Aug. 22, 2006
August 22, 2006
It seems to me that people who want the government to ban same-sex unions -- whether called marriage or something else -- are asking the government to set some of the marraige rules that should be left up to faith communities. To see what happens when government is the final authority on who can (or even stay) be married, click here for an Arab News story on a Saudi court that annulled a happy three-year marriage. I'm thinking maybe we should avoid this sort of thing.
* * *
THE MOST FAMOUS AMONG THE GODLESS
A friend once told me he knew someone who tried to be an atheist but acknowledged that, "I kept having lapses of disbelief."
Still, there are lots of people in the world who profess to believe there is no god or who say nothing can be known about a god if there is one. These atheists or agnostics often are intriguing people who have given a lot of thought to their spiritual positions, even if they've arrived at a different place than I have.
Beliefnet.com, one of the best spiritual Web sites on the Internet, has put together a list of what it calls the 10 most influential people among this group. I've heard of most of them, and have even interviewed one of them, Michael Newdow (pictured here), the guy who has gone to court to get "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" taken off our money.
When surveys are done seeking religious affiliation, the "nones," as they're called, make up a growing category. They list "none of the above" as their religion. In fact, the Pacific Northwest has become known as ground zero for the nones.
Take a look at Beliefnet's list of folks today and the brief profiles of them and see what you can learn from these folks. They're a fascinating lot.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
P.S.: Just to reassure those of you who left comments on the "dream" entry in yesterday's blog: Your comments did not make me want to shout: "Stop the world (or planetoid), I want to get off." Carry on. Bill.
Today's religious holiday: Lailat al Miraj (Islam).
Re Government Regulated Marriage:
The story in Arab News is an excellent example of why we need to preserve the separation of church and state and how fundamentalist religion can cause remarkable injury and be exceedingly injurious.
It seems to me that the government ought to grant civil unions to people who have decided to share their lives together whether they be of the same sex or opposite sexes. It seems that society is better off when people work together in getting through life and that the government ought to support those efforts whether they be of opposite sexes or the same sex.
Re Top 10 Atheists:
I do not know what the purpose of providing a list of the top 10 atheists is - we seem to like top 10 lists, however. I am a little surprised that Paul Kurtz is not a little higher than number 10!
I think that the common denominator for me is that they reached their positions through thought and reason and that their goals are to better the world. Most atheists see religion as the source of so many of the problems of the day and they would like to see humans live together in peace and love, not fighting over beliefs in unprovable entities and sacred spaces.
It would be a lot easier to be a "believer", so one has to admit that they are couragous persons to step forward and take positions that are not main stream.
Posted by: Greg Swartz | August 22, 2006 at 04:33 AM
Let the government do civil unions for everybody and each relligious entity bless or not bless bless marriage as it sees fit. I agree, complete sepsaration of church and state is crucial to a deomocratic government.
Posted by: Joe | August 22, 2006 at 05:38 AM
When an acquaintance or family member makes a negative remark about gay marriage, I always ask them if they would prefer that the gay couple with children living next door to them be committed in marriage or just living together. (Of course, what they most prefer is that no gay couple moves next door, but I do see them pause and think.)
Since it doesn't look as if our society will be enlightened enough to allow either gay marriage or civil unions in the near future, I'm wondering if perhaps we should begin the process with a bit of a "toe dip".
Instead of beginning with a "civil union", how about legally defining a "religious union"? It would include some of the most important protections for the children and estate, without granting full-blown legal marriage status and contain a "religion defined dissolution process". Each church has full autonomy over whom they grant these unions to. I frankly think that this would be a healthy addition to a society that has too many heterosexual children born out of wedlock. And churches could feel strengthened and more powerful.
I know that this would not satisfy those who are secular or atheist, but I never said that it was anything but a "toe dip". Sometimes gains by inches can be as important as gains by miles.
The story of the Saudi family is tragic. However, each time I read about the inequity in the Muslim faith or hear the current administration declare that we need to save women from submission and oppression in Iraq, I can't help but ask when they are planning to send the military into the polygamist camps in Utah/Arizona or the Evangelical megachurchs now located all throughout our nation.
I volunteer to lead the charge.
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 22, 2006 at 08:47 AM
I'd like to marry three women and also my dog. I know my marriage to my dog will be short, as she is currently 70 in dog years; but when my dog wife passes on to that great celestial doghouse above, I am sure I will be comforted knowing I have three other beautiful wives in my life.
Some people think I am weird. But I just point out the commonness of serial “monogamy.” So am I really that weird? Besides, my wives (all four of them) and I would not be hurting anyone and we would be living in a committed relationship to one another! That’s what’s important here, right? And need I remind you, it’s a free country!
I'm going to run down to get my license in a few minutes. Let's hope the licensing office is as "enlightened" as you and I all are! Ruf!
Posted by: Michael | August 22, 2006 at 09:02 AM
It is ironic that gay couples are so interested in getting legally married at the same time so many heterosexual couples no longer bother to get married. They see absolutely no need for it. Perhaps it's a case of the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.
Posted by: Ron | August 22, 2006 at 09:09 AM
Amen. I drove by one of those Evangelical megachurches once and they had their women chained together like a chain gang and were beating them into submission with their Bibles - a typical Bible thumping church. They probably didn't even let them teach Bible study to adult males!
These evangelical megachurches are the scourge of the Earth when it comes to oppressing women. The horror stories we hear when women escape this life of slavery to male chauvinist pigs!
Posted by: Michael | August 22, 2006 at 09:13 AM
We have all heard the old argument that a marriage license between two consenting adults will lead to marriages among multi-mates and bestiality.
Do you really think that the majority of Americans would ever allow that?
The saddest thing about your post is that you would compare a marriage between any two human beings to a marriage between a man and a dog.
How Christian is that?
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 22, 2006 at 09:16 AM
If a male is now teaching you the lessons of God's love and acceptance, Michael, perhaps you should consider switching to the spiritual leadership of an enlightened woman.
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 22, 2006 at 09:22 AM
I am not concerned about what is Christian and what is not. I could care less! Christianity only acts as a suppressor when it comes to who can be married and who cannot be married. This is evident in its treatment of homosexuality in the Bible as well.
I am concerned about what is permissible under the Constitution of the United States of America. If we are truly enlightened here, I think we need to be tolerant of everyone's point of view. And yes, that even includes me and my dog's. We have rights and by-golly we are entitled to them!
Do you think a majority of Americans would have even tolerated the idea of two men or two women getting married legally in 1950? Give me 50 years Patricia and I’ll finally be able to enjoy my rights in this country.
And I’d rather have a man teach me in Bible Study since I believe God is an enlightened woman. And yes, maybe I’ll marry her too.
Posted by: Michael | August 22, 2006 at 09:28 AM
We now have an even better reason to march the army into the megachurches.
It's to save the dogs.
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 22, 2006 at 09:44 AM
Legal marriage is a contract, contrary to President Bush insisting on preserving the sanctity of marriage. He used that word sanctity, and that word means only one thing: holiness. Government cannot possibly preserve or destroy holiness. Legal marriage is a contract.
God sanctifies a marriage. Churches should not be told who they must or must not marry.
I'll bet that eventually legal contracts of marriage will have to be allowed for same-sex marriages because of the way our Constitution is set up, unless people pass an ammendment. There is no real reason to forbid any couple from engaging in a contract.
I'll always bet that the Churches will never accept just any couple for marriage.
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 22, 2006 at 09:51 AM
I agree with George Bush and other conservative Christians that the institution of marriage needs to be protected. The Scandinavian countries of Norway, Denmark and Sweden have come closest to legalizing gay marriage as any country. I think it is instructive to look at their experience for guidance for what we can expect if we legalize gay marriage in this country. Since the Scandinavian countries legalized civil unions, three decades of declining hetrosexual marriage rates have stabilized and, in Denmark, increased. The percentage of children living with both biological parents has increased and is significantly higher than the United States. And the divorce rate has also stabilized. What's more, no one is clamering to allow man/dog marriages. The Scandanavian experience certainly suggests that allowing gay marriage or civil unions will actually improve the institution of marriage. So let's protect marriage and let same sex couples marry.
Posted by: Steve S | August 22, 2006 at 10:14 AM
A marriage between two gay men is between two consenting adults that have the cognative ability to understand what they are doing. I doubt your dog could give "consent" to your marrying him as he/she does not have the cognative ability to understand what he/she is doing. The issue of consent is the basis for statutory rape laws. I would assume that if the law determines that a 12 year old human can't consent to sex with a 45 year old man, it would also determine that a 70 year old dog (in dog years) can't consent to sex with the same 45 year old man.
Posted by: openmind | August 22, 2006 at 10:32 AM
I'm going to shock you; if you're squeamish, don't read. Here is an article from MSNBC whose source is Reuters:
This should be a commercial telling you who you might be involved with when you're involved in casual sexual relationships. Even if you practice abstinance, that doesn't mean your eventual spouse will.
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 22, 2006 at 11:02 AM
In the United States, a murder pact is not a binding contract. Nor is a contract for the purpose of establishing a criminal enterprise. I cannot enter into a legally defensible contractual agreement to sell my children, nor they to sell me.
Of course, these governmental restrictions on our contractural priviledges are based on the predication that these activities are morally wrong. It is wrong to commit murder, to steal, to sell our family members. For most of us in this country, we accept the Bible's admonitions against murder and theft. We accept that we should honor our father and mother, and not provoke our children. This is part of our national ethic, and is derived from a law that precedes and supercedes our Constitution.
I find Biblical truth to be efficacious for all manner of good living. Having tried other alternatives, I find that a Christian world view makes the most sense. In applying that world view to our governance, I don't think Christians can be rightly compared to radical militant Islamic regimes.
It sounds like a stretch of the establishment clause to suggest that governmental restrictions on contracts must be lifted just because those restrictions are based on commonly held and Biblically inspired ethical traditions. Rather, I think it is a representative government's obligation to represent their constituency's ethical foundations in the laws it passes and enforces.
Posted by: SC in KC | August 22, 2006 at 11:20 AM
This may surprise you, SC, but American law, and much Western World law, was NOT derived from MORAL exigencies. Certainly not from Biblical ideology.
Our law evolved from bases and traditions and a lot of outright appropriation from Britain; with some important new ideas and concepts from France.
British law and French law, in turn, evolved from Barbarian and Roman Empire law. Their laws, like those of Hammurabi, were based less on overarching views of morality than they were on a very secular need to order society.
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 22, 2006 at 11:38 AM
The marriage contract of government between a man and a woman is already legal. That's the first fact. The second fact is that we have strong anti-discrimination laws that prevent us from keeping others from engaging in the same contract or enjoying the same benefits of such a contract, except in cases of relatives. The third fact is that separate but equal has been ruled unconstitutional because of the segregation we used to have.
How long before the courts put these facts together to come to the inevitable conclusion?
The only way to change this legally seems to be by ammendment.
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 22, 2006 at 11:56 AM
The article in the arab times depicts Saudi Law not Islamic law whatsoever. A women in Islam has every right to choose her spouse even if her parents don't agree. She still has that right. Many things that we see going on in the Arab/Muslim world do not depict Islam in the slightest measure or even follow Islam. Please remember there is a difference between Islam and culture. Arabs have a culture that isn't totatly defined by Islam. I am a Muslim but I am also an American. Islam is my dominent culture but I have sub culture which is American. Sometimes it is easy to confuse the two. Second about gay marriage. I morally disagree but we live in country that many people would morally disagree with another persons belief. Who has the right to say who is right who is wrong. As far as the atheist thing goes, I don't have a problem with atheists or anyone elses' personal beliefs just don't take away my right to practice my belief freely without hinderance. The beautiful thing about this country is that it was founded on religious tolerence. I think if we take a look at all religions we see that they all speak of love and being kind and merciful to people/creation. People are the ones who go out and distort these teachings not the Creator.
Posted by: Michelle | August 22, 2006 at 12:39 PM
All of the "contracts" you mention have a victim, i.e the person to be murdered, your children if you sell them, the victims of the criminal enterprise. There are no apparent victims from the marraige between to consenting adults.
I honestly cant believe you even thought of comparing "murder pacts" to gay marriage.
For a long time a lot of people thought it was "immoral" to have a black person and a white person marry. Would you support laws banning this as well since they have a "moral" base?
Posted by: openmind | August 22, 2006 at 12:51 PM
"This may surprise you, SC, but American law, and much Western World law, was NOT derived from MORAL exigencies. Certainly not from Biblical ideology."
That certainly would come as a surprise to the men who wrote our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The vast majority of them seemed to think that our government and laws were founded strictly on moral exigencies, specifically Christian ideology.
And how does that British tune go? Something, something "...save the King".
Come to think of it, the secular need to order society is unattainable without moral exigency. After all, why should society conform to rule of law without the moral motivation to do so?
Posted by: SC in KC | August 22, 2006 at 01:52 PM
"There are no apparent victims from the marraige between to consenting adults."
Compare rates of attrition of these unions with heterosexual marriages. Compare rates of suicide, illicit drug use, criminal activity, and abuse. I would offer that there are obvious victims.
Still, the issue isn't about homosexual relationships, but about legitimizing and codifying those relationships. Our nation allows such relationships, but chooses not to legitimize them. If our government attempted to pass legislation prohibiting homosexuality, I would consider that an act of discrimination. Refusing to legitimize and codify a homosexual union does not constitute discrimination.
Posted by: SC in KC | August 22, 2006 at 02:14 PM
Do you think that maybe the increased suicide and drug use rates are related to homosexual's marginalization in the US? My guess is those numbers wouldnt be as high if they were fully accepted. When speaking of a marginalized group, you need to differentiate between the effects that are related to being in the group and the effects that are related to that group being marginalized. As far as abuse, most reputable journal studies find very little relationship between homosexuality and child abuse. I wish I still had access to them and I would link.
It is still an issue of rights since certian rights are given to one group and are being withheld from another.
Posted by: openmind | August 22, 2006 at 02:24 PM
Correlation implies causation, also known as cum hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin for "with this, therefore because of this") and false cause, is a logical fallacy by which two events that occur together are prematurely claimed to have a cause-and-effect relationship.
I think it was Mark Twain who talked about lies, damned lies and statistics. It is a logical fallacy to think that statistics PROVE anything. I've noticed that everyone who drinks water eventually dies. Hmmmm...must be something in the water.
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 22, 2006 at 02:37 PM
The American drafters of the Constitution and early law could certainly have chosen to form a Christian theocracy. They did not. They chose to create a Republic. Gleaned largely from the pagan secular Roman Republic model.
I won't deny that many of the fathers of our country were practicing and strong Christians, which no doubt guided and influenced them. But they had the good sense to keep reference to religion to a minimum and to very non-sectarian language.
They were smart men. They understood that if, in the new nation, true freedom was to exist, they had to allow religious freedom. That meant a plurality of religious thought and ethical stances.
And what they understood best, is that when there is a plurality of religions in a country, you cannot favor one religion over another without creating strife. When that happens there will be chaos, divisiveness, and war. It becomes religion against religion. Separation between church and state is the only way to avoid total chaos.
You write that there must be a moral exigency as the motivating factor in a purely secular society. No. There really only needs to be the desire for order. Hammurabi and the Romans also desired justice, which is not the same as morality.
You outlaw murder and create punishment, because if you do not, then the result will be people exacting their own revenge. In short time, you have the Hatfields and the McCoys. And you have chaos, which threatens the governing entity and the order of the entire society.
Posted by: Patricia Williams | August 22, 2006 at 02:38 PM
Here's some good ground rules for everyone. Read about the logical fallacies:
Illogical thinking should not become the basis of any public policy.
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 22, 2006 at 02:40 PM