Today is Wally Salmon’s 65th birthday and he thought he would write the following as his birthday contribution to the readers of Malaysia Today. Wally, by the way, is my cousin on my mother’s side who lives and works somewhere in the Middle East. Yes, Wally too is a son of Cardiff although he prefers Asia to Europe, mainly because the women are lovelier.
Sanctity of marriage fallacies
The word “sanctity” refers to “the quality of being sacred or holy”. This means that sanctity of marriage cannot ever be discussed outside of the framework of religion, because it is only by virtue of marrying in the so-called “presence of God” that the word “sanctified” (and thus “sanctity”) can be then applied to the resultant marriage. In other words, if you didn’t get hitched in a religious ceremony involving God, then your marriage wasn’t sanctified before God (the only way it could possibly be “sanctified”), so the concept of “the sanctity of marriage” doesn’t and can’t apply to your non-religious marital union.
Considering that 65% of marriages in the UK are non-religious ceremonies, it means that the term “sanctity of marriage” is pretty damned meaningless to the majority there! So, for the bulk of married couples in the UK, marriage today is a contract only; one which is sanctioned by the State and not sanctified by God.
It is society’s choice as to whether a government should sanction marriage between people of the same sex. Such a choice does not in any way interfere with the sanctity of any religious wedding, no more than any non-religious wedding between people of opposite sexes interferes with the sanctity of a religious marriage.
Note that the only difference between sanctify (a word solely for religious use) and sanction (a word for general/public use) is that the former presupposes a holy god-like figure doing the sanctioning (where, sadly, solid physical evidence for God’s involvement on the day of a wedding will be missing) whereas the latter relates to the real hard facts of life (the unholy State doing the sanctioning, through their authorized representative who must be physically present, with witnesses in attendance also). Ironically enough, if a State government does not recognize the right of a religious body to marry people, then by that society’s norms a marriage conducted in a religious ceremony conducted by that unrecognized religious body would be illegal - and thus the children of that marriage would probably be deemed illegitimate until such time as the couple were married legally and non-religiously.
What people are generally referring to when they use the term “sanctity of marriage” is really “the purpose of marriage”. Now, I contend that the principal purpose of marriage is to legally bind a couple who wish to live together. Forget that marriage may often be conducted in front of family members and close friends - the wedding shindig is not the primary purpose of marriage. The principal purpose of marriage is thus the official registering of the commitment of one person to the other to live together permanently, and all the affectionate words and actions conducted outside of marriage cannot compare with the seriousness of the legal commitment that entering into marriage entails.
Please don’t tell me that marriage is meant for raising children in the perfect environment, because many children from unhappy homes will tell you differently. And many childless couples will also disagree that their marriage is inferior just because they don’t have children. No, marriage was not ordained to raise children – it’s just that sometimes children can be a happy by-product of marriage.
What all this boils down to is that the principal purpose of same-sex marriages seems to me to be no different than opposite-sex marriages: to announce to the world that the two people involved are legally committed to living together permanently, with all that entails.
However, I feel that what Anwar Ibrahim means when he talks about the sanctity of marriage is another issue altogether; he is almost certainly talking about marriage being only a religious ceremony. And that must mean he considers that over 65% of marriages in the UK fail the sanctity of marriage test, because those marriages most certainly were not sanctified before God!
AI’s stance on gay marriage ignores the fact that marriage today for a sizeable portion of the world is not a religious matter but a State matter confined to a legal commitment. Only if a country is going to implement religious law and impose that law on its entire population will “sanctity of marriage” as AI views it be meaningful – and then only within the borders of that country. The majority of the people in the world enjoy living in this period beyond the Age of Enlightenment; they have no wish to be drawn back into the Dark Ages. And discrimination against people because of race, religion or sexual orientation is true Dark Ages mentality.
Barbarism in the name of religion
Don’t ever let anyone from any religion tell me that what they do under the rules of their religion is none of my business. If their religious rules offend my sensibilities as a human being, then that religion’s rules are most certainly my business, and I will make my displeasure known! Why? Because I don’t want our children (mine and yours) infected by barbaric thinking; barbarism couldn’t possibly ever make the world a better place for my children or your children. Using the name of God to maim and kill people doesn’t alter the fact that those who support such barbaric actions are completely uncivilized and, in my opinion, possess what amounts to a Dark Ages mentality. I for one certainly wouldn’t knowingly invite such people to my home to share a meal with me and my family. Would you?