Marriage—Designed for Procreation?

Christianity and atheismThe most popular argument against same-sex marriage from Christians that I see is that the purpose of marriage is procreation. (It makes me wonder if the only advice they would give a couple considering marriage would be about sex positions and lubricating oils.)

Where did this idea come from?! My guess is that a couple of Christian strategists had a conversation something like this.

First Guy: We’ve got to find some way to differentiate same-sex marriage from straight marriage.
Other Guy: Yeah—some significant difference.
First Guy: So what would a gay marriage not be able to do that a straight marriage can?
Other Guy: Let’s see—they can love each other, they can support each other through difficult times …
First Guy: They can provide sexual satisfaction, they’ll have two incomes in many cases …
Other Guy: Hey, wait a minute—they can’t make babies!
First Guy: Sure, that’s it! Let’s just spin it to imagine that that’s the sole purpose of marriage!
Other Guy: The sole purpose? But what about all that other stuff?
First Guy: Whatever—the argument just has to be plausible at first glance. It doesn’t have to actually make sense.

Seriously? Is that all you get out of the marriage vows? “I promise to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, in joy as well as in sorrow,” and so on doesn’t sound like “Make babies!” to me.

And what would these people do with marriages that don’t produce children? Some couples don’t want children and others can’t have them. More than 10% of couples have a fertility problem. In other words, if every single homosexual person paired up and got married tomorrow, they would still be far exceeded in number by the straight couples simply unable to make babies. As anti-gay-marriage advocates lie awake at night and worry about other people’s happiness, I wonder if this fact troubles them as well.

And what about couples beyond child-bearing age? My wife and I are too old for more babies, for example. Does that make our marriage invalid or inferior?

It’s easy to smoke out these Christians’ true opinions on the subject. Ask these opponents to same-sex marriage why a straight couple should get married instead of living together, and the procreation argument goes out the window, replaced with profound thoughts about love and commitment—precisely the reason same-sex couples want to get married.

The marriage-creates-babies idea is clung to like a life preserver, but the simple fact is that marriage doesn’t make babies, it’s sex. And, as I’ve said in a previous post, let’s remember that the apostle Paul was against sex and made clear that the best marriage was no marriage at all.

A variant of this argument is that a straight couple provides a better environment for a child than a same-sex couple. I’ve heard evidence that this is true and other evidence that it doesn’t make much difference, but I’m in no position to evaluate them. It certainly seems to me that other factors in life—having enough money, no domestic violence, no drug use, a safe neighborhood, and so on—can overshadow the parents’ gender. But this argument is irrelevant in those situations when two biological parents simply aren’t an option.

Imagine a lesbian woman, divorced with a child. The mother could live alone, she could live with a woman partner, or the two women could get married. What’s the best situation for the child? Mom and Dad isn’t an option; they’re divorced. Mom and Stepdad aren’t an option; Mom’s a lesbian. Seems to me that there’s room in this situation to allow for Mom’s happiness, and that could provide another adult to help with the parenting. Where’s the problem? We probably agree that single-parent households aren’t best for raising children, and opposing same-sex marriage only stands in the way.

A final element of the Christian position is a rearguard action. Concerned about the charge of bias, they argue that their position does not discriminate against homosexuals. After all, they say, the restriction that someone can only marry someone of the opposite sex applies to everyone equally.

I’m sure this absurd argument was as foul-smelling when it was applied to those in love with someone of a different race in 1967 when mixed-race marriages were still prohibited in 17 states. “There’s no discrimination here. You can marry anyone you want … as long as that person is of the same race as you.”

Yeah, right.

Christians don’t need to be born again.
They need to grow up.
— John Shelby Spong

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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21 thoughts on “Marriage—Designed for Procreation?

  1. To Bob S,

    I thought the best argument against gay marriage, or against any kind of homosexual activity, was the slippery slope down to incest.

    Even the Catholic Church (see Humanae vitae #11) acknowledges that fertility problems are not valid grounds for divorce. This same Catholic Church prohibits in vitro fertilization in spite of its procreative aim (see Donum vitae).

    • I thought the best argument against gay marriage, or against any kind of homosexual activity, was the slippery slope down to incest.

      On what evidence do you base this slippery slope argument?

      RF2, I fail to see any logical reasons why gay marriage would affect you in this manner. If your homosexual neighbors got married would you actually worry about yourself becoming sexually attracted to your own family members?

      • Hi Retro,

        The problem is not that homosexuality is intrinsically linked to incest. In human history, incest has been wrong everywhere, including in societies that accepted homosexuality.

        The problem, actually, is that in our society, the liberal lines of defenses of homosexuality (such as “live and let live”, “it does not harm anyone” and the like) could logically be put to use to justify incest. If only someone has incestuous inclinations and wants to justify his depravity. And I don’t want to live in that kind of society.

        So the problem, actually, is that liberalism does not do the job of justifying homosexuality. Which is not to say that the homophobes have any argument AGAINST homosexuality. But since homosexuality has been traditionally wrong in our society, the principle of inertia requires us to stick to that tradition until we have good evidence for discarding it. Liberalism has not succeeded in this task.

        • But since homosexuality has been traditionally wrong in our society, the principle of inertia requires us to stick to that tradition until we have good evidence for discarding it.

          I’m not sure that society or tradition is responsible for limiting things like homosexuality or incest.

          Right now, if two consenting adults want to have an incestuous or a homosexual relationship, I think that they’ll have one whether it’s legal or not. If society disapproves, they’ll simply hide it.

          To me, thinking that people think about the law or tradition before they fulfill their sexual desires is naive.

          Laws do not actually prevent people from fulfilling their sexual desires, rather, it simply allows society the right to punish the act.

          In other words, homosexuality not being illegal is not going to create homosexuals. Likewise, incest not being illegal is not going to increase incestuous desires.

        • RF2:

          If only someone has incestuous inclinations and wants to justify his depravity. And I don’t want to live in that kind of society.

          If your point is that this is icky, so what? I’m sure lots of people—heterosexual, married couples, for example—engage in kinky stuff that would turn you off. “Depravity” sounds like a dressed up version of “icky.”

          But if your point is that this causes harm, what’s the harm?

        • In I believe 36 states you can marry your cousin for no reason other than to have sex with your cousin, that seems pretty incestuous. In those same states you can’t marry your partner. Backwards.

  2. How could gay marriage harm anyone?
    by Matt Slick

    Harm is a relative term. What might be considered harmful to one person might not to another. There are different kinds of harm: physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, etc. Therefore, harm is a personal thing that is experienced and is a bit subjective. So, when we ask how gay marriage harms anyone, we have to look at more than just one aspect.

    Marriage has been universally acknowledged throughout history as a legal contract between a man and a woman in which there is emotional and sexual fidelity, along with childrearing. But homosexual marriage would change this. Since marriage is also a moral issue, redefining marriage is redefining morals. Furthermore, marriage is an extremely wide-spread practice within any society and has many legal and moral issues attached to it. So, when marriage is redefined, the society is dramatically effected. Legalizing gay marriage means changing the laws of the land. The ramifications are vast and we are seeing the effects of homosexual legal “rights” affecting housing, education, the work place, medicine, the armed forces, adoption, religion, etc. Are all the changes good? That is hotly debated. But we have to ask, is it morally right to force all of society to adopt the morals of a minority? (See Statistics on the percentage of the population that are homosexual and lesbian)

    So, how would gay marriage harm anyone? First, let’s define harm. Harm is damage to a person physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially, morally, etc. The definition is obviously broad and subjective, and this is problematic. People experience harm in different ways.

    Here is a list of ways in which gay marriage can bring harm.

    1.It can bring huge financial and emotional stress.
    •Homosexuals can sue people who are exercising their religious beliefs. For example, a heterosexual married couple with children who do not want to rent a room in their their own family household to homosexuals could be sued for discrimination based on “sexual orientation.” This can incur significant financial and emotional stress upon the family, not to mention the “prior restraint” effect of the fear of being sued which results in a family not renting out a room.
    2.The health risks are enormous to themselves and others.
    •The fact is that homosexuals do not live as long as heterosexuals due to the health risks associated with the lifestyle, and billions of dollars are spent annually in health care for them. See Statistics on HIV/AIDS and health related issues
    •But the HIV/AIDS epidemic is not only in the homosexual community. It has crossed over to the heterosexual community.
    •Whether or not you want to say that HIV/AIDS is a homosexual disease, the fact is that it is highly prevalent among the gay and lesbian community due to their great number of sex partners. The collateral damage to the rest of society, as far as health risks, cannot be denied.
    3.Gay Marriage means having the morals of the minority forced upon the majority.
    •This can also be said in the reverse. Either way, there is a problem. Normally, morals should not be forced on anyone, though there are exceptions. We force morals on others by preventing them from stealing, raping, murdering, etc. So, it is not automatically wrong to force morals on someone. But the issue then becomes what is morally right and wrong in the first place, and altering morals in a society definitely causes stress.
    •The percentage of homosexuals in society is less than 5%, yet it is being forced upon the other 95% of society in movies, TV, literature, and political periods. See Statistics on the percentage of the population that are homosexual and lesbian.
    4.Gay Marriage means a redefinition of sexual morality, and with it other sexually related practices will be affected and this can be harmful.
    •See the article Collateral damage effect as a result the change in sexual morals for a discussion on the increase in pedophilia, pornography, child pornography, prostitution, and sex trafficking that are occurring in the world. These increases are not due to an increase in conservative sexual morals, but an reduction of conservative sexual morals.
    5.Gay Marriage reduces the number of children born in society and we need a stable population base to operate properly. Therefore, society can be harmed.
    6.Gay Marriage effects people spiritually.
    •Don’t assume that people’s spiritual beliefs are irrelevant. People consider spiritual issues to be extremely important, and the stress imposed on religious people by forcing them to “accept” and/or support homosexual practice and/or intimidate them into silence harms a person’s spiritual and emotional health.
    7.It forces government to get involved in changing laws which automatically affect everyone in society.
    •Homosexuality is being force fed to our youth via the education system.
    •Civil unions are being recognized by employers which effect co-workers, money payouts, work time, etc.
    8.It exposes adopted children within potential homosexual unions to ridicule from others.
    Questions

    1.If a parent objects to a school teaching pro-homosexuality and pulls his child out of school, and because of it and is ridiculed and/or jailed, is he harmed?
    2.If a self-employed business owner with strong religious convictions refuses to offer his services to homosexuals and he is sued and goes bankrupt, is he harmed?
    A.Examples of such businesses where a person should be free to refuse services could be things like wedding photographers, masseuses, tutoring, etc.
    3.If a Catholic orphanage is forced to shut down because it is against its religious moral code to turn children over to homosexual couples, is someone hurt?
    4.If a public school teacher voices his disapproval of homosexuality on Facebook on his own time, away from work, in his own home on his own computer, and is fired from his teaching position, is he harmed?
    5.If a group of pro-homosexual activists (Act-UP) disrupt the worship service of a Christian congregation by throwing condoms at the pastor, is the congregation harmed?
    6.If Christians are forced into silence because of fear of legal, social, and financial retribution, are they harmed?
    7.When morally conservative people who disapprove of homosexuality are labeled as “moral dinosaurs,” “bigots,” “hate mongers,” “right wing fanatics,” “preachers of hatred,” “intolerant,” are they harmed?

    Just a few problems listed from CARM web site. Also Homosexuall marrage forces a child to never have the experience of growing up with a Mom and Dad.

    • How could gay marriage harm anyone?

      I think the real question here is: How does gay marriage harm you personally Bob Calvan?

      Matt Slick??? Can you not write or think anything for yourself Bob Calvan?

      Homosexuality and gay marriage is NOTHING like stealing, raping, murdering.

      Homosexuality and gay marriage has NOTHING to do with any increase in pedophilia, pornography, child pornography, prostitution, and sex trafficking that are occurring in the world. If you wish to argue this point, then you are going to need to provide some evidence. One could just as well argue that since things have gotten worse after “under God” was placed in the pledge, and “In God We Trust” became our offical national motto, that this is the cause of any decrease in sexual morality.

      Gay Marriage reduces the number of children born in society and we need a stable population base to operate properly. Therefore, society can be harmed.

      And the opposite could be argued as well, as is often done to justify anti-immigration.

      Homosexuality is being force fed to our youth via the education system.

      Evidence please. Do you really think that homosexuality is taught?

      When morally conservative people who disapprove of homosexuality are labeled as “moral dinosaurs,” “bigots,” “hate mongers,” “right wing fanatics,” “preachers of hatred,” “intolerant,” are they harmed?

      When homosexuals are labeled as being “deviates”, “immoral”, “damned”, “abominations” ect., are they harmed?

      Just a few problems listed from CARM web site.

      Just a FEW??? I hope the copy and paste function on your computer wears out…

    • Oh dear–the big guns of Matt Slick. I’ve dismantled another of his anti-gay tirades here.

      My responses below are aimed at Matt.

      Legalizing gay marriage means changing the laws of the land. The ramifications are vast

      Sometimes doing the right thing takes work. I think we can do it, like when we dismantled laws against mixed-race marriage in 1967.

      is it morally right to force all of society to adopt the morals of a minority?

      African-Americans are a minority, and yet we addressed their legitimate grievances. (See how it works?)

      Homosexuals can sue people who are exercising their religious beliefs.

      Churches need to follow the law—what a shock.

      That won’t cause me a moment’s lost sleep.

      The fact is that homosexuals do not live as long as heterosexuals due to the health risks associated with the lifestyle

      STDs potentially affect anyone who has sex. Gays and straights have sex; therefore, gays and straights need to avoid STDs.

      Pretty simple.

      But the HIV/AIDS epidemic is not only in the homosexual community. It has crossed over to the heterosexual community.

      Huh? Homosexuals are responsible for HIV?? (And I thought it was the CIA!)

      Check the stats within Africa, and I think you’ll find that HIV is an equal-opportunity disease.

      it is highly prevalent among the gay and lesbian community due to their great number of sex partners.

      Promiscuity is a factor in the spread of STDs. Yep, that makes sense.

      Now—tell me again how you plan to blame this all on homosexuals … ?

      Gay Marriage means having the morals of the minority forced upon the majority.

      Avoiding the tyranny of the majority imposed on a minority would be a consequence of the Bill of Rights—you know, that document that makes us proud to be Americans.

      Well, at least it makes me proud. Perhaps I shouldn’t speak for you.

      The percentage of homosexuals in society is less than 5%, yet it is being forced upon the other 95% of society in movies, TV, literature, and political periods.

      And the percentage of Jews in society is even less than that. What do we conclude from this? Are you outraged that Jewishness is being forced on you as well?

      … the change in sexual morals for a discussion on the increase in pedophilia, pornography, child pornography, prostitution, and sex trafficking that are occurring in the world.

      All that from allowing gay marriage? I’m afraid I’ll need more evidence.

      the stress imposed on religious people by forcing them to “accept” and/or support homosexual practice and/or intimidate them into silence harms a person’s spiritual and emotional health.

      Mormons were told that polygamy was illegal, and they did a 180 on the question of African Americans in leadership positions. They took their medicine and moved on. I recommend the same to you.

      Homosexuality is being force fed to our youth via the education system.

      What’s that supposed to mean?

      Civil unions are being recognized by employers which effect co-workers, money payouts, work time, etc.

      Doing the right thing can cost money. So what?

      It exposes adopted children within potential homosexual unions to ridicule from others.

      Then you should take the lead in eliminating any stigma.

      If a self-employed business owner with strong religious convictions refuses to offer his services to homosexuals and he is sued and goes bankrupt, is he harmed?

      If an armed white guy shoots and kills an unarmed 17-year-old black kid and then goes to jail for it, is he harmed? Well, yeah, but that’s just a consequence of having laws.

      … And lots more too weak to respond to.

    • I do think that as mammals, young people require some bond with a mother. So I’m against adoption by gays. However, adoption by lesbians is more defensible. I don’t think it matters whether the child has one or two mothers. (S)he will still have the bond that is needed.

    • Sounds like a red herring to me.

      Imagine the case of a married couple with kids. They get divorced, and one parent concludes that he/she is gay.

      (As an aside: maybe that gay person wouldn’t have gotten married in the first place if Christian-induced homophobia hadn’t forced that person into an ill-fitting marriage. No marriage means no children of a gay person for you to worry about.)

      Back to our couple. The children of this marriage simply don’t have the option of living with a mother and father. The gay person can now stay single (not the best environment for raising a child, I think you’ll agree) or marry another person of the same sex. How is this worse?

  3. To Retro,

    I don’t want homosexuality to be outlawed. But to argue that it is MORAL is another issue and and it’s at least dubious to me that it should be raised to the same level as procreative sex. The gov can tolerate things that are immoral, or commonly held to be so, like adultery, private lies, abortion, greed, and so on. However, we are supposed to teach our children that those things are wrong and weaken our society.

    But anyway a bigger matter of concern is how gays are demonized by ordinary citizens, especially teenagers. This has been the cause of many suicides.

    Homophobia, or the hatred of homosexuals, is a far bigger problem than homosexuality itself.

    • But to argue that it is MORAL is another issue and and it’s at least dubious to me that it should be raised to the same level as procreative sex.

      One could argue that irresponsible procreative sex is even more immoral than homosexual sex.

      But anyway a bigger matter of concern is how gays are demonized by ordinary citizens, especially teenagers. This has been the cause of many suicides.

      Imagine you are a homosexual, how would your parents teaching you that homosexuality is wrong and that it weakens our society make you feel?

      • One could argue that irresponsible procreative sex is even more immoral than homosexual sex.

        That sounds like a pretty easy argument to make!

  4. To Retro,

    You’re correct. Irresponsible procreative sex is far worse than homosexuality. It can lead to abortions, overcrowding and wretched lives.

    However, I don’t suggest that homosexuality as an orientation is wrong. So I won’t tell a homosexual that he is wicked. Still, homosexual acts have not been justified so far. At least homophobia can appeal to tradition to back up its prohibition of homosexuality.

    I know that traditions are often wrong and evil, but they are still the default stance. Pro-gay theorists have appealed to liberal arguments, but to no avail. When it comes to sex, liberalism is just flawed.

    • I’m missing your point. Are you arguing in favor of homophobia?

      homosexual acts have not been justified so far

      (1) Homosexuality is natural to our species; (2) homosexual acts cause no harm. Is that not enough?

      • Hi Bob,

        Of course, if you don’t see the wrongness of incest, you will accept homosexuality a fortiori. But to accept incest, one’s conscience must be crooked… I don’t have further arguments: the point should be self-evident.

        • I’m repulsed by incest. So are you. Neither of us are driven to engage in it. Nature takes care of the problem, right?

          When it comes to laws, by what logic would you make incest illegal (if it weren’t already)? That it grosses you out? A pretty weak argument, I think.

          If there’s harm, there you go. If there’s none, simply rely on nature to minimize its occurrence.

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