The Day My Life Changes Forever

Today is my wedding day. My atheist bride and I are having a very simple ceremony at the courthouse this afternoon with only my parents and her grandparents in attendance and a modest wedding reception on Sunday afternoon to celebrate with the rest of our family and friends. Then we're ready to spend the rest of our lives together! For the longest time, I thought this day might never come, but my soon-to-be wife came into my life almost seven months ago and has since surprised me with her affection, devotion and love. I hope to prove myself worthy of her and make her happy each and every day that I'm fortunate enough to find myself with her. This is, of course, a very happy time for me, but I still have time to reflect on the influence of religion on marriage.

My younger sister is also engaged to be married and she and her fiancé are currently doing the pre-marriage counseling with a priest at her parish. When she mentioned to him earlier this week that I was getting married rather quickly, he asked whether anyone had talked to me about my decision. If someone who knew me well had suggested this, I would be open to listening to them. If someone who doesn't know me well but who has plenty of marital experience suggested it, I would be slightly annoyed but not upset. But for someone who doesn't really know me and who has voluntarily vowed never to have any romantic relationship to presume give me unsolicited advice about marriage is absurd. This is a man who believes that he can never have sex, masturbate nor even entertain sexual thoughts without incurring the wrath of his supposedly all-loving god and he thinks he's qualified to advise me about the woman I love simply because he's studied ancient mythology and received an official title. I'm a proud apostate and I resent the church's attempted interference in my life.

Since my bride doesn't yet have permanent residency in the United States, right now the primary advantage of getting married is that she can apply for a green card fairly easily once our marriage is official. At this time, I think of people who don't enjoy this right: same-sex couples. When opponents of gay marriage make the argument that homosexuals don't really need legal recognition of their relationships, I will always think of this clear example that shows them how mistaken they are. Same-sex couples in our situation more often end up separated by oceans because they have no way to ensure they can be in the same country. This is just another instance of religion causing needless suffering.

I'm looking forward to sharing all of my future joys and sorrows with my godfree wife. It will be easier to nurture our marriage working strictly within the parameters of reality, without any concern for fairy tales and sky spirits.



Why Religious Belief Matters

Whenever someone criticizes religious belief, almost invariably they're confronted with the question of why they care what other people believe. The best response to this is that beliefs often translate into actions. Sometimes religious belief motivates benevolence such as charitable activities – and even that is frequently tainted by proselytism – but it can equally well motivate malevolence such as holy wars, inquisitions and terrorism. While these evils are almost completely absent from modern Christianity, a week ago in the United States we witnessed the very real power that religion still wields to inflict suffering on society with the passage of more laws against same-sex marriage across the country, most notably Proposition 8 in California but also Amendment 2 in Florida, which won by a twenty-four percent margin in a swing state carried by the supposedly most liberal Democratic presidential candidate in history.

I have clear political opinions on many different topics, but my strongest views generally relate to those issues in which religion is a major component to one side's arguments: same-sex marriage, sex education and church-state separation. Note that I don't necessarily think these are the most important issues, just the easiest to decide which side to support. Other issues I care strongly about, such as universal healthcare, are complicated matters about which people can disagree for purely secular reasons. But the above issues only exist because of religion.

The nonreligious community, for example, overwhelming supports same-sex marriage, for there are no good secular arguments against extending full rights to every person to marry whomever they wish. Undoubtedly, there are some bigots who would voice opposition to same-sex marriage even in a world without religion but not enough to matter politically. Religion gives bigots moral cover and even pressures otherwise liberal-minded people to align with them. When I was devoutly religious, I fell into the latter category. I had nothing against homosexuals in general – even if I felt somewhat uncomfortable around the most open of them – but from what the Catholic Church teaches, I believed God demanded I oppose it or risk eternal damnation! Upon my deconversion, I immediately changed to support civil unions and very soon after to full same-sex marriage. I believe that most opposition to same-sex marriage would dissolve immediately if religion were to magically disappear, especially since churches are behind almost all the organized opposition.

That will never happen, of course, but if we can convince people to stop believing altogether, to adopt more liberal religious beliefs or simply to take their beliefs less seriously, then the result would probably be a freer, more equitable and most just society. I don't recommend that you begin criticizing religion unless you want to, but if you enjoy it like I do, then don't let anyone convince you that you're wrong to do so.



Sex, Race, Religion and Ideology

I don't know whether the same or similar patterns hold true in other countries, but I've noticed three facts about American political and religious demography which, when considered in conjunction, puzzle me:

(1) White males are statistically more conservative than the general population.
(2) Atheists are statistically more liberal than the general population.
(3) A disproportionate number of atheists are white males.

I don't have even a conjecture to explain these seemingly incongruous statements. I'm really just wondering out loud. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment.



Election Reflections

I'm very pleased the country and Florida went blue. Part of northeast Florida even turned purple while the rest ended up a slightly lighter shade of red. Duval County was essentially even, with McCain winning by only a single point after Bush carried it by sixteen points twice. I'm greatly relieved we avoided the national disaster waiting to happen with Sarah Palin anywhere near the White House.

I'm equally disappointed the “marriage protection” constitutional amendment, which bans same-sex marriages and civil unions even though it's already outlawed by four statutes, passed 62 percent to 38 percent, breaking the sixty-point threshold necessary for adoption. I'm not surprised it received a majority, but I was hoping it would fall a few points short. There are still too many bigots in this state and the rest of the country. This is the biggest reason I hate religion.

Congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama!