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 editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • Renshia

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

  • 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!

  • 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://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://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. 

  • Michael

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

  • 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. 

  • cipher

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

  • 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.

  • 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://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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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://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”.

  • 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://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?

  • 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.

  • Ibis3

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

  • 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.

  • 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://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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    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.

  • 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://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.


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