So I had an interesting realization. This realization happened when I was listening to an argument between two of my friends. I generally stay out of heated debates and tend to just listen and form my opinion silently. So that is what I did. The debate was on marriage abd if the gay community should be allowed to marry. One of my friends is a Christrian, specifically Southern Baptist. The other had no religious affiliation but designates as a Libertarian. My Libertarian friend was for gay marriage and my Christian friend against.
Basically the John, the Libertarian, made a snide comment to George about religion. Bad form, John! So they began to bicker. George was on the defensive most of the time and came up with the standard, "marriage has always been a religious form of expression and ceremony." After he said that my mind wandered the rest of the debate.
If religious people believed that marriage was solely religious in purpose then that means, by the First Amendment, it is wrong for the government to extend their marriage benefits to married couples. Obviously there's stipulations here. The government gives benefits to everyone who is married. That is regardless of religion. But if we take the stand point that marriage is only a religious institution and it should be regulated by the laws of the religion, which would denounce gay marriage, then those people would be saying that they do not want the perks of being married from the government. This is because the government would be discriminating against non religious couples. Would the religious like to live in a world like that? Circular reasoning is not the best path to clear understanding. Why would you not want someone to have the same civil rights and liberties that you, yourself, enjoy?
Some Christians will disagree with my Christian opinion, but I'll give toss it out there. There are two types of marriages - religious and governmental.
A religious wedding is conducted by a member of the clergy and can be seen as the couple being joined in the sight of God. Even if that couple doesn't have a marriage license from the state, they're still a married couple. Anyone who claims they're not married because they're not "officially" registered with the government is, in my opinion, wrong. And they aren't "living in sin" because they made their commitment to each other and, basically, made a vow to God that they'd always be a couple. This is the only time a ceremony has a religion expression behind it.
A marriage "licensed" by the government serves no other purpose than to have documentation stating the people are married and are qualified for the government benefits available to such couples as well as other rights assigned to spouses. These two people are married even if they never set foot in front of a member of the clergy and make their vows "before God".
People can have one type of marriage without the other and still be married. I don't see any problem with the government recognizing homosexual couples and granting them the same rights as heterosexual married couples. So many people harp on the separation of church and state, yet they (some of my fellow Christians) want their beliefs forced on other people which is placing the church squarely in the business of the state. I say to them - you can't have it both ways.
I think that George's statement that "marriage has always been a religious form of expression and ceremony" is incorrect. Marriage has been more about economics, property rights, and a social contract between families and communities. While a religious ceremony is common, it's not a requirement for a marriage to be legal and generally recognized.
I think that religions got involved as a way to further exert power and authority over their members.
It's my opinion that the augment "marriage has always been a religious form of expression and ceremony" is invalid for two reasons. First, it's simply wrong, people get married without religion all the time and secondly, just someone is a certain way doesn't mean it should be that way. We could if we wanted to look back at the bible and make the argument that polygamy is the way marriage should be as that how Jesus viewed it.
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