Jun 05

What’s in a Name and Other Important Questions

In Brief—Why does the woman take her husband’s name at marriage? Why marriage? Why are religious leaders always given respect? Why are felons denied the vote? These and other questions are important, but they go unchallenged. The author addresses these questions.


Logical or Illogical? Useful or Useless?—

What's in a NamAmy marries DeShawn and takes his family name (surname). Tradition or because she dislikes her family name? Alternatively, Amy places a hyphen between her surname and DeShawn’s. Is she modern and at least partly feminist? Or Amy retains her surname and DeShawn keeps his. Which is correct? Are there more possibilities? Why?

[Note: Readers who reacted to the names of the couple above need examine their racial attitude.]

Here in Sweden married partners have a choice: 1) The woman can take her husband’s surname. 2) The husband can take the wife’s surname. 3) Each partner can retain her/his family surname. 4) Both partners can choose a wholly different surname. Exceptions are that a hyphenated surname is unacceptable as are surnames intended to defraud, are silly or profane.

Here in Sweden, my wife has kept her family name. No problem. In America, however, the different last names have caused confusion or outright rejection. My sister even questioned whether we were married.

Since this is aimed at Americans, the overwhelming tradition is for a woman to take her husband’s surname. Increasingly but still infrequent, the woman maintains her family surname followed by a hyphen and the husband’s family surname. A few keep their own family surname. In every case, a name change may not be permitted to defraud or to change to a silly or profane surname.

Barring the exceptions mentioned and whether heterosexual or same-sex partners are involved, I see no logical reason to adhere to tradition. If both partners are happy with their family surname, why make a change? In short, freedom of choice is preferable regardless of what tradition dictates.

Is Marriage Even Necessary?—

We have so far considered marriage as the reason for change. What is the logic requiring marriage? Is marriage even necessary?

As I have stated before, marriage is simply a contract. This being the case and as long as the marriage contract is registered with the government entity, the signers of the contract must be free to solemnize it religiously. Should a serious rupture occur, the contract can be dissolved using simple contract procedures.

Should the contract be limited to two individuals? There is no logical reason why just two people can make such a contract. Why not three or more? Beyond governmental registration, all that is needed is that the contracting parties are of sufficient age, mentally competent and free of coercion

Of course, all laws, including tax laws, will have to be changed to reflect reality. Many religionists, Republicans and traditionalists will squeal like pigs, but they are the Neanderthals of 21st century reality. We are talking logic here. Defenders of tradition are being illogical.

Deference to Religious Leaders—

Why are all religious leaders given deference and respect regardless of their behavior? What difference does one’s religion make? It makes more sense to treat them the same as any other person is treated.

Felon Disenfranchisement—

Does being in prison have anything at all to do with voting? Logic dictates that being convicted of a crime does not mean that such a person does not have at least as much interest in voting as someone who has not been convicted of a crime. All the states except Maine and Vermont deny felons the vote. At least as appalling, statistics show that between 5% and 10% of individuals in prison are innocent of the crime for which they’ve been convicted.

What of those who are probationers or on parole or have otherwise completed their time behind bars? Logic dictates that such individuals should be allowed to vote, but thirty to thirty-five states deny parolees the vote. A shocking eleven states deny the vote for lifetime to anybody who has done time even though they have “paid their debt to society.”

Religious Instruction in School—

We live in a world where religions are a part of everyday life. Why should children learn about only one or two when our ever-shrinking world is filled with dozens, maybe hundreds, of other belief systems including agnosticism and atheism?

Logic requires that children learn something about the many belief systems out there. We expect our children to learn something about world history or other cultures so they will be prepared for the future. Isn’t something as important as religion an integral part of those cultures?

Following that logic, all schools—including sectarian schools—have a duty to teach children unbiased information about all religions in order to prepare them for the future and their roles in guiding humanity. The key here is that all religions or none must be taught in an unbiased way.


I have raised questions about the logic—and illogic— that governs society. These are just a few of the important questions that must be addressed. Universal voting registration at birth is merely one example of an important question.

Readers no doubt have other important issues that must be addressed in order to avoid becoming captive to tradition that anchors us to outdated or harmful beliefs.

Let’s face the future free of the restraints placed on us by tradition and illogic. What are some of those questions that require addressing?



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    • David Lehman on June 5, 2016 at 17:09

    Lionel would have loved this one.

      • Don Bay on June 6, 2016 at 10:18

      Lionel and I shared many views…and his sense of humor added sparkle to his numerous talents. I miss not being able to exchange thoughts with Lionel. Those who were privileged to be his friend are lucky and are better for his having been here.

    • Dave Meyers on June 5, 2016 at 17:26

    Marriage is a personal preference. Marilyn and I have chosen not to marry. Each of us having former marriages lasting for more than a quarter century each, we find that living separately and not marrying works for us….it’s perpetual dating. And dating puts you on your best behavior. The only draw back for me is that if married, Marilyn would not be compelled to testify against me. So, I suppose that the limitations imposed on former convicts could be of concern to me here.
    But really, the only compelling reason to marry might be when children are involved. In that case, a legal contract makes enforcing responsibility easier. But even that is a weak argument.

    Respect for clergy should be no different than the respect that you should show anyone…..until they prove that they don’t deserve it.

    Teaching religion without bias is not possible. Plain and simple. If you are a believer, you’ll teach with that mind set. If not, you’ll approach the subject with indifference and skepticism. And if you teach religion, do you teach life style? Sexual habits? Political persuasions?…….I think maybe so.

    The voting registration question is one that I find to be the most ridiculous. Arguing over this is beyond stupid. Nearly everyone gets a drivers licenses. We already use a drivers license number to verifying identity for any number of things. Cashing checks, receiving various services, verifying age, and even to identify the holder as donor of body parts. Why not the right to vote. When you get a drivers license you are a registered voter. Done, over, easy. If you don’t get a drivers license, you get an equivalent ID card……….what is the issue? other than to control the process and create an uneven playing field.

    What about the right to die….or lack of it. Here’s a subject we could kick around for hours…..no?

      • Don Bay on June 6, 2016 at 16:00

      You state that the only drawback you can see to not being married has to do with the restriction of testimony. What about the case of you being unconscious in the hospital and Marilyn not being able to stay at your side? Some states have that rule.

      Teaching all religions and non-belief: If you grant that religion and non-belief are embedded in a culture—and they are—isn’t it logical that teaching culture involves teaching all religions and non-belief. Further, since schools are contemplated in the national constitution (see the First Amendment), it is unconstitutional to teach only one or two religions.

      Still further, I am one of a substantial number of people who believe that parents teaching their impressionable child about their religion constitutes child abuse. In America, brainwashing is not a crime, but it has met with some success in the courts and is being considered as a crime.

      Right to die: There are ethical concerns about the issue that make this subject one for extended discussion that is inappropriate here. That said, I am of the opinion that each person of sound mind and free of coercion has the absolute right to determine that his/her life and death is her/his decision to make. Put simply and assuming the exceptions named, the state has no right to make that decision.

    • Elodie on June 5, 2016 at 23:53

    I think all schools should teach religion, and by that I mean they should teach what the different religions are and what their adherents believe. Living in the Bible belt, however, I’m pretty much alone in this. A friend was visiting the other day and I mentioned that I didn’t believe in prayer and/or indoctrination in the schools.

    “That’s the parents’ job, not the government.”

    My friend disagreed, so I asked him how he’d feel if it was Muslim prayers being performed in the school. Of course he thought that was horrible.

    People are so myopic when it comes to their imaginary friend in the sky.

      • Don Bay on June 6, 2016 at 10:09

      Since your friend believes government should stay out of the issue, why is the First Amendment part of the Constitution? Doesn’t the First Amendment apply? As you have pointed out, favoring one religion (Christianity) over another in school violates the First Amendment. Parents pushing their religion on an impressionable child who accepts the parent’s bias is tantamount to child abuse. See my blog piece on the FIB Theory. [Fear, Ignorance and Brainwashing, November 2015.]

      My view of most humans’ ability to think logically is jaundiced. Religion is a blind spot that rarely gets subjected to logical analysis. Once again, FIB comes into play. It’s hard to overcome Fear, Ignorance and Brainwashing. Ignorance, by the way, means lacking in knowledge, not stupidity.

      You are almost one in a million for having arrived at your belief system, particularly since you were raised in the Bible Belt. It’s likely that any religious people aware of your views think you are deluded…assuming they don’t walk away from the friendship. Hats off to those who accept you as you are.

  1. Marriage I totally agree

    Religious leaders, you aren’t strong enough. People in positions of responsibility should be held to a higher standard than others. It’s important to believe that anyone should be respected, regardless of what position they hold, but if people in positions of trust betray that trust they should be dealt with by society with dispatch. Example: anyone who abuses a child should be held to account, and if the abuser is in a position of trust he/she should be more harshly disciplined by society.

    Felons? I’m not sure and I think it could be dealt with on an individual basis. People whose crimes are especially despicable? I don’t think I want them helping to choose our leaders. They have shown no respect for social values and now they are to help choose people whose task is to uphold social values? I don’t think so.

    Religion in school. Yes, teach everything about every faith, including atheism.

      • Don Bay on June 6, 2016 at 09:41

      My position on religious leaders parallels yours to a large degree. Catholic prelates come readily to mind. Religious leaders who profess morality but who hypocritically lead an immoral life are not to be looked up to. My position is that all people, whether religious leaders or not, should be treated the same. Very unlikely, I agree, but all experts are to be acceded the same respect.

      Felons? The easy part is…what about those who have “paid their debt” to society? We see that being played out today in Virginia. The Democratic governor has ordered the former felons be allowed to vote, but the Republicans (naturally) want to prevent them from voting. Partisan? Another easy one is if the felon was actually innocent of the crime charged. The harder one to answer is when a person has clearly committed a despicable crime. Question: how long has the felon served time? Was the felon of age when s/he committed the crime? Has the felon been rehabilitated? Weigh these before you arrive at any conclusion.

      The question to be asked is: Is religion or atheism part of the culture? The answer is clearly Yes. Since it is a cultural artifact, teach them all.


    • Linda on June 19, 2016 at 04:07

    I’ve been absent for a while dealing w/elder care in my world. Marriage, a legal contract. I totally agree and I am one who believes due to legal ramifications, it may be necessary for some or even most in the U.S. I am a hyphenated married woman and I have been heard saying many times over that if I married today, I would not have taken my husband’s name. At the time, I caused confusion for bank tellers or anyone looking up my name as they always looked under my husband’s name even though my complete last name started with my name.

    I have two sons and both are married to Japanese women born and raised in Japan. I encouraged both of my daughters-in-laws to keep their last name as that is who they are and that there was no need to take my sons’ names. They did not change their names.

    Growing up in Los Angeles, in elementary school, I remember some students on certain days were allowed to leave the class to attend a religious study class, Christianity. I always thought it was odd. Mysterious, actually.

    I did not raise our boys with any religion, even while my sister wanted them to attend her Buddhist Temple when they were young. She told me it was for cultural reasons that she was sending her girls to temple, not religious reasons. My response was that she was sending them to temple for the wrong reasons.

      • Don Bay on June 20, 2016 at 09:45

      I always like the way you think. It should scare the socks off of any American (Christian fundamentalists are, of course, delighted) to contemplate the inroads Christianity has made in American culture. It too often appears that the First Amendment has been forgotten.

      Keep on being just the way you are.

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