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The Longest Sentence of One’s Life: “I do.”


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/03/12

Most young people, men and women, want to marry one another. The questions arise, in younger generations growing in the wave of divorces in the West or seeing divorces in the West, about the nature of divorce, the proceedings and relations afterward, and the supports in place.

The Independent took account of the increasing interest in the worldview or life stance humanist in this most important of life domains for the vast majority of the population who, in fact, want to marry and have children.

It has been researched in some prior academic work by humanists, including Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson, that in spite of the increase in, for example, Canadian society of the secular by belief or the non-religious, and so on, the consistent trend has been a stabilization of the cultural tradition of marriage.

Something about this institution holds a special place in the ways in the English, the Welsh, the Scottish, the Canadian, and others. The due diligence on the part of the humanist leadership and community would be to take this into account as an empirical fact and then plan, and act, in accordance with the reality presented to us: human beings like weddings.

In addition, and with the hyper-cautious current generations in regards to weddings and partnerships, in the West, at least, we can see the important empirics provided by The Independent. The humanist weddings, compared to other forms of ceremonies, appear to divorce less — based on new data.

The data comes from a biased source in Humanists UK, but the information could be valid regardless of the potential bias or conflict of interest in the source used for the citation.

Interestingly enough, the statistics cited by Humanists UK, to dig a tad deeper into the rabbit hole, comes from the official statistics.

If you take some time to sift through the data on record for Civil, Humanist, Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic, and Other Religion categories for the weddings and the divorces, literally, every other type of marriage indicated an increase in the divorce rate whilst the humanists recorded a decrease in the divorce rate as the marriages lasted longer.

In fact, only Civil marriages seemed to do some of the same, but there was a stabilization of the divorce rate as the marriages counted were from 5–10 years and then 10–15 years. This doesn’t mean, by necessity, the superiority of the humanist marriages, but, certainly, this indicates an improved status of the divorce rate. Which, I guess, in one analysis, can imply better in the long term survival of the marriages.

One weakness of the data here is the fact of the limitations in the range of the data. It is on a limited number of types of beliefs. It, also, is limited to Scotland as a data set. Something of interest would be an international research study on humanist and other belief wedding ceremonies around the world controlling for reasonable confounding variables including family size, prior marital status — e.g., first or second, or third, marriage, and so on, socioeconomic status, educational status, region of the world, and so on.

The assumption would be a similar trend, or, perhaps, a null result in which the belief systems behind the ritual of a union, behind the marriage ceremony, in essence, amounts to a completely negative result overall. However, an in-camp bias would want, of course, the humanist ceremonies to be a protection against the ravages, typically, of the breakdown of a union in the case of divorce.

As stated by Humanists UK, “Overall, looking at marriages within the last fifteen years, 0.25% of couples who had a humanist marriage got divorced in 2017–18, compared to 0.84% of all other couples. This stark difference remains regardless of duration of marriage.”

An important note, no doubt, but does this amount to a statistically significant result or simply too tiny to become noteworthy; it may be salient to those who want a reduced odds of 0.59%. However, we simply do not know, as far as I can tell — as the data is only one country. It seems promising, though.

In the reportage by The Independent, humanist weddings are not formally recognized by England or Wales. However, Scotland, happily, has seen their legalization since as far back to the 2005 — you know, the Dark Ages of modernity.

The Civil Marriage Act of July 20, 2005, was, by comparison, the time when Canada legalized same-sex marriage, which is the country of origin and residence for me.

Now, humanist weddings, as of 2018, are recognized in North Ireland. This is all to the good, not simply the humanist good but those with goodwill and understanding of human right stipulations about equality. Of course, there may be personal legacy reasons or political motivations upon which the movements for equality in societies. However, the presence of greater equality is, at root, praiseworthy.

“…couples in England and Wales may choose to legalise their nuptials at a local registry office either before or after their humanist ceremony. The figures,” The Independent stated, “which were obtained by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and released to the BBC via a freedom of information request, reveal there were 5,072 humanist marriages in Scotland between 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, there were 3,166 Church of Scotland ceremonies and 1,182 Roman Catholic ceremonies; the most popular type of wedding was a civil ceremony, with 14,702 taking place in that same time.”

In essence, a humanist wedding as a non-religious ceremony, as an alternative to some of the more traditional or, rather, the traditional religious services and ceremonies provided by other belief systems.

A humanist celebrant will be the one to officiate the wedding or conduct the funeral within the framework of official training and then working within the constraints of the ideology of the movement. Humanist simply rejects the supernatural while harboring something more akin to a life stance or an ethical philosophy. In this sense, it is pragmatic.

Humanists UK stated, “[A humanist will] make ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals… [where] human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.”

Meaning not as a constituent element of the universe but as a derivative of human beings in relation to it. Human beings make meaning. Some of those meanings exist in the long-term partnerships most choose to embark upon, in which further meaning can be gained through a ceremony to mark and honor it.

Andrew Copson, the Chief Executive of Humanists UK, stated, “These figures show what a good start for couples a humanist wedding can be… Humanist weddings are deeply personal, with a unique ceremony crafted for each couple by a celebrant that gets to know them well.”

One of the good sets of data comes from YouGov research into public attitudes about acceptance of humanist weddings. In England and Wales, 7 out of 10adults would like to see the humanist weddings legally recognized.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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