Being born and raised in an essentially religious-based culture, it is hard to dispute the fact that the union of "marriage" is often held as the ultimate achievement in any 'dating' relationship.

 

The question is; 

Is "marriage" not a religious principle ?  And if so, then shouldn't ALL Athiests be "single" ?

 

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"something that is even seen in some other animals"
Actually, monogamy is more common in the animal world than you might think, although it is very often unstable (cheating is also common).
90 percent of bird species are monogamous, largely because of energetic constraints.
Monogamy tends to evolve whenever a prodigious amount of parental care is need to ensure offspring survival. Males must stay and commit to helping one female, or they risk losing their fitness.
Mammals, on the other hand, are 90% polygynous. Mammal females have specialized adaptations for post-natal care that permit males to abandon them more easily without a fitness consequence - no wonder we love breasts :) So it all comes back to how parental care is partitioned and how much is needed. Here is a really neat story someone posted over in the science group:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8524000/8524558.stm
Enjoy!
"Single" ends where "relationship" begins, I believe. Marriages are a subset of these, so the idea that you present falls on its face right out of the gate.

It is a human thing to do to pair-bond and all that stuff. We did that before anything that actually was religion existed; religions are attached to them to give the religions greater apparent legitimacy.

Marriage is just a making-legitimate of something--the same as how people have this obsession with trying to set it law--with punishments and so forth--their moral sentiments, making them official rather than just "true" in their popularity. People are obsessed with this idea of officialness and legitimacy; I really don't get it.
I think you might agree with my viewpoint earlier, about how an official marriage ceremony or document is unnecessary.
Currently I have made the decision to not get married, but meeting the right Man could change my mind. I may want to try it only once, see what its like, get a new name. But after a very painful failed relationship with a theist, I dont think marriage is right for me.
Marriage, in a nation-state sense, is simply the creation of the basic economic unit of a society, which is independent of religion. It may be monogamous, polygynous, or of other form. It allows a government to deal with those people in the marriage as a single unit for tax, property, and other purposes. Atheists might be married, if, for example, it is advantageous for them, as a couple, to be considered as such by the government. They might also feel it is a serious form of commitment. Overall, given that marriage in a government-sense is little different from LLCs and corporations, it is ridiculous that our government continues to regulate who can marry (i.e., only "monogamous" heterosexual couples).

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