Marriage Between a Tolerant Christian and an Agnostic with Atheist Leanings?
September 30, 2004 7:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm an atheist and my girlfriend is a churchgoer. I'd really thinking about marrying this girl, but i have reservations about a inter-belief marriage. Have you any advice / experience with such a scenario ? [mi]

I'm not sure if it's just pre-marriage jitters, or if this is a legitimate concern. She is pretty tolerant as far as my beliefs go (she respects that each person has their own beliefs), but i'm mostly worried about how we would raise our children in this split-religious envirionment.
posted by escher to Religion & Philosophy (48 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
assuming you guys have sussed this out together and still respect each other, definitely talk about it before it's an issue.
i find it ends up being a family issue, whose parents/family cares more wins out at least in the surface ways to keep the peace.
but then i know people who convert a lot as well, for both genuine and symbolic reasons, still again often having to do with who cares about the issue more, still mostly having to do with the families--
posted by ethylene at 7:47 PM on September 30, 2004


Yes! Sort of. I'm an atheist in that "raised without religion don't see a need for it as an adult" way. My boyfriend is Presbyterian in that sort of "raised with it, think it's a fine way to be, don't need to go to church too much" sort of way. My radical politics are just this side of a holy war/religious belief system and so this gives me equal culpability for being a zealot, in his mind. We've got a good thing going, and sometimes we talk about making it permanent. Sometimes we fight about religion, but rarely to the point of "You are an idiot because you don't agree with me" fighting. He sometimes feels the need to go to church and he goes without me. We have already decided that if we get married, it's not going to be in a church. We're not planning on having kids which solves that problem neatly, but I think it's a solveable problem. I think the things that work in our favor are:

- We're both very tolerant about the other's belief system and feel comfortable pointing out what we see as flaws/strengths. We have senses of humor about our belief systems and about the other's. While we try not to be totally relativistic, our beliefs can coexist comfortably
- His family and my family are okay with this arrangement. His parents don't mind and neither do mine.
- The community that we live in is tolerant of both our belief systems so we don't have to defend the other to hostile outsiders
- both of us are aware that it is wholly unacceptable to wage a war for the saving of the soul of the other

Now, I was raised in a joint Jewish/Something Christian household where neither parent went to church/temple, mentioned any god or really brought up the subject of spirituality, so it's easy for me to see other points of view. I think it's harder for my bf to see the "No, there's no hole in my life, I've just never seen a need to insert a higher power into it" perspective. He's a great guy though, so he's getting his head around it. The only real trouble we've had is when his friendly family minister tried to foist a book of psalms for "interfaith couples" on us and I [privately] rejected her gift as wholly inappropriate to my non-faith lifestyle and my bf took offense when I [privately] called it "sales and marketing for Jesus." I see that as part of the "welcome to the family" gauntlet so while it didn't bother me too much, it did require a lot of talking out to make my bf secure that I wasn't hostile towards the family minister or the well-meant gift. The upshot is that since religion doesn't figure largely in either of our lives compared to, say, politics, rural living, or the proper way to treat animals, I'm comfortable with it being an area of mild disagreement.
posted by jessamyn at 7:49 PM on September 30, 2004


If it's anything like the house I grew up in, mom takes the kids to church, dad sleeps in, and then later on everyone has a nice Sunday dinner. Eventually the kids decide on their own.

It might help that we went to a UCC church, which is a pretty tolerant denomination and not too big on the whole proselytization/saving/witnessing thing... On the other side of the coin, I think it also helped that Dad didn't try to actively push his worldview either. He'd talk about it if we asked.
posted by tss at 7:55 PM on September 30, 2004


rock on jessamyn
posted by mookieproof at 8:17 PM on September 30, 2004


If she is willing to date/marry an atheist then she is not all that serious with her faith-but the question she needs to ask herself is how will she feel once children are part of the picture? Many people wind up getting more serious about their belief system when that happens.

You are right to be concerned with this. Even if the two of you are amicable about the difference, when your theoretical offspring start asking Those Kinds of Questions things can get interesting.

My general recommendation is that two people contemplating marriage really do need to be on the same page when it comes to things like faith or politics... but again a lot depends on the two people involved.
posted by konolia at 8:25 PM on September 30, 2004


If she is willing to date/marry an atheist then she is not all that serious with her faith

Huh.


Anyway, on to the question.

I'm an atheist, and my wife is a christian. ( and, regardless of what others may say, my wife is entirely serious about her faith.)
We both try to respect each other's views - I believe this can be the key to success in ANY marriage... not just in reference to religious beliefs. The two of us have been married for 10 years, and we are absolutely crazy about each other.

Really.

Religious differences, to some degree, will occur in almost any situation. I think the two of us established that we would discuss our differences openly, and not avoid the topic in our household. In my opinion, it's made a big difference in how we perceive the "other side of the fence," and has added to our respect of one another.

We do have a son - he's four. We made the decision early on that his religious beliefs were entirely up to him. On some days he decides to go to church with Mom, and then on others he stays home with me. No big deal.

If he decides to be a christian, I'm fine with it. If he decides to become an atheist like myself, more power to him. If he decides to dance with a pink bra on his head and sing the "My Little Pony" theme song while worshipping a large glowing rock in the middle of the Magic Sea, so be it. Not my choice - it's entirely his own.

It's worked out well so far - I still love her as much as the day I first met her - even more so. I believe she kind of has a thing for me as well. And my son... well, he's pretty screwed up. It's that damn christian bitch's fault.

Kidding, kidding. Cheers to you, and good luck.
posted by bradth27 at 8:49 PM on September 30, 2004 [1 favorite]


konolia: Not everyone whose faith is important to them is justlikeyou.

It works in my marriage, but you both need to respect the other's beliefs beyond just paying lip service to it. If, deep down, you really believe that anyone who could buy into Christianity is irrational/stupid/has a couple of screws loose, this is probably not going to go so well for you. Alternatively, if she deeply believes that you are going to hell, that's going to be uncomfortable, too. There are a whole lot of people on both sides who really, firmly believe that everyone would agree with them if everyone else would just listen/be rational/open their hearts up to God. If either of you fit in that category, it's going to be tough.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 9:03 PM on September 30, 2004


I was raised catholic, and chose myself at the age of 12 to shed it. My parents heaved a sigh of releif because they didn't have to go to church anymore.

If you two have dated this long without conflict and it's been brought up several times, I wouldn't worry.

I've seen mixed-faith couples, and how things work out really depends a lot on how mature you are about your kids. Find out ahead of time if your girlfriend would be open to teaching them both ways and demonstrating how faith is a personal thing. I've seen families where the dad didn't beleive and the mom and kids were *really* christian, and there were conflicts because the kids frowned down on dad because he wasn't drinking the cool-aid, even though he was nice enough to completely stay out of it. In fact, I dated one for a while... I thought she was amazing, she felt the same about me, but she ended up going back to her redneck high school boyfriend for the sole reason that she didn't want to end up like her mom and dad.
posted by SpecialK at 9:15 PM on September 30, 2004


[on preview, this follows on Special K's comments]

My partner and I have different beliefs, but neither of us have a zero-sum perspective about faith, (e.g. believe exactly as I do, or burn in hell forever.) We see the spiritual life as a journey, not an arrival, (cue new age music) so we continually evolve our beliefs as a response to our experiences and our dialogue with each other. From this perspective, it strikes me as odd to expect to believe the same thing another person does.

I sense, though, that most of your concern isn't so much with what is believed as with what is named. Most orthodoxy requires that we put our scattered and disperate beliefs into one tidy box or another: Baptist, or Catholic, or Athiest, etc. As tempting as this may be, I recommend against it. My spiritual compas directs me to seek not the party of truth, but the truth. (cue gong)

If you both respect the other's intelligence and sincerity, then, like in all other matters, it's natural and good to hold different views.
posted by squirrel at 9:24 PM on September 30, 2004 [1 favorite]


The kids will make up their own minds no matter what you do. If you can tolerate her beliefs, then you can tolerate exposing the kids to her beliefs and letting them decide, right?

Religious philosophy aside, churchgoing doesn't have to be a bad thing.
posted by scarabic at 9:32 PM on September 30, 2004


Marriage is full of considerate compromises. Can't you convert to agnosticism and meet her halfway? Seriously.
posted by planetkyoto at 9:39 PM on September 30, 2004


as an atheist that has dated many christian girls: it will never work. find yourself an agnostic. seriously.
posted by bob sarabia at 9:59 PM on September 30, 2004



posted by squirrel at 10:09 PM on September 30, 2004


thanks for the responses everybody =)

To help clarify:

we've been together for 3 years, known each other longer, so we've been together for a while.

she's not a fundy or "Christian Zealot" by any means. She doesn't believe in hell, for instance. Her view of god is more of a "benevolent creator" rather than one of "justice". She does, however, want her children to grow up in the church.
I'm not entirely sure what "growing up in the church" entails.

i was raised christian, even taught Bible studies for a while; around 22 is when i started doubting and became an agnostic. That's where i'm still at, with atheist tendencies. I want to raise my kids in a house where they choose their religious beliefs (like you guys describe).

ethylene: thanks, i think we will have a talk about it soon.

jessamyn: i envy your relationship in that you seem to be surrounded by a great group of understanding people. However, i'm not sure my girlfriend can reach that level of respect/understanding.

bradth27: once again, sounds great! i hope to be in the same position in ten years, your post gives hope.

LittleMissCranky: i might need a little soul-searching to determine if i really think christians are off their rocker or if i just like making jokes about it. She doesn't think i'm burning in hell (as she doesn't believe in it), but she does think that i'm "misguided". Hrmmm... we both kinda fit the descriptions =/

SpecialK: "Find out ahead of time if your girlfriend would be open to teaching them both ways ... "

Will do, thanks.

Squirrel: It is odd how society works, isn't it ? The most natural thing to do (actually respect each other's intelligence and sincerity), is the least practiced.

scarabic: i don't mind exposing my kids to any kind of beliefs, she might mind exposing children to my beliefs. She wants to raise the children in the church, not in a "you decide your religon" way.

planetkyoto: well, i am technically an agnostic in that i don't believe for sure that god doesn't exist. evidence i've seen just makes it seem more likely. I'm not really sure how i can compromise.

bob: =\

on preview: squirrel: no comment.
posted by escher at 10:30 PM on September 30, 2004


I was set to agree with Konolia, actually, until I read that the lady in question is not a hell-believer. If you don't believe in hell, then you're not worried about your spouse maybe going there, and if that's the case, marrying an atheist isn't such a scary proposition.

I'm an agnostic with atheistic leanings, and married an agnostic with theistic leanings. Our kids are heathens, on all levels.

Interestingly, it's our parents with whom we have religious tensions. THEY believe in hell. And they don't mean to have their granddaughters burning in it. Have you thought that part out? It's easy to theorize about standing your ground and not doing things to please other people, but it's another thing entirely to actually be faced with a grandma who literally lies awake at night worrying that a lack of Sunday School is going to damn her grandkids to the fiery depths...

So, you might want to mull that over a bit.
posted by padraigin at 10:40 PM on September 30, 2004


She wants to raise the children in the church, not in a "you decide your religon" way.

I see your problem. She may not see her problem, which is that your beliefs (or lack of them) will influence the kids no matter what, just because of who you are. Would you go to church with them, btw? If not, they'll wonder why not. And even if you were both Bible thumpers, that doesn't mean the kids would be, necessarily. That's what I meant about them making up their own minds. With 2 basically tolerant parents, they're going to come out fine. If your church is all hellfire and damnation, that might be the thing that turns them more to your way of thinking. If the church is basically a cool place with nice people, then they'll do fine. They might get some good stuff out of church that isn't religious in nature: friends, etc. I dunno. Depends on the church, I guess.

I don't think you're screwed. I would hate to feel that bob sarabia's luck in love had anything to say about my fortunes in this life. Give it a go. Good luck figuring it out. It can be a tough one. But it can be done. I may have to go through a similar deal with my vegan ladyfriend someday. It ain't the Meaning of Life, but food is a pretty pervasive part of it. I'm not scared.

squirrel: nice! can you make his mouth move and my voice come out?i know you can, ya bastard
posted by scarabic at 10:42 PM on September 30, 2004


If she can understand and appreciate the force of rationalist arguments, and you can understand and appreciate the presence of mystery in the universe and the impact that personal spiritual experiences can have on a person, you might have a chance. I think you're right to be wary, though.
posted by weston at 11:03 PM on September 30, 2004 [1 favorite]


Those who are *sure* there isn't a God and those who are *sure* there IS a God, are really closet agnostics anyway. Maybe you two will "come out" together ;-)

Those with matching faiths can undoubtably express themselves more freely about their beliefs without fear of upsetting the other.

I don't know how you can compromise your beliefs/faith if you take them seriously. It seems like a contradiction. I don't understand those that say they believe in God, but that they aren't fundamental about it. I mean, there is this all-powerful being who you believe in....surely this is a very big deal to you. I would think an atheist is considerably less consumed by their (non) beliefs though. Perhaps two people living together who aren't fundamental have a foot outside the agnostic closet. Even to the extent of tacit agreement they are not sure about their beliefs.

Now, having said THAT, marriage comes more down to personalities, patience, compromise, common sense, pragmatic solutions, etc. Two people sharing the same faith may argue daily because their personalities clash, or one has an affair, or....well, there are a number of reasons why marriages turn sour that have nothing to do with beliefs.

It's complicated.
posted by SpaceCadet at 1:57 AM on October 1, 2004


if you're an atheist, why the emphasis on marriage?

maybe you're asking "should i try to spend the rest of my life with this person?". if so, ignore the rest of this post.

otherwise, the emphasis on a religious ritual confuses me. are you just doing it for laughs? because she wants it? it's a pretty major ceremony - if you're going with a wedding it's going to look pretty odd if you object to baptism, sunday school or confirmation.

or are you seeking some kind of state-sanctioned blessing for your relationship? if so, why? atheism, for me at least, is about facing up to the world on your own - taking responsibility for your own life. the last thing an atheist needs is a hand-me-down ritual from the christians. if you decide to make this a lasting relationship, then decide. that's it. it's down to you. pissing around in silly clothes will change nothing.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:34 AM on October 1, 2004


andrew, I disagree with you totally, you can go through with a ceremony to please the other person, but how you choose to brainwash any kids you produce is highly significant. Personally I could go along with ceremonies of superstitous nonsense if necessary but wouldn't let any church get their fingers into my childrens psyche if I could help it. (Though admittedly I can't see myself falling for someone who's a believer anyway, but never say never.)
posted by biffa at 6:54 AM on October 1, 2004


the last thing an atheist needs is a hand-me-down ritual from the christians.

What, only Christians get married? Try telling that to, oh, every other culture and religion throughout history. Marriage isn't just about confirming your committment before [insert deity here] — it's also about confirming your committment before your community. I'm an atheist Unitarian, but the second reason is a compelling enough reason for me to want to get married, in a ceremony with my friends and family present.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:06 AM on October 1, 2004


while I agree with your point, andrew cooke, in so far as you go, I do believe that there are perfectly valid reasons for an atheist to get married. First, there is the legal part of marriage which makes things like insurance and inheritance a no brainer. The "boyfriend" has pretty much no legal standing.

Second: a marriage ceremony can also be a celebration of your love in which your friends and family take place - and this can be done without god. It is unfortunate that the word marriage has so much religious baggage associated with it, but it is not a purely religious institution.

Now, escher, all that said....you need to figure out what it means for you to be atheist....

To say that you're an atheist -- that you DO NOT believe in god(s)-- is to say that you disagree with (probably) most of the people you know about the very nature of the universe. If you make this statement in earnest, then you must also give serious thought to this statement: only one position can be correct; either god exists or (s)he doesn't. If you believe that god does not exist then you believe that all of the people that believe that god does exist are incorrect.

Beliefs are not like opinions - they are not all equally valid. It's perfectly valid for me to like Metallica and for you to hate them. It may be your opinion that they are unpleasant to listen to. It is my own opinion that they are not. These are opinions. There is no argument however that Metallica is a group composed of four(4) men. You may believe that Hetfield is a pussy, but that doesn't make him less of a man (genetically speaking).

The first is an opinion the second is a statement of facts as I understand them. Claiming athiesm falls into the second category. You are making a statement about the facts as you understand them.

We're not talking about color preference, here. We're talking about your future children's minds. If you truly are atheist, then to take any position other than "religious people are mistaken" (and possibly crazy) is borne of cowardice. Yes cowardice - either you are wrong, or they are; if you believe yourself right and are unwilling to call them wrong then you are a coward. If you believe that 2+2=4, then you don't want your children being taught that 2+2=5 do you? It's the same thing.
posted by jaded at 7:10 AM on October 1, 2004


Um, Andrew, marriage is NOT a sacred institution. It's a legal state granting many, many rights and privledges. Plenty of non-Christians around the world do it every day. It's plenty easy to write your own ceremony without "stealing" from Christianity (let's please not start that pissing contest).

What this comes down to, Escher, is how cool you are going to be with the kids being raised in a religious environment. You might want to have some looooong discussions with your gf and even possibly her family and their preacher. For me, as a "yer all nuts!" atheist, that would be impossible, but if it can work for you, great.

On preview, Jaded has a nice analogy with the 2+2 thing.
posted by mimi at 7:17 AM on October 1, 2004


It sounds to me like neither of you is super-dogmatic, which is good. Like most commenters, I think the sticking point is the kids, and I think the test question is "Are you comfortable with my not going to church and not pretending I believe in god 'for the kids' sake'?" If the answer is "Yes," I think you're OK. If that makes her nervous and she starts on about how it wouldn't hurt you to go for appearance's sake and she wants you to support her in her struggle to raise the kids right, then I think you have a problem.

Oh, and do try to cut back on the religion jokes. Save 'em for the nights out with the atheists. No matter how tolerant she is, she's unlikely to enjoy them very much, and why would you want to make the person you love uncomfortable? Isn't it enough to quietly enjoy the knowledge that she's wrong and you're right on this basic issue?

MetaFilter: if you believe yourself right and are unwilling to call them wrong then you are a coward.

(I hate that approach myself, but it sure defines this place.)

posted by languagehat at 7:31 AM on October 1, 2004


We're not talking about color preference, here. We're talking about your future children's minds. If you truly are atheist, then to take any position other than "religious people are mistaken" (and possibly crazy) is borne of cowardice. Yes cowardice - either you are wrong, or they are; if you believe yourself right and are unwilling to call them wrong then you are a coward. If you believe that 2+2=4, then you don't want your children being taught that 2+2=5 do you? It's the same thing.

Excellent comment Jaded....I tried to say the same thing, but perhaps in a more roundabout way.
posted by SpaceCadet at 7:34 AM on October 1, 2004


Telling people you're wrong and I'm right is fundamental to a whole lot of religions and world views. Most of them keep it implicit, but any debate over a situation as two individual see it is essentially saying the same thing. My kid is prettier than yours, my brownies shit on your brownies, my God shall smite thee down and shit in the scorched hole that contains thy remains - possibly with my help.

As an athiest does it mean that I'm the chosen people and I chose myself?
posted by biffa at 7:54 AM on October 1, 2004


i'm not saying that atheists don't get married - a lot of them clearly do. but i don't see how, for an atheist, the act of marriage is the important part. it might be necessary to get tax breaks, or a fun thing to make your partner happy, but the core of atheism is taking responsibility for life yourself, without the need for hand-me-down rituals.

it was the emphasis that bothered me, not whether a marriage occurs or not - it should be fairly obvious that from my point of view the marriage itself is not important either way.

back on topic: as others have said, religion isn't really the problem here - it's how to resolve differences. you'll have many differences during your life together, and learning how to deal with them is critical to the relationship suceeding. this is just one example. you need to talk. in a previous thread a long time back someone posted a very convincing argument for pre-marriage (sigh) counselling. why not try that?
posted by andrew cooke at 7:57 AM on October 1, 2004


She does, however, want her children to grow up in the church.

I have to agree with the people (Jaded, SpaceCadet, biffa et al) who see this as a real sticking point. Personally, I wouldn't be able to stand it if my spouse insisted on this. I have no problem with people's personal beliefs, and I do think that a "mixed marriage" of this nature can work, but only as long as both partners are willing to consider the other's beliefs/lack thereof as endearing idiosyncrasies which warrant occasional interesting, respectful discussion - as long as neither party is dogmatic, odds are good you won't even notice it most of the time.

But I have very strong views about brainwashing children, religion and belief should be their own decision - I'd like to say that I'd have no problem with my spouse taking the kids to church as long as it's not mandatory, and as long as it's clearly explained to them that this is not the only valid way to be religious, that other people believe different things and that's good too, and that some people don't believe at all, and that's also good, but the truth is that I'd probably have an extremely hard time with this in real life - I can't see accepting anything other than letting the kid learn about different belief systems and make up their own mind. I suggest that you need to think pretty carefully about how you're going to feel about this when the shine wears off, because I suspect you might find this could be a bigger deal when it actually happens, than you think it will be now. For me, this would be a dealbreaker, not just from the "brainwashing my kids" aspect, but also from the standpoint that I couldn't be married to someone who thought it was okay to brainwash kids, period. YMMV.

the core of atheism is taking responsibility for life yourself, without the need for hand-me-down rituals.

Huh? You make it sound like there's some kind of cohesive group, with rules of membership and dogma, instead of people who likely have nothing in common at all except for the fact that they don't believe in a god. Marriage is not intrinsically religious, it's what you choose to see it as, and I don't recall ever getting a "welcome to atheism" pamphlet that told me I wasn't supposed to need hand-me-down rituals any more - there are plenty of hand-me-down rituals that I love, none of which have anything to do with religion.
posted by biscotti at 8:14 AM on October 1, 2004


She does, however, want her children to grow up in the church. I'm not entirely sure what "growing up in the church" entails.

I'd certainly get clarification on this. It could mean baptism, first eucharist, confirmation, and regular confessions (really). Which all boils down to the child being enrolled in some sort of religious class (which includes special church services) a few hours a week from ages 5-15.

That's a pretty long commitment for a child, especially when the subject matter is so weighty and in obvious conflict with one parent's outlook.
posted by Sangre Azul at 8:17 AM on October 1, 2004


Since she is a Christian, here is what the Bible has to say on the subject.

Do with it what you want...

(2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
"Therefore come out from them
and be separate, says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you."
"I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and
daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
posted by internal at 8:27 AM on October 1, 2004


That's crazy talk, andrew.

Marriage, be it a civil or religious ceremony or no ceremony whatsoever, is a public commitment to your partner, which can be important to one or both people. It's also a contract between two people; a set of promises.

It's also a legal status with important rights and benefits that go far beyond a snide reference to a tax break, which is why some homosexuals are so intent on being able to marry. In the US at any rate, husbands and wives get to make medical decisions for their incapacitated spouses -- boyfriends and girlfriends, even live-in ones, don't. In the US, you can import your foreign spouse (or fiancee), but not your foreign girlfriend. If you're in the military and get blowed up real good, your spouse would get a pension, sometimes forever, but your boyfriend gets jack shit. Last but not least, spouses have access to the legal mechanisms of divorce should they split up -- boyfriends and girlfriends don't.

it should be fairly obvious that from my point of view the marriage itself is not important either way

contracts aren't important to atheists? since when?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:00 AM on October 1, 2004


but i don't see how, for an atheist, the act of marriage is the important part. it might be necessary to get tax breaks, or a fun thing to make your partner happy, but the core of atheism is taking responsibility for life yourself, without the need for hand-me-down rituals.

It was a fun thing to make US happy, and it was important to us to stand up and pledge our commitment to each other in front of our community of friends and family. (/me looks in my So You Don't Wanna Believe handbook.)

Internal: nice!
posted by mimi at 9:04 AM on October 1, 2004


Thanks again for all the replies! More clarification to follow:

i consider myself more of an agnostic with atheist leanings. I do not say that i know for sure that god doesn't exist, I just lean that way.

padraigin: yah, my parents are a concern, but I can't really do anything about that. If a part of their beliefs makes them worry excessively for "non-saved" family members, then i can't really help that. But it isn't gonna be fun to deal with.

weston: I’m not sure I can understand mystery in the universe.

SpaceCadet: exactly. That’s why I said earlier "I don't know how I can compromise" - how can one change what you honestly believe about god just for the sake of your spouse ? You can't. You believe what you believe. But as far as personalities go, I think we're a pretty damn good match.

andrew cooke: I’m more interested in marriage for the legal benefits & a statement of commitment to the community (as others here describe).

jaded: [excellent comment, by the way] I’m an agnostic (read above). I believe that nothing can be proven either way for atheism or theism, so it really is closer to an opinion than a statement of fact.

languagehat: i actually don't make many jokes at all, but I’d like to =) I keep them and chuckle to myself, she does get noticeably annoyed when I make jokes about her religion.

biscotti & Sangre Azul: agreed. We will have to have a serious talk about this soon, for the sake of my/our children.

internal: she is not a "fundamental" Christian in that there are a lot of things in the Bible that she doesn't believe in. Hell, for instance. (read my above comments) She is okay with marrying an infidel, hoping that I might one day "see the light".
posted by escher at 9:12 AM on October 1, 2004


My mother re-married after many years, when I was already an adult. She was a Christian/Republican at the time. He was an atheist/Independent with liberal leanings. Since then, they have moved deeper and deeper into their respective camps. I do not bring up either politics or religion with either one if I can help it. Yet Fox News is on in their house constantly, which I would think would be a frequent source of provocative conversation-starters if nothing else. They seem to be genuinely in love, they've been together for years and it looks like they're going the distance.

Frankly, I haven't got a clue how they do it. If my wife were that radically removed from my own views, it'd be an issue. Guaranteed. I've never understood Carville/Matalin, either.
posted by dragstroke at 9:34 AM on October 1, 2004


Well from the children standpoing, I know several people in really messed up households (Jewish/Catholic, Mormon/Jewish) and their main problems came from relatives. I never got from them that they loathed or hated their parents, they hated relatives who felt they were going to do good by training them in their own religion. Most inter-faith couples who have really differing faiths, in my experience, don't even bring up religion. I should say that every single person I know growing up in these multi-religion households despise religion and everything to do with it. I can only imagine it's a result of what should be nice holidays (Christmas, Easter) turning into big "Aunt Kathie is coming over for Christmas presents and a lecture on Jesus, Aunt Ruth is coming later on to tell you everything you were just told is wrong and one half of your family is damned to hell.

So the problem isn't the couple at all, it's those nosy relatives.
posted by geoff. at 9:45 AM on October 1, 2004


She is okay with marrying an infidel, hoping that I might one day "see the light".

This sets off my warning radar bigtime. If she's really hoping that you might one day see the light I see problems ahead. People tend to become more of who they are as they age, and if who she is is someone with deep-seated beliefs, who sees a chance that you'll "come around" eventually, you're in for a rocky road as time moves on. Hope is just a hair's breadth away from expectation, especially in a marriage. Remember that, to some extent, people are on best behaviour for the bulk of their dating, since they cannot maintain this indefinitely, at some point, you stop biting your tongue, and start speaking your mind, and this is often what people mean when they say "the honeymoon is over" after people get married. If I were you, I'd be very sure that my position on this was clear ("I am not likely to "see the light" and I will resent you if you try and evangelize me, no matter how nicely you do it, or how well-intentioned you may be"), and that she was able to live with it, long before marriage talk gets serious.

Also, I realize that you may be joking, but if on some level she really does think you're an "infidel", that's also a potential problem. It's one thing to be a a bit sad for what you think your loved one is missing out on, it's another to actually consider them to be somehow inferior.

Sometimes pre-marriage jitters are just pre-marriage jitters, sometimes they're your brain trying to tell your heart something really important.
posted by biscotti at 9:51 AM on October 1, 2004


TOTALLY what Biscotti just said.
posted by mimi at 10:00 AM on October 1, 2004


totally what Biscotti said. Also, phantom tooth pain.

Are you atheist or agnostic?
posted by ParisParamus at 10:41 AM on October 1, 2004


I also agree with Biscotti. If your wife is expecting you to convert, and you do not, she will grow to resent you. Given what you've said about her wanting to raise your children in her church, she may end up turning them against you, maybe even without trying to.

Take a good look at what internal posted. Do you really, really, want to pair for life with someone who may well believe this? With someone whose friends and relatives almost certainly believe it?
posted by vorfeed at 11:11 AM on October 1, 2004


Marriage really is hard enough when people agree on the Big Questions...do be careful with this.

And I was not trying to slam anyone with what I said earlier-as someone upthread posted, the Bible is clear about not being "unequally yoked." Of course that one gets violated quite a bit these days, unfortunately oftentimes leading to two miserable spouses...no one should EVER marry another with any expectation of the other changing.
posted by konolia at 11:46 AM on October 1, 2004


konoliafilter:
look people, those who don't what me here have been very clear
and i've only bothered to focus on observing mefi for these few weeks though i have watched since the beginning--

just because konolia expressed opinions in what may be easy brevity doesn't mean you have to infer if you aren't bothering to understand the meaning despite the wording.
some people see religion differently as a part of their lives and in cases cannot consider marriage in the sense of legal and family ways without at least an agreed homogeny of belief, whether lapsed, active, whatever.
think jews though secular want to marry jews, etc.
while some variants believe "recruitment" is part of their religious obligation, i haven't seen her actively "recruiting", so no matter my particulars, she states an otherwise unstated viewpoint for those receptive.
yes this is not the place, yes i have purposely flaunted the "rules" to those paying attention, yes i am a bad poster and am often deleted by point of course (part research, part whimsy)
but to institute another often unmentioned perspective:
get past the semantics and typos if you want to understand
or don't
but if you use it as a platform to go off off topic, i don't mind playing devil's quonsar
this does not necessarily apply primarily to this thread
it just bugs me how many comments end up defending themselves or people saying other people didn't mention this or that because they didn't really read all of them
posted by ethylene at 12:42 PM on October 1, 2004


ethylene, I know you cannot reply but I am used to being taken to task. I am used to it, and don't worry about it.

Hope you are feeling better soon.
posted by konolia at 3:26 PM on October 1, 2004


If you truly are atheist, then to take any position other than "religious people are mistaken" (and possibly crazy) is borne of cowardice. Yes cowardice - either you are wrong, or they are; if you believe yourself right and are unwilling to call them wrong then you are a coward. If you believe that 2+2=4, then you don't want your children being taught that 2+2=5 do you? It's the same thing.

That doesn't make any sense. There's tons of scientific studies linking religious belief with improved physical health and psychological well-being. Religion may or may not be true, but it is certainly a useful belief for an individual to have. (Within limits, obviously - extreme and incorrect religious beliefs would be harmful). As an agnostic myself, if my wife believed in Christianity, I'd probably raise the kids that way.
posted by gd779 at 3:33 PM on October 1, 2004


Remember that, to some extent, people are on best behaviour for the bulk of their dating, since they cannot maintain this indefinitely, at some point, you stop biting your tongue, and start speaking your mind, and this is often what people mean when they say "the honeymoon is over" after people get married

Truer words have never been spoken.

Patience, even without understanding.....a thing that makes partnerships last. How do you know if this can exist in each other unless you've already been through some bad times? And those bad times will come, as sure as anything. That isn't the issue - it's how you deal with them. Patience - to accept someone as they are and resisting the urge to change them.
posted by SpaceCadet at 4:24 PM on October 1, 2004


That relationship will be hard to maintain. For the rest of your life you'll have to look past her infantile belief system and the mental crutch she needs to cope with the world. It's hard to love someone you feel is weak. She'll see you as damned, and regret spending her life with someone she won't see for the rest of eternity. That's assuming she really believes in her faith and isn't attending church out of habit. At some point she'll be forced to examine why she married an atheist, an idea that contradicts her belief system. Plus, there will always be a divide between you and her church-going friends, a wedge that could divide you two over time. Sure, church-goers are friendly and all, but I've always seen prejudice. There is a divide when godless and godly people get together if the godly people are true to their faith (read: holier than thou attitude, or being looked down upon or pitied).
posted by fleener at 6:35 PM on October 1, 2004


her infantile belief system and the mental crutch she needs to cope with the world...

Thanks for proving that you don't need God or religion to be a self-righteous, holier-than-thou twat.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:46 PM on October 1, 2004 [1 favorite]


Let's thank Asparagirl for concluding this wonderful thread with the word "twat." I like it so much, I'll say it again: twat.

;o)
posted by squirrel at 1:38 AM on October 2, 2004


What did you decide, if anything?
posted by fionab at 6:54 PM on October 6, 2004


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