Friday, October 31, 2014

The Problem With Tradition

We've seen a lot of courts strike down gay marriage bans in the past several months and the judges always seem to point out that tradition alone is a bad reason to keep the bans in play.

Just because we've limited marriage to one man and one woman for so long doesn't mean that's the only way or the best way to keep doing it.

We've all heard those arguments about how the definition of marriage -- the tradition of marriage -- has changed over time. Our society no longer allows children to marry, or one man to marry multiple wives. We get married for love, not property. Those traditions changed and we're better off because of it.

On a broader scale though, we should all think very carefully anytime we do things on the basis of tradition. It suggests that we shouldn't think about it anymore; we should just do it.

Why were people so upset when Pluto was declared not a planet? Because they were so used to it being one. There are very good scientific reasons it shouldn't be a planet. But try explaining that to someone who memorized a mnemonic and doesn't want to hear it.

When it comes to religion, though, we encounter the same logic all the time, especially in church/state separation cases. Religious conservatives love tradition because it favors them. Because atheists weren't fighting back several decades ago.

Like “In God We Trust” on our currency. Why is that phrase on our money? Because Christians pushed it through in the 1950s, no one fought back for a long time, and the courts have said it's just "ceremonial" now. It's not a promotion of religion... even though it's totally a promotion of religion. Put another way, it's tradition and that's why it's not going to change.

Why not remove "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance? Same reason. It's been there for a while... Even though the original Pledge didn't have the phrase, Christians love to say we can't change it anymore because that would be tampering with tradition.

Ditto with Ten Commandments displays on government property or the Mount Soledad Cross in San Diego.

That's one reason I really appreciate atheists -- we're not afraid of breaking with tradition when necessary. Many of us became atheists because we dared to question a thought process that's been in our family for a long time. Tradition is never a good enough justification to keep a bad idea going.

By the way, when a tradition stops, we quickly get accustomed to whatever takes its place. Kids growing up today will likely always see marriage as a commitment between two people, regardless of gender. It’s not like they’ll eventually be bawling about the good old days when gays and lesbians were being discrimination against.

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