Tradition for Progress: The Changing International Marriage Landscape

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Marriage remains one of the most important commitments any of us can make in our lives. The statistics don’t lie, after all, and with more than two-million Americans married in 2013, it doesn’t seem that this traditional union is going any place anytime soon, despite popular opinion. However, that doesn’t mean marriage is the same as it once was.

Marriage Remains Important, but Tradition is on Its Way Out

As the statistics show, millions of people in the United States, not to mention countless others across the world, continue to see marriage as an important milestone in their lives. That being said, there is one traditional element that is increasingly missing from marriage ceremonies: religion. In 2007, only 53% of marriages took place inside a church. If you were to suggest getting married anywhere but in a church 50 years ago, you’d become an outcast.

This can’t be said to be terribly surprising, not when you realize that atheism, agnosticism, and spirituality have been gaining ground on religious affiliation in the States for years. From 2007 to 2012, atheism and agnosticism grew by .8% and 1.2%, respectively. People just aren’t that concerned with religion anymore, and this idea clearly extends into our personal lives.

Society is Changing Along with Marriage

Of course, the death of traditional marriage isn’t just a matter of religion but a matter of personal identity. Since 2004, there have been more than 70,000 same-sex marriages in the United States. Given that religious institutions in the States have been overwhelmingly against, if not openly hostile, toward the idea of same-sex marriage, it shouldn’t be any surprise that religious ceremonies are becoming less common. A recent case of a Methodist bishop against a minister who officiated over his gay son’s wedding is proof enough of prevailing opinions of the religious in the States. Keep in mind, it’s not just the gay community that’s affected by the thoughts of the Church and other religious organizations, but their friends, family, and supporters of human rights across the country. In short, progressive politics and philosophy are reforming what the tradition of marriage “ought to be.”

The Change is Taking Place Across the World

It would be unfair to say that all traditional organizations are taking such a cemented stance against the issue. The Dalai Lama himself has said that he has no problem with same-sex marriage. 2013 saw five countries across the world — Brazil, the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, and Uruguay — pass measures giving same-sex couples the right to marry. Stateside, there are 17 states that have legalized gay marriage. Things are changing for the better, but if current trends are any indication, religion just isn’t keeping pace.

If nothing else, the shift away from tradition in marriage is symptomatic of our changing definition of what our traditions should be. In the end, isn’t that okay? So long as the commitment is real, why bother worrying about where it’s made and in whose name?

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