Friday, September 18, 2009

No, Secularism Is Not Saving Marriage

Oliver Thomas' religion column in USA Today, "Is secularism saving marriage," is mostly wrongheaded.

Thomas' premise is that marriage should have disappeared in postmodern America, since it is so confining and patriarchal and permanent. Marriage seems to be coming back. How do we explain this mystery, Thomas asks? It must be that men have learned to be more egalitarian and intimate from secular society. Secularism helps people delay marriage without delaying sex, which is healthy. Thus, secularism is saving marriage from religion.

No. Religious people have longer and stronger marriages. Grownups of all kinds, religious and otherwise, know that the greatest social value of marriage is not the intimacy it fosters between adults, but the permanent team it creates between them to raise children. Religious marriages are, on average, more intimate and more mutual. Religious people are more likely to get married in their mid-twenties, the optimal time, rather than delaying for their careers until they are so set in their single ways that it is hard to make a permanent team. The secular emphasis on getting my individual way in all things undermines marriage.


SHE said...

I agree that secularism is not what is saving marriage, but would you agree that its emphasis on gender equality (women not constrained to being submissive to husbands, men not the only protector and provider,etc...) makes marriages happier (at least for women)? Religion's emphasis on commitment to one another and duty to raise children seems to make marriage last longer and, ideally, doesn't even allow the option of divorce to enter the minds of the couple when dealing with problems. So would it be fair to say that religion and secularism go hand and hand to save marriage because religion protects the quantity and secularism supports the quality?

Gruntled said...

I entirely agree that it is a good thing that women are not constrained to be submissive to husbands and that men are not obliged to be the only protector and provider. Most religious people and religious institutions in the developed world have come to accept this. They were pushed to do so by the feminist movement. But the feminist movement is not primarily run by secularists. The points named above are not secular.

I think we are in agreement here, and in disagreement with Oliver Thomas.