On an ex-Christian forum the other day one of the commenters queried as to why someone who is no longer a Christian would uphold something like the sanctity of marriage since they no longer believe in it as a religious commandment or necessary to live a good life. Now, I am not entirely sure if this person was asking the question because they were trying to stump a non-believer or if they really just don't see the point of marriage if you aren't religious, but it is a question I have thought about.
When my husband and I got married, we were very careful with our vows. Neither of us liked the idea of an overly religious ceremony even though most of our guests were Christian as well as us. There was no prayer, no unity candle, there may have been a mention of God here or there, but no quoting of scripture. Both of us had been to far too many of those uber-religious weddings and we both agreed they were ridiculous and not at all considerate of the guests who were not believers.
When I first deconverted, I did think about this marriage thing in terms of non-religion. Why get married? Why stay with this person? Why would I spend this one short lifetime with this one person? Firstly, marriage affords people certain governmental benefits. Tax breaks, power of attorney, emergency contact, insurance benefits, retirement. I have heard of people getting married simply to obtain these things and not even out of any sense of love. It is sort of cheating the system, but understandable when we live in a world where you can't visit your boyfriend/girlfriend in the hospital because you aren't family and the actual family can bar you from visitation simply because they don't like you.
Second is the societal benefits. We have all been a third wheel at one time or another. Or invited to a party and it turns out it is mostly couples. Of course, your friends don't mind your single self, but the truth is when everyone is paired up you feel a bit left out. You don't have to go to concerts or movies alone anymore. Because many people in our society do eventually get married, it makes you a part of the club too. You can relate to one another as a group. As you move into various life stages like raising children or teenagers as a couple, that becomes important too. It is why divorcees have a hard time after a divorce as they lose their many couple friends as they are now not a part of that in-group. As much as it may suck for those who aren't into the whole marriage "thing", the truth is we live in a culture where people do get married and it does become a major part of socialization.
Let's also be clear, people aren't pairing up simply because the Bible says you can get married. (remember, the Bible also says it is better to remain single. 1 Corinthian 7:8) They pair up because they have found someone who, for the moment, fulfills some kind of emotional need and enriches their life. This pairing may or may not last, but it does fulfill something. Those who feel like they have found someone in which they believe they could spend the rest of their lifetime with, get married as a mark of commitment and love. I did not marry my husband simply because the Bible says to, although I did certainly wait to have sex until my wedding night. (something that I do and don't regret) I wanted to spend my life with this man for so many reasons and I wanted to make that commitment for both the governmental and societal reasons stated above. More than that, I wanted HIM to know that I wanted to spend my life with him.
Now that I am no longer a Christian, none of that has changed. My reasons for marrying him are still the same and the religious influence, while present, was not my deciding factor in pursuing marriage. I like calling him husband. I like the idea that we aren't a live in boyfriend and girlfriend who can simply part ways if we have a big fight. I like that we are bound together with something stronger than shared bills and a pet. I like that we didn't treat our relationship as some kind of trial run to see if we were compatible. And most importantly, I married this guy because we do get along, despite everything, and I do want to spend the rest of my life with him and I want everyone to know that. Because sometimes people are better together than apart.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.