Religion and tradition still influence couples' decision to get married


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In another thread, I was explaining how, for many Northwest Europeans, the decision to get married or live under a civil union or domestic partnership was often simply motivated by the desire to have a wedding party (still a dream for many women, regardless of their religiosity).

I was explaining how, statistically, couples who get married are more likely to split (divorce) than those who live together and have children together without getting married. Perhaps that's because on some unconscious level people think that once they are married they don't have to try as hard anymore.

I know plenty of people who live together just under a civil partnership and have just as much (or more) stability, sense of family and love as married people. Marriage is mostly a religious thing. Once religion becomes irrelevant, you don't need that label any more.

The way I see it is that if a couple is strictly monogamous, they don't need marriage to "consolidate" or officialise their union. After all, most birds mate for life and they don't get married. Players for whom monogamy isn't suited definitely should not get married either. So the question is, for whom is marriage designed? Is it for people who aren't too sure about their partner and need reassurance from the community (family, friends, state) that their union is stable? It doesn't work otherwise half of marriages wouldn't end up in divorce.

The reason why people marry is mostly cultural and religious. According to OECD stats, Americans have the highest marriage rate of any Western country after Russia (if it is considered 'Western') and Lithuania. The US marriage rate is almost twice higher than the EU average, and more similar to what it used to be in Western Europe in the 1960's and 70s. This table from Eurostat shows how the marriage rate in almost all European countries (except the most eastern ones) has fallen by half over the last 4 decades.


The disparities between countries already existed in the 70's. Germans used to have a higher marriage rate than the French or Brits, and they still do, even though all fell by half.

But the marriage rate doesn't take into account the discrepancy between people who never marry and never have kids, and those who do have children but without ever marrying. In Southern Europe the birth rate has dropped a lot along the marriage rate because fewer people get into long-term relationships with children. But that's not true of France, Britain or Scandinavia.

We see more clearly on this map that the countries with the highest percentages of children living with unmarried parents come from countries with a high percentage of atheists or non-religious people, such as France, Britain and Scandinavia.


In the USA having children out-of-wedlock has a bad rep because the vast majority of these children end up living in single-parent homes. Only 2% of American children live in a family with two cohabiting parents (as opposed to two married parents or a single parent), against 31% in Estonia, 26% in Sweden, 25% in France, 18% in Belgium and 14% in the UK. Even traditional minded (and relatively religious) Germans and Spaniards have 8% of them (four times more than in the US !).


So it looks like religion, or traditions influenced by religion, is still a determinant factor in whether parents feel the need to get married or not.
Hi Maciamo, very interesting comments.

People today also feel much less compunction to stay with one person, religiously or sexually. Religious and culturally heavy people, regardless our personal opinions about what is or isn’t necessary, have been the most successful throughout history.

Compare the numbers you show here to Muslims or Mennonites.

Amish population is doubling now every 20 years:

Muslim communities are doing much the same.

What word we use to denote the institution of monogamy doesn’t even matter outside of its promotion of fertility. Neither does what a society outwardly professes or doesn’t express to encourage “marriage” or discourage divorce/separation. “States” can only do so much to adapt the zeitgeist or adapt to it and “Religion” is just a buzzword because it all comes down to culture. Cultures that can promote fertility and “loyalty” to their state/group/religion/culture will carry the future regardless of what they call marriage or if 100% of their births are artificially conceived.

And it has nothing to do with our own preferences or political views, how we feel about “divorce” or “marriage.” If you’re smart, you’re learning Arabic right now and reading Islamic literature to become comfortable with their cultural artifacts. Interesting aside, the founder of Anabaptism said he’d fight for the Muslims if he was forced to fight because to fight for the side of the “Christians” wouldn’t be following the teachings of Christ.

What we call marriage doesn’t matter. That it’s controlled by the state, left independently to religions, managed by a group of aliens or totally “abolished” does not matter either.

I will say that your numbers, Maciamo, only account for those “unmarried” couples who claim to being a couple and are willing to answer various questions about their partnership versus “unmarried” couples that take it less seriously. That itself demonstrates an additional commitment. It’s easier and generally more legal to just say “sure I’m ‘married’” when you are legally married, especially if your relationship is an unhappy one as opposed to an equally unhappy relationship that is not protected by law where you feel no pressure to even publicly declare any kind of relationship. Definitely not in any paperwork they’d be asked to fill out.

In the United States, there are tremendous tax benefits to getting married as well, this likely causes an inflation of less than “devoted” matrimony.
The tradition of patriarchal societies. To make a woman property of a man. It makes sure that property and wealth of a man goes directly to his descendants, caring his DNA. It gives more control to the man in this matter. (Think, my DNA=my wealth)

Hunter gatherer unions were/are more loose, especially in small tribes. Though some way of contract existed too, with end goal being raising kids together. Though the whole small tribe was raising kids together anyway, and was genetically very uniform, identical. Property/land/wealth was communal and transfer to next generation was communal. (Think, communal DNA=communal wealth.

In every human society the ration boys to girls is basically 1 to 1 at birth. It denotes a very long history of hundreds of thousands of years (if not a million or two) monogamous relationship of our species, mostly and generally speaking of course.
I forgot to mention that "eloping" to get married (e.g. in Vegas) is also a typically American thing. It can't happen in Europe because, contrarily to the US, priests/ministers do not have the legal power to marry people. The only exception is Italy, but marriage there is traditionally a family celebration, so it doesn't make sense to get married away from everyone. Likewise, an American couple can ask a friend who has been ordained online to marry them, but that isn't possible in Europe. This is where you see how much more secular Europe is.

Japan is even more secular. You can get married in 5 minutes at the town hall, and can also get divorced in 5 minutes, without the need of going to a divorce court. Religion hardly intervenes at all (obviously since most Japanese are atheists). Japanese weddings are fanciful (like many things in Japan, like love hotels and cosplay). It's not uncommon for non-Christians to get "fake married" by a fake priest (typically a Westerner hired for the job) just to do like in Hollywood movies. That would probably be shocking for some "true Christians", especially in the Bible Belt of the USA (but what isn't shocking to these people anyway).
Complications arise if She get “Knocked Up”, and she’s a traditionalists, but He is “Emancipated”. as an example.
The Drama ...... ! :)

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