Monday, 24 August 2009

How to undermine marriage

Do big divorce settlements undermine marriage? This was the question on yesterday's BBC1 programme "The Big Question", which is the main BBC commitment to religion. What tends to happen on television and radio is that the demands for balance often mean that non-religious views are put forward in religious programmes.

So is marriage undermined? If someone said I would give you a pound to leave your spouse you would say don't be ridiculous I have entered into a commitment. Then raise the price. This is the storyline of the film Indecent Proposal. We may all have our price as we all have human weaknesses. Some would even say human strengths if this meant that they could safeguard the financial futures of everyone they know. This is what you would say if you saw marriage as a commodity. If you treat it as a commodity then divorce is taken lightly. So my assumption is that there must be a strong relationship between pre-nuptial agreements and divorce.

One person on the programme is getting married next year. There is no pre-nuptial agreement. If her fiance asked for an agreement then it would be a symptom of inequality. If you have the need for an agreement then you have inequality, and to accept this inequality is not a good start for a marriage. However in practice even though you may accept that everyone is equal we are also unique. We all have our skills and abilities that make us unequal. If we endow others with all our worldly goods then that is a good start for equality but it is not so good if you feel things are not going to work out.

One lady had studied this question so she should know what she is talking about. She said that there were three kinds of groups who explained why they chose marriage. There were those who married for legal reasons, the second group married because it was cultural but the third group, the majority married after they had lived together. They felt they had a good relationship and were ready for marriage.

As we don't know when we are going to die, there must be examples of couples in this third group who never marry but one dies before the wedding. What this expert on the religious programme is really saying is that marriage doesn't matter at all. Just live together and see how you manage. This expert opinion undermines a religious marriage much more than any pre-nuptial agreement.

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