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    3

    Objections to Polygamy
    The Secular Viewpoint

    A Polygamist Family From Montanna, USA

    Introduction

    Today we are going to look at polygamy from a secular, social and philosophical point-of-view. I shall later look at the question of polygamy from a Biblical viewpoint -- this does not pose very many problems (if any at all) because the Holy Bible is polygamous from cover to cover.

    Darwinist and New Age Perspectives

    The secular view of marriage, with its Darwinist underpinning, must be treated a little differently. As Darwinism (and all its offshoots) has no central guiding laws or principles (save for the 'survival of the fittest') we are dealing, to some extent, with a moving target, where 'right' and 'wrong' are purely relative concepts. If we look at what might be called 'religious Darwinism', that is, those religions were are based on concepts of biological and spiritual evolution, we shall see that morals and ethics are equally nebulous. Often we hear New Agers say that the individual must do 'what is right for YOU' as though truth were somehow within. Were this proposition true then everyone would arrive at the same conclusions. Sadly, it is not, and what is 'right' for one person is more often than not 'wrong' for another.

    Disagreeing But Coexisting With Others

    We shall, of course, attempt to co-exist with those who disagree with us, and that is commendable. Many will do this, and are already doing so. A sign of true maturity is when people espousing different views can 'agree to disagree' and get on with life. My mother from Lubartów often visits my family and is opposed to plural marriage but has accepted it as a reality and has good relations with all my wives and our children. But one of my mothers-in-law, from Krasnik, is quite hysterical and has done everything in her power to make life as miserable as possible for us. This we expect. Some people are mature and some are not, and there is little we can do about it. And it will always be so.

    Multiple Secular Approaches

    We shall not be surprised, therefore, to find many secular approaches to the question of polygamy. Accordingly, we shall not be able to answer our critics to their full satisfaction since their basis of truth is relative. Typically, when they are defeated with one set of arguments, they will resort to another set, ad infinitum, even if the various sets contradict each other. Their purpose is invariably to defend their own personal comfort zones and not to establish absolute truth. Without bringing them to Christ and the Bible there can be no final victory of ideas for polygamists. Whether they are intellectually defeated or not, they will continue to remain hostile. We can at best demolish stupid arguments and leave them to stew in their own soup, and though this is far from satisfactory in terms of building bridges of understanding and mutual respect, it is inevitable if the ultimate purpose is to establish truth.

    Answering From Science and Logic

    I shall be ommitting the views of Muslims, Jews, Hindus and other major religious groupings in this article as my purpose will primarily be to answer the objections of secular humanists whose stance is supposedly 'logic' and 'science'.

    Objection #1: Polygamy is Immoral

    As soon as we start using words like 'morality' in a secular context we have major problems because morality has no absolute meaning. The morality of one generation is viewed as immorality by another one, and vice versa. We can argue out of the Bible, Koran or Vedas to determine what is, and what is not, immoral, but we surely cannot do so from a secular viewpoint. What the secularist usually means by 'immoral' is what his society currently defines it as, in other words, the view of the democratic majority at any one point in time.

    Homosexuality and Relative Morality

    Fifty years ago homosexual liasons were considered grossly immoral even by many secularists (including psychiatrists) whereas today they are generally accepted as 'moral'. Fifty years ago having sex with a minor (someone under 18) was considered grossly immoral whereas today, in some countries, sex with children who are 13 years old is considered moral.

    Secular Morality Shifts and Changes

    There is no answer to this objection. We can only stress that in fifty years time polygamy may well be accepted as 'moral' by secular laws. Already one High Court Judge in the USA has stated that if homosexuality is no longer defined as 'immoral' then other lifestyles such as polygamy cannot either.

    Different Criteria for Making Judgments

    Since the secular society does not judge in the same way as a Bible-believing Christian/Messianic we must approach it differently. Secular society proclaims monogamy to be the only permissable form of marriage whilst accepting common law marriage. It permits married people to commit as much adultery as they want to, to engage in orgies, and every imaginable depravity. Who, then, is immoral?

    Personalised Morality

    Many secularists will agree that society is wrong and so will end up giving their own personal views which are not uncommonly a mixture of tradition and religious belief. Which brings us back to the individual and the sad truth that 'concensus' is a pretty fluid sort of thing: when people talk about 'immorality' it is usually highly personal, with 'society' being recruited to support that personal feeling to give a sense of legitimacy.

    Define What You Mean

    If someone says you are 'immoral', get them to define what they mean.

    Objection #2. Bigamy is a crime.
    Polygamists are therefore law-breakers

    Yes, polygamy is a crime in most western countries, yet sexual co-habitation with several partners is not. Isn't that a little odd? A man may sleep around with several women, get them pregnant, and abandon them and their children. He is not considered a criminal. Whereas a polygamist, who wants to live with his wives and take care of his children, is.

    Secularism's Double Standards

    From this double standard we are to deduce that taking responsibility for, and nurchuring a family, is a crime, whereas showing recklessness and irresponsibility is not. Where is the logic in that? A polygamist earns the money to take care of a family. The man who sleeps around leaves women who cannot care for their children and who must either get the state to support them financially, or get a job. That means more jobs in the state sector for looking after single mothers with benefits so guess which side the state will take?

    Good and Bad Laws

    There are many stupid laws and this is one of them. What do we conclude? That some laws are good (sensible/common sense) and others are bad. It has always been that way with human institutions. Apartheid was law once and it was a criminal offence for a white man to sleep with a black woman, or vice versa. Aryans were not allowed to cohabit with Jews in Nazi Germany. Democrats smile at their moral superiority in judging the proponents of apartheid and nazism yet demonstate the same hypocritical attitude towards polygamy.

    Good and Bad 'Criminals'

    Conclusion: some are good criminals and some are bad.

    Objection #3. Polygamists are sex-mad

    I imagine some of them are. But then so are alot monogamists and unmarried people. So what? Though western society is nominally monogamist the reality is that, in a loose sort of way, it is 'polygamist'. Men cheat on their wives, and women cheat on their husbands. In many monogamous marriages I know of, that is accepted as 'normal'. Half of all monogamous marriages fail today with many marrying several times in a life-time. In my experience, many of those who attack polygamy have sexual hangups of their own.

    Good and Bad Monogamists

    To be a monogamist or a polygamist says nothing of the quality of a marriage. There are good monogamists and bad ones, just as there are good polygamists and bad ones. What must also be understood is that polygamists are not against monogamy -- we accept both. So we aren't actually attacking monogamists.

    Stupid Thinking

    To say that all polygamists are sex-mad is as stupid as saying that those who remain chaste before they marry hate sex.

    Irrationality

    The truth of the matter is that such criticisms are not the result of careful study and analysis but an irrational emotional reaction.

    Objection #4. The only Western
    polygamists are religious cultists

    ...and only Western monogamists aren't cultists??! There are many who live polygamous life- styles who have no religious beliefs at all just as there are monogamists like Jim Jones who was a New Age cultic leader who massacred his followers.

    Celibate, Monogamous and Polygamous Cultists

    Yes, there are polygamous cultists like the late David Koresh, but so what? There are also celibate cultic leaders like Ron Hubbard.

    Scapegoat Arguments

    These are the arguments of ignorance, sometimes deliberate. All Jews are bad, Hitler said. All the upper classes are bad, Lenin said. We all know these are scapegoat arguments yet people continue to use them. All communists are bad...all capitalists are bad.

    Not a Black-and-White World

    The world is not monochromatic. Most polygamists are 'normal' people according to the definitions of 'normality' that most secularists use. They are not all psychopathic religious lunatics, anymore that all Dutchmen are nazis because some were in the last war.

    Objection #5. No decent person would live polygamy

    That depends what you mean by 'decent'. We are dealing with relative terms here. No 'decent' white American would associate with a black man a century-and-a-half ago. In a good many cultures polygamy is considered 'decent' and 'honourable'.

    No Guts

    In my experience a Westerner who thinks polygamy is 'indecent' visiting an eastern culture rately has the guts to speak his mind.

    All Kinds of Indecent People

    Are there indecent polygamists? Of course there are. There are polygamists who treat their wives like slaves and oppress them. But then there are monogamist husbands who do exactly the same, as well as men in common law arrangements who do exactly the same thing.

    An Illustration in Contrast

    Decency is in the individual, in the way he treats his fellow man, and in this case, the way a husband treats his wives. Consider this scenario: a monogamist husband regularly beats up his wife, abuses her psychologically, subjects her to degradation in front of her friends, keeps her a virtual prisoner, and abusestheir children. A polygamous husband is kind and considerate to his wives, shows them respect and courtesy, forgets himself to serve them, is warm and affectionate, and loves his children as a family man.

    Fantastic Leaps of Illogic

    Now consider the reverse -- the good, kind monogamist, and the wicked abusive polygamist. Who is the decent one in the first example? The polygamist, of course. Who is the decent one in the second example? The monogamist, of course. What do we conclude? That some monogamists are decent, and some polygamists are decent; some monogamists are indecent, and some polygamists are indecent. Do we then take the next leap of logic and say that monogamy is 'decent' and polygamy is not?

    Condemnation of the Irrational

    These sorts of objections do not come from thinking people but from the irrational and conceited.

    Objection #6. Polygamy belongs
    to the primitive past

    What is meant by 'primitive'? The image usually conjured up is of a despotic sheikh who keeps numerous concubines and wives locked away in a harem for his personal gratification. If that is the picture, then I would have to agree that this is 'primitive'.

    Relative Primitiveness

    As I look through history I see that in most cultures where monogamy was practiced the same sort of 'primitiveness' prevailed. Yes, there is 'primitive polygamy' but there is equally 'primitive monogamy'.

    Mathematics of Worth is the Real Issue

    The real argument of secularists, though, is not about the way the men treat their women (which everybody knows varies enormously within institutions like monogamous marriage) but in the perceived WORTH of persons. It is really a question of mathematics: If a man is married to, say, four women, is that not saying that one man is worth four times as much as a woman?

    Valuing Children

    If this is true then every family should be limited to one child, as (until recently) in China today, because parents with four children are 'obviously' going to love them less than parents with only one; therefore a child in a four-sibling family is going to be worth less than the child who has no brothers or sisters. (If you're not already laughing at the stupidity of the suggestion, then maybe I need to say more...)

    When is a Woman Disadvantaged?

    The fact of the matter is that I can point to MANY polygamous families where women do not consider themselves to be at a disadvantage when compared to a monogamous one, or who feel themselves to be worth less. But I could point at many monogamous where the woman feels like a piece of property to be discarded as a man's merest whim.

    Qualities and Values Determine Worth

    The issue of worth has nothing to do with monogamy vs. polygamy but on the QUALITIES and VALUES of those who practice the systems. I am not saying one is superior to the other only that both are equally workable, fulfilling, and acceptable.

    Objection #6. If polygyny is OK, why not polyandry?

    The correct term for one man being married to more than one woman is polygyny; 'polygamy' also technically includes polyandry, that is, one woman being married to more than one man.

    The History of Polyandry

    From a purely 'technical' point-of-view, there is no objection. Historically, it has always been very rare. Psychologically, men appear to be better equipped to handle polygyny than women can handle polyandry. Polygyny has proven itself stable whereas polyandry has not, and this because of the biological dispositions of men and women which are different. One can argue, of course, that polyandry has never been successful because men have traditionally always had power and control, and would therefore more naturally favour polygyny.

    Polyandry Driven By Other Factors

    In the few cases where polyandry has functioned historically it has not really been true polyandry, and has usually been motivated by poverty or a lack of women.

    Experimenting With Lifestyles

    In our 'free' western society people are experimenting with all kinds of family life-styles. Polygamy is on the increase and women are being increasingly attracted to it because they see safety and stability. Those who would have polyandry tend not to be family-oriented women, but rather liberal feminists who want to have many sexual partners -- starting a stable polyandrous family is usually far from their minds. And men who just want sexual flings with lots of women without the responsibility of family are repelled by polygamy altogether when it comes to the nitty gritty of it.

    No Stability in Polyandry

    This tells me that polyandry is not 'natural' to women, but that polygyny and monogamy are. I can point to thousands of happy, stable polygamous marriages (as well us unstable, unhappy ones, I hasten to add), and I can point to thousands of happy, stable monogamous ones (as well as unstable, unhappy ones) but I have yet to see a happy, stable polyandrous one. If any one knows, please point me to it!

    Objection #7. Polygamy is unequal sexually

    That is true. A man must 'perform' more than his individual wives. However, not all enter polygamy for sexual reasons, and a man who thinks that polygamy is going to give him an outlet for his libido, may find himself disappointed, because when his wives are pregnant (as many often are simultaneously) then he can be as restricted sexually as he would be in a monogamous situation, because of his wives being sick, or whatever). Many polygamous cultures proscribe sex during pregnancy, menstruation and lactation and this can be a big trial for a polygamist man with high testosterone levels. In short, most polygamous cultures demand self- control on the part of the man.

    The Macho Male Chauvanist

    Not to the macho male chauvanist who has little interest in pregnant women or women who have children to look after and who do not have so much time for sex. In speaking with various polygamists I have discovered that once their wives start getting children he has about as much sex as a typical monogamist.

    Polygamy Not a Sexual Circus

    This is a big subject and is dealt elsewhere on this site where the practical aspects of polygamy are considered. Suffice to say that nature has her way of 'balancing' things up sexually in a polygamous marriage, and men who enter the principle out of sexual lust (and there are some) soon burn themselves out or are forced by reality to change their attitudes. Polygamy is NOT a sexual circus for over-sexed men -- the latter tend to prefer the 'immoral' life (pardon the expression).

    Marriage and Self-Control

    Most happy, succcessful polygamous households usually testify that sexual self-control on the part of both men and women is the inevitable outcome.

    Objection #8. Polygamy is selfish
    -- many men lose out

    If polygamy were a universal principle and monogamy were wrong, I would have to agree. In fact, the reverse is true in our societies today. With the exception of China (with its one child policy, leading to a highly precocious and selfish generation) where men outnumber women, everywhere else there aren't enough men to go round to meet monogamous needs. This forces the surplass women into either prostitution or to living their lives out as singles.

    When War Depletes the Male Population

    There are many reasons for this imballance in the genders. War is a common one, and where the male population has been decimated, even fiercly anti-polygamist cultures like Catholic Europe have in the past permitted polygamy to ensure that widows were adequately cared for (an interesting paradox for religions which considers polygamy to be a sin!).

    Women are More Religious

    Most of Europe and the USA have not experienced a depletion of the male population because of war for over 50 years and yet women are outnumbering men everywhere. Women tend to be more religious than men and so many religious organisations are having trouble finding enough men to marry their female devotees off to (in some parts of Christendom, the ratio is 7:1).

    Gender Demographics

    There are many questions that we could ask about the demographics of gender proportions which are quite complex. We will deal with these elsewhere on this site.

    When Men Shy Away

    Where polygamy is practiced, though, there seems little evidence that men lose out in the 'marriage lottery', probably because most men shy away from the responsibility of taking care of more than one woman and her children, or simply cannot afford it.

    Objection #9. Polygamy can only
    be afforded by the rich

    It is temptaing to think this is so but it isn't. One of the remarkable things about polygamy is that it frees mothers to pursue careers if they want to because they can get help child- minding from their co- or sister-wives. Indeed, in many polygamous families, most of the mothers are income-generators. The cooperative spirit can be quite remarkable and impressive; dynamic polygamous families like these are often the envy of their monogamous counterparts who are forced to place their children in day-care which in many cases they do not want to do and which many (including ourselves) consider to be a disadvantage of children.

    The Industry of Polygamous Families

    A polygamous family can therefore often sustain itself with the same sort of initial resources as a monogamous one, encouraging cooperation and mutual dependency, which serve to strengthen family bonds. By contrast, many monogamous families these days are so weak because neither parent is much at home as to make the concept of a 'nuclear family' almost null and void. The most successful polygamous families are therefore highly FAMILY-CENTRED.

    Objection #10. Only ignorant
    religious people practice polygamy

    Not true. Increasing numbers of non-religious people are discovering the benefits of polygamy and are practicing it. Indeed, in some countries, there are religious people who are entering polygamy contrary to the teachings of their religious traditions, for example, Catholics in the Philippines. It's a principle that is spreading, and it cuts across every economic and educational barrier.

    Objection #11. Polygamy is a part of
    the oppressive patriarchal system

    That depends what you mean by the word 'patriarchal' which in the secular environment is usually exclusively applied to male tyrranical systems. That is unfortunate but a sad reality, and therefore we are required to define terms.

    Multiple Stereotypes

    There is 'righteous patriarchy' and 'unrigheous patriarchy'. There are good and bad patriarchs, whether monogamous or polygamous. There is no one stereotype of 'patriarch' just as there is no single stereotype of polygamy.

    The Abuse of Language

    We have to be so careful with words. We have this notion, for example, that all 'liberal democracy' is good and all autocracy is evil. Yet distinguishing the two can sometimes be very hard these days and I would view some 'liberal democracies' as autocratic, particularly in the cultural arena. I would even hazzard to suggest that there is a thing called 'liberal fascism'.

    Many Shapes and Forms

    The fact of the matter is that polygamy, like monogamy, appears in many shapes and forms, both good and evil. It is not that polygamy and monogamy are at fault per se but the values of some of the people who live these marriage estates.

    Liberal Values

    Liberal secularists often hail liberal secular values (that include monogamy, free sex, &c., but not polygamy) and pour accolades on liberal leaders who in private are leading lives of adultery and 'immorality'.

    Conclusion

    The lesson to learn: don't be hasty in sticking over-simplistic, faulty moral labels on people and systems like polygamists and polygamy.

    Author: SBSK

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    First created on 11 May 1998
    Updated on 16 January 2016

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