When it Comes to Same-Sex Marriage, Those Without a Religious Identity Lead the Way

A recent Gallup poll asked this question: “Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?”

The headlines were all about how acceptance for same-sex couples was at 50% — it was only the second time that support for gay marriage polled higher than rejection of it.

But I can’t believe this result didn’t get more attention:

88% of the Nones support gay marriage! The people with no religious identification, including atheists and agnostics, are on the right side of history. And, it turns out, the less you go to church, the more accepting (and loving) you are.

If anyone needs a reason to build the case of why religion is bad for us, there’s Exhibit A.

(Thanks to Ben for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • AliceKinglsey

    One thing I really don’t get though is how 12% of the Nones could possibly justify not supporting it?  Everyone I’ve ever heard of who’s opposed to gay marriage has purely religious reasons.

    • MichaelD

      I’ve heard some nones who are opposed call into the atheist experience for example. The main arguments I recall are biology and reproduction sort of naturalistic arguments.  Ex If everyone was gay there’d be no more kids and we’d go extinct. Unfortunately not every none has thought through all their moral/political positions since loosing their beliefs. 

      Actually a second group of people are the ones that are opposed to government involvement in any marriages. Though this is an argument against marriage it could come out in polls as being against gay marriage.

      • Emb

         Not everyone Looses their belief’s in god and “turns or becomes” an atheist.  I am allowing my children find their own way, their own beliefs, and I am when asked to describe, and show them thoughts of religious beliefs.    I teach and guide, not indoctrinate.  When my 2nd grader asked to go to church, I simply asked which one.  that phase lasted three weekends.  When she asks me what I believe or feel I tell her.  I ask her how she feels about how I feel.  I don’t necessarily say I am an atheist either in life.  I don’t follow a deity, and do not support the theory that there is a deity of any kind.  But I do accept it for others. 

        • MichaelD

          True I was just refereeing to the subset who do. I admit there are others who remain say undefinedly religious or spiritual as well as many other positions.  I didn’t mean to suggest that all nones are atheists just to the portion that is.

    • Emb5567

       Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean the world isn’t out to get you theory ;)   Just cause your an Atheist doesn’t mean your not a racist, or prejudiced.  Or a terrible mean spirited a hole either lol.  And to turn the other cheek sort of speak, there are actually God followers that are accepting and supportive even of others that are different than they are or that believe in different things in life. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

       There are a few people out there who use a combination of the ick-factor and the procreation argument (“only a man and a woman can make baybees together”) to defend their claims that heterosexual couples should have special rights. 

    • Kodie

       I’ve known some older bigots with no known religious affiliation. You gotta get out and meet some bigots*, this is not just a biblical thing, and not all atheists are digging science and humanism and all that social awareness. Even bigotry in the bible didn’t start in the bible, it’s because people are icked by something strange and decide to tell everyone to hate them too. I don’t believe there are “purely religious reasons” for it, I think people hate something and then find something called a basis. They don’t want to play the bad guy, it’s just something they have to do.

      *I don’t really hope you meet any.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      Fear, distrust, and disgust of homosexuality run pretty deep in American culture. In fact, given that, it’s remarkable how fast acceptance is increasing. But it’s still there. Certainly, the sort of person who is likely to be an atheist (intelligent, rational, high moral standards) is also the sort that is likely to recognize that any discomfort they feel is artificial, and doesn’t provide grounds to oppose equal rights. But not everybody can get past their upbringing. An 88% consensus on any question is pretty remarkable!

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger/featured GodVlogger (on YouTube)

      I’m atheist and definitely in favor of marriage equality. I have been for at least the past few years since I realized I’m an atheist.

      But I’ll be candid and admit that after decades of childhood indoctrination about how disgusting homosexuality is (i.e., decades instilling bigotry in me) there still lingers the sense that seeing gay guys kiss is still at least a little icky.

      Atheism has cured most of my bigotry, but why would I not just see gay guys kissing as “oh, that’s a nice happy couple”? I mean, I do see that, and mostly that…. but there’s that 2% icky factor also. Anyway, atheism/rationality/compassion has me on a good trajectory to fully drop the ick-factor (and I sure as hell don’t think the equal rights of an entire group of citizens should be hindered by some jerk like me feeling icky while working to shed the clinging remnants of religious brainwashing), but I am sure there are atheists at every point of the SPECTRUM, albeit WAY more of us on the side of equality and less of us on the side of bigotry. 

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      My grandmother was an atheist (registered GOP but really more Libertarian) and she would occasionally say disparaging things about any reference to gay anything on TV.  But then I talked to her a bit more about it and she conceded that there was no rational reason for a gay person to not have the same rights and liberties as anyone else, including marrying who they wanted.  I’m pretty sure that if asked to vote on it, she would have voted against gay marriage if someone hadn’t had the conversation with her.  It was more a product of the culture she grew up in, and not being pushed to question it, although she was in general a skeptic.

  • Fsq

    I am solidly in the make it legal camp, and I have not felt such pride in the president as I did when he made his historic statement. However, you are using some very nebulous arguing techniques on this, and using techniques we frequently deride.

    Be careful how you jump to conclusions and make statements that are not based in empirical evidence but more suited in anecdote.

  • TiltedHorizon

    As an ex-Catholic I am happy to see the tide swinging in support, it is definitely not the mindset they shared back in the day so I consider this a bit of progress.

  • http://twitter.com/ubernerd83 Chris Schonegg

    I think part of the 12% are probably the ones in the “civil unions for all” camp.  (From a legal perspective, anyway.)  Hell, I’m a gay man, and that’s how I would prefer the issue was resolved, but it’ll never happen, so pragmatically I’m a marriage supporter.

    • http://twitter.com/ScarletAtheist Scarlet Letter A

       Why in the world would you prefer civil unions to full equality when there is such a disparity in the rights afforded to couples with those respective titles?

      • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger/featured GodVlogger (on YouTube)

         I think that by “civil unions for all” Chris may have meant that the government could get out of the business of calling anything a ‘marriage’ (let the churches, or Elks club, or whoever wants to call it that go ahead, but it would have no gov’t meaning), while the gov’t would have “civil unions for all” as their way to recognizing relationships, equally for all gays, straights, whatever.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      I have never understood the “civil unions for all” argument. What is so religious about a marriage? Why should we allow religions to monopolize and own the word “marriage”?

      This is essentially kowtowing to religious extremists who demand that marriage be kept “traditional” (whatever the hell that means) and gay-free. This is basically saying, “Okay, religious nut-bags, you get to keep the word ‘marriage’ as yours exclusively, and the civil side will be called something else.”

      Marriage predates religion by far. And marriage licenses have been handed out by the states/nations for ages. Our current system of government dispensing marriage licenses is nothing new, nor should it be given over to religious groups.

      What does this solve, exactly? What benefits could a solution such as this possibly provide?

  • Renshia

    I think this is just stating the obvious. it is great and all but it still boils down to bigotry. 

  • Ndonnan

    I ran this one by my In Laws,brother,and aunt/uncle who are all atheist/agnostic and they are all firmly against it for reasons ranging from,”its so unnatural” to,well plain rude reply.And his son and daughter are both gay,i think hes having some acceptance issues here.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      Sounds like it takes y’all a pretty good sized family reunion to get together enough folks to add up to a full set of teeth.

      I’m curious about the “aunt/uncle”. Is she/he transgendered or just confused?

  • Michael

    I am more interested in what this says about how many of the Nones are also churchgoers.

    • Zeggman

       They may be Unitarians, or going to another church to keep peace in the family or woo a potential partner. Some non-sports fans may attend sporting events, or non-opera fans attend opera, etc. for similar reasons.

      • Erp

         Some may like singing in church choirs or playing the music and aren’t about to give it up because they are no longer in the religion.  Some may even consider going to humanist meetings on Sunday as ‘going to church’ for the purpose of the survey.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/RKV3K4REFA5QUACBLT53I7V4UI Ryan

    My question is how are 12% of the non-believers against this? Seriously, people? I know a bazillion people have commented on this already but it really is stunning to me. 

    • Sindigo

      I know, right. What could possibly be their reasoning. A ”random sample of 1,024 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia” seems okay so I guess some people just find it icky. That’s all I can think.

    • Erp

       I don’t find 12% too difficult to believe.  Some may not believe in marriage at all.  Those raised as non-believers may not have questioned their raising including whether people of the same sex should get married.   A small percentage may have just misheard the question.

    • Ibis3

      There may also be a generational factor. Atheists in their 60s, 70s and 80s may find the idea of “changing the definition of marriage” just bizarre and unnecessary. Back when the debate was going on here in Canada, I recall my non-religious* mother coming out with what could be described as a separate but equal solution. To her, marriage was about a male-female union. A same sex union could be legal, but call it something else. I’m not sure if she’s come around since marriage legally became gender-neutral.

      *I’m not sure whether she’s an atheist, agnostic, deist, pantheist, or some kind of Platonist. We haven’t actually discussed it for a couple of decades.

  • cipher

    I think it’s interesting that 51% of Catholics surveyed were in favor.

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      That’s not surprising. Catholics are generally much more modern and liberal than Protestants. Don’t confuse Catholics, who generally do what they want and selectively ignore much of their silly church dogma, with the Catholic Church itself, a medieval and increasingly irrelevant institution.

      • cipher

         Yes, but there are liberal Protestants, too.

        • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

           Yeah, and there are probably Tea Party atheists. But we’re talking statistics here, and not focusing on the outliers.

      • http://www.facebook.com/vincent.dubach Vincent DuBach

        I’d also say, don’t confuse protestants with evangelicals.

        I mean, yeah, there’s a lot of protestant sects that are a little out there… but there are several (like the Church of England… or many European groups, too…) that have moved with the time.

        Meh, the one protestant group that I like the most are the Anabaptists, and the groups they developed into (including the Amish).  When they follow the Bible religiously and literally, they actually do so, instead of picking and choosing in that weird Republican way.

        • Bill Thompson

          Vincent, you are still a bad person.

  • mkb

    If I remember correctly, when the AHA surveyed its members, more like 95% were in favor of marriage equality, so most of the 12% may not be humanists.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QALHJJQYHPAIKP766MPUOROLXA Jake McCoy

    isn’t this sort of obvious, being that (heterosexual) marriage was (originally at least) something that goes on in a church? of course people who don’t care about attending church support gay marriage. however, these religious people shouldn’t be allowing things like divorce if they really cared about the “sacrament of marriage”.

    • Ibis3

      No, heterosexual marriage didn’t originate in a church.

  • DG

    We’re 100% sure that’s
    how love and progress are defined?  There
    are no other options?  None?  There’s only once acceptable viewpoint?  One Truth that alone is true and 100%
    correct?  A single allowable viewpoint
    that defines good and evil?  One single
    truth that alone must be conformed to in order to not be judged and found
    wanting?  Just asking.

    • Edmond

      What exactly are you being asked to “conform” to?  If you don’t want to marry someone of your same gender, then DON’T.  If you don’t think that homosexuality is for you, then don’t engage in it.

      But just because you have a varying viewpoint on these, doesn’t mean that I should conform to what YOU want either.  I would LIKE to marry someone of my same gender, but CAN’T, because of someone ELSE’S “viewpoint”.  My partner and I are consenting, tax-paying adults, but we have to tiptoe through many aspects of our lives, because some people’s “viewpoint” says we’re “evil” (even though we’ve committed no crimes, harmed no one, taken nothing that doesn’t belong to us, etc).

      Why must WE conform to what THEY insist?

      There is room in this world for us ALL to live freely, without ANYONE conforming to anyone else’s viewpoint.  It’s possible for you to marry who YOU want, and for me to marry who I want, and no one conforms at all.

      When they say that “gay rights are human rights”, this is what they mean.  THIS is the “one” viewpoint that is right.  Free humans should be able to BE FREE.  No one needs to be BANNING non-criminal behavior, whether they are motivated by religious beliefs or any other beliefs.

      *************************
      This whole issue reminds me of a quote from The Simpsons, in an episode that repeated recently on JoeTV here in Seattle.  Marge had discovered a UFC-like fighting sport on TV, which she judged to be too violent.  I think she summed up the conservative/Republican position on gay marriage VERY well when she said:

      “Call me a killjoy, but I think that because this is not to my taste, no one else should be able to enjoy it.”

      • DG

        The same was once said a few years ago, if I may use a similar line of arguing: if you don’t think it’s right to own a slave, then don’t own one, but leave us alone (apart from live in a country that condones slavery of course).

        • Kodie

          Did you get your logic from a Bazooka Joe? Because of course the same argument applies to all things equally! If you don’t want to marry someone of the same sex as you, how does someone else doing it equate to holding slaves?

        • http://www.facebook.com/vincent.dubach Vincent DuBach

          Okay, so, OWNING A SLAVE — which restricts the freedom of the person you own, the children they have, etc. — is JUST AS BAD as allowing two gay people to marry.

          Congratulations, you completely fail.  Your sense of morality is sickening.

        • Edmond

          Sure, that’s a nice way to parrot our position.  Don’t want a gay marriage, don’t get one… don’t want to own slaves, don’t own one.  Sounds analogous on the surface.

          The difference is that slavery is viciously abhorrent, and has no place in a civilized, enlightened society.

          Just ask the slave.

          At least in a same-sex marriage, both participants are in it mutually.  It’s a little frightening to hear a Christian “defense” of slavery, presented as a personal sovereignty issue.  Our national freedom allows us to do many things, but it should NEVER be used to take away the freedom of others.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I’m having trouble with that one.  Could you maybe come up with an analogy in which the thing you want to do doesn’t harm anyone else?  ’cause I can’t.  Stealing- harm.  Rape- harm.  Wear white after labor day- no harm.  Keep slaves- harm.  Consensual marriage with another adult of the same sex- no harm.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      We’re 100% sure that’s how love and progress are defined?

      Hemant is, and most of us agree with him.  Obviously you don’t.  You have the right to your viewpoint, but we still think you’re wrong.

      One single truth that alone must be conformed to in order to not be judged and found wanting?

      That sounds like the definition of Christianity to me.

      I think this issue is pretty clear cut.  Other are still in progress.

  • http://twitter.com/headphase Tim Brown

    Who would’ve thought that the nonreligious lead the way in civil-rights?  Yet 30 years from now, when the idea that same sex marriage being wrong is deemed ludicrous, all the reverends and priests will claim that it was their idea all along, and their dogma is eternally infallible.

  • Alvaro Martinez

    This is exactly why I’m NOT an atheist.
    As a former atheist, I’m not to ashamed to say that same-sex “marriage” will destroy Western Civilization.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      [citation needed]

      • Alvaro Martinez

        Oh really? You don’t see what’ll happen if we legalize gay “marriages.”

        This is EXACTLY why I don’t take atheists (especially the feminist types) seriously — you are all blinded by your relativist, gender-neutral, anti-family values to see the destruction that such a mockery of marriage will lead to. I say this as an ex-atheist who was blinded by godlessness and secularism.

        When we strip marriage of it’s TRUE meaning (one man, one woman) we open the floodgates to all sorts of “definitions” of this sacred institution. Why you may ask? Because by redefining marriage we’ve reduced it to a HUMAN and LEGAL CONSTRUCT. If marriage is just a human construct or a “piece of paper” why not legalize polygamy? Why can’t I marry another man and two women?

        Now, skeptical atheists may claim that no such thing would happen — such an argument is simply “slippery slopes,” as you might say, BUT it appears that there is hard evidence that same-sex “marriage” will inevitably lead to legalized polygamy. The Netherlands, the FIRST country to legalize gay “marriage,” is also leading the way in legalizing polygamy.

        First Trio “Married” in The Netherlands
        http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/301

        This sick and disgusting lifestyle will now be legalized and given legal recognition, by the Dutch government. ALL thanks to secularism and relativism! WAY to go!

        If Christians — and other concerned individuals don’t stop these perversities now — God will destroy Western societies like He did to Sodom and Gomorrah!

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Um, nope. Lots of countries have legalized it already. They seem fine. In fact, they’re doing better than the US on measures of well-being; infant mortality, happiness, educational attainment, median income, etc. Marriage is and has only ever been a human and legal construct. The only reason you can’t marry another man and two women simultaneously is the legal complexities are overwhelming. If a poly advocacy group managed to come up with common-sense legal solutions to insurance coverage, property ownership, child custody, estate splitting, and how to do divorces (among other things), I’d be all for legal polyamorous relationships.

          Polyamory isn’t a moral problem at all. As long as everyone is a consenting adult, why do you think it’s “sick and disgusting”? People have differing sexual needs- my husband isn’t at all into kink, and I am a little, so we don’t generally do any. We are monogamous, but that’s only because we discussed polyamory before deciding it just wouldn’t work for our relationship. Does that make us immoral, twisted, sick, and disgusting individuals?

          • Alvaro Martinez

            “Marriage is and has only ever been a human and legal construct.”

            Then that opens the floodgates for ANY definition. If it’s a construct, why can’t I marry my sister or brother if they consent to it? Why not repeal laws regarding incest to make it all possible, if marriage amounts to “just a piece of paper?” If morality and marriage are constructs, what’s going to prevent the government from radically altering the definition of marriage to include brother-sister “marriages”?

            This is why I don’t take atheists and secular folks seriously.

            “They seem fine. In fact, they’re doing better than the US on measures of well-being; infant mortality, happiness, educational attainment, median income, etc.”

            I live in Canada where gay “marriages” are legal.

            When they legalize polygamy and continue to give legitimacy to mothers who birth kids out-of-wedlock, I wonder if we’ll have the productive workforce needed to fund our welfare state, so single moms can continue to pop out babies.

            “Polyamory isn’t a moral problem at all.”

            Why don’t you read about societies where polygamy and polyamory are common? Like Africa, for instance. You can see what happens when monogamy ISN’T the norm and people decide to act like animals, by going with their “instincts.”

            Biblical morality, the nuclear family, and heterosexual marriage made Western Civilization possible. Countries that didn’t put restraints on sexual behavior were stymied in their development. That is why, until recently, there were strong social controls on sexuality, which was channeled into marriage and the family.

            Westerners would be wise to avoid adopting the sexual mores of sub-Saharan Africans, if they don’t want to see a collapse of Western societies — which has already happened with large numbers of children being born out-of-wedlock (I was born out-of-wedlock). It isn’t healthy when you have half of kids growing up without a father or living in a single parent home.

            This is precisely what happens when people see marriage as just a construct and view the institution as being superfluous. People no longer regard marriage as being ideal for rearing and socializing children.

            And to your point regarding the complexity of the tax code, insurance coverage, property ownership, etc. it DIDN’T stop the Netherlands from legalizing polygamy! That won’t stop the United States from legalizing it or any other country if they decide to embrace gay “marriage.” DO you want to end up like sub-Saharan Africa where polygamous relationships are legal? Tell me, would that be a good thing?

            “Does that make us immoral, twisted, sick, and disgusting individuals?”

            This is precisely why I’m not an atheist anymore. No moral compass. I can use this example as evidence against atheism and secularism.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              I use evidence and reality to base my morality on, thanks. Not a moldy old book. Your disgust for people who believe differently from you, your complete disregard for consent and human dignity, mark you as unworthy of further conversation.

              • Alvaro Martinez

                “I use evidence and reality to base my morality on”

                So do I. That’s why I referenced sub-Saharan Africa when trying to explain why polygamy is a BAD IDEA.
                I notice you didn’t reply to my points about Africa where polygamy is widespread.

                This is the model that same-sex “marriage” advocates like yourself wish to adopt. I urge you to research about societies (like Africa) before replacing Western standards of sexual behavior and family formation (i.e. monogamy) with theirs (i.e. polygamy).THEN have the nerve to tell me it would be OK.

                “disregard for consent and human dignity”

                I DO believe in consent and human dignity.

                What I refuse to do is support the redefinition of an institution that’s intended for one man and one woman ONLY.
                I do NOT object to homosexual practices in the privacy of the bedroom, and I have met many gay men who are nice people — but I refuse to allow members of the same gender to marry.

                Under the current model in many U.S. states, homosexuals are NOT denied the right to marry. If homosexuals want to marry, they can — to members of the opposite sex. If a gay man marries a straight woman, it’s a bonafide marriage.
                My opposition to same gender “marriage” has nothing to do with sexual orientation but the relevancy of GENDER to marriage.

                “Your disgust for people who believe differently from you”

                Actually no. I don’t generally have a problem with other people’s opinions — but when people decide to support iniatives that will undermine Western Civilization (in this case, polygamy) then YES I’m going to have a problem.
                Especially, if this new model of family formation is going to lead us to the disaster currrently the norm in many African countries (and many American ghettoes, for that matter, where Black fathers have children with numerous welfare moms).
                Again, I urge you to research about polygamy in Africa before deciding to support the legalization of something so destructive.
                Good day to you ma’am!
                P.S. Now, I have hard evidence of something that gay marriage activists and atheists have DENIED supporting for so long — that they support polygamy. Many gay marriage activists assured us that no such thing would happen, but this was a LIE! Of course they lied! It would be dumb to implement such radical alterations of the family unit all in one go — better to do things in small chunks so as not to be met with so much resistance.
                Next thing, marriage “equality” activists and atheists will want legalized are incest, pederasty, and bestiality. But, of course, they will DENY it, like they did several years ago when campainging for marriage “equality.”
                I’m glad you were forthcoming about your stance because now I can use this example in debates with people who support gay marriage, but deny that such a mockery of marriage would inevitably lead to African versions of the family unit (and later on the legalization of incest, pederasty, and sex with animals).


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