Marriage Part 2: Marriage is described not defined

When I hear some people speak of marriage, it is as if some committee sat down many years ago and decided to set up an institution that discriminated against certain people or as a legal entity for the benefit of men. This is not the case, of course, it has evolved or developed over time. (Or as I believe, was created by God.)

Some other people like to see marriage as a “cultural construct.” This implies that people (within their culture) have created marriage. If marriage is indeed a “cultural construct” then it would follow that we can indeed reconstruct it in some way that is acceptable to the dominant culture. The problem of course for such marriage “constructivists” is that marriage (at least until recent reconstructions) has miraculously constructed itself the such similar ways* across every single culture**.

Marriage exists as a result of a biological and psychological reality. We can use words to describe it, we can construct rules and traditions around it, but to think that we change its basic nature is to show that we don’t actually have a grasp of the reality of what marriage is.

* Many cultures of course accept polygamy as a form of marriage. It should be noted a man with two wives (as an example) typically is involved in two separate but concurrent marriages. This in no way detracts from my argument that marriage exists as a result of a biological and psychological reality.
** I note that in discussion threads on various forums that some people note that some cultures in older times other forms of relationships have been established and even recognised in a way that is similar to marriage. We need to be careful when including these in current debates around marriage as some of them are miniscule exceptions to the overwhelming norm, while others are simply not acceptable forms of relationship by any current standard.

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Marriage Part 1: Yes I am informed by God on marriage

It would be a bit misleading if I didn’t come straight out and state that I am informed by God on marriage. Apologies straight up … I am no great theologian … what is below is just my simple understanding.

Marriage is the first human to human relationship described in the bible. Now I do not personally believe in a literal Adam and Eve, but I do read truth from Genesis in that God created us to be in a relationship with him and each other and that a man will leave his mother and father and become joined to his wife and the two will become “one flesh.”  This implies a sexual relationship and it implies reproduction. It also implies that the man completes the woman just as the woman completes the man. The relationship is complimentary not symmetrical. It is not implied that sex in marriage must only be for the purposes on procreation.

This theme continues throughout the bible and I think that being a Christian, there are some extras that I need to include in my marriage which those of you who are not Christian need not worry too much about. Needless to say the extras are probably not politically correct in this day and age, being that imply different roles for men and women.

Of course all this will lead to some to ask “why should my opinion be forced on others?” especially considering my opinion is based so heavily in religion. I will make two contentions:

  1. My contentions on marriage in particular could be arrived at through “secular thinking”. My religion describes marriage it does not define it. I would argue that God defines marriage, an atheist could argue a similar concept of marriage and say that it has evolved the way it has.
  2. The other question I will ask is, if a religious persons opinion should be discarded, under what rational basis does one do so? What logical argument has ever been posited that proves that an irreligiously informed opinion by default supersedes a religiously formed opinion?

What is marriage?

Is is apparent that marriage is very much up for grabs at the moment. Or at least how we want it to be enshrined in law at any rate.

Part of me wants to go with the flow on this one … this affects people close to me … but another part of me is saying “Whoa! Think carefully and critically about this … this is no small thing that we do.”

Someone much more thoughtful than me has framed this question. I think it will (with intended bias) help answer the question.

I can think of no culture throughout history that has not had some sort of form of marriage. If humans were asexual (meaning that an individual can reproduce) do you think that any of these cultures would have developed this thing we call marriage?

What do you think? What is marriage?

Offending the offenders

Stephen Conroy asked YouTube to take this down. NSW MLC, Shaoquett Moselmane wants to introduce religious anti vilification laws. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah insisted that whole world should enforce-ably respect his prophet. What should we do?

There are many things I could say, movies I could make, ideas I could propose that would even today cause an uproar. People would perhaps get angry, protest, call me names, try to discredit what I have said … and that is OK with me.

Historically speaking this has not always been the case. People have not always been free to speak their mind. They have been detained, “re-programmed”, threatened, beaten and even killed. There are places in the world were this is still the case.

Throughout history, many people have worked, argued, protested, used violent means and even died in order to move towards the freedoms we have in Australia today. Our culture has changed in line with this movement. There are things I could say today that fifty years ago would have caused great angst, which today people cheer. Even more so, when it does come to someone saying something offensive, it is generally met with little more aggression than a verballing.

This is why the violence over the weekend shocks us, but it probably shouldn’t. We should always be willing to accept that from time to time our freedom will be challenged and this challenge may in fact be violent. Some of us might even die. I am not saying this is a good thing, just a realistic thing to anticipate.

We should constantly work to mitigate this violence. We should work hard to prevent it from happening again. However, if we do this by protecting the offenders from being offended, we are deceiving ourselves. If we put the group that used violence against us beyond any form of scrutiny that may offend them, then we have weakened ourselves and we in no way honour the victims that lay on the bloody path that led us to the freedoms we do have.

A FEW ASIDES:

  • I do not like it very much when people say offensive things about Jesus. Sometimes I even speak out in his defence, there may even be anger in my voice, but never would I react in a violent way. Perhaps if Muslims around the world reacted in the same way this storm would still be in the tea-cup it belongs in.
  • I watched the film in question. Apart from  it being offensive in production quality, I can also accept that it is offensive toward the prophet Mohammed. If the person(s) who made it did so for the express purpose of offending then they are immoral and should themselves consider the withdrawal of the video clip from YouTube. If they are claiming that it is an attempt at depicting some sort of  historical truth then it is up to Islamic apologists to  rebut the video in a rational manner.
  • Even if the sole purpose of the video was to offend, then the maker of the video is still in no way responsible for the violent and deadly reaction against unrelated third-parties.

I’m intolerant of “intolerance of intolerance”

I have been accused of being intolerant on a few occasions. I’ll have to admit that it is true. It is good to be intolerant at times. There are things in this world that I don’t agree with and do not believe should be allowed to happen. There are also things that others may be ok with, that I personally do not tolerate in my own life.

In engineering terms, that which sits within the range of tolerance is that which is allowable and conducive to the integrity of the system. Any value outside of the range of tolerance is thus because it could be (or is) destructive to the system. Within the tolerance range is often an ideal or optimum subset which means that the system will perform at its peak.

As a member of the human race each of us needs be tolerant and intolerant. There is a time and a place for both. Whether you should be tolerant or intolerant on any point and how you express the choice you make is up to you, but it is an important one because it will affect the way in which you relate to others. The important difference between human tolerance and engineering tolerance is that the things we like, our ideals, we do not need to tolerate them. I don’t tolerate my first coffee every morning, I love it. I tolerate the traffic on the way to work and if I miss that first cup of coffee at home I tolerate the poor excuse for coffee that the machine spits out at work.

The problem is that some people in the community have adopted tolerance as some sort of virtue. It is as if being able to tick the “I am a tolerant person” box makes you a better person. It follows that if tolerance is good, then intolerance must be bad …. Ok let’s face it, it is downright immoral. Which means that if I am to be tolerant then I cannot abide with intolerance which means that I have to add an exception two the “intolerance is bad rule” which leads people like Catherine Deveny to say something  like “I’m intolerant of intolerance” on Q&A.

This is a bit difficult for me because I have a preference for being rational – but let us follow this a bit further now…..

I am personally intolerant of nuts, I just don’t like them. I have however tolerated nuts for the sake of others, like when they made something for me without knowing I don’t like them and they put nuts in it. I am tolerant of others eating nuts in my presence or extolling the virtues of nuts, except in my own house for the sake of my anaphylactic daughter.

You see tolerance in and of itself is neither a good nor bad thing. Yet for some it seems, it is acceptable to hijack the word “intolerant” and turn it into an negative association, an ad hominem for others that they are in fact intolerant of.

That is why I am calling for everyone to be intolerant of “intolerance of intolerance”.

UPDATE:

I did originally link this post directly to Catherine Deveny’s website. I have removed that link due to my intolerance! It is not so much her further comments against Peter Jensen referring to him as a “creepy ‘gentleman with manners'”, it is the public insinuations and degrading comments she makes about her own son that really get me.

Inverse Equality

There seems to me to have been a shift in the usage of the word equality lately. I am not speaking of logical equality, but of human equality.

From a logical point of view, when I am writing a computer program, I evaluate two different entities to determine if their value is the same. If the value of these two is the same then I can perform any set of actions; otherwise if they are not the same I can perform a different set of actions. Logical equality is only relevant if I want to use that equality (or lack thereof) to determine a branch within a procedure.

A strong basis for equality is famously described in the United States Declaration of independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Even though it uses a specific gender and although we can debate whether or not the people at the time felt it applied to slaves, the vibe is that it speaks to humanity. Unlike logical equality, “human entities” are given equal value. Their value is not tested for equality. Their value is assumed to be equal. One human is “equal” to another.

When discussing marriage this week in the Sydney Morning Herald, a significant number of people did not like Peter Jensen’s point that: men and women are different and therefore it is appropriate for them to have different vows. Many were posting that men and women are in essence the same. Thus they should have the same vows otherwise they somehow lack equality.

I really think they miss the point. The reason why Thomas Jefferson felt the need to say “all men are created equal” is that while all people are created equal, they are also created different. There is a real thrust behind much of the “equality language” at the moment which seeks to achieve a level of sameness by discounting difference. We seem to be seeking equality by deceiving ourselves. By defining difference out of the equation we lie to ourselves and we are going about it topsy-turvy.

Equality is a given (in my opinion by God), not something to be achieved. Therefore we should treat others as if they are our equals and respect any differences we have. We should not be redefining others to be like us (or us to be like others) in order to achieve equality.

Marriage is considering divorce

Removing my ring from my finger hurt me, so I hope you appreciate this photo.

Watching Q&A is something that I like to do. Virginia Trioli conducted the panel this week and at one point asked this:

Why does it matter so much to you people what one couple down the road might do if they decide to shack up together? Why do you believe that it is going to unpick the entire institution of marriage? I know gay couples who are together they have nothing to do with my marriage what so ever. “

Without commenting too much about the wording and tone of the question, I would like to look into this line of questioning from a different point of view. The question is unfair in as much as it contains implicit parameters which need to be unpacked and agreed to before the actual questions can be discussed. The Q&A format does not allow for this type of in depth analysis.

The question contains a hint of what Virginia thinks marriage is, or more to the point what marriage is not. It seems to me, that those who want marriage, but are currently unable to have it, spend a lot of time telling us what marriage is not.

The whole debate around marriage involves separating marriage from things that been associated with it up until we have been told otherwise. Why do I believe that is going to unpick the entire intuition of marriage? Because that is exactly what we are doing already!

I wonder if the separation rhetoric will actually have an impact on marriage in reality.

I wonder if we actually do change marriage will we realise that we have divorced marriage from many of the things that make it desirable?

We are not dealing with the rumble … just moving it elsewhere.

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We are not dealing with the rumble … just moving it elsewhere.

I used to drive down the road that I now live on as part of my daily commute. Traffic on the road was a problem. It would take ages to get past what is now my house. All the roads in my local area would become clogged. The government came up with a “solution”. They built a motor way. The traffic in my suburb is now significantly reduced from what it was.

But that didn’t really address the problem. It just moved it away from my direct line of sight. If I go outside in the morning I can hear the low rumble from the motorway. It doesn’t bother me though because that low rumble is an acceptable compromise from my point of view.

They are upgrading the motorway at the moment. You see, it wasn’t actually a very good “solution”. But even upgrading it is only going to move the rumble to somewhere else. It doesn’t deal with the rumble. It just means I am going to have to listen harder to hear it.

Right now Australia is hearing the rumble of a different kind of traffic. We are looking for a solution. But all we can really hope for is to move the rumble further away, to make it harder to notice. I actually think that is all that most people really want. The rumble makes us uncomfortable. It is the rumble of footsteps on a path of despair. Just like living too close to the rumble of vehicles will lower our property values, we fear that this other rumble will somehow take away the value that we have built up for ourselves.

I propose a different “solution”. My solution is that there is no solution. That instead we should cope with the rumble. We should even embrace it. We should bring the rumble close to us so that we can watch it and take care of it rather than pushing it closer to the edge of disaster.