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I Do Not Marry a Married Man (laphamsquarterly.org)
61 points by Thevet 59 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

This is an interesting interpretation of polygamy. The usual interpretation is along the lines of "to the rich go the spoils".

But sex imbalances would have occurred throughout history and, questions of morality aside, polygamy seems like a reasonable solution, at least if women outnumber men.

I wonder if anyone has tried to investigate a possible correlation between polygamy and imbalanced sex ratios throughout history.

I haven't found a good online source for this, but it's common knowledge that Paraguay allowed polygamy after a war killed a large proportion of men.


Heck a few years back a bill was almost passed that would make merrying a second wife mandatory in Iraq . The government would give financial incentives and ignore the first wife's wish of not allowing her husband a second wife . It was revoked after extreme criticism.

So this is primarily about polygamy in Indigenous people's of North America. It is secondarily commentary on women's rights in those peoples, where women apparently had more agency, choice and personhood than was typical for women in Europe at the time. The Jesuits, so keen to spread their faith, often didn't so much as bother to record the names of the wives because they so did nit view women as actual people.

Even in developed countries, women continue to struggle towards equal treatment as full human beings while their complaints often fall on deaf ears and become some new excuse to heap abuse upon them.

Perhaps I'm saying that wrong. Perhaps my statement merely reflects my own prejudice at the presumed superiority of developed nations. Maybe we would have a better world if some of these other peoples had more influence, people with apparently a better track record of treating women like human beings and giving them a say in their own lives.

Having only one wife wasn’t a commandment and the biblical patriarchs had multiple wives. This is more about Jesuits and the Catholic church trying to enforce their own belief systems on someone.

Taught, yes, but imposed? In any case, you're ignoring important facts, many of them addressed in a broad view of the Old Testament and the Gospel of Matthew.

First, in Genesis, the ideal, created union is given as monogamous. Second, none of the prophets were polygamous. Third, polygamy is usually spoken of disparagingly and as something having disastrous consequences. Fourth, Mosaic law also permitted divorce, but that was a divine dispensation that Jesus lifted and that one existed in the first place because "your hearts were hard". He goes on to say that "it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, unless the marriage is unlawful, and marries another woman commits adultery" (Matt 19:8-9).

Thus, polygamy may have been tolerated for similar reasons, that is, as a concession to the times, as it were. Furthermore, Maimonides argues that while the Torah may permit certain behaviors, a synoptic reading would show that it establishes rules that show these behaviors are wrong.

I’m not arguing from a religious standpoint or whether the Bible should decide what other people do. I’m just making factual statements....

The biblical great grandfather of the Jews - Abraham - had multiple wives. As did King David who was put forth as a great, but flawed king.

The Bible does record the fact that historical figures had multiple wives, but it also records the fact that this was an endless source of trouble. The law recorded in the Bible prohibits kings from multiple wives, and also records that they put themselves above this law and the problems this caused. It's more that this practice was tolerated than endorsed. It was certainly not lauded. In Proverbs, the assumption is monogamy.

By the time you get to New Testament times, elders in the church could only have one wife, and the admonition of Galatians 3:28 (and others) eventually led to the phase out of these practices - not based on law, but based on love for one another and looking out for one another.

What the Bible shows is God meeting people where they were at and guiding them to a better way over time. These priests should have paid attention to that.

Even if it were a commandment and the biblical patriarchs hadn't had multiple wives, it would still be the christians trying to enforce their own belief system on someone.


The article specifies that the tribe in question had more women than men.

I don't understand why the Jesuits made monogamy a requirement for baptism. The idea of having any sort of "litmus test" at all for baptism is a blatant contradiction, it's as if they never read their own Bible, or they would know the example of the apostle Philip, who, in Acts 8:26-38, encounters an Ethiopian court official travelling back to Ethiopia, briefly joins him in his chariot, tells him about Jesus, and then: 'As they traveled along the road and came to some water, the eunuch said, "Look, here is water! What is there to prevent me from being baptized?" And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.'

The Jesuits seem to have things completely backwards. A man cannot turn away from sinning just by his own sheer willpower. We are all corrupted since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, and it is utterly hopeless to try to be "good people" without the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

>Christianity was always a "slave religion"

Quite appropriately so since we are all slaves to sin, not to mention all sorts of other insidious dystopian 21st century slavemasters. If you're some kind of Marvel Superhero with absolute unchecked personal sovereignty then I guess you should go worship Zeus or something, but I know for absolute certain I'm not such a superhero.

>A man cannot turn away from sinning just by his own sheer willpower. We are all corrupted since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, and it is utterly hopeless to try to be "good people" without the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

>Quite appropriately so since we are all slaves to sin

This to me is terrifying and revolting to read. How can anybody believe this sort of nonsense, and worse: harmful nonsense at that. We are all slaves to some mythological original sin, we cannot improve ourselves, we are doomed, we need a magical force from above to descend and save us all... Completely contrary to my personal ethics, completely contrary to the mindset necessary for progress (nobody is going to save us; there is nobody else, only us; we need to roll up our sleeves and improve our shitty world, because if we don't do it then nobody will, etc).

But then again, that's only my opinion. The difference being I upvoted you for sharing your point of view, while the other guy seems to have been flagged to silence...

> This to me is terrifying and revolting to read. How can anybody believe this sort of nonsense, and worse: harmful nonsense at that. We are all slaves to some mythological original sin, we cannot improve ourselves, we are doomed, we need a magical force from above to descend and save us all... Completely contrary to my personal ethics, completely contrary to the mindset necessary for progress (nobody is going to save us; there is nobody else, only us; we need to roll up our sleeves and improve our shitty world, because if we don't do it then nobody will, etc).

I was a raised a "Bertrand Russel: Why I am not a Christian"-type atheist. Your perspective is similar to the one I had for most of my life.

But more recently, I've come to view the things you quoted as metaphorical. Looking at them that way, I wonder if they don't contain significant wisdom. It comes out something like: "We are all deeply flawed beings capable of good and evil. Salvation does not necessarily flow from intelligence, 'progress,' or earthly accomplishment".

I suppose I think that's basically right. We are fundamentally biological creatures and therefore slaves to our biology (human nature) which encompasses many aspects that we consider unpleasant. Progress ("improving our shitty world") cannot change this fundamental fact. That last part is debatable, but I think it's probably true. Attempts to re-engineer (or re-calibrate) humanity have failed spectacularly. Yes, normative morality changes but people remain basically the same underneath that veneer.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to improve things. It just means we need to do so cautiously and we ought to remember that, despite everything we have built, we are deeply flawed, biological entities capable of tearing it all down in the blink of an eye.

I still view the cosmological claims of Christianity (and all religions) as silly.

I agree that it was inappropriate for the comment I was replying to to be flagged. I suspect the mods probably flagged it in fear that the "Christianity is a slave religion" comment would spark a flamewar. mynameishere's comment wasn't really all that bad, and I'm surprised to see it got flagged.

Flagging is something most users can do. It's not an exclusive mod power on HN.

The only doctrine I believe anymore is that of original sin. I've spent too much time among humans to imagine there are any who aren't broken.

> The only doctrine I believe anymore is that of original sin. I've spent too much time among humans to imagine there are any who aren't broken.

But your belief is that we are born broken, and not that it is the world that breaks us?

The world is us. Everyone here is the culmination of the same eons of evolution. Considering humanity to be somehow separate from the mess that humanity makes is a form of magical thinking.

And how is the world that it could break us? The world is made of broken men. We are born broken, that is, with a propensity toward sin.

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

-- Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

That's just far too simplistic. Child abuse, mental illness, PTSD from traumatic experiences, traumatic brain injury, can all lead to impulsive erratic behaviors. Sin is also vague, and biblical sin is often completely disconnected from the actual cause of why someone is making poor choices.

The answer to nature vs nurture is epigenetics.

A person who is drowning does not have the power to save themselves. This is of course terrifying. The more they struggle, the worse it gets. In fact, a person in the terror of drowning will, in their terror, drown other people they can get ahold of.

The only hope for this person is if they are saved by someone else who has the power, knowledge, and skill to do so.

So, the question is, are you drowning, or are you in some other situation? History is very clear that the more power people get, the more they abuse it. If we could improve things on our own power, would it not be the opposite? This tendency to abuse of power and authority looks just like the drowning person. Their own efforts doom those who are around them. The 20th century is full of examples of people achieving absolute power and then killing millions with that power.

If you come to understand that you are that drowning person, then the Bible is a great comfort, as it shows that there is salvation, not on your own works, which will never be good enough, but because there is a Lifeguard who can save.

Drowning unable to help themselves is an urban myth. While you are still conscious, you can definitely do whatever it takes.

Article under that link does not say anything about whether people can help themselves or not. It just says most don't scream, because it is hard with throat full of water.

Quotes from the article:

> Drowning people cannot wave for help.

> drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements.

> Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water for 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs

> 21st century slavemasters

Speaking of the 21st Century...

Can you name any Christian denomination in the 21st Century who publicly and proudly connect the fish and loaves parable with the ethics of file sharing?

I'm most interested in an interpretation that takes the literalist stance that Jesus started with a bounded amount and copied it for zero marginal cost. (And we know copying happened because more crusts came back than went out.)

Not exactly what you're asking, and not meant as an endorsement, but I've heard the following theory, which at least seems plausible.

The theory goes that when the multitude followed Jesus into the wilderness, each individual brought his own bread, but kept it secret, not wanting to share it. Jesus knew that each man had his own bread but that no-one wanted to share it. So according to this theory, it was actually sarcasm when Jesus said: "I have compassion for this crowd, because they have already been with Me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may faint along the way." (Matthew 15:32) Knowing the people had secret bread, Jesus took His disciples' paltry seven loaves of bread, blessed and broke them, and instructed the disciples to distribute them.

Each person was so ashamed then (according to the theory) that he ate his own bread, rather than take the portion of the disciples' bread that came around. Some were even so ashamed of their greed, that they added some of their own bread to the disciples', so that: "They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. A total of four thousand men were fed, in addition to women and children." (15:37-38)

That interpretation removes the miracle part.

My point is that there's a two-thousand year-old story that has as its premise the uncontroversial ethical stance that if one had the power to turn a scarce amount of something into a surplus one ought to do it.

Now we have technology that allows us to turn a scarce amount into a surplus with zero marginal cost (and with Bittorrent an amazingly low distribution cost, though I have no idea if it's actually zero).

Is the response from the sacred places where that story has been passed down to us really just crickets in the face of this new technology?

Just to be clear-- I understand that the parable is taken as one symbolic part of a much more complex spiritual belief system. But if the leaders and adherents don't even seem to notice when a change in technology makes that symbolic part be literally true-- much less consider the ethical implications-- what does that say about the ethical thrust of the symbolic interpretation and/or the spiritual belief system?

I do wish more churches would take advantage of the fact (they're probably unaware of it) that U.S. Copyright Law has exemptions for churches. So if you wanted to, say, show "The Passion of the Christ" in church as part of worship, it would be perfectly legal with no license or agreement or anything.

I think the reason churches don't voice up about stuff like bittorrent is because it's still mainly used for entertainment which, while fun, isn't really urgent [1]. If we imagine a nightmare scenario where copyright law goes even more insane and Amazon.com suddenly obtains sole copyright of the New Testament and all its translations, then you'd see the church endorsing piracy real quick ;)

If you feel called by the Holy Spirit to start the first Christ's Church of the Holy Torrent, (as opposed to just coming up with the idea on your own), then maybe you should start that church. I would donate.

[1] A possible exception would be scihub and the like. Here, we see the supreme irony of academics trumpeting the triumph of humanist reason--and then giving away their copyright to a for-profit company! LOL! It really proves some of the things Jesus said, like, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste" (Matthew 12:25), or, "He who does not gather with Me scatters" (12:30).

It is a bit strong to call this a "theory" since there is no evidence whatsoever for it. Of course religion is about faith, so you can believe anything you want.

The loaves and fishes miracle started with the materials being freely given, which is not really the case in scenarios where file sharing is ethically dicey. Really not a solid comparison, I would say.

Sci-hub is about the most solid comparison I can think of (given a few moments to consider the comparison). But it's not quite right because the articles being shared are from research done for the public good which were typically already paid for by the public good. In the parable nobody paid ahead of time for the future possibility of the miracle feeding everyone.

But that's a difference in the opposite direction from your "ethically dicey" comment. Jesus' miracle was way more radical than doing an end-run around an anachronistic business model to redistribute research the public already paid to get.

Interesting point. I lean towards agreeing that sci-hub is ethical civil disobedience on that basis. That's not a point about file sharing overall, though, nor (I think) do you need the loaves and fishes to justify it.

> Christianity was always a "slave religion"

The first adopters of most religions are those who have the least to lose.

> We are all corrupted since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden,

That's a more contemporary interpretation. Literal interpretation is the fruit gave them knowledge. They realize of their shame. And humans make mistakes.

> I don't understand why the Jesuits made monogomy a requirement for baptism.

All people who try to implement certain rules and procedures get hung up on variety of details even if it doesn't make a difference.

> The first adopters of most religions are those who have the least to lose

Depends on what you mean by first adopters. Some of the Christian church fathers were quite educated people, and many of the Buddha's great disciples came from immense wealth.


And Buddha was a prince.

That makes Buddhism a religion of the wealthy if a religion at all. Where the wealthy preach simplicity. An irony.

I like this interpretation:

> when they bit the apple they realized the cost of everything they've been consuming up that point. It was the bill for living in the garden.

Their eyes were not opened in the sense that they received knowledge (Adam had already been trusted with maintaining the Earth, presiding over and naming all of the animals on Earth - a task that can not be performed by a monkey. Moreover Adam was already capable of intelligent dialogue and reasoning about concepts such as loneliness, as well as some poetic production “this is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”), but rather that they had been lied to by the serpent who was actually Satan (the original lie: “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad”). This would have been a convincing lie, as it could have easily been reasoned that serpents do not talk and hence perhaps the serpent ate the fruit and now talks from first hand experience. Of course this were not the case because we know that the serpent were used as a puppet by other references.

Eating the fruit didn’t give them any knowledge of good and bad - they already knew that disobeying God was bad. Otherwise punishing them would have been unjust. Interpret the lie this way: anyone deciding for themselves what is good or bad actually then “knows what is good or bad” (challenging objective morality). Moreso Eve was tempted by the prospect to “be like God”, having no doubt observed the activity of the spirit creatures in the garden. Some believe that the resulting feeling of nakedness and desire to “hide from the face of God” was then wanting to avoid fronting up to God because they feared the consequences and felt highly insecure, in much the same way that a toddler (or a puppy) instinctively hides or tries to cover themselves due to guilt if they do wrong. After all, to literally feel naked would be unusual because they are completely alone (in a physical sense) in the garden, so there is nobody to spy upon them.

Now, think about this: if Adam was not deceived (in 1 Tim 2:14 it says Adam was not deceived) but Eve was deceived and had now sinned (Gen 3:13), and Eve offered the fruit to Adam not immediately but some time afterwards, did he not have a choice between pleasing God or pleasing his beautiful wife? And as for any typical love story he chose to grow old and die with his wife rather than allow Eve to be subjected to death alone.

This is my favourite love story by the way.

Heresy. Funny interpretations spun by philosophical ponderings. Mixed with Modern day counter arguments.

You are tripping over your own foot.

Polygamy leaves a very angry pool of low status males. Not very good for those in power

This isn't accurate at all according to the article. In this particular place and time, women outnumbered men. I'm assuming it's because men took on some dangerous role that women didn't (war, hunting, etc.)

“Since I have been preaching…that a man should have only one wife I have not been well received by the women; for, since they are more numerous than the men, if a man can only marry one of them, the others will have to suffer. Therefore this doctrine is not according to their liking.”

> assuming it's because men took on some dangerous role that women didn't (war, hunting, etc.)

One possible hypothesis is that polygamy itself is the cause of this: the higher competition for wives drives the men to extremer forms of acquiring status (war, hunting, etc).

I'm skeptical, the indigenous chief who is the subject of the article makes it very clear he wished he only had one wife but he can't get rid of the other two. One of the premises of the article is that polygamy was probably not a form of sex slavery but rather a social necessity.

What would be interesting would be to see if this was typical of many societies that practiced polygamy. I could imagine that men taking more dangerous risky occupations and having higher mortality might have been a constant during much of human history.

Bingo. Wise societies forbid polygamy as it results in the top 10% of males having women, and the lower 90% being -- to use a modern 4chan-ish word -- INCELS.

Of course, one doesn't need to condone polygamy to see this phenomena occur... liberalized divorce laws will suffice. you just spread the polygamy out over time. That is, when there is nothing shame in dating/marrying a divorced guy, you'll end up with a smaller and smaller percentage of men getting women, and a larger and larger group of men living in their parents basement hoping that some woman -- any woman -- will swipe them on tinder. This cohort of young men will prove to be very detrimental to society.

> it's as if they never read their own Bible

Well Jesus never baptized anybody and never said anything about baptism.

Edit: Sorry, I was wrong about the last part!

You are mistaken because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God. Christ spoke many times about baptism, even in the very final climax of the Gospel of Matthew.

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

> You are mistaken because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God.

Correct on both counts, I admit!

Read the Bible before commenting on it. Otherwise, you'll sound foolish. In regard to Jesus and baptism, start with Mark 16:16.

Why I am seeing this on HN?

Because hackers have a wide variety of interests and often love learning about things they never heard of before.

The parent comment reminds me of how often commenters on articles posted by The Economist wonder why the article wasn't about economics. https://www.economist.com/unknown/1843/08/05/prospectus

If you don't believe this should be on HN, flagging the post would be a better use of your time and a more clear adherence to the guidelines that you appear to think are not being followed by this submission.

Because someone submitted it, and interested hackers upvoted it.

Fry: Everything was going great! Then all out of a sudden, she’s talking about hanging out. Hanging out?! She's getting way too serious. I’m not a one-woman man, Leela.

Leela: You’ll be back to zero soon enough.

Polygamy encourages the objectification of women. Marriage ceases to be a union of equals in which there is a total self-giving of spouses to one another. While we has become dull to and ignorant of an understanding of the essence and purpose of marriage (years before the last two decades, I might add), it is a union which is unitive and procreative in principle. The unitive and the procreative are not separable. The unitive is ordered toward the good of the family (and, of course, by extension society).

While monogamous marriages can be defective in practice, they are not so in principle. Polygamous marriages, on the other hand, impose these defects in principle.

There may be a similarity here with hookup culture, that is, a polygamous culture seems to likewise, though perhaps to a lesser degree, encourage men to view women as mere instruments of sexual gratification. Harvey Weinstein is in essence not some exception, but the poster child for our age.

Far from denigrating women as has been falsely claimed by some, the Christian (specifically Catholic) defense of insoluble, monogamous marriages was one of many ways in which woman was saved from the disordered predations common in human societies throughout history.

(P.S. A relatively recent philosophical tract worth reading is the late Karol Wojtyla's "Love and Responsibility".)

In case you hadn't noticed: All you are making is assertions. Some of those assertions probably have a tradition behind them, but they aren't any more insightful than "people who choose nicknames beginning with 'b' are stupid in principle". We understand you believe that, but that doesn't make those assertions any more sensible.

There are many women who would take the trade off of being loved by a man who loves multiple women over never being loved.

The reverse is not so true though.

Would you be ok with form of polygamy where a woman has multiple husbands ?

From a moral standpoint no.

I don’t think this would work out as well from an evolutionary standpoint, if you believe that men are driven to have as many children as possible, a woman can only have one man’s child at a time. A man can get multiple women pregnant.

You understand neither morality nor evolution.

I’m not arguing morality I really don’t care what two or more consenting adults do. I think the most “moral” thing we can do as a society is to leave other people the hell alone to live their own life.

That's polyandry, but terminology aside, the same problem vis-a-vis what I've written still exists. There may be sex-specific problems that result from polyandry vs. polygamy, but the same problems mentioned above remain.

> but the same problems mentioned above remain.

Polyandry also objectifies women? how?

> That's polyandry,

polygamy is a superset of polyandry per dictionary. Your original comment was about polygamy.

W.r.t. polyandry, yes, you're right. I was thinking polygyny. My mistake.

In terms of polyandry, I meant the non-sex specific, general defects still hold. Certainly, polyandry specifically inflicts a defective relationship on the males, but given the asymmetrical responsibilities between the sexes, the result would likewise be detrimental to women. (Of course, where the latter point is concerned, it is the same with polygyny vis-a-vis men. It's not as if a man is honoring his nature by being a polygamist. It is to his detriment as well.)

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