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Religious marriages slump to record low

The debate surrounding the survey on marriage equality is throwing up a range of issues that sit oddly with over 100 years of historical marriage patterns of heterosexual Australians.

Social media feeds, on line news, the radio, newspapers and television are heavy with people discussing the issue of marriage equality whose only real claim to be heard is their religious belief and their status within their church, synagogue, temple or other religious lobby group.

There are few, if any, declared atheists or marriage celebrants on these news and chat shows outlining their views on same sex marriage. This is despite there being more people of no religion than any other faith.

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For some unknown reason, the overwhelming bias towards those with a religious affiliation promotes them to a point where they have a special status to pontificate as to whether people should vote yes or no to the marriage equality survey. Their views are getting a disproportionate coverage, including relative to how Australians are now choosing to get married.

‘Thin ice’

For over 100 years, Australians getting married have been shying away from church based ceremonies and instead are opting for a marriage celebrant to allow them to legally tie the knot.

This alone should put the status of religious organisations and their spokespeople as authorities on the issue of marriage on very thin ice.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, just 25 per cent of marriages in 2015 were conducted by a minister of religion. This means that the other 75 per cent were conducted by a civil celebrant. This shows an overwhelming choice in favour of a non-religious service.

The 25 per cent of religious marriages is the lowest rate on record, with the data going back to 1902. There is no hint that the trend away from religion is slowing.

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Interestingly, in the 1910s, over 95 per cent of marriages were conducted by a minister of religion. This was the peak use of religious services for those marrying. Since then, the trend away from religious services has been unrelenting and in 1999, civil marriages overtook religious ceremonies as the most common form of marriage.

Which begs the question of the authority of people of religion to have a dominant voice in the current discussion on marriage equality.

There is no doubt the religious groups getting the coverage on the marriage equality issue are well funded and well organised with loyal supporters.

Atheists and marriage celebrants, on the other hand, have no such organisational structure or financial power.

Quirks

There are a few other quirky points about marriage in Australia.

Of people getting married in 2015, 28 per cent were getting remarried – ie, for a second or more time. This is against the teachings of most religions.

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A massive 81 per cent of people getting married lived together before taking their vows. Another blow to the teachings of religion?

In 2015, of those getting married for the first time, there were 416 males and 1,464 females aged 16 to 18 years, with 495 males and 179 females aged over 75 years.

The two most popular months for marriages are October and March while the least popular are June and July.

And finally, the number of divorces rose 4.3 per cent in 2015, to over 48,000 with 47.5 per cent of those involving children under the age of 18. Unfortunately, this appears to be another blow for the religious push about the sanctity of the family.

Looks like when it comes to marriage, people are not only staying away from religious services in droves, but are also living a life of freedom, unshackled by the teachings and preachings of many religious faiths.

Think of that next time a person of religious appears in your news feed advocating a particular position in the survey on marriage equality.