Atheist weddings on the rise

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Atheist weddings on the rise

July 26, 2013 - Jim Denison, PhD

Newlyweds Brendan Hastings and Suzy Addis are covered in confetti after their humanist wedding ceremony at the Millhouse in the village of Slane, County Meath July 17, 2013 (Credit: Reuters/Cathal Mcnaughton)

Ireland is allowing atheist weddings for the first time.  Until this year, those who did not want a religious ceremony could have only a legal function officiated by a magistrate, not a wedding celebration.  But as secularism continues to escalate in a country once dominated by the Catholic Church, secular weddings are on the rise as well.  The percentage of Irish weddings performed by the Catholic Church or the Church of Ireland has fallen from 90 percent in 1996 to 69 percent in 2010.

In response, humanist “solemnizers” are now able to perform weddings there.  They have seen demand for their services skyrocket.  Many are booked into next year.  Scotland legalized humanist weddings in 2005 and saw them jump from 100 that year to 2,846 in 2011.  Secular weddings are allowed in Australia, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, and some U.S. states.

One person who performs such weddings says, “I prefer to view an ‘atheist ceremony’ as a ‘celebration of love.’  The experience of love transcends all the boundaries and differences, beliefs and conditions, and touches all who join the couple in their celebrations.”

Does it really?

Aldous Huxley observed, “Of all the worn-out, dog-eared words in the English language, surely love is the worst.”  He’s right, of course.  We “love” mustard on our hot dogs, some of us “love” the latest “Wolverine” movie enough to stand in line today for tickets (not me), and we “love” our spouses and family.  Surely, not all in the same way.

C. S. Lewis notes that the word “gentleman” originally meant “one who had a coat of arms and some landed property.”  As a result, “when you called someone a ‘gentleman’ you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact.”  Then “gentleman” came to mean someone whose behavior you happen to like.  Today it’s a name on a restroom door.

Has the same thing happened to the kind of “love” that God intends for marriage?  The Bible uses three words for “love”: eros, sexual love (we get “erotic” from this word); phileos, friendship love (“Philadelphia” means “city of brotherly love”); and agape, unconditional love.  Marriages today are often based on the first two, but the third is the strongest, most enduring foundation for any home.

An atheist wedding can celebrate eros or phileos, but agape comes only from God as a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22).  You and I can’t do much about the rise of humanist weddings.  But we can make sure that our marriages and homes don’t become more secular over time.

Is God the source of your love for your family today?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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