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Atheist Community of Austin
Polygamy and atheism

Reading all the arguments to accept homosexual marriages, I don't see a single one that cannot be applied to polygamy. It's natural (occurs in animal world), not inherently harmful to society (consenting adults, etc.). Except for having several mothers-in-law, I could point out quite a few benefits of having multiple wives/husbands.

Does it mean that if polygamy shows up on a ballot one day, atheists would support it? If not, why not? And why is polygamy prohibited in most civilized societies? I cannot come up with any reasons that cannot be refuted by logic.

For the purposes of this discussion, let's assume that neither God nor the Bible exist. That should establish a level common ground. I posted this question in the "homosexuality" thread, but, I think, it deserves a separate discussion.

Hey, AG, how's it hangin'? By this, I mean your cross but I digress. I replied to this in the other thread but I'll be happy to repeat my sentiments here.

As long as polygamy is between consenting adults and all the legal ramifications concerning a plural marriage can be ironed out, if more than two people what to enter into a marriage arrangement, I don't' have a problem with it. There are some huge challenges regarding the legal issues but that would be something that I believe could be addressed adequately so that all parties in the marriage would be satisfied with their legal rights and privileges.

As long as no one is hurt or is forced into a plural marriage then I am not opposed to the institution of legal marriage being expanded, once we have legalized gay marriage, to include polygamy. Polygamy is not, in and of itself, wrong.

Before I begin, you should know that I don't understand why we need the legal contract of marriage in order to convey certain rights to other people. I don't think there should be such a thing as marriage, and at least the rights I know of (visiting loved one in hospital, rights of decision-making, custody of children, inheritance) should be able to be passed with the same level of effort as it currently takes to get married, i.e. not much. I could see a lot of potential there for abuse, but the current system seems quite arbitrary. That being said, I have no problem with the idea of polyamory. Consenting adults should be able to do whatever they wish with one another, as long as no undue harm results.

I don't know the full extent of the rights that marriage grants, so there may be objections to the idea on technical grounds, rather than moral grounds. - So that, I suppose, is as close to answering your question as I can come.

I made a long post about it in the homosexuality thread. I don't want to repeat it here, except for one point that seems to agree with Antifides.

"Why do we need marriage at all? It seems to me that marriage is nothing more than a moral and legal commitment. Raising children makes such commitment desirable. If people commit to a loving relationship, why do they need marriage? Just as when people commit to moral standards, why do they need religion with weird rituals, sacrifices, etc.? Wouldn't it be more consistent for atheists to support abolition of marriage than any particular form of it? There must be something in rituals that makes people stick to them. I personally favor internal rituals over external ones. Again, idea I borrowed from Christianity."

I think, commitment with or without marriage is better than marriage without commitment. Expanding definition of marriage to include homosexuals seems artificial to me. I'd rather expand legal rights for other types of domestic partnership than redefine marriage.

"Expanding definition of marriage to include homosexuals seems artificial to me. I'd rather expand legal rights for other types of domestic partnership than redefine marriage."

What is your deffenition of marriage? I'm guessing your deffenition of marriage is the union between a man and a woman. If it is, we disagree on the deffenition of marriage.

"I'd rather expand legal rights for other types of domestic partnership than redefine marriage."

Why not just redefine the way you define "marriage?" The meanings of words change over time.

To be clear, giving homosexuals the same rights as everyone else seems to me to be more likely to happen than the abolishment of marriage; therefore, as long as marriage exists as a legal term, they should be allowed the rights associated with it.

If you want to call allowing homosexuals to marry a "redefinition" of marriage, then women's suffrage was a redefinition of voting, emancipation of slaves was a redefinition of freedom, and civil rights equality was a redefinition of civil rights.

The law should not discriminate, period. If you disagree, then you are a terrible person.

Those are all valid points. I agree that there should be no discrimination against people based on who they are (sex orientation, race, gender, religion, ideology, political affiliation, etc.). Redefining marriage seems to be the easiest way to achieve it, although not the most consistent, but it's just a matter of my taste.

All right. Let's summarize what we concluded using logic and reason so far: 1. There is nothing unnatural about homosexuality. Animals do it too. 2. There is nothing immoral about homosexuality as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult. 3. The definition of marriage should be expanded to include not only homosexual unions, but other types of unions as well.

I wonder, is there such term as "sexual immorality" in atheist vocabulary? If so, I'd like to know how it's defined. Let's continue this reasoning. Animals do sexually almost everything humans can come up with and more. I tried to list these things, but my post was rejected for spam. You can check it out here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_sexual_behaviour

I will never look at ducks and pandas with the same eyes again. So, any sex is natural. Period.

Regarding harm. Is there anything wrong with sexual relationship between close relatives provided that everyone involved is of legal age, consents to the activity, and uses protection to avoid negative genetic consequences? Why "motherfucker" is considered a bad word?

And why was sexual relationship between two consenting adults behind the closed doors of the Oval office frowned upon? I could understand that Hillary was upset, but why should the rest of us care?

When it comes to sex, logic and reason are often overridden by more basic functions of our brain. Don't you think that some social taboos are necessary in this area?

"I wonder, is there such term as 'sexual immorality' in atheist vocabulary?" - Not a term I've ever used, no. There are certainly some immoral acts surrounding sex, such as rape, child molestation, and exploitative behavior, but I don't think I would call that "sexual immorality."

"Regarding harm. Is there anything wrong with sexual relationship between close relatives provided that everyone involved is of legal age, consents to the activity, and uses protection to avoid negative genetic consequences? " - Nope. Boy do I love overriding instinct and/or social programming with logic!

"Why 'motherfucker' is considered a bad word?" - Three things: Fucker is a bad word anyway. The social and/or evolutionary stigma about having sex with relatives is strong. Bad words are themselves irrational.

"And why was sexual relationship between two consenting adults behind the closed doors of the Oval office frowned upon?" - We shouldn't care. He did then go on to lie about it, however, under oath as I recall. In a meta sort of way, I suppose we could be bothered by the fact that he did it despite the potential consequences, which shows a lack of foresight in our leader.

"Regarding harm. Is there anything wrong with sexual relationship between close relatives provided that everyone involved is of legal age, consents to the activity, and uses protection to avoid negative genetic consequences? " - Nope. Boy do I love overriding instinct and/or social programming with logic! "

I also said, "When it comes to sex, logic and reason are often overridden by more basic functions of our brain. Don't you think that some social taboos are necessary in this area?"

By that I mean that if we remove the taboo from sex between close relatives, half of the time protection will not be used and we will see considerable genetic consequences of incest. Isn't this a reasonable argument? I'd like to see more opinions on this.

"Motherfucker" is a rude word - I agree. But sex between parents and children (even adult and consenting) does not seem right to me psychologically, not only for biological reasons. It messes up our identity, "who we are". One cannot be his own step-dad or have a healthy mother-son relations with a woman the man sleeps with. It's similar to boiling a goat kid in the milk of its mother. It seems as a strange prohibition, but is an abhorrent thing to do, if you think of it. This is my subjective opinion and has to do with psychological "programming" and a sense of disgust, I admit. But there is a rational element to it as well. I still wonder if any atheists would agree to my sentiment.

"'Motherfucker' is a rude word - I agree."

You agree with whom? I never said that phrase. I never said anything like that phrase. I did mistakenly leave out "considered" when i said fucker was a bad word.

"I also said, 'When it comes to sex, logic and reason are often overridden by more basic functions of our brain. Don't you think that some social taboos are necessary in this area?' By that I mean that if we remove the taboo from sex between close relatives, half of the time protection will not be used and we will see considerable genetic consequences of incest. Isn't this a reasonable argument? I'd like to see more opinions on this. "

You said this in reply to me using logic to override social programming. Logic, built upon the principle of "do no harm," would also dictate that if such a relationship occurs, it should not bear offspring. In other words, if we're replacing taboos with logical thinking, this would still be an off-limits area.

"But sex between parents and children (even adult and consenting) does not seem right to me psychologically."

So? Who are you to impose that feeling of wrongness on others who are not affecting you?

"It messes up our identity" - If psychological harm is demonstrated, restrictions can always be put in place, but your speculation that it might be the case is certainly not a sufficient criterion for forbidding it.

I think the development of human sexuality can be explained through social as well as natural evolution. There was a discussion here a short while ago, where I explained, what I understand under "social evolution":

http://www.atheist-community.com/boards/read_message.php?t=3405

I think that the early homo sapiens didn't have such complex social systems, when (s)he first emerged on the planet. Over time different populations of homo sapiens evolved different social systems. Some of these systems proved to be stable enough while others haven't been stable enough and the resulting populations either died out or have been swallowed by other human populations. Our societies are the result of thousands of years of natural and social evolution. Although I would say that the predominant factors have been social evolution rather than natural evolution.

Let's look at incest for example:

If a population of homo sapiens accepts incest as a normal behaviour for procreation, this population will die out due to the introduction of genetic defects. If this society used protection during sex, they would die out as well, because there wouldn't be any procreation. This is an example for natural evolution. As a result only populations remain, who are against incest.

An example for social evolution: Imagine a society, where either men are raped by women for procreation or vice versa. From the "point of view" of natural evolution such a society should function without any problems as long as incest is prohibited, right? Well, I suspect that the victims of such a society would try to fight back against their rapists, because nobody wants to experience pain. As a result the rapists would have to invent new countermeasures how to keep their victims in check. So basically the individuals inside such a society would be very busy struggling with each other. I cannot imagine, how such a society could make progress in various scientific areas like agriculture for example. In order to make progress in science you need collective efforts of various individuals working together. But in a society, where everybody hates everybody else I don't see, how people could find enough common ground to make significant progress in science. A society, where people are constantly raping other people for example would eventually fall apart, because the people there would be too much wrapped up in their struggles against each other.

As you can see both natural- and social evolution form human societies, that are stable, because the unstable ones are "selected out", they simply perish.

Take polygamy for example. From the point of view of social evolution, there shouldn't be a problem with that as long as everybody in such a relationship agrees with each other. However the more people are in an intimate relationship with each other the more complex it becomes to handle such a relationship, because of the different personalities of the people involved. From the point of view of natural evolution polygamy and frivolous behaviour might make it easier to spread sexually transmissible diseases if protection isn't used. As a result societies, who practice polygamy run the risk of dying out, because of these diseases. Besides if every female inside such a relationship produces lots of children for the male, the family of this man, will become so large that it would be impossible to manage. This is, why I think, that there are also practical reasons, why polygamy isn't practiced in western societies anymore. There are parts in the world, there people still practice polygamy. I don't know why, but I'm sure that they benefit from it due to the specific properties of the environment, they're living in, otherwise they wouldn't do it.

"If a population of homo sapiens accepts incest as a normal behaviour for procreation, this population will die out due to the introduction of genetic defects. If this society used protection during sex, they would die out as well, because there wouldn't be any procreation. This is an example for natural evolution. As a result only populations remain, who are against incest. "

Onemorehuman,

Your theory seems to imply that society accepting homosexuality, abortion, and contraception as normal behavior will not last long as a natural consequence of such attitude... Some may call you a "terrible person" for such views. ;)

I'm certainly not against homosexuality. But let's face it, if a society practices these kind of behaviours too much, it runs the risk of eventually disappearing, because of natural evolution. Of course if only a small part of the society practices these behaviours it doesn't really matter as long as nobody is coerced into anything against his or her own will. Obviously if everybody in a society was homosexual, this society would cease to exist, *unless* the individuals of this society take natural evolution into their own hands and "reproduce" through extensive application of genetic engineering like cloning for example. But this is just one of many possibilties for the circumvention of natural evolution. Regarding social evolution I'm not sure, how a completely homosexual society that choose to reproduce through cloning would function. And I'm *not* saying this with any kind of negative undertone. I honestly don't know, because of the complexity of the problem. It may or may not work. Although my guess is that it would almost certainly *work*!

The social dynamics inside a "homosexual society" may be really interesting... :) Would a heterosexual man inside such a society feel some kind of "strange longing and loneliness" for example despite having never seen any female in his entire life? How much of our sexuality is "programmed" by our genes? Or maybe the people inside such a society would modify themselves so that everybody was homosexual, so that nobody would experience loneliness based on his sexuality? But would the modification of the sexual orientation of an individual before his/her birth be ethical? What about cloning? These are all really open questions and I don't think that there are any general answers to them. I think, that decisions regarding cloning for example should be made on an *individual* basis, where an individual would have to explain, why (s)he wants to use a certain technology on him- or herself or his or her children. *Generalized* solutions, whether this kind of technologies should be allowed or not, are not always effective and can even be dangerous.

When natural evolution becomes a tool of social evolution through genetic engineering, nano- and microscale engineering, the situation becomes really complicated, because social evolution happens so much faster than natural evolution and is more "chaotic" and unpredictable in my opinion. This is, why I think that the 2nd part of the 21st century is going to be a really interesting period of time. :)

In any case ... back to the topic of homosexuality. I'm certainly against the bible's "*Generalized* Solution" to homosexuality:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=leviticus%2020:13&version=NIV

quote:

"If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."

I think that a more reasonable attitude than the one quoted above towards homosexuality is possible in the 21st century. ;-) Generalized solutions can lead to undesirable social instabilties and civil unrest in a society, if a minority inside a society feels bullied by the rest of the society. As a result of this a society may fall apart.

onemorehuman said:

The social dynamics inside a "homosexual society" may be really interesting... :) Would a heterosexual man inside such a society feel some kind of "strange longing and loneliness" for example despite having never seen any female in his entire life? How much of our sexuality is "programmed" by our genes? Or maybe the people inside such a society would modify themselves so that everybody was homosexual, so that nobody would experience loneliness based on his sexuality? But would the modification of the sexual orientation of an individual before his/her birth be ethical? What about cloning? These are all really open questions and I don't think that there are any general answers to them. I think, that decisions regarding cloning for example should be made on an *individual* basis, where an individual would have to explain, why (s)he wants to use a certain technology on him- or herself or his or her children. *Generalized* solutions, whether this kind of technologies should be allowed or not, are not always effective and can even be dangerous.

Please, if you have not done so already, read Joe Haldeman's incredible book, "The Forever War" which talks about a future human society where homosexuality is the norm and what it would feel like to be a heterosexual in that daunting world view. IMHO, one of the best sf books ever written and an excellent portrayal of the science of space warfare and coping with relativity as well as the social ramifications of an ever-increasing population.

Thanks Mark! I will put this book on my list of books to read. :-)

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