The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy
The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy (Cambridge University Press, 2015) (Chinese translation forthcoming; Italian translation forthcoming)
For more than 2,500 years, the Western tradition has embraced monogamous marriage as an essential institution for the flourishing of men and women, parents and children, society and the state. At the same time, polygamy has been considered a serious crime that harms wives and children, correlates with sundry other crimes and abuses, and threatens good citizenship and political stability. The West has thus long punished all manner of plural marriages and denounced the polygamous teachings of selected Jews, Muslims, Anabaptists, Mormons, and others. John Witte, Jr. carefully documents the Western case for monogamy over polygamy from antiquity until today. He analyzes the historical claims that polygamy is biblical, natural, and useful alongside modern claims that anti-polygamy laws violate personal and religious freedom. While giving the arguments pro and con a full hearing, Witte concludes that the Western historical case against polygamy remains compelling and urges Western nations to hold the line on monogamy.
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“An important book for those who want to support same-sex marriage but worry about the slippery slope. Witte, director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, mines both religious and philosophical sources on the nature of marriage, giving us in effect a guided tour on where the traditional norms over which we do harsh battle came from. From this history, he offers intriguing reasons for distinguishing polygamy as posing a particular threat to a broad range of Western values in ways that same-sex marriage does not.”
-- Stephen L. Carter, BloombergView
“Witte’s book is an original and brilliant synthesis of the Western history of polygamy and an invaluable resource for new historical research and political arguments on this controversial topic. It is a work of great intellectual power and profound religious sensitivity. Erudition, clarity, argumentation, and literary beauty shine from every page of this stimulating volume.”
-- Rafael Domingo, First Things