Marriage, Gay Marriage, Vegans, and Meat Eaters.

In the lead up to the landmark cases at the U.S. Supreme Court considering ‘gay marriage’, I’ve noticed a few things on Facebook. First, a number of people have changed their profile photos to a red and pink equal sign in support of the push. Second, there have been a few memes, photos, and video clips that satirically portray gay marriage busting up hetero marriages in order to demonstrate the absurdity of the suggestion. Take this one, for example:

Or this humorous clip:

These media snippets are funny and satirically sharp. However, they actually miss the point by a long shot. Gay marriage will not bust up hetero marriages, but not because gay marriage is harmless. Rather, it will fail to do so because gay marriage is not actually ‘marriage’. It’s actually partnership recognition—something with a very different purpose.

Marriage is an institution—that is, a mechanism of social order governing the behaviour of a group of people within a community. It’s a mechanism that is permanently arranged to achieve a specific purpose that is over and above the intentions and outcomes of the individuals within that community (this is a reworded version of Wikipedia’s definition). In other words, marriage has a specific purpose that stands over the concerns of individuals who enter it.

What is the purpose of marriage? It’s (1) to give legal space within society for a man and a woman to have a committed sexual union that allows for the natural generation and raising of children; (2) to allow for their children to be recognised as their own; and (3) to promote the survival and proliferation of the human race as a necessity. At its heart, marriage is birds-and-the-bees stuff that requires a man and a woman because of its familial generation-generating purpose. The biology on which the institution is founded is integral to the purpose.

In terms of procreation, nature has privileged the hetero relationship. Making babies is something that by definition requires a man and a woman. Two men, or two women, simply cannot make a baby. It’s a biological fact. That means nature has privileged the hetero relationship for the natural building of families. This is no comment on whether sexual orientation is innate or not. That’s a totally different issue. Nor is it a statement that only biological parents can raise their biological children, or that only biological family can function as family. My point is that marriage is an institution that has built a social recognition around a natural biological fact concerning the hetero relationship that leads to the proliferation of the human race. This purpose shows that there is a good reason why marriage is hetero.

Accordingly, ‘gay marriage’ actually doesn’t make sense. It’s like a square peg calling itself round. It just doesn’t make sense, and despite how you might reconfigure definitions, a square peg is a square peg and round peg is a round peg. But the mere fact that we are debating this issue shows that for many people marriage is no longer a relationship centred around birds-and-the-bees biology and family, but rather is about simple partnership. But partnership is not what marriage is about, even though it involves partnership within it.

Now there is a difference between why people decide to get married, or the outcome of their marriage, and what the purpose of the institution is. You can read an excellent (albeit long) paper on this at Alastair’s Adversaria. But there is a procreative purpose to the institution that cannot be subverted without landing you in a completely different institution. If the motive is out of step with the purpose, there’s going to be friction or hardship for those involved.

What gay couples are seeking is not actually marriage (i.e. a sexual union leading to the generation of family), but partnership recognition—a very different thing to marriage. By changing the definition of marriage, you’re not actually giving gay couples equality. Rather, you’re telling married people that they are not actually in a marriage, but rather in partnership recognition. You’re not bringing gay people up to equality. Rather, you’re shifting married people over into a different institution altogether. And yet, none of that alters the biological facts that give rise to the social institution of marriage. By definition, only a man and a woman can be married. Even if you change the definition, you can’t change the biology that nature has privileged on this particular count. Thus, in advocating ‘gay marriage’, we are creating a massive disconnect between the definition of marriage and the purpose of the institution. It doesn’t make sense.

Let me give you an analogy to illustrate. Fred is a vegan. He feels a natural aversion to eating meet and so chooses not to eat it, or any other animal products. His colleague, Sue, is a meat-eater. She loves her steak medium-rare. When Fred and Sue go to lunch, Fred gets upset that almost every time he walks into a restaurant there is no vegan option on the menu. It feels unfair! Sue, however, gets to choose from anything on the menu.

What is Fred to do?

Well Fred decides that he now wants to be recognised as a meat-eating vegan. That way, when he walks into a restaurant, the whole menu will be available to him, and that makes things equal. He won’t be stopping Sue from ordering a steak. In fact, he’s happy for Sue to continue her carnivorous carnival. But at least things are now equal.

Someone needs to tell Fred that actually nothing’s changed. He’s still a vegan in a restaurant that serves steak. What he actually needs is a vegan menu—a totally different set of options to the menu Sue chooses from, because he’s a vegan. If Fred insists that he and Sue need to have the same menu options for things to be just, he’s going to have to change the type of restaurant they eat at, and that ultimately means changing the options that Sue has before her. How will Sue feel about that? She may well tell Fred that it’s not fair of him to demand that.

I understand why gay people want equality in law. In a democratic society, it’s a perfectly understandable desire. But ‘gay marriage’ is, by definition, an impossibility, and to demand it means changing the institution of marriage into something that isn’t marriage. I’m going to give pro-gay-marriage people the benefit of the doubt here and say that this is not really what they want to do. They don’t want to change marriage as an institution, just as they don’t want to bust up hetero marriages. But their campaigns are failing to see that by asking for ‘gay marriage’ to be legalised they are actually asking for the whole marriage institution to be changed. Saying that you’re not out to bust up hetero marriages is, therefore, as meaningful as a vegan saying he won’t threaten meat-eaters when he becomes a meat-eating vegan. It’s completely meaningless on all levels! It’s square peg in a round hole kind of stuff.

Gay marriage is not marriage. It’s something else entirely. These memes, photos, and video clips are quite funny, but they are unfortunately shortsighted and missing the whole point of the purpose of marriage.

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28 thoughts on “Marriage, Gay Marriage, Vegans, and Meat Eaters.

  1. Hi George! Thank you for this interesting post. I’m struggling to get my mind around the idea that the institution of marriage is defined by the procreative ability of heterosexual people. The act of sex is not only procreative, and marriage need not be procreative at all. In fact, we don’t promise to try to have children together when we exchange vows during the marriage ceremony. Am I missing something? I really enjoyed reading your argument but think that I might have misunderstood a point somewhere. Help?

    • Renette, it’s the difference between people’s intention in getting married, and the societal purpose of the institution of marriage. The two aren’t necessarily the same, though they can’t be in contradiction. For example, the state doesn’t care whether or not two people getting married actually love each other, because love is not a legal category. The state and the institution aren’t worried at all about love, but rather just about legal space for family-making. If love helps the commitment aspect of things, that’s great. But love itself, as far as the institution is concerned, is a tangential issue. The fact that we promise to love each other in the wedding ceremony is something we promise in the presence of family and friends (and God where the ceremony mentions him). A Christian understanding of marriage may have love as a critical factor within marriage, but the institution itself is a purely socio-legal ‘space’.

  2. I’m stuck on the premise “But ‘gay marriage’ is, by definition, an impossibility” because of the biological roots behind it. Doesn’t that invalidate marriage between hetero couples who cannot procreate?

    • Brilliant question, Matt! Very perceptive. No, it doesn’t invalidate the definition of marriage, and I’ll try to explain why briefly. When a hetero couple gets married, the institution means there is a proper expectation that the couple will have children. This then explains why infertile couples feel the pain of infertility. The pain derives from the desire to have children but this desire is thwarted against the good and proper working of nature. In other words, with infertile couples, something has gone wrong. We don’t define the good working of an institution by what goes wrong, but about what is seeks to achieve within society as a whole. It’s not right that hetero couples be infertile — it’s actually contrary to properly working natural order.

      As an (imperfect) analogy, think of the institution of marriage as a kitchen. The hetero couple bring all the right ingredients to the kitchen to cook, so to speak, but then they find that their kitchen hasn’t got a stove. This doesn’t mean that they’re no longer in the kitchen, or can’t still put something together. A modified analogy that would apply to older couples beyond childbearing age would be to say that the stove has run out of gas. Again, they’re still in the kitchen with the right ingredients, though, and might still put something together, even if it isn’t a three-course banquet.

      With gay couples, however, nothing has gone wrong in their nature. Instead, even when ‘the plumbing’ is in good working order, procreation is still an impossibility. Their inability to procreate, therefore is not related to a defect or age. Rather, it is outside and beyond their good working nature. Gay couples simply cannot procreate, and that is fact by nature, not by defect or age. This doesn’t make them useless to society (good grief!), or even imply that they can’t have a meaningful relationship. It just means that marriage is an impossibility for them, and that puts them outside the institution of marriage. To return out imperfect analogy, it means that they don’t have any ingredients to bring to the kitchen and therefore can’t do anything at all in it. They therefore need to leave the kitchen and go to a restaurant or get takeout, where someone else has prepared the meal.

      Another thing to say on this point is that the individual motives of people going into marriage (eg. love), or the outcome of their particular marriage (eg. infertility) is not the same thing as the purpose of marriage as an institution (natural family generation). As another analogy, think about government and politics. Why do people go into politics? They may want power, they may want influence, they may want fame, they may want high salaries, or they may just like the architecture in Canberra. This, though, is not the same as the purpose of government/politics, which is about organising human society in an orderly way. The politician’s motives might not be identical to the purpose of politics, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be a politician. They may even be a really bad politician, but that doesn’t change the definition of government/politics. Just as the concept of government is bigger than the politicians who govern, so the institution of marriage is bigger than the people who get married. That’s why it’s an institution. You can’t define the institution by the motives of an individual. If, however, you put someone who will work as an engineer into politics, then things are going to go wrong, not because engineers are bad, but because someone working as an engineer is not working as a politician. In that case, the engineer is at odds with the institution of government/politics.

      Unfortunately, I think that as a society we’ve lost sight of the institutional quality of marriage, which is why we’re debating these issues.

      • Can see your point George, but just worry that the argument would be a slippery slope. My fault for not elaborating earlier, but does that then mean couples who have no intention of ever having children through personal choice should not be recognised as entering the institution of marriage?

        Loving the fact that this discussion is… well, not descending into arguments too :)

        • Hey Matt! :)

          Couples who have no intention of having children should evaluate whether marriage is actually what they really want, since the logical outcome of a sexual union is children. Note that I’m not saying that contraception has no place in a marriage relationship. But given the purpose of marriage, I’d say couples should be open and welcoming towards children. Otherwise, we are detaching the logical outcome of a sexual union from the relationship itself. That doesn’t mean it’s no longer a relationship. It’s just not really a marriage.

          With infertile couples, things have gone wrong. Something has impeded the normal working of nature. With the aged, nature has simply run its course, though the couple themselves are still ‘in working order’. However, with same sex couples, the nature of the couple itself prevents the generation of family, even though they both be fertile. It is not an impediment or age getting in the way, but the very nature of the relationship. That’s why, I argue, a same sex relationship cannot really qualify as a marriage.

  3. Hi again, George! I understand that love doesn’t come into play in this argument. I don’t, however, understand why having children is so inextricably linked to the definition of marriage. Children born out of wedlock still belong to the parents (although one parent might care for the child more than the other parent and one might give up legal guardianship). And marriage is about closeness of relationship – belonging to someone (as described in Genesis 2 “leaving and cleaving”) – more than it is the institution in which children are born.

    I’ll think about it some more, and next time you’re in CT, we can have a good discussion over some melktert :-). This is probably not the most convenient format in which to discuss. I am, however, glad that you are posting about it and that we are thinking it through, so thank you again.

    • Hi Renette! I’ll definitely take you up on the offer of chat with melktert. :D

      But yes, you’re right: you don’t need to get married to have children and for those children to be recognised as yours. The institution of marriage is not saying that no one who isn’t married cannot have children. Rather, what the institution is effectively saying is that families are a good thing and there should be “reserved seating” within society for people to produce families. The state then assumes, on the basis of marriage, that the children born to a couple are theirs and not someone else’s. It can’t make that straight assumption with non-married couples. However, here in Australia, we also have de facto relationships, which are couples in a committed relationship who haven’t actually had a wedding or signed a wedding certificate. The state still recognises that in matter of fact they are married, even if they haven’t signed on the dotted line.

      The closeness of relationships is something that isn’t integral to marriage, though it kind of is implied by the nature and fact of sex which is integral to procreation. Sex is the most intimate of acts and the society assumes that marriage is a permanent arrangement. People don’t get married ‘for a time’. And to get unmarried, you need to separate and divorce. The general implication of these facts is that people get married when they are close companions, but marriage itself does not produce the companionship. Rather, marriage states that two companions are carving a niche within society (sitting in the “reserved seating”) to build a family. If the familial aspect were not so important to marriage, and it were really only about companionship, we wouldn’t have marriage. We wouldn’t be husbands and wives. Rather, we’d just be friends, some of whom happened to have children. But you don’t need society’s recognition to be friends with someone. You do, though, kind of need society’s recognition to build a new element within society, and make sure that someone else isn’t going to come and claim your children, or your spouse, as their own. Marriage gives space in society for a couple to have their own children and raise them as their own, and as their own family unit.

  4. The closeness of becoming one in flesh is not a characteristic of friendship, but of marriage, and it is this closeness that is so appealing about marriage, rather than the fact of bearing potential children. This is why marriage is a symbol of Jesus and the church, and it is why non-Christian people still get married in droves. Our deepest desire is to be known intimately and to belong. Having children is a by-product.

    I understand that the family unit benefits society, but perhaps adoption of children, rather than natural childbirth, is a better plan for our overcrowded earth anyway.

    Just some thoughts. Feel free to suspend the conversation until melktert …
    Renette

    • Oh yes, the one-flesh-ness of marriage is very important. It’s precisely the one-flesh-ness of it, though, that leads to the generation of family. It’s the natural and logical consequence of that crucial aspect of the relationship.

      Looking forward to melktart! :)

  5. George, you should know better than to use Wikipedia as you main reference source for your definition of marriage. It is by no means authoritative and universally not accepted as a reference source by any academic institution. This aside, anyone can pile on regulation upon regulation such that the definition itself of marriage becomes so cumbersome and so onerous that it becomes unattainable to all but a very select few. You need only take a cursory look at some other cultures to see that the Husband-Wife-Children model is by far not universal. As Jesus says , the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, similarly it holds that marriage was also made for man and not man for marriage. The important thing is that we don’t elevate(? ) the institution of marriage beyond its intended purpose, that of easing our burden (Gen: no helper could be found…) From the bible also, the only reason for getting married, is because God said it is not good for man to be alone. And whilst it describes other benefits and consequences of marriage, these are outcomes, not requirements. Similar to believing we are saved by Grace but the good works that follow are outcomes, not prerequisites.
    As for the argument that society will fall if gay marriage is allowed, I put it to you that there are just as many heterosexual marriages working hard to bring about the corruption of this precious society. Getting married does not change a man’s heart to want to be good. You know as well as I do that only Jesus can do that
    God Bless
    John Alexiadis

    • John, thanks for you thoughts. But I think you’ve misread me on a number of fronts.

      First, as a minor point, you’ll find I didn’t use Wikipedia as my main reference for the definition of marriage, as you claim I did. Rather, I reworded a common definition of the word ‘institution’ that can be found on Wikipedia, which gives you a bit of a popular sense of how people understand the word. Now, I’m not submitting an academic paper to a journal here, but if you prefer, I can offer a less exact definition of that word but from an official dictionary (Oxford): ‘a well established and familiar person or custom’. Does that significantly alter things?

      Your comments are getting into biblical arguments of what marriage is. I wasn’t going there in my article. Rather, I was basing my arguments on how human biology works and the social institution that is built around it. If you want to go to biblical arguments, though, I’ll put it to you that the biblical view is not that marriage was made for man (a la the Sabbath). In Ephesians, human marriage is seen to be but a small scale model of the marriage between Christ and the Church, which is the ultimate reality. And the church was made for Christ. So, actually, according to the biblical statements, humanity was indeed made for marriage and its reality coheres in Christ. So the comparison with the Sabbath actually doesn’t work biblically. But, I know what you’re trying to get at.

      The appeal to Gen 2 for marriage is a good one, but the text is saying more than what your comments implied. If you look at Gen 2, you’ll see it wasn’t good for the man to be alone in the garden not because he was lonely, but because he needed help in working the garden — the task that God had given him. The animals were insufficient for that task, so the woman is then created as someone who can offer help in the task. How does this help occur? It’s not actually by picking up a rake and doing some chores. Rather, it’s by becoming one flesh with her husband, the result of which is offspring — more people to help tend the garden. In other words, the marriage relationship that is set up in Gen 2 is seen as the nucleus of society. The goal of marriage was never just about the man and the woman on their own. It was about more than simply companionship — it was about building society.

      The appeal to bad hetero marriages, which is a common ambit in discussion of this issue, is a straw man. Bad marriages in no way impinge on the definition of marriage, any more than bad football players impinge on the definition of football, or election rigging in Zimbabwe impinges on the definition of democracy. That’s the whole point of the discussion of an institution: the game is bigger than just the players in it. People are missing this fact that marriage is an institution. Marriage is not simply what individuals would like it to be — not me, not you, not anyone. It’s an institution that has been built around the natural category of human biology (sex and the generation of children) and the social bedrock of continuing society (raising the next generation, who at their earliest stages are dependents). We have become so hung up on individual rights that we now think everything is about rights, including human biology. Nature doesn’t work according to our conceptions (pun intended) of human rights.

      Also, I think you’re implying that I said society would fall if gay marriage were allowed. I certainly didn’t claim that. In fact, I claimed the opposite — that society wouldn’t fall. That’s the whole thing about the message in those memes, photos, and clips: traditional marriage will not fall, but that’s because gay marriage isn’t actually marriage. And despite what the law might define as marriage, you can’t legislate human biology to change. Hetero sex produces kids, and kids are dependents needed nurture and raising. This is what the marriage institution has always been about. And we can’t change that biology. But we can’t pretend that there will be no repercussions at all if we change the legal definition, just as pretending that putting AFL players into the middle of a rugby league match would have no repercussions.

      Cheers!

      • some quick points:
        given enough bad players, ultimately interest will wane and the institution will cease to serve any functions. Otherwise the civilisations of Egypt, Greece, Rome etc would never have fallen.
        it does not take much research to discover that this “institution” is neither homogeneous or universal and in particular the nuclear family model really only came about in the especially affluent post war period and even then only amongst western/ anglo-saxon cultures. The bible itself has many variations on the theme. its hard to see how a thousand wives reflects the nature of God and whilst obviously the bible uses certain aspects of marriage to illustrate the nature of the relationship between God and man, this neither limits or defines marriage
        the insistence that marriage is primarily a biological construct to aid in producing offspring, ignores two factors. One that biologically speaking, in the animal kingdom, monogamous long term relationships are the exception rather than the rule and two, that we are the product of both nature and nurture and given our unique capacity for higher brain function, one would think that the scale may tip towards nurture. Paul also makes no mention of offspring when he tells us to simply get married if only to keep from sinning, and I am not even certain that human sexual reproduction was even mentioned in genesis until after we were kicked out of the garden and even then, more curse than blessing.
        irrespective of biology however, people do have a right to come together and live in any manner they see fit and use whatever word they desire to describe their relationship without fear of persecution or prosecution. This is the only reason we as Christians can continue to live the faith in relative safety, How can we then turn around and seek to deny this incredibly rare privilege to others. To say therefore that gay marriage is not marriage is at best dubious as what you are really saying is that you, as a gay person, cannot use the word, until you are able to come up with a viable reproductive method of your own, because I own it and insist that its only meaning is a union created primarily for reproduction, and I am deeply sorry for your pain in the meantime but you just have to live with it.
        At one stage the state enshrined a 70 hour working week, that is if you couldn’t actually afford slaves, The state cannot and should not be relied upon to enforce anything other than the status quo, especially given that lawmakers are only human, each with their own vested interests. The bedrock of our society is not institutions but human beings who sacrifice and suffer for others for the greater good. Institutions are ponderous monoliths that resist change irrespective of the damage they do and the good they potentially impede
        ttfn
        John

        • Again, I think there are number of misunderstandings there, John. I think you are still seeing an institution as something that derives from individual usage. That’s not an institution. That’s opinion and individual practice. In a democracy, which is based on rights (though I have a problem with that basic rights grammar), I have no right to tell someone who they can take to bed (I actually don’t even have the legal protection to say someone else can’t take my spouse to bed). But marriage is not about rights. We deny rights all the time. We don’t let minors get married, or blood relatives. To talk about rights is a straw man. The discussion needs to proceed on another basis. I’m arguing that marriage is never and has never been about rights. It’s been about an institution built around human biology and societal growth.

          Also, nowhere am I saying that I, as a heterosexual husband, own marriage. Again, the point of an institution is that it’s larger than the individuals within it. Gay couples can use the word marriage if they want, just as soccer players can call their game ‘rugby league’ or even ‘Squeemuch’ if they want. But it doesn’t change the nature of the institution. Soccer players have every democratic right to call their game whatever they like. But who cares about that right! Let’s examine what it is they’re actually playing.

          Also, yes, there are many variations on family in the Bible, but again I’m trying to look beyond the Bible to that which is common ground for all people, not just Christians. Marriage is not unique to Christians. That common ground, which is common to all human beings, is the biology that generates a new generation. I don’t care what animals do, whether they’re cockatoos, lions, bugs, or lemurs. I’m interested in an institution that has been common to human society since time immemorial. Sure, the nuclear family hasn’t always been the form, but the institution itself has always been predicated on human biology. It’s for that reason that I do not think gay couples can call their relationship ‘marriage’. Even if they do use that word, that does not actually change the nature of what they’re doing.

          Also, as I’ve said in other comments here, the motivation that people individually have for getting married aren’t usually the same as the purpose of the institution. I got married, for example, because I loved my fiancee, not because I wanted to generate a new generation of society. But that just goes to show that the institution is bigger than the people involved in it. Why does a person become a footy player? Is it promote the code of football? Probably not. Maybe he enjoys the game, maybe he wants fame, maybe he likes physical contests, maybe it’s coz it’s what his old man wanted him to do. But that in no way affects the nature of the game. Guess what a footy player is actually involved in? Football, and that’s the case despite his motivation for being involved and what he personally gets out of it. I get companionship and love out of my marriage, but if that’s all it was about, all I’d be involved in is a recognised partnership or friendship. But your marriage and mine have actually contributed to the growth of society, however imperfectly, and despite what our respective motivations were for getting married in the first place. The goal of the institution is over and above the motivation of individuals.

          I don’t want to deny gay couples their democratic right. I have no place in society to do that. But marriage isn’t really about rights. If it were, we should allow anyone to marry anyone. But the fact that we don’t tells us that rights is not what it’s about. To claim it is, is a false premise. I’m trying to determine the nature of marriage as an institution and see if the nature of gay relationships fits with that. It doesn’t. Therefore, gay couples actually do not need ‘marriage’ to achieve what they’re after. They need something else — something like partnership recognition. The claim that this is denying them a right is misunderstanding the nature of the marriage institution, and how rights relates (or don’t relate) to the issue.

          Cheers!

  6. Could you please explain, George, why it was cool for Solomon to have 700 wives, but two men or women who love each other and are committed to each other are an abomination? Polygamy is fine but homosexuality isn’t?

    I was raised to believe that love and respect are far more important in a relationship than what equipment the two people involved have. I have cousin who did not marry her husband until their oldest son was almost twelve, but they are more committed to each other than any other couple I can think of. She got pregnant approx. nine days into their relationship. What’s your opinion on that?

    Finally, I am a fertile woman of child-bearing age. I do not want children, and have never wanted them. Quite frankly, I think it would be irresponsible of me to bring a child into this world when there are so many who are already out there without good homes. Should I ever find myself wanting a child, I would go with adoption, hands down. However, does my refusal to procreate mean that I should never be granted the option of a legal marriage? Why or why not?

    Thanks!
    Lex

    • Fair questions, Lex. Thanks for asking (and doing so respectfully). Let me try to address each in turn.

      First, it’s definitely not cool that Solomon had 700 wives. In fact, it’s one of the things Solomon gets indicted for in the Bible. Also, Song of Songs in the Bible gives what I think is a good critique of polygamy. It argues that love and intimacy can only really be expressed in a monogamous relationship. Polygamy occurs in the Bible, but it’s not held up as a paradigm. The paradigm is, in fact, monogamous hetero relationship.

      Second, love and respect are, of course, integral to any relationship. But sexuality isn’t. I don’t need to have sex with someone to love and respect and care for them deeply, or even be committed to them. I love my friends, my family, my colleagues, and have a deep respect for them. But that does not automatically give a green light to a sexual relationship. Care and commitment does not require sex.

      Third, with regards to your friends, I don’t think it’s my place to stand in judgement over them. I will, however, laud commitment and marriage as great things.

      Fourth, you don’t need to have children for a marriage to be a marriage. I was not saying that. However, the fact that people hear me saying that demonstrates that we no longer really think about the institution of marriage as a social institution with a function. Rather, we only see it in terms of what individuals want to do. So ingrained has individualism become in us, we can’t really see things without individualism anymore. And that’s a pity. We’ve lost the sense of institution and the common good that marriage serves.

      The purpose of marriage as an institution (and that’s the critical word) is that its primary function is family creation within society. It gives legal space for a couple to have a family naturally. That’s not necessarily why people get married — I, for example, didn’t get married to have a family. I got married because I loved my wife. However, our marriage served a function beyond our personal relationship, which was to contribute new human beings to society. We didn’t need to get married to do that (we don’t legally have to anymore), but marriage itself serves that specific social purpose. It says, ‘Family is a good thing, and we will create particular space within society to foster it and support it.’

      The issue with same sex couples is that they cannot have a naturally engendered family. Inevitably, if a gay couple want a family, they need to take the children from another relationship. This is taking children away from the relationship that gave them their identity. And that automatically involves or implies a compromise or breakdown of normal/natural family elsewhere (one of the reasons, for example, why the acts that created the stolen generation were misguided — it took children away from their identifying family, and even though it was done with good motives, was still wrong). Like it or not, we need a male and a female involved in the production of a child. Gay couples, therefore, of necessity have to work outside the institution of marriage and the very thing marriage itself stands for: promotion of family. This is why I don’t think same sex relationships are actually marriages, even if we end up giving them that name. They compromise the very nature of the institution, of necessity. They’re civil unions of some sort, in which society says ‘we recognise you two have chosen to belong together’, but that’s not necessarily marriage. Flat mates could do that, too. A hetero couple, though, even one which doesn’t have a family naturally, are not *forced* to go outside the institution to create their family. And that’s the difference. Their relationship is still in line with the purpose of marriage. This then raises the issues of adoption and test tube babies, but they are separate issues to the marriage definition one.

      Cheers!

      • So you think that gay couples wanting families are stealing babies from healthy heterosexual couples…. I infer that from the following passage…. ” Inevitably, if a gay couple want a family, they need to take the children from another relationship. This is taking children away from the relationship that gave them their identity. And that automatically involves or implies a compromise or breakdown of normal/natural family elsewhere”

        That section clearly illustrates that you do not know anything about in-vitro or artificial insemination. There are a great number of homosexual couples who are raising children together. Those children are healthy and happy, according to all reports. I am not sure why you choose to believe otherwise. Do you mean to suggest that loving homosexual couples are less worthy of raising children than abusive heterosexual couples? There are far more of the latter than the former, I suspect…. In fact, I can provide modern examples of both of those types of families, if requested.

        In regards to your assertion that we need both a male and a female to create a child, you are correct. However, we do not need a male and a female to REAR that child. There has never been any evidence (that was not soon discredited) that gay couples produce children who are more maladjusted than straight couples. If you have some, I invite you to submit it to a scientific journal for verification.

        While I respect your right to believe what you wish, I must say that I find your opinions regarding homosexual couples incredibly offensive. They are nearly indistinguishable from the disgusting lies told about mixed-race couples back during the civil rights movement, and before.

        Finally, I am very confused as to why you think that the bible and it’s teachings should be held up as the teachings that the rest of the world should follow. Christianity is not practiced by the majority of the world, and it’s outdated guidelines have no more relevance than any other religion. So why should it be held up as the standard above all others?

        Regards,
        Lex

        • Whoa, Lex! You’ve misread the situation. Let’s slow down. I know you disagree with my perspective, but your comments suggest that you’ve also misunderstood some key points. Let me try to address some of these.

          First, I’m not suggesting that the Bible should be the legislation of the land. You asked about Solomon and his 700 wives, so I simply gave you a more rounded biblical picture — what the marriage paradigm of the Bible actually is: it’s not Solomon. You’ve then jumped from that to the conclusion that I think everyone should enshrine the Bible as prescriptive legislation. Sorry, but that’s an unfounded conclusion, Lex. You’ve misread me on that one. I recognise that not everyone shares my particular faith, and that we live in a democracy that allows for people of various faiths to live side by side and practise their faith or lack thereof. It’s a democracy we share. I’m not suggesting that we should impose the Bible as prescriptive legislation on our society. In any case, I’m not appealing to the Bible regarding the definition of marriage as an institution in our society. Marriage is something that is seen all over the world, not just in Christianity. As an institution it’s predicated on human biology, and so I’m trying to see things on that front.

          Second, I did not say that gay couples want to steal babies from healthy hetero couples. I’m sorry if I gave that impression, because that’s patently ridiculous! While there are some sick twisted people in our world, as I’m sure you’d agree there are, I don’t think gay couples want to steal children or that they’re conspiring to bring down society. I don’t question their motives on this. Rather, I’m saying that if a gay couple wants children, they have to source the children from outside their own relationship. This has to occur *of necessity* because the gay couple themselves cannot have their own children together. And this is not through some impediment (eg. infertility or old age), but is intrinsic to the nature of the gay relationship itself. The gay relationship cannot produce children by nature. Therefore, by nature, the gay relationship as an ‘institution’ (if I can borrow that term) is something that is different to the nature of marriage. This isn’t about whether gay people are justified in wanting children or not. It’s not about their motivation, or saying their desire for children is wrong. It’s about the nature of the relationship. The gay relationship is simply different by nature to the marriage relationship — just like a circle and its properties are different to a square and its properties. They can’t be interchanged.

          Third, your claim that I ‘do not know anything about in-vitro or artificial insemination’ is a bit puzzling. Actually, yes I do know about it, and know people who have availed themselves of it. I’m not sure why you would think I don’t know about it. It’s just a separate issue to a discussion about the definition of marriage. It’s related in some way, yes, and it’s a discussion worth having. But I don’t see it as defining the marriage institution. I’m happy to be persuaded otherwise, so if you have thoughts on how it defines the institution of marriage, please feel free to offer those thoughts. Either way, though, these medically assisted forms of conception still require a male and a female contributor, as you recognised. So even gay couples availing themselves of these technologies still have to go outside their own relationship.

          Fourth, I agree with you on the fact that you do not need a male and a female to rear a child — a child could be reared by any human being(s). But that doesn’t mean that anyone who rears children should be labelled as being in a marriage. Rearing children does not a marriage make. Whether it’s hetero couples, gay couples, grandparents, single mums or dads, flat mates, or siblings rearing children, that fact does not mean those people involved should be qualified as somehow married. Nor do people have to get married to have children. Nor is there any comment here about who raises children best. However, when people do get married, what society recognises them as having done is started a natural family. That’s the social institution of marriage. So the children born to those relationships are seen as belonging to those families. It’s about natural family generation — that’s the heart of marriage from society’s point of view. It may not be the prime consideration of the people who get married, but that’s confusing personal motivation with the definition of a social institution. It’s like confusing a footballer’s motivation for playing the game with the rules of the game. If, however, you say that an institution which is centred on family generation is now no longer about family generation, you’ve changed the nature of the institution. This is why I can’t see the logic of arguments that say redefining marriage to include same sex relationships will not change marriage. It has to. If we admitted that we wanted to change the nature of marriage, then I think the discussion could be more fruitful. By change, I’m not suggesting it means that all hetero couples will now get divorced (ridiculous!). It just means that the day we redefine marriage, we have actually changed what marriage is. We will have redefined it! I don’t know why we are in denial about this.

          Fifth, using the poor marriages that are out there (and yes, there are unfortunately a lot of them!) as reason for permitting same sex relationships to be called marriage is very odd. I don’t see how it affects the definition of marriage. It’s like saying that because there are some really bad drivers out there, we should allow children to drive, because some of them might just be better at it. But that’s missing the point. The institution and its purpose is not defined by the success/competencey of those who enter into it. The institution stands over and above the individuals within it, and serves a greater purpose in society.

          Finally, you likened my thoughts on the issue of homosexual relationships to the lies of interracial relationships of past eras. I’m sorry you see that, and I have to admit that particular accusation stings. Please hear me on this point: I am not against relationships of care. That people are well disposed towards each other and seek to love and support each other in society is a good thing. However, that point does not mean that every relationships of care should be sexual, or that marriage should be redefined as something other than what it has been. That is not a comment on the quality of people’s relationships: it’s rather about clarifying the nature of an institution. Marriage is an institution that is built around natural biology that produces children. If you have a non-child-producing relationship, I don’t see how that can be called marriage. It’s a different kind of relationship. I don’t think gay couples want to tear up hetero relationships, steal children, or conspire against the good of society, or anything like that. Rather, I don’t see how calling same sex relationships ‘marriages’ is achieving the kind of thing that gay couples are actually after. Instead, I think there are unwanted consequences that we aren’t considering. Being in denial over them won’t make those consequences go away.

          This debates stirs up a lot of emotion, Lex, as we can both attest. We obviously disagree with each other, and even unwittingly offend each other. But we do need to debate this, since marriage is an institution common to our society. I’m rather tired of the ‘shout ‘em down’ tactics that are often employed in the public forum whenever these issues are raised. I don’t think you’ve done that, Lex. While I believe some of your conclusions are unfounded, I don’t think you’re trying to quash discussion. But avoiding discussion or simply denying certain ideas isn’t really dealing with issues. Yes, our society is changing (it’s never really static), but our human biology isn’t. Therefore, an institution defined by human biology isn’t something we can just change by legislation or consensus. If we think we can, then we’re dealing with a completely different thing — something that isn’t marriage. In that case, I think what we’re dealing with is the definition of civil union, not marriage. But we’re in denial over this, too.

          • George, perhaps I have misinterpreted your statements, and if I have, I sincerely apologize. It’s not everyday that I get to converse with someone on this topic who is so respectful, and I thank you for that!

            First off, I agree that marriage is an institution, for lack of a better word, seen all over the world. Every culture has it’s own unique vision for what a marriage entails. Many cultures still believe that a marriage is little more than a property agreement between men, ie. a man (the father) gives a woman (his daughter) to a second man (her husband). She is her husband’s to control. I don’t agree with that, and it doesn’t seem that you would either. Most people agree that that concept is wrong. However, many people believe that allowing a woman any sort of freedom from male tyranny is ludicrous. So who is ultimately right? How should we decide which system of treatment of women is moral, and which isn’t? Maybe I AM a loose, pathetic woman who needs a man’s guidance! :) That is all I meant to say with regard to Solomon… How can we discount one system of marriage and not another? Who decides? And please don’t say “God”… :)

            Second, I did not mean to imply that you, personally, thought that gay couples stole children from straight couples, although I see how my previous response could be read that way. My apologies. I was simply extrapolating to a possible conclusion, however farfetched it may be! That said, I don’t believe that procreation is an intrinsic part of a marriage. Many straight couples (a number that, I believe, grows each year) get married, knowing full well that they never intend or can have children. Many straight couples have children/families, never intending to get married at all. However, in my opinion, these groups of people are entitled to all the same rights and respects afforded a married couple with 2 or 3 kids. The only difference is a piece of paper and a ceremony in front of family and friends. Further, I would like to quibble on one slight wording; I believe your statement in your third paragraph would be more accurately worded as ” The gay relationship is simply different by nature to the STRAIGHT relationship”. As it stands, many places have allowed gay marriage, and none have shown any proven negative differences between those and straight marriages. Although, that is simply my opinion on your chosen wording.

            Third, in regards to in-vitro and artificial insemination: Those two medical practices often result in the birth of a child, ie. procreation. You are right, a male’s and a female’s DNA came together to make that child. However, if your definition of procreation ends at birth, then the genders of the people raising that child should not matter in the slightest. If they did, I think we would see far more sperm donor “fathers” being held accountable by the courts for the children their donations helped create. I think we would also see far more children of same-sex couples turning out to be delinquents and criminals, troubled youths and community terrors. Neither of those is the case. In regards to your statement that these procedures are not really related to marriage, I disagree. They are as much related to marriage as procreation the “old-fashioned way” is.

            Fourth….. I wasn’t quite sure which way to go with my response on this front. After much consideration, I’m going to start with this: After Canada legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, I asked my grandmother what she thought about it. I don’t know what I expected, but it sure wasn’t the response she gave me. She said “I think it’s beautiful that every couple across the country can now enjoy all the same benefits and happiness that your grandfather and I have shared for the last 57 years”. Isn’t that what marriage should be about? Being able to love each other and take care of each other, no matter who you are? And having the respect of your community at the same time? Breaking this down into “marriage” and “civil unions” (or your preferred term) divides people. Allowing everyone who wishes it the joys of marriage and respect brings a community together.

            Fifth, marriage and it’s purpose are absolutely defined by the competency and success of those who enter into it. That’s called social influence. Social norms change over time. The change according to what the majority of people value and want. I don’t believe that a divorce down the street devalues my parents marriage, any more than I believe that a same-sex marriage next door does. I feel that way, because over the last 2 or 3 decades, society has spoken up and said that those are the values it has. No one is forced to agree with it. No one is forced to engage in the newly popular behavior. But to refuse to accept it as normal, when that’s what it is – a social norm – would be turning a blind eye to our ever-evolving society.

            Finally, the problem with your response to my interracial analogy, as I see it, is that many of the arguments you have just made to me are identical to ones made by people against interracial marriage decades ago. Back then, people believed that it would be abnormal for people of different races to create/raise children together. They claimed they would grow up confused or delinquent. They claimed that interracial marriage was against God. Now, many many years after interracial marriage became legal in the civilized world, none of those fears have been borne out by evidence. I have no reason to believe that anything else will be true 50 years from now of gay marriage.

            Canada, where I am from, legalized gay marriage eight years ago. Over those eight years, we have seen no ill-effects of that decision. There have been no children of gay parents running wild in the streets (no more than usual anyway!). No Christians suddenly turning from marriage because of same-sex unions. Very few non-fundamentalist churches have lost worshipers after their pastors started performing same-sex ceremonies. In short, it is business as usual for 99% of the country. In fact, our Conservative (ie. Republican) majority government has refused numerous times to reopen the debate on gay marriage, because it is a non-issue to the citizens of this country! Just some food for thought.

            Again, I apologize if I caused offense with my previous response, and assure you it was not intended. I agree, this is an emotional issue. I tend to get emotional when I feel a group of people are being discriminated against for something they could no more change than their shoe size. And I don’t believe that very many of my conclusions are unfounded. Most have been easily verified through scientific study and years of observational evidence. The ones on which I spoke to harshly I have taken back or amended above, of course.

            Take care, George!
            Lex

            • Lex, thanks for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully. I appreciate it very much. A couple of final comments. I do see marriage as integrally connected to procreation. This doesn’t mean that every couple who is married needs to procreate, but the institution itself, which serves that social function that is above the individual intentions of particular couples, is centred on human biology. The fact that gay relationships cannot by nature procreate means logically that they can’t be classified as part of an institution that serves that purpose.

              I think what is happening in the Western World is actually a move away from marriage and towards a different institution, namely civil unions, which have little or nothing to do with procreation. That is, these days we think marriage is actually civil union – the coming together of two individuals (whatever sex they happen to be). This is, I think, your own working definition of marriage (correct me if I’m wrong on that). But I think that’s confusing and unfortunate. Everything you say makes sense to me if it were talking about civil unions, but it doesn’t make sense to me with regards to the institution of marriage. Your working definition, which I believe is the working definition of many people now, is actually a critical shift from what marriage actually is. I suspect the shift has come about because of the sexual revolution which made contraception commonplace. As a result, we now tend to separate family from sexual relationships completely, seeing them as very different spheres. Biologically, however, they are actually just two sides of the same coin. And marriage has been our social institution for privileging this biological fact within society. Now it appears we only want to look at one side of the coin, but we need to recognise that this is a critical shift. To keep calling this marriage is a misnomer, and to think that there will be no repercussions is I think shortsighted.

              In short, we’ve mislabelled civil unions as ‘marriage’. I think that’s unfortunate, because it means we have replaced an institution that is centred on natural family generation with a completely different institution that serves a completely different purpose, while still trying to convince ourselves that nothing has changed. While we may not see many repercussions of this immediately, I have little doubt that we eventually will, some positive, some negative. I note that in Canada, for example, some church celebrants have been taken to court for refusing to ‘marry’ gay couples. In part I think this problem could be overcome if we realised that what many people want these days is not marriage but civil union. Then people wouldn’t be labelled as bigots or taken to court because they work with the actual definition of marriage, and don’t want to contravene their own faith that focuses on marriage rather than civil union. I have been called a bigot many times by people, and yet they refuse to listen to my reasons for defending the ‘traditional’ view of marriage. I am being held to account for the fact that their definition has changed. Will this stop if/when same sex marriage is legalised? I doubt it. In fact, it will be exacerbated, I suspect. I will continue to be misunderstood, vilified, and I expect even taken to court for refusing to call civil unions ‘marriages’. I don’t wish ill on people. I don’t think gay people are less human than straight (shock horror!), less deserving of love, respect, or everything else that makes for flourishing human life. But because I maintain marriage is marriage and not civil union, I am vilified and people take offence at me. On the non-personal front, I think this confusion of marriage with civil union will have repercussions both socially and legally for families, both in terms of the definition of family, legalities pertaining to biological and non-biological parents, and the like. These issues will come in time.

              Anyway, I appreciate the discussion, Lex. It’s a breath of fresh air, actually, to be able to discuss this in a civil (excuse the pun) manner. :P

              Cheers!

        • Dear Lex.
          regarding your comments concerning the bible/Christianity, the entire western world, whether you like it or not, agree with or not, is based on the morals, ethics values and teachings of Christianity. By and large, the western world is considered the most successful, wealthier, safer, more respectful of human rights, and the one to aspire to. Whilst the western world does not have the
          greatest population, the one thing it does uniquely have, is a long history of
          Christian influence. You would be spitting in the wind if you were to deny this correlation, I respectfully suggest therefore, that being Christian, is better for both you, and society in general.
          I don’t personally have any problem with Gay marriage and I think its unfortunate that George seems to value institutions above people, which makes it difficult to convey the deep love that God has for all people (so much so that He allowed His only son to be sacrificed for our sake). George does not understand that without people there would be no institutions, nor does he acknowledge that institutions are created by people to accommodate particular needs, not to oppress or enslave one another. Besides which, why should heterosexuals be the only ones to suffer in the bonds of matrimony.
          Regarding children however, it makes sense that a male and female should participate in both the conception and rearing. You have to go pretty far back along the evolutionary ladder before you start finding exceptions to this heterosexual model and as such, it makes sense, (unless of course you believe heterosexuality is a biological dead end), that the preferred model involves one of each sex. We are a magnificent species and we have developed many cures to many diseases, even infertility, but we should not necessarily use what we are able to do, to cloud arguments about who should or should not get married
          with respect
          John Alexiadis

          • John, I’ve never said the institution of marriage exists without people. The idea is silly! Rather, I’ve said that marriage exists with a purpose that serves society, and this is so whether the couple themselves realise it or not. In other words, whatever the reason that individual decide to get married, their marriage actually has a social function that plugs into the whole of society. This means marriage is bigger than just a relationship between two people — it’s about two people contributing to society. That’s what an institution is. It’s not about steamrolling people. It’s about people realising that their actions in marrying are actually bigger than they might think.

            • Hi George,
              you definitely said that the “institution” of marriage is more important than the motives of the people getting married. Married people’s contribution to society is not always defined by their offspring. In fact many people have contributed much to society despite their offspring. Some have even contributed as married people, even though they have no children at all. You also said, pretty much, that the purpose/contribution of marriage to society was that of “creating a legal space” in which to procreate but also that “children do not a marriage make”, this seems to me to be a fairly contradictory couple of statements Also and finally, I still don’t know where you are getting your definition of marriage from. Is there some piece of legislation somewhere that gives the legal definition?
              Yours in Christ
              John

              • John, the institution of marriage is more important than the motives of the people getting married when it comes to the social function of the institution. The fact is, we have come to view marriage as nothing more than a civil union, and therefore we tend to be blind or ignorant to the fact that marriage has this other social function. And it occurs whether the people getting married realise it or not.
                Also, rearing children doesn’t make a marriage. If it did, we’d have a lot more marriages around us. So, rearing children does not serve marriage. But marriage does serve the generation and rearing of children. That’s the direction in which it works. Let’s put the horse in front of the cart, John. Cheers!

                • What is this “other” social function that occurs without people realizing it? How could we possibly have “a lot more marriages around us”? I have to confess I have absolutely no idea what you mean by what you have just said. I have no idea how to reconcile saying that marriage is for having babies, as you clearly do by denying marriage to anyone who does not have at least the intention of having children, with your last statement, rearing children does not serve…As for the direction in which it works, perhaps in a perfect universe there would be no single mothers or sterile adults and people would understand that it really does “take a village”. Perhaps the real problem is we over value the mother, father and two and a half children ideal so much that we forget that we are all part of the greater family of man (children of Adam, descendants of Abraham) and that our immediate biological family is only for this world
                  regards
                  John

                  • John, the social function is contributing new humans to society. This is what the state is interested in when it comes to marriage. It creates space for a family to grow, and the state sponsors the family in a legal way through the institution of the marriage on which it is based. This is why marriage is a social thing, and not just a private personal thing. Family is important to the concept of marriage. As you say, a village is involved in child rearing (theoretically). However, a child does not get her core unchangeable identity from the village, but from her biological parents. A child will grow and be influenced by many factors within the village, but the biological parents make the child in the first place. Marriage is society’s way of saying ‘we want to encourage family generation because we think the human race is worth proliferating’. You don’t need marriage to do achieve the generation of family, but marriage itself certainly serves that function.
                    The issue of rearing children and marriage, then, is the difference between purpose and inauguration. Rearing children does not inaugurate a marriage. A consenting male and a consenting female inaugurate a marriage by getting married. They don’t inaugurate a marriage by having children. But the purpose of marriage from society’s perspective is not just to bring two people together (to inaugurate the marriage), but to create a family (a purpose that lies beyond the inauguration). Therefore, when the state recognises that a marriage has been inaugurated, it has recognised that a family can spring from that particular family, and the children within that family are acknowledged as having received their identity from the married partners. It’s a legal-social mechanism for acknowledging officially the working of biology.
                    Let me give you an analogy. A bunch of people put on the same jersey because they have come together as a football team. What’s the purpose of the team? To play football. Once the players are in their jerseys, you can say “There’s the team!” Even before kickoff, you can say that. But the point of the team is to play football. Each player might have their own personal reason for playing (“I love the game!” “I enjoy the camaraderie.” “My dad played football.” “I do it for fitness.” etc.) But each of those personal reasons is subordinate to the rule and purpose of the game. So marriage can be recognised before the generation of children from the moment the two people involved get married (‘put on the jersey’). But the purpose of marriage from society’s point of view is to produce family (‘play football’).
                    Now, let’s inject a cricket team into the picture. They play sport, they’re good at it, they’re recognised professionals, and their motivation for playing is the same as those on the football team. But they play a different game. There’s no such thing as ’6-over football’ or ‘tackle cricket’. They’re two totally different games. So it is with gay relationships and marriage relationships. There’s a lot in common, but they are fundamentally different. Despite the commonalities, they can’t be in the same competition. You invent something completely different (maybe ‘Hurling’?) when you try to combine them.
                    Cheers!

          • John,

            While I agree with your point about Christianity being the majority influence over the modern, Western world, that has only been the case for the last 2000 years or so. The world, other than the West even, has been around much much much longer than that! Christianity, to this day, is a very tiny influence on many Asian and African cultures. Not to mention the division between the Catholic and Protestant faiths, etc. To think that 2000 years of conquering and forced eradication of old-world faiths means that Christianity should be the deciding moral compass for any part of the world seems a tad silly to me.

            You also do not have to go very far back at all. Mostly because, until (comparatively) recently in human history, humans raised their children as a community or village. Instead of one mom and one dad, kids had many of each! There has been much written on the benefits of this kind of lifestyle for the raising of children. It is still practiced in many societies around the world, notably Asian and Hispanic ones.

            “we should not necessarily use what we are able to do, to cloud arguments about who should or should not get (TO VOTE)”

            “we should not necessarily use what we are able to do, to cloud arguments about who should or should not get married (TO WHITE PEOPLE)”

            It is very easy to forget that almost everyone has been marginalized or persecuted at one point. We can not do it one group without condoning it against all groups. (I know you said you a re not against gay marriage, and I am happy about that. Hopefully the above examples may… enlighten others?)

            Regards,
            Lex

            • Lex,the only thing I disagree with you about is your uderating of the influence Christianity has had. If you really think that the western world and its Christian values is not superior to the rest of the world, then you must have some damn good reason to explain why the vast majority of refugee traffic is towards the west. And as for the 2000 years thing, I would have thought it was sadly far to long a time in which to develop the freedoms we now enjoy, the other, much older cultures, do not have anywhere near the standards of living, or personal and religious freedoms that we are able to enjoy because of Christian teaching on love and tolerance towards the “alien”. Perhaps you need to go and enjoy some of the freedoms and tolerance that is dished out in Islamic states, particularly towards women and homosexuals, in order to start appreciating what we actually take for granted, and actually belittle here, No I don’t think its a tad silly at all to feel that we are better off, I will admit of course, that bad things have still been perpetrated by those with the best intentions, but compare them to the great atheists of recent history, Stalin,
              Hitler. Poll Pot, whoever is in charge of China (have you forgotten about Tiananmen square already), then you start seeing things with a more accurate perspective. There is much more I could add but the bottom line is that even if you don’t believe in God at all, you need to be at least a little bit grateful that you live in a culture where Christian values predominate
              Kind Regards
              John

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