monogamy, where did it come from?

lunamoth

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On another forum the question came up of where monogamy is first found in scripture and religion. I couldn't find it in the Bible (but then again, I'm not nearly as familiar with the Bible as I hope to some day be), although in the New Testament monogamy seems to be the norm/given, at least for Jews/Christians. Even in the Gospels (i.e., Matt 5:32 "But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes here to become an adulteress,...") monogamy seems to be assumed. 'course there's lots of polygamy in the OT.

Was monogamy already the cultural norm at the beginning of the first century in Isreal?
 

suanni

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I'm just guessing here, but I think it will be found that monogamy was a preferred social structure that was built into religious thinking. It served a number of purposes. It kept the family structure intact where the youngsters could thrive and it helped prevent the spread of STDs which were not curable. Syphilis is deadly when not treated in the primary and secondary stages and claimed many a life before the discovery of penicillin and as far as I'm aware the disease has been around for many millennia
 

mahogan

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Monogamy

'The Social Ecology of Religion' by Reynolds and Tanner (OUP 1995) gives a reasonable overview of sacrifice, worship and sexual practices. The definition of monogamy is in itself not stable, nor is the definition of homosexual, hetrosexual, adult, hermaphrodite etc.

Social constructs have made it very dificult for European cultures to accurately appraise those they met during the periods of expansion (prhaps best illustrated with the idea that Amerindians all lived in flimsy tents).

Also, remember that the office Pope has not always been single, let alone monogamous.

Regards

Martin Hogan
 

lunamoth

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thank you for the replies, suanni and mahogan.

MaH said: "Also, remember that the office Pope has not always been single, let alone monogamous."

:confused: I'm not sure what this means. I don't know much about catholicism, but I thought the Pope always was celibate/unmarried. (Although I am vaguely aware of the historical corruptions, at least in theory they were supposed to be celibate, no?)

Also, I have this equally vague idea from my meandering readings that monogamy tended to be the norm for the peasant/lower/middle classes (i.e., 99.9999%) of societies where polygamy was a practice, and polygamy was a practice of the elite. Perhaps this is why I have it in my head that Christianity assumed monogamy--because it was originated as a religion/revolution for the meek, the humble, the downtrodden.
 

suanni

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Some centuries ago, not sure just how many, Catholic ministers (inclusive of the Pope) were married. Don't know when or why Catholic ministers suddenly had to remain single men. Perhaps somebody more knowledgable about this subject than myself could answer this.
 

mahogan

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monogamy

I think the easiest proof against monogamy is the persistant existence of brothels - even in countries where there is a strong religious taboo against such practices.

I did have a short history of the behaviour of Popes but it tried to pass off various activities as a joke, which I thought unecessary, so I can't quote a book reference but a quick web search for married Popes give (amongst others): http://www.rentapriest.com/married_popes.htm

Within European peasant societies, it was acceptable for the landowner to have sexual intercourse with women on their land, married or not (some research on the 18th Century in England seems to point to the need for a woman to prove her fertility prior to marriage).

Foucault covers this in his easily readable 'History of Sexuality' vol 1 and also 'I Pierre Reviere, having murdered my mother and sister...' Foucault's argument seems to be that monogamy and control of sexuality was a specific response to social and economic conditions which grew up out of the post Enlightenment period and had a great deal to do with the nascent biological sciences and concepts of geaneology as well as an attempt to control populations within the urban (as opposed to rural) setting (this deals with the myth of particular social groups practicing monogamy, rather than the fact, which was that there was an attempt to force monogamy upon them).

A recent US study on intercouse with slaves showed a large number of white slaveowning men engaging in extramarital sex but not of black slaves with white women (DNA burries a myth). The conclusion drawn from this would agree with Foucault, that sexual activity within the European context is closely related to economic and political power and control.

There are cases in Africa of monogamist groups engaging in extra marital sex during specific days/ nights and this is not counted (by them) as sex, they are sitll monogamous.

With continued the growth of STD's amongts the under 30's, I would argue that monogamy was a socio political construct with limited affectiveness. Indeed, that STD's exist and can be very dangerous and yet still spread argues strongly against monogamy ever being a norm, as it would have died out if the practice could be confined to a specific group.

Regards

Martin Hogan
 

lunamoth

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Thank you for the informative reply, MH. My ignorance runneth over on this one...

It is interesting to consider the fluidity of sexual practices and norms, even up to this day, in context with the debate going on here in the US with respect to homosexual marriage. In the media all we hear about is how homosexual marriage is a threat (according to one side of the debate) to the God-given and time-honored tradition of monogamous marriage. The idea being, I guess, that if homosexual marriage is allowed, well then, what won't be allowed. No matter where one stands on this issue, it is interesting that the time-honored part of the argument is an illusion.

I concede that sexual practices yesterday, today and probably tomorrow are far, far from any ideal of monogamy, and that there are very real health and political reasons for controlling sexual relationships. My question is more about the God-given part of the practice. Is there a scriptural and/or religious basis for monogamy in any religion? (I am playing devil's advocate here, as I know at least one answer, I think ;) )
 

Avinash

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lunamoth said:
My question is more about the God-given part of the practice. Is there a scriptural and/or religious basis for monogamy in any religion? (I am playing devil's advocate here, as I know at least one answer, I think ;) )

My tradition upholds that the marriage system was first introduced by Lord Shiva around 5000 BC. Before that time there was no proper marriage system. Shiva however had three wives, a mongolian girl, a black girl and a white girl (so polygamy). In some cultures (even in Buddhist Tibet) polygamy is still practised. I'm also wondering where the basis for the monogamous tradition lies.
 

samabudhi

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Avinash said:
My tradition upholds that the marriage system was first introduced by Lord Shiva around 5000 BC. Before that time there was no proper marriage system. Shiva however had three wives, a mongolian girl, a black girl and a white girl (so polygamy). In some cultures (even in Buddhist Tibet) polygamy is still practised. I'm also wondering where the basis for the monogamous tradition lies.
The idea of monogamy dates back before humans were even a twinkle in an ape's eye.
There are many other animals who mate for life. Particularly mammals and birds though.

I think you mean polyandry. It's quite unusual, but it does happen.
 

Avinash

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samabudhi said:
I think you mean polyandry. It's quite unusual, but it does happen.

You are right Samabudhi, the documentary I saw was on Buddhist polyandry. Thanks! :)
 
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