepted in the great majority of traditional human societies before the rise of state institutions. [...] Even in officially polygynous societies most men have only one wife at a time.

"Why is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality" by Jared Diamond (1998)9

The West has adopted a model where monogamy is the only accepted norm for marriage for the last 400 years, but in history, such exclusive legalism is rare. As Western society prides itself on its post-enlightenment tolerance and compassion, its attitude towards marriage is strangely illiberal: Only romantic marriage is seen as "right". In an increasingly multicultural West, however, I foresee future decades where all forms of marriage come to be widely accepted and legalized.

5. Religion and Marriage

5.1. Critical Thoughts

Even more intruding into a marriage than legal elements are religious ones. If a couple are having a religious wedding then there are all kinds of obscure, obscene and obtuse restrictions and pressures that can come into play. It's not the right place to delve into those here, though, and a religion-by-religion look would take a very long time indeed.

Many weddings are religious by default - by family tradition. One third of all marriages in the UK in 1994 were Church of England.

Without religion, marriage is purely about love and relationships, not about satisfying any religious rules. Marriage seems generally healthier the fewer superfluous pressures there are on it, and religious issues are one of those pressures. The least stable relationships are those between two people of different religions, the most stable are marriages between people who are not really religious. Having said that, a wedding is a day of utmost personal importance and in this many people still find use for traditional religious ritual.

There is a demand that such a day should be marked by the most dramatic, the most authentic and the most elaborate ritual possible. [...] The wedding by civil registrar lacks all these elements of drama. The tension, the idealism and the anxiety of the occasion are lost, and the civil ceremony fails entirely to enhance the meaning of what is being undertaken. Whilst for intellectuals and rationalists is may seem to be a 'sensible' way of fulfilling the legal requirements of the case, it does not satisfy the demand for some more elaborate external expression of emotion. [...]

In an affluent society, where lavish entertainment and spectacle are abundantly possible, it is not easy to devise ceremonial and entertainment to make the wedding stand out from other events. [...] Perhaps, therefore, as long as the Church can retain its sense of majesty and transcendence, its distinctiveness from the mundane and everyday, it will find itself in high - perhaps increasing - demand for the solemnization of marriage.

"Religion in Secular Society" by Bryan Wilson (1966)10

5.2. The Decline of Religious Marriages

Although religious marriages continue at one in three, the reason for their use has become largely secular. Marriage is a result of modern secular pressures and not a result of beliefs or belongings to religious churches. Which is fortunate enough, for important lifelong (by common assumption) decisions such as who you choose to wed, are decisions best taken on their emotional worth, sense, commitment to the person; it seems that religion itself would ironically assert unholy, inhuman pressures on relationships. The most telling truth behind the thought that religion hinders good relationship choices are higher divorce rates of religious marriages, which we see at the end of this page.

Between 1993 and 2003, the number of Jewish weddings in England and Wales slipped by 17%, while Anglican weddings fell by 37% and Catholic unions tumbled by 44%

The Economist (2006)11

The statistics show % of the total population of England and Wales (excluding the Isle of Man and Channel Islands) and "Anglican" mean "Church of England or Church of Wales"12

See:

5.3. Christianity and Marriage

Western marriage used to be entirely under the control of Christianity and performed exclusively under Christian clergy. Although in the modern age things are freer and less controlled, Christian marriage was still the ill starting-point from which we have recovered modern ideas of marriage based on love. Although we still suffer from multiple dogmas that still remain from the Christian era of the Dark Ages, many of the following elements are no longer a part of modern society even though they are present in the scriptural heart of Christianity.

Christianity was responsible for producing the draconian restrictions of remarriage (i.e., you can't), female inferiority in marriage (both legal and social), and other misogynistic elements. Christian marriage was not a healthy doctrine of love, but one of fear. St. Paul, whose voluminous writings on the subject of marriage and women are entrenched in the New Testament, wrote that marriage is a last resort for the desperate man who could not restrain himself from sex. "Better to marry, than to burn in hell" he wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:9. The ideal was to remain single, but marrying a woman was best done if you really couldn't help yourself. This dysfunctional theology of sex was one of the worst things to happen to marriage; it is only since the Enlightenment and Reformation that more a reasonable, positive, basis of marriage has been brought to the fore.

Although many early Christian churches allowed same-sex marriage, as Christianity displaced pagan practices marriage became increasingly restricted to the cold, stoic, oppressive regime as preached by the main Church. Thankfully, nowadays most weddings and marriages are secular; love, romance and commitment now form the three secular bedrocks of modern marriage in the West; Christian ideals have largely been forgotten.

Remarriage is now accepted, women have equal rights in marriage, so we are no longer forced by Christian dogma to lead mostly solitary, guilt-ridden lives but can move on once we have left a dysfunctional relationship. This new health has saved marriage from its decline.

Strangely, in the New Testament Christians are told by Jesus that in the perfect state, in Heaven, as amongst sinless angels, there is no marriage or exclusive unions between people (Matt. 22:23-30). St Paul also says that being unmarried & chaste is better than getting married. Christianity's obsessions over which particular forms of marriage are acceptable is rendered irrelevant by their own eschatology.

5.4. Dogmas About Marrying Outsiders From the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Bible13

The Hebrew Scripture and the Christian Old Testament indulge in many stories designed to warn against the marrying of women from foreign peoples, especially those who worship foreign gods. Many verses go further than just to warn: they command believers not to marry such women, and such unions are often punished with death, in the Bible. As a result, there have been many Jewish and Christian sects who have isolated themselves from others in a most severe and strict way. Such dogmas cause much harm and suffering to communities. (1) It engenders prejudice and bias against foreigners, causing intolerance and then violence, (2) it diminishes the numbers of the group itself, (3) it gradually diminishes the gene pool and with each generation increases the numbers of genetic diseases associated with incest and finally (4) it makes a simmering parental deceit necessary if any new blood is to be brought in.

Such tribes leave distinct biological markers upon our genes hence we have often discovered periods of inbreeding amongst groups through the study of family genetics.

Anthropologists suspect that in some situations, the argument that "the bloodline must be kept pure" is actually an excuse to justify practices that are really just power-games (i.e., the prevention of land becoming inherited by non-family-members), which is why some of the authors of various Hebrew Scriptures were so concerned over who the men in their tribes married. It also seems to represent a religious-justified form of racism, plain prejudice, bias and xenophobia. Luckily, many Christians simply ignore these stories and warnings, and they are never heard being preached to the pews by the preachers at Sunday sermons! Here they are:

But despite all this, 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 more calmly says that if you do somehow become married to a non-believer, then, you don't have to divorce them because the believer makes the other one (and the children) holy. However this verse is somewhat the odd one out compared to the others.

The Assemblies of God are one example Christian Church that forbids their members to date or marry non-believers, specifically mentioning many of the above verses. 15. Sociologists have often commented on the reluctance, and often refusal, of Jewish rabbis to conduct marriages between Jews and non-Jews: "Mayer conducted a 1997 survey of American rabbis on interfaith marriages, in which 36 percent of the rabbis said that they would officiate at an interfaith wedding, but the numbers ranged widely, from zero among the Orthodox and Conservatives rabbis to 62 percent of the Reconstructionist rabbis (Mayer 1997)"16.

Link:

5.5. Islam and Marriage

5.5.1. Male Dominance

Islam is another misogynistic Abrahamic religion which contains much that is oppressive towards femalekind. Although at its foundation, Muslims like to say, Islamic law was progressive and included an element of protection for women, in today's world where equality and fairness are the norm, Islamic law looks as barbaric as did Christian law during the Dark Ages. In fact, it is often said to be worse, especially as Islamic cultural practices far exceed what is proscribed in the Qur'an.

5.5.2. Fetching Marriages and European Immigration

The type of arranged marriage where the purpose is to systematically import family members from Muslim countries to Western ones is called a 'fetching marriage'. The following is an excerpt from "Islam and the West: Pluralism, Immigration and Danger: 6.1. Fetching Marriages: A Strategy of Immigration" by Vexen Crabtree (2011): are capable of adapting their cultural practices to their Western situations, but sometimes it seems that the West is complicit in undermining integration by putting into practices policies which encourage large-scale non-integration, with little or no oversight of the total effect:

Traditionally, in Muslim countries, a new wife moves in with her husband's family - never the opposite. Among European Muslims this custom has been entirely overthrown. Nowadays, when a transnational marriage between Muslim cousins takes place, the spouse that migrates is invariably the non-European spouse, whose first residence after migrating is, as a rule, his or her in-laws' home. These marriages - which in Norway have acquired the name "fetching marriages" - accomplish two things. They enable more and more members of an extended Muslim family to emigrate to Europe and to enjoy Western prosperity. And they put the brakes on - or even reverse - whatever progress the European-born spouse might have made toward becoming Westernized.

"While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within" by Bruce Bawer (2006)18

Strange as though it sounds, although some European countries have implemented new laws to curb strategic marriages, others actually make it easier for the system to be abused. Bawer continues:

In many Western European countries, indeed, some laws are different for natives than for immigrants. For native Swedes, the minimum age for marriage is eighteen; for immigrants living in Sweden, there is no minimum. In Germany, an ethnic German who marries someone from outside the EU and wants to bring him or her to Germany must answer a long list of questions about the spouse's birth date, daily routine, and so forth in order to prove that the marriage is legitimate and not pro forma; such interviews are not required for German residents with, say, Turkish or Pakistani backgrounds, for it is assumed that their marriages have been arranged and that the spouses will therefore know little or nothing about each other.

"While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within" by Bruce Bawer (2006)19

Not only is this reverse discrimination - whereby many immigrants are forced to follow stricter procedures than some (Muslim) others, but it also undermines Western ideas of morality, where marriage is a free enterprise with no element of compulsion. For these two reasons, such exemptions should be removed, and all people and all religions should be treated equally under law, as is the ideal in fair democracies. More of this is discussed on "Islam and the West: Pluralism, Immigration and Danger" by Vexen Crabtree (2011).

5.5.3. Islamic Arguments Against Polygamy in Western Countries

[There are] arguments being presented by female legal experts that the Qu'ranic laws on marriage actually favour monogamy. Azizah al-Hibri refers to legal experts of the classical period, who considered that a second marriage was not recommended if it was prejudicial to the first wife. [...] The Muslim League of Women, assert that since the second wife is not legally recognized under civil law, she cannot be afforded equal status: which means the situation does not conform with Islamic law a priori, given that polygamy is only considered legitimate if all wives receive strictly equal treatment.

"When Islam and Democracy Meet" by Jocelyne Cesari (2004)20

6. Gypsy Marriage

Gypsy marriage is different to the Western mainstream. They do not care for legalistic documents such as the certificates of marriage, death, birth, etc, and their customs of marriage are so different that what we consider legal marriage they consider misguided. Gypsy marriage is best done between twelve and sixteen, and definitely before 18. The bride is normally the oldest and wisest, and helps the groom in all areas as he learns to earn money, etc, for himself. Thus the marriage is more than it is in mainstream Western culture. It serves as a connection between the clan-like families of Gypsies, and the choices of who to marry are based on politics and ambition of the parents as much as the compatibility of the youngsters. Gypsy marriages are generally not life-long, and most will re-marry to more suitable partners later in life. Brides are free to leave their groom and return to their own family. As such, it is a clean and comprehensive synthesis of both pragmatic and romantic marriage types.

But it doesn't always work out nicely. Nazir Afzal is head of the Crown Prosecution Service in the North West UK (i.e., he is a head public prosecutor). He says some of the forced marriages within the Gypsy and travellor communities that involve children are clearly abusive and illegal, rather than merely different. He says officialdom at present has a tepid and overly sensitive approach.21

Kephart informs us8 that the culture of Gypsy marriage changes slowly over time just like other cultures, and that Western-style love-marriages are becoming more popular, and that some adults are openly critical of the more traditional gypsy weddings. As Gypsies view the gadje (non-gypsies) as inherently unclean, ritually unclean, intrusive, aggressive and bad in most ways. The most rigid marriage prohibition is against marrying non-gypsies.

7. Gay Marriage

Civil partnerships in the UK allow gay marriage in all but name, and were created in 2005. By half way through 2008 "nearly 60,000 Britons had entered a same-sex union, giving them legal rights virtually identical to those of married couples"23. This generation has seen a wave of legal tolerance sweep the world, where some of the prejudces of history have been trumped.

Prejudices against homosexuality were not always encoded into law, however. In the time before the dark ages, European communities were variously accepting of gay marriage. But the Christian age of faith saw violent intolerance sweep the continent as certain types of marriage were made illegal and transformed into social taboos. People could only marry if it fit the Christian prejudices of what marriage should be. Islam arose also, and held to similar monotheistic patriarchal norms. Thankfully, since the enlightenment, much of the religious damage to marriage has been undone and in many countries adults are free to marry whom they choose. Starting with Sweden, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands the 90s saw the beginning of the gay rights movements victories over established prejudice in an increasing number of developed countries. There is not a single case in all these victories where there have not been multiple large and mainstream Christian groups running campaigns to prevent equal rights for gays. The Catholic Church and the vast majority of Christian denominations continue to battle at local and European levels to repeal those rights already attained. The Catholic Church has gained some ground in 1997 in exempting itself from some European gay rights conventions, and the Church of England has also succeeded in partially exempting itself from UK employment anti-discrimination laws with regards to homosexuality. The traditional churches were wrong about slavery and anti-black racism, and they continue to do wrong on the issue of discrimination against homosexuals. Eventually, when enough of their youth have grown up within gay-tolerant society, the Churches will change to embrace homosexuals equality as they did to embrace abolitionism and race equality.

Here is a brief history of all major gay rights victories with regards to the legal rights of marriage:

1987SwedenRegistered partnerships then full legal rights (1995) granted for gay couples
1989DenmarkRegistered same-sex partners gain same rights as married couples. Due to heavy Christian opposition it is not allowed in churches24. Full legal rights as of 1999.
1993NorwayMostly full legal rights granted to registered gay partnerships
1996Sweden and IcelandMostly full legal rights granted to registered gay partnerships24
1996NetherlandsGay relationships given full legal rights, then full marital rights in 2000. The local Christian party and the Catholic Church opposed the move which was otherwise supported by the public25
1997USASome states granting limited legal rights to registered gay relationships (Hawaii in 1997, California in 1999, Vermont in 2000 and Columbia in 2002). By 2004 heavy Christian campaigning has reversed many of these and passed anti-gay-marriage laws in some states.

New England is now a hotbed of equality. In 2003 Massachusetts became the first American state to legalise gay marriage. Connecticut followed suit last year, and Vermont last month. [...] Only Rhode Island, a tiny state with a large Catholic population, shows no sign of permitting it. In all, a dozen states now recognise gay unions in some way [...]. California, New Jersey and Oregon allow civil unions that are marriage in all but name. Hawaii and Washington state allow gay couples some of the legal benefits of marriage.

The Economist (2009)26

1998SpainSince 1999 four states have passed various laws granting legal rights for homosexual relationships (Catalonia in 1998, Aragon in 1999, Navarra in 2000 and Valencia in 2001). 2005 June saw Spain allow full gay marriage despite Catholic opposition27
1999Canada5 provinces in Canada have legal recognition of same-sex partnerships. Quebec in 1999, Nova Scotia in 2001, Manitoba in 2002. Another two in summer 2003: Ontario and British Columbia28. In 2005 BBC News24 reports that gay marriage is legal in 8 of 10 provinces and 1 of 3 of Canada's three territories. National legislation allowed same-sex marriages from 200529.
1999FranceSome significant legal rights given to gay partners24
2000South AfricaRecognition of same-sex partners. Notable opposition came from the Christian press, various Christian groups and the African Christian Democratic Party25
2001LondonThe mayor of London runs a local service that allows official recognition of same-sex partners. Full same sex marriage has been sought since 1996 by the government, but strong Christian opposition in the House of Lords has defeated it each time
2001GermanySome significant legal rights given to registered gay partnerships24
2001SwitzerlandGeneva state grants almost all rights to gay relationships, and full legal rights in state of Zurich in 2002
2002FinlandSimilar rights for gay marriage and normal marriage
2003BelgiumFull marriage rights given from January24,28
2004Luxembourg and New ZealandCivil partnerships grant some rights for gay couples24
2005UKFull gay rights via civil marriages30

Link:

8. Marriages are Convenient (long-term benefits)

Married couples are financially better off than others. This is a hard fact demonstrated by many socio-economic studies.

Marriage itself is a "wealth-generating institution", according to Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe, who run the National Marriage Project at Rugers University. Those who marry "till death do us part" end up, on average, four times richer than those who never marry. This is partly because marriage provides economies of scale - two can live more cheaply than one - and because the kind of people who work hard, plan for the future and have good interpersonal skills - are more likely to marry and stay married. But it is also because marriage effects the way people behave. American men, once married, tend to take their responsibilities seriously. [...] Married men drink less, take fewer drugs and work harder [it raises hours worked quickly and substantially], earning between 10% and 40% more than single men with similar schooling and job histories. [...]

Marriage also encourages the division of labour. Ms Dafoe Whitehead and Mr Popenoe put it like this: "Individuals can develop those skills in which they excel, leaving others to their partner."

The Economist (2007)31

Adam Smith, the founder of economics "observed two centuries ago [that] when you specialise, you get better at what you do, and you produce more"31. For reasons of economic efficiency, specialisation and behaviour-change, married couples do better off. There are also legal advantages, housing advantages (money and space are saved when two people share) and other work advantages. A married couple can help each other with work preparation and encourage each other. For this reason, in Europe, divorce settlements tend more towards splitting all of a couples' wealth equally when they divorce, because the courts recognize that much of a workers' success is due to (indirect) support from the spouse.

So it is slightly strange that the term "marriage of convenience" is used so negatively. As arranged marriages and pragmatic marriages tend to actually work out quite well in the long-term, it should be reckoned that marriages of convenience will also work themselves out, over time, into the romantic-marriage that Westerners hold as an ideal.

9. Marriage Rates

Percent Marriages in the UK33

Marriage is at its lowest rate in the UK since records began in 186232. The history of marriage rates suggests that secular marriages are showing strong growth, whereas other Christian weddings have been decreasing in number for over 150 years. This prehistory was changed in the period since the 1960s, when the decline of the religious institution in the UK went into full swing.

Between 1993 and 2003, the number of Jewish weddings in England and Wales slipped by 17%, while Anglican weddings fell by 37% and Catholic unions tumbled by 44%

The Economist (2006)22

Total Marriages, UK
1971-1975:1,996,422
1976-1980:1,822,654
1981-1985:1,734,048
1986-1990:1,726,024
1991-1995:1,491,598
1996-2000:1,350,290

The rise in secular marriages from the teens in the 19th century, to 20-something percent in 1900-1930, was not met by a rise in divorces, as many Christians at the time bemoaned would happen. However, as we will see below, social changes have led to massive increases in divorce rates (above all, amongst Christians) since the late 1960s (ignoring the World War 2 aftermath). The overall marriage rate has decreased over the same period; indicating again that society has moved away from the traditional idea of what marriage is.

Europe in general has seen similar trends. In 1970 there were almost eight marriages per 1000 people per year, but in 2004 that had steadily dropped to less than five. The average age, like the UK, has also increased across Europe, now being at over 30 for men, and nearly 28 for women.35

10. Divorce Statistics

10.1. Changing Society

The Health of Adult Britain, 1841-199436

Marriage was once a lifelong certainty, like a job or one's nationality37. But, all modern things change quickly and are more temporary. Jobs, like marriage, are no longer assumed to be life-long bedrocks of stability in the West. In 'collectivist' or community-orientated countries where marriage is pragmatic rather than romantic, marriages last much longer.

Divorce rates vary widely by country, ranging from .01 percent of the population annually in Bolivia, the Philippines, and Spain to 4.7 percent in the world's most divorce-prone country, the United States. To predict a culture's divorce rates, it helps to know its values (Triandis, 1994). Individualistic cultures (where love is a feeling and people ask, "What does my heart say?") have more divorce than do communal cultures (where love entails obligation and people ask, "What will other people say?")

"Social Psychology" by David Myers (1999)38

Although the chart shows a massive increase in the divorce rate over a long period, it has since then dropped off. Fewer people are marrying, but, divorces have now dropped to their lowest level since 1981, at a rate of 11.9 divorcing people per 1,000 of the married population39.

10.2. Christian Divorce Rates

Divorce statistics are sometimes a shock for Christians. The average divorce rate for born-again type Christians (27%) and others (24%) are both higher than that for atheism, which is 21%40. Empirically, atheists are more devoted to each other and commit to more stable relationship patterns than theists, yet the theists are the ones who say they stand for family values. Christian theologians have themselves expressed concern over their own rates of divorce and other marital problems such as wifebeating, which are mostly the same as the rates of non-Christians - and stricter Christians have worse rates41. There is a saying that those who shout loudest are the least capable. The Christian Churches shout loudly about love but... atheists are more capable. Seriously though, perhaps it is that atheists only get married if they're sure, while Christians feel pressurized so sometimes marry prematurely in relationships that aren't permanent. Christian culture can exert unnatural pressure on relationships.

Denomination% who have been divorced
Non-denominational34%
Baptists29%
Mainline Protestants25%
Mormons24%
Catholics21%
Lutherans21%
Atheism / Agnosticism< Less

Results from a different poll (charted on the left) in the USA places atheists and agnostics below much of the rest of christendom, not just the fundamentalists/born again Christians:

Barna's results verified findings of earlier polls: that conservative Protestant Christians, on average, have the highest divorce rate, while mainline Christians have a much lower rate. They found some new information as well: that atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rate of all. George Barna commented that the results raise "questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families." The data challenge "the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriage."

Donald Hughes, author of The Divorce Reality, said: "In the churches, people have a superstitious view that Christianity will keep them from divorce, but they are subject to the same problems as everyone else, and they include a lack of relationship skills. ...Just being born again is not a rabbit's foot." Hughes claim that 90% of divorces among born-again couples occur after they have been "saved."

OCRT

Divorce, n. (1) A resumption of diplomatic relations and rectification of boundaries. (2) A bugle blast that separates the combatants and makes them fight at long range.

"The Devil's Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce (1967)

This leads me to consider the words of Jesus in Christian Scripture:

Jesus said: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."

Matthew 10:34-37

Jesus said: "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."

Luke 12:51-53

It is small wonder that atheists divorce less often!

10.3. Demographics of Divorce

Less educated people tend to divorce more often. As religious people are on average less intelligent (Vexen Crabtree 2007), this helps explain why the divorce rate goes up hand-in-hand with religious dedication. Also, less well-off people tend to divorce more often. Many Christians in the West are immigrants from Eastern Europe and the rest of the world, and such immigrants tend to be poorer and more religious, two factors which increase the likelihood of divorce.

If she does find and wed the man of her dreams, [a poor woman from a broken family] will encounter a problem. She has never seen her own father. Having never observed a stable marriage close-up, she will have to guess how to make one work. By contrast [a girl from a stable family] has never seen a divorce in her family. This makes it much more likely that, when the time is right, she will get married and stay that way.

The Economist (2007)31

Apart from intelligence, other demographic factors have come into play over the past few years. Divorce rates have levelled off.

Read / Write Comments

By Vexen Crabtree 2004 Aug 18
Last Updated: 2013 Jun 12
http://www.humantruth.info/marriage.html

References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

Book Cover

Book Cover

The Guardian. Respectable and generally well researched UK broadsheet newspaper.

The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source.

The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. [Book Review]

Anderson, M S
The Ascendancy of Europe 1815-1914 (1985). Second edition. Published by Pearson Education Limited, Essex, UK. Anderson is Professor Emeritus of International History in the University of London and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Armstrong, Karen
The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity's Creation of the Sex War in the West (1986). Subtitled "Christianity's Creation of the Sex War in the West". Hardback. Published by Elm Tree Books/Hamish Hamilton Ltd, London, UK.

Bawer, Bruce
While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within (2006). Published by Broadway Books.

Bierce, Ambrose. (1842-1914?)
The Devil's Dictionary (1967). Published in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz. Published by Penguin Books in 1971, and quotes taken from a 2001 Penguin Classics reprint. Penguin Group, London, UK.

Cesari, Jocelyne
When Islam and Democracy Meet (2004). Published by Palgrave Macmillan, New York, USA.

Clarke, Peter B.. Peter B. Clarke: Professor Emeritus of the History and Sociology of Religion, King's College, University of London, and currently Professor in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford, UK.
The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion (2011). Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. First published 2009.

Crabtree, Vexen
"Christian Moral Theory and Morality in Action: Biblical Morals and Social Disaster" (1999). Accessed 2013 Nov 10.
"Human Sexuality: Polyamory: Multiple Loving, Caring Relationships" (2000). Accessed 2013 Nov 10.

Deinsen, Rev. R.. Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA).

"Thoughts on Marriage" (2001) on her website. Accessed 2002.

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Why is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1998). 2001 reissue. Published by Phoenix, Orion Books Ltd, London, UK. J. Diamond is Professor of Physiology at the Medical School of the University of California, USA.

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The Encyclopaedia of Sexual Behaviour (1961). Published by Hawthorn Books Inc., New York, USA.

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Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia (2006).

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Eurostat yearbook 2006-07 (2007). Published by Eurostat (2007 Feb 20), accessed via http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat on 2007 Mar 07.

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Sociology (1997). Hardback 3rd edition. First edition was 1989. Published by Polity Press in association with Blackwell Publishers Ltd. The Amazon link is to a newer version.

Hoge, Dean R.. Was Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the Catholic University of America, Washington, USA.
The Sociology of the Clergy (2011). This essay is chapter 32 of "The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion" by Peter B. Clarke (2011) (pages p581-596).

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Extraordinary Groups, The Sociology of Unconventional Life-Styles (1982). St. Martin's Press Inc.

Myers, David
Social Psychology (1999). 6th 'international' edition. First edition 1983. Published by McGraw Hill.

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The Health of Adult Britain, 1841-1994 (1997). Volume 1. Edited by John Charlton and Mike Murphy. Published by The Stationary Office, London, UK.

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URL www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm, "U.S. Divorce rates", accessed 2006 Apr 14.

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The Woman's Bible (1898). Amazon's Kindle digital edition. Produced by Carrie Lorenz and John B. Hare. Public Domain.

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Footnotes

  1. Stanton (1898) p342. Added to this page on 2013 May 16.^
  2. Myers (1999) p455.^
  3. EUMC (2006), p39. Added to this page on 2007 Jul 05.^
  4. Ellis & Abarbanel (1961) p304.^
  5. Rev. Rebecca Deinsen (www.franciscan-anglican.com) (2001).^
  6. Giddens (1997) p142.^
  7. Anderson (1985) p177. Added to this page 2010 Jun 22.^
  8. Kephart (1982).^^
  9. Diamond (1998) p9.^
  10. Wilson (1966) p37-38.^
  11. The Economist (2006 Jul 03) article "Kosher in the country" p31-33.^
  12. Church of England Archbishop's Council "Church Statistics 2010/11" on chuchofengland.org, accessed 2013 Feb 13.^
  13. Added to this page on 2013 Jan 03.^
  14. Stanton (1898) p106.^
  15. Assemblies of God website, http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/topics/relations_01_unbelievers.cfm accessed 2013 Jan 03.^
  16. Hoge (2011) p590. Added to this page on 2013 Jun 12.^
  17. Cesari (2004) p56-63. Added to this page on 2011 Mar 07^
  18. Bawer (2006) p21.^
  19. Bawer (2006) p57.^
  20. Cesari (2004) p61. Added to this page on 2011 Mar 07.^
  21. i newspaper (2012 May 21) p23. Added to this page on 2012 Dec 30.^
  22. The Economist (2006 Jul 03) article "Kosher in the country" p31-33.^
  23. The Economist (2008 Dec 20) article "Civil partnerships: Happy anniversary". Added to this page on 2009 Feb 07.^
  24. BBC News (2005 Jun 30) article on gay marriage around the globe. Accessed 2005 Jul 16. Added to this page on 2005 Jul 16.^
  25. Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance accessed 2006. Added to this page in 2006 Apr.^
  26. The Economist (2009 May 16) article "Gay marriage: Man and man in Maine"^
  27. Independent on Sunday newspaper (2005 Jul 03) article "Spanish gays get full legal rights".^
  28. National Secular Society monthly newsletters (2003 Oct 03) states: "Belgium opened marriage to same-sex partners with effect from 1 June 2003", "The Canadian province of Ontario opened marriage to same-sex partners on 10 June 2003. The Canadian province of British Columbia opened marriage to same-sex partners on 8 July 2003".^
  29. The Guardian (2005 Jun 30).^
  30. BBC News (2005 Dec 05) article news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4493094.stm.^
  31. The Economist (2007 May 26) article "Marriage in America" p21-23. Added to this page on 2007 May 27, in the new section on Marriages are Convenient (long-term benefits).^^
  32. In 2009, the figure published in the The Economist (2009 Jul 18) article "Social trends: The decline of the English divorce" p35, was that marriage is at its lowest rate in the UK since 1895. At the end of 2009 the The Economic and Social Research Council stated39 that the marriage is at the lowest level since records began in 1862. I have used the slightly more recent data from the more specialist ESRC. Added to this page on 2010 Feb 03.^^
  33. Office for National Statistics. "Marriages, 1837-2003: Type of ceremony and denomination, b, proportions" accessed 2007 Jan 04. Added to this page on 2007 Jan 04.^
  34. Stationary Office (1997).^
  35. Eurostat (2007). Added to this page on 2007 Mar 09.^
  36. Office for National Statistics (1997).^
  37. Woodward (2000). Added to this page on 2007.^
  38. Myers (1999) p467.^
  39. The Economic and Social Research Council (2009) "Britain in 2010" p62.^^
  40. Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance "U.S. Divorce rates" accessed 2002 Aug 23.^
  41. Stenger (2007) p194-5. Christan theologians Michael Horton and Ronald Sider are two such voices. Added to this page on 2011 May 17.^
  42. 2006 Apr: Added quotes from OCRT, and chart and text on divorce rates, and a chart on average age at marriage by gender.

© 2013 Vexen Crabtree. All rights reserved.

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