20th August 2010

“If you had said years ago that we would see many more people living together before marriage and double the number of kids being born out of wedlock, moralists would have seen it as proof of the decline of civilisation and the collapse of our moral fibre. But the reality is that the taboos we once thought immovable are completely flexible.”

Bernard Salt

26 Responses to “20th August 2010”

  1. The Heretic Says:

    I really don’t see a good reason to be happy that people are born out of wedlock. There has been a decline in society because of it. Welfare rolls are overflowing and the kids have no discipline; they are raised by child care. You can take out religion, but please leave common sense.

  2. YourSkepticalGuy Says:

    It would help me in responding more directly to your assertion if I had a citation supporting some of the statements and maybe some definitions of what you mean by a “decline in society” and how that decline is caused by out-of-wedlock births. Similarly, what does it mean for the welfare rolls to be overflowing or that kids have no discipline? What do you mean children are raised by child care? I would hope that all care givers of children provide child care…

    There are so many premises and assumptions in that little paragraph I find it hard to parse. I do agree that removing religion is good and providing informed common sense is better – the rest I do not understand.

    Even so, I think that the comment is a bit orthogonal to today’s quote – I take the quote as suggesting that society is moving away from some of the blind religion-inspired morality that plagued our previous generations.

    That is a very good thing. I believe children do not absolutely need a pair of caregivers, one of each gender, married to each other in order to save society. I would say society has improved by virtue of women being able to lead more independent lives – being better positioned to care for themselves and their children without requiring a “man” in their lives. Marriage starts to be come elective, a rational choice, which has to be better for her (and his) children. There is still very far to go in this regard…


  3. solomon Says:

    Just look at a colony of lions. What happens when there are’nt any male lions in it. Its would be unimaginable. There will be chaos causing a major breakdown in the colonies survival. The lioness & their cubs will be in a confused state. That same goes with human. Don’t simply making a point without deep thought.

  4. Braathwaat Says:

    “Moralists” say the same thing when it comes to equal rights for woman, blacks, gays, etc or when any type of wall exists between church & state

  5. Dan Says:

    Do you see anyone celebrating it? No. The point isn’t that people are becoming happy about it (they aren’t), it’s that people are accepting it and no longer condemning it (and they are). It’s reality – in today’s age, two mid-20s adults who are in a relationship can co-habitate before marriage and not face scorn. It’s a noticeable change.

  6. Godkilla Says:

    I’d agree with YSG but would go a little further and say that to really move ahead we need to abolish the special dispensation and consideration given to the institution of marriage. There is simply no moral superiority or difference between having a child in ‘wedlock’ rather than out of it. Marriage is a religious contrivance in the first place and we all know the claim that religion tries to make on morals. The real question that arises from today’s quote, IMHO, is that we should be taking a long hard look at who established the moral connection and why between living together and having children in or out of ‘wedlock’.

    I seriously doubt that genuine secular moralist thinkers (or even moderate students of theocracy) would make the connection alluded to in the quote.

  7. PEB Says:

    I don’t understand what having children whilst outside of marriage has to do with social decline? The point of the quote is that historical (usually religious based) taboos are no-longer relevant.
    Mixed and single sex couples live together before marriage and sometimes have children or adopt. Gay couples can hold hands in the street. Shops can open on a Sunday. Schools kids are taught sex education. Black people can marry white people and Christians can marry atheists.
    All of these things and many more can happen today and there has been no social or moral decline.

  8. tech Says:

    I wish I had all the answers like you GUYS ( atheists ). Any moral trouble the world is in today came from thinking along those lines.It was once said that if God don’t soon cast judgment on the world,that he will soon have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.Thats the way our world is today.May God have mercy on our world.

  9. archaeopteryx Says:

    But tech – I thought your god knew everything. If so, it knew what was going to happen when it smote (I think that’s a biblical word) Sodom and Gomorrah. Being omnipotent means never having to apologize.

  10. The Heretic Says:

    Marriage is a legal contract. Religion and marriage have always been irrelevent. Only the theists think otherwise. That being said, one parent trying to raise a child, is a disservice to the child and the parent. Money being an issue, as well as time. Two parents (any shape, gender, or color accepted) is certainly better in this regard. A hundred years ago, children lived in extended families – parents, grandparents, aunts, loads of children, all under one roof. Everyone was looked after. Not so today. Children are being raised by society, their friends, their teachers (not their jobs!!!), TV, and computers, but not necessarily by their parent(s). It is the job of the parents not “a village”. The kids suffer. Look around at the lack of respect from children today. Unacceptable. This is the society that you think is better than 50 years ago? I might not ostracize a single mother, but I still think she is doing a grave disservice to her offspring. Aren’t you supposed to give a child everything? Well, then give that child two parents.

  11. Margaret Says:

    I have to agree with Heretic today. I see a connection between illigitimacy and social ills. I think he is right.

    Ironically, my workplace is full of mothers who have never been married, yet go to church every Sunday, and wear their religion on their sleeve. The single mothers are too religious to have an abortion or give the child up for adoption, but not religious enough to refrain from conceiving the child. They look to men for love, and do not believe they can keep a man unless they satisfy him. It is a calculated risk they take, the risk of pregnancy in an attempt to get a long-term relationship, but it doesn’t work out.

    The taboo is connected to SEX and MONEY. In the past, illigitimate children could not rise to a position of royalty(in the cases of the children of kings born to mistresses), or inherit the property of their fathers. The social structure of the time did promote support of the children and their mothers, because women were excluded from earning their own living. Females were their father’s concern, and then their husband’s. The father was considered the responsible one. This has changed now that women are working and have their own assets. But somehow, society literally threw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because a single woman can have a baby and not be ostracised for it does not mean that our culture does not need a support system to rear children. Just because she can have the baby alone does not mean that she should. Our future citizens need common-sense guidance, and 2 parents are better 1. A child born to a single mother is a half-orphan on arrival. What if something happens to the mom? Look at our county’s foster care system if you want to cry.

  12. PEB Says:

    “illigitimacy” – wow, there’s a word direct from the dark ages. 2 parents are of course better than 1 but having only 1 parent isn’t the cause of social ills. It’s too easy to blame problems in society on single parents and people always think society is getting worse when it isn’t.
    The problems are just different now than they were 100 or even 50 years ago.
    I would rather be the child of a single parent than the child of parents stuck together in a loveless marriage.

  13. Margaret Says:

    Illigitimacy is the nice term. In the South, when I was a kid, the adults (all believers) called my classmates who were born to single moms, “Bastards”. What an ugly term. I don’t use it.

  14. tech Says:

    You just did. You made light of it.

  15. Margaret Says:

    There is NOTHING light about the bad situations children are born into. The best situation is a wanted child born to 2 parents who are committed to each other and the child. They do not even have to be married, the same sex, or the same color. A couple who have been living together for years and can provide for their offspring in a loving environment is a better situation than 2 married parents who subject the kids to a daily war-zone. The believers I grew up around ostracized the child for something that was out of its control, and it was wrong. I would never, ever call the child born to a single mother that name.

    Illegitimate is a legal term for the state of being born out of wedlock. Despite the decreasing legal relevance of illegitimacy, an important exception may be found in the nationality laws of many countries, which discriminate against illegitimate children in the application of jus sanguinis, particularly in cases where the child’s connection to the country lies only through the father. This is true of the United States and its constitutionality was upheld by the Supreme Court in Nguyen v. INS. (In a hurry, this was taken from Wikipedia, but shows the issue is still relevant.)

    Today’s quote talks about children born into a relationship of 2 people (“living together”). When I see the term, “born out of wedlock”, I think of all the children in our foster care system, born to drug addicted prostitutes, female prisoners, abusive situations, raped by their mother’s boyfriends, taken by the state. Surely nobody here thinks this is a sign of a healthy society.

  16. captainzero1969 Says:

    Good comments today and lots to agree with. I think the term ‘illegitimate’ could use a less pejorative update since this seems to stigmatize the child. Whatever the composition of the family, two parents are preferable to one and two parents plus 4 grand parents is even better. Why? One parent is simply not enough. Someone has to work to support the child and with two parents there is presumably one parent around to teach and be an example. Day care simply cannot do as good a job as a caring and available parent can. Divorced parents can do as good a job as long as they are available to do the job. A single working mother with a child in day care and no relatives living near to pick up the instructional slack just doesn’t cut it. It’s far harder and the child does suffer.

    Finally, I wish the state would stop using the term marriage and settle of something like ‘domestic partners’ for ALL couples. Whatever it’s origins, marriage has religious implications now. The state has no secular interest in carrying this baggage.

  17. tech Says:

    Bravo Margaret You make a lot of sense in your recent comment. I agree a child needs two parents a man and women. Nothing to confuse the child.And Yes even marriage would be better.Its not the peice of paper that makes them fight.

  18. Greg Says:

    Margaret, where is the proof of the “connection between illigitimacy (sic) and social ills” that you refer to? You can’t simply cite a connection based on the women you work with. It appears you’re making an assumption that most problems in the world are caused by children raised by single moms. This is not illegitimacy by choice (i.e., two parents deciding not to get married), but rather illegitimacy by circumstance. This is a huge difference, and not what the QOTD is referring to.

    I would like to see a study referenced that shows – all things being equal (i.e., socio-economically, racially, etc) – what advantage “legitimate” children (parents married) have over “illegitimate” children (parents married).

    Heretic, you wrote that “one parent trying to raise a child, is a disservice to the child and the parent. Money being an issue, as well as time. Two parents (any shape, gender, or color accepted) is certainly better in this regard.” This sounds like an opinion and nothing more. What are you basing this statement on? It appears that you’re injecting your personal emotion into this statement.

  19. The Heretic Says:


    This is not only a personal view; it is also researched.


    “Amoto concludes, “Compared with other children, those who grow up in stable, two-parent families have a higher standard of living, receive more effective co-parenting, are emotionlly closer to both parents (especially fathers) and are subjected to fewer stressful events and circumstances.”

    Responding to this research Mitchell comments, “It is both astonishing and deeply disappointing that despite overwhelming evidence many governments persist with social policies that undermine marriage. For forty years New Zealand has subsidised one parent families at the cost of two parent families. It is time the state adopted a far more neutral position allowing the course of family formation to revert to what works for children. “

  20. Margaret Says:

    I do not take the word “illegitimate” in the perjorative sense. I take the horrible B word in that sense. I do not use that word in any other way than its legal definition. It is never meant as an insult directed at the innocent child. I AM emotional about this issue, perhaps not entirely logical. It infuriates me when children are abused and/or neglected. Single mothers are often vulneralble to predators. I was reading a statement written by a pedophile priest (I wish I could remember the source), discussing how he chose his victims. The pedophile wrote that he liked to select boys who “had no father at home”. I gagged. Single moms already have it harder than a couple raising children, and now, this extra burden on them. 🙁

  21. captainzero1969 Says:

    Greg – besides the research Heretic offers (and I’m sure there’s much more to support the position), the single parents I know ARE stressed and stretched thin to provide all the parenting that kids need. It seems self-evident to me that one working person raising a child cannot have as much time, energy and emotional bandwidth as two people. I’m not saying it can’t be done but just that it is clearly more difficult, stressful and farther from the ideal. In that situation, community becomes much more important.

    P.S. – Tech – Margaret DIDN’T support the one man/one woman position but rather the two-parent position. Be careful who you agree with or you’ll end up in !!!HELL!!!

  22. Greg Says:

    Heretic, thanks for the info – much appreciated. I know a number of single parents with great community support and they are fine. One, in fact, has intentionally chosen to raise her two children alone. She’s not rich, but she does have a family for support. I also know of couples who have aimicably split but have chosen to live in very close proximity so that the children have access to both parents on a daily basis. I can honestly say that these children are exceptional (both excel in sports AND school).

    Sometimes two isn’t better than one: I grew up in a household with an alcoholic father, as did a few of my friends. I can’t say that it was good having two parents all the time, and I know my friends felt the same way.

    So I guess it all depends on the case, but in a perfect world I would agree that having two loving parents is better than having one.

    Margaret, I didn’t mean to imply that you were using the term illegitimate to mean “bastard” – that was not my intent and I’m sorry if I offended you somehow. I know that being a single parent isn’t easy, and it is (unfortunately) harder for single moms in many cases for a number of societal reasons.

    However, getting back to the QOTD, the point is around the religious definition of marriage. Two people in a loving relationship – regardless of their genders, tech – do not need a piece of paper or a religious ceremony to “bless” their marriage. It is what it is. I’m in a committed relationship and refuse to sully it with a religious ceremony.

    A JP ceremony and a big freakin’ party, on the other hand…..!

  23. YourSkepticalGuy Says:

    @The Heretic – Likely no one will read this, being 2 days “late” – but the citation you provided bothered me. I went and read the original article summarized by Ms. Mitchell. (As an aside, she appears to have a bone to pick (she appears to quote herself in the article and seems to mischaracterize the original research…)

    The summarized article is here so you can make your own evaluation: http://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/cycol-0707-amato.html

    A couple of exerpts from the conclusion, for example:

    …Research clearly demonstrates that children growing up with two continuously married parents are less likely than other children to experience a wide range of cognitive, emotional, and social problems, not only during childhood, but also in adulthood. Although it is not possible to demonstrate that family structure is the cause of these differences, studies that have used a variety of sophisticated statistical methods, including controls for genetic factors, suggest that this is the case.


    And third, how might current policies to strengthen marriage, decrease the rate of divorce, and lower nonmarital fertility affect the overall well-being of American children?

    The projections in tables 1 and 2 suggest that increasing the share of children who grow up with continuously married parents would improve the overall well-being of U.S. children only modestly.



  24. Wat Duino Says:


    Here’s the link you are looking for… http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-the-pope-the-prophet-and-the-religiou

  25. Wat Duino Says:

    Let’s take a hypothetical situation: A man and a woman begin a relation ship. They have a genuine fondness for one another and they get along very harmoniously. They move in together and, after a few years of cohabitation, they have two healthy, happy children. They live as a family for 15 years with no legal contract between the mother and the father. Then one day, for no particular reason, they are participants in a marriage ceremony. A year later someone observes their very functional family and asks, “how long have you been married?” What is the answer?

  26. YourSkepticalGuy Says:

    The link was cutoff – try this: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-the-pope-the-prophet-and-the-religious-support-for-evil-1923656.html

    Very interesting and thank you for that.