There has been much hullabaloo made by the Tea Party advocates, religious fundamentalists, and other groups, claiming that marriage is sacred. They use the “sanctity of marriage” call as the reason why we should not legalize gay marriage (a clear violation of the principle of separation of church and state.) Yet, we have many Hollywood marriages where celebrities marry for convenience, money (e.g., the Kardashian marriage), publicity, etc. Marriage makes good press! And these sanctity of marriage groups say absolutely nothing. (A bit of hypocrisy, no?)
These groups view marriage as sacred and divinely inspired, i.e., holy matrimony. The question discussed in this post is whether marriage is in practice sacred.
The dictionary definition of sacred is:
- Connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration: “sacred rites”.
- Religious rather than secular.
Until roughly the middle of the 16th century marriage was decided upon by mutual consent of the parties. It was largely a civil agreement. Subsequently, the Catholic church made marriage a sacrament. It wasn’t until the Protestant Reformation that some, not all (e.g., Quakers), Protestant sects decided to make marriage sacred. However, in the non-Christian world today, marriage remains a secular affair. In fact, recorded legal marriages did not occur until approximately the 18th century.
The majority of the world’s population do not consider marriage sacred. It is a secular activity in which people agree to certain obligations toward one another. It is simply a contract. And, as attested to by the increasingly rising divorce rates, a contract that is easily dissolved.
The underlying issue in this debate is whether the United States should become a religious state, similar to Israel, Iran, and other religious based countries in the world. We continue to hear arguments from the right wing fundamentalists that we are in fact a Christian state and the government should make laws based on the Christian beliefs of the vocal minority.
My contention is that the institution of marriage is not sacred; it is secular. Governments sanction marriage in order to collect census data and to regulate the institution. Governments should not be in the business of sanctifying relationships. And laws should not be based on religious beliefs.
Some people may wish their marriage to be sacred and to be sanctified by their religious organizations; but this should be in addition to the legal marriage that is state regulated. People should not be forced to consider their marriage sacred simply because they decided to legalize their relationship.
Once we acknowledge that marriage is secular and legal, then it is easy to understand how and why celebrities can marry for whatever their reasons, divorce at will, and why it should be simple matter to acknowledge gay marriages. Marriage is what people want to make of it, not what religious institutions say it is.
[Dr. Dreyfus is a nationally recognized clinical psychologist, relationship counselor, sex therapist, and life coach in the Santa Monica - Los Angeles area treating low sexual desire, premature ejaculation, sexual addictions and relationship communication and intimacy issues. The profits from his latest book, LIVING LIFE FROM THE INSIDE OUT along with his other five books, are being donated to charity through the website Book Royalties for Charity and can be purchased through Amazon.com. Please become a fan on his Facebook Fan Page by indicating "like" on the page by clicking here. You can also find more tools to help you experience a more fulfilling life by clicking here to visit his website.]