Can You Really Love Religious People If You Hate Their Religion?

Atheists do not exactly claim to “love sinners but hate sins” (if for no other reason than that most, if not all, of us reject the category of “sin” as a meaningful or valuable way to talk about ethical failure). Also, atheists may be more realistic than to think that we really do, or feasibly could, actually love all people. And atheists may very well have different opinions on whether such indiscriminate loving would be a worthwhile ideal even if people could do this. (As I have argued before, there are ethically right and wrong ways to feel towards things and people based on what their objective value merits.)

But, nonetheless, insofar as atheists share Western liberal secularist values, I would hope that all of us share a moral, and not merely political, ideal that involves respecting and honoring the dignity of all people. I would hope that more than just politically tolerating people with whom we disagree, that we also seek to have generally benevolent dispositions towards all the people we encounter socially, as much as this is possible consistent with respect for truth in value judgments.

While some enemies in life are inevitable (and sometimes actually wind up providing as much or more benefit to each other as friends do), we should want as much goodwill and positive interaction with other people as possible, despite their manifold manifest flaws. And this means that even though we disagree with people’s immoral behaviors, we should try to be as sympathetically inclined to them as we can, consistent with justice, truthfulness, and their own well-being.

And as much as we disagree with and vociferously challenge people’s wrong and/or pernicious ideas, we should be able to bracket (or at least contextualize) these qualms as much as possible when considering people as whole people. For example, we should not let a philosophical disagreement, even a serious one, completely cloud our ability to appreciate someone’s overall excellent character where it exists. We should keep conflicts of the mind from precluding friendships of the heart. And a friendship of the mind where the minds disagree is in most cases something to cherish since it provides the benefits both of productive enmity and of harmonious concord.

But in order to walk the line between intellectual disagreement and personal friendship, the atheist must consider a difficult question. Can she both hate religion, as many atheists seem to, and yet simultaneously love the religious person any more realistically than the fundamentalist religious person can love gay people while hating homosexuality?

Of course, an atheist can say to the religious person something analogous to what the fundamentalist religious person says to gays, “I don’t care what you do in the privacy of your own church or home, but I just don’t want to hear about it.  Leave all your crazy ideas for when you’re with your other religious friends.  I don’t want you to talk about praying for me or about your spiritual experiences or about your ignorant opinions that come only from superstitions.  I hate all this stuff about you, even though I otherwise think you’re great and totally honor your overall character.”

The problem is that comparable to the way that most gay people do not think they can closet their sexual identity and be comfortably themselves and the way most gay people resent anyone who asks them to be closeted as callously rejecting them, it may not be entirely unreasonable for many religious people to say that their faith is too central a part of who they are to feel pressured to stifle it every time they go out in public.  I’m not talking about theocratic religious people who want to impose their faith or its more arbitrary moral ideas through legislation or who crave for special recognition of their religion or of prayer, etc. in government settings.  Of course we can ask that people not try to make the government an arm of their faith or a vehicle for its expression without being confused for being “hateful”.

But even politically secular and tolerant religious people have a lot of other ways in which being openly and fully themselves means expressing themselves religiously.  And similarly, for many atheists our atheism is not a small issue but an important part of our identity.  This might be because our atheism makes us feel alienated from friends, family, the larger and more religious body of humanity, etc.  And/or it might be because we were once religious ourselves and rejecting religion was a key moment in our self-formation that is important to us still.  It might also be because in questions of religion, and specifically in contradistinction to it, we most clearly see what our intellectual and moral values are and find the greatest conflict with others over these core character issues.

And of course, for many religious people, we are talking about a key way in which they form their own sense of identity, in which they fundamentally connect with their family and with the “spiritual”, hopeful, reverential, moral, loyal, ritualistic, traditional, communal, purpose-oriented, and/or intellectual sides of their nature.  Their embrace of their religiosity can be a major part of their self-formation and their way of life itself.  It can profoundly shape core values—or at least their personal conceptualization of them.

So, both serious atheists and religious people can have a lot of themselves bound up in their complicated relationships to religion.  The stories of their lives and the dynamics of their psychologies would likely be woefully distorted were their religiosity or irreligiosity, their belief or their unbelief, scrubbed out of them.

Now, of course, for the sake of each other’s sanity and their mutual friendship, both serious atheists and religious people may make truces as far as their personal friendships are concerned, by which they either do not discuss religion or by which they employ deliberate or implicit means of not letting it become a wedge between them.  But to the extent to which this is necessary, there is a fundamental alienation between people who are otherwise friends, which can still be lamentable.  Maybe adherence to intellectual principle is a great enough good that it is justifiable to prioritize it even at the expense of better friendships and more “truces”.  But if there is a way to separate intellectual criticisms of each other’s core beliefs and values from emotional, visceral dislike or hatred?

There is a potential trade off in making our dislike of existing religion less emotional—it might mean not accurately enough feeling negatively towards what is genuinely bad in the existing religions.  It is a good thing to feel dislike for what is bad.  The bad deserves that.  And negative emotional dispositions provide motivational aid to get us to work reducing the bad.

But this brings me to the real crux of the problem.  When we orient our minds to eliminate the bad of religion, we are also possibly orienting ourselves to eliminate constitutive parts of our religious friends’ ways of life.  Describing how we want people to never again do or think the things our friends do or think risks saying to them, “we don’t want people to be the way you are.   We don’t want stories like yours to exist.  We don’t want the practices, traditions, rituals, etc. in which you form yourself and live your life to exist.  We don’t want people to have psychologies like yours or values like yours.”

Looked at in this way, of course religious people feel threatened and sometimes hated by our more vituperative denunciations of the beliefs, practices, institutions, and values through which they live their lives and construct their identities, hopes, moral judgments, etc.  It can be as bad for them to be told their religions should not exist as it is for gays to be told that their basic psycho-sexual love drive and love relationships should not exist.

And, of course, this door also swings the other way.  Religious attitudes that wish atheists out of existence and vilify us are alienating and harmful to some of us in comparable major ways too.

Is there a solution?  I think so.

I don’t think the answer is at all to pretend we believe things we don’t.  Nor is it to feign respect for badly formed and obviously false ideas.  Nor is it to gloss over our real and vital disagreements about moral values.  We are going to have to have these conflicts because truth and goodness ride on them.  Not everything in life can be sunshine and rainbows.  And some people will be evil in distinctively religious ways and be worthy of a good deal of denunciation.  Some atheists too.

But I don’t think we need to hate people’s reverential, spiritual, hopeful, traditional, superstitious, loyal, purpose-oriented, zealous, morally concerned, grateful, idiosyncratic, wondering sides that they are expressing through what we take to be the wrong means or what we see as aimed at the wrong objects.  We can appreciate that, in essential character, we share most of these same traits, only directed to objects and causes and people we think more worthy.

But these sides of our common humanity are what they are channeling through their religiosity and maybe if we can see these commonalities and appreciate their value in some of religious people’s religious expressions we can respect and appreciate as much of who they are as possible.  We can do this even as we are not shy about appropriately voicing our principled disagreements with their wronger abstract ideas and important value judgments when they are of consequence.

If we can see in their religiosity their admirable aspirations and character traits and not only their errors, we can find a way to love not just them but their religiosity itself.  When debating philosophically, we should still make the case to them that there are better ways to think about reverence, spirituality, values, etc. than the specific content of their religions when such content is foolish or pernicious.  We should even be working to develop more coherent and integrated ideas, for ourselves and our fellow atheists, about what proper, ethically enhancing uses the most distinctively “religious” tendencies of human nature can be put towards–consistent with truth and justice.

We should not shun or fear these parts of ourselves in their own right—only their abusive use in the service of superstition, falsehood, irrationalism, authoritarianism, cultishness, regressiveness, brainwashing, and all other forms of immorality.  We can recognize that our religious friends do not need to change their whole ways of life or deny their religious nature’s value.  We do not need to wish they were not who or what they are, just to wish they would correct some erroneous beliefs and counter-productive moral judgments.

And even as we openly criticize false beliefs, values, and institutions, we need to see what particular people are really expressing of value through their religiosity itself, amidst all the errors it might be twisted up with.  We might even be able to learn a thing or two about a side of ourselves that need not be opposed to reason or rediscover a side of ourselves that was never necessary to abandon when we rightfully left an irrational faith behind.

But is it possible to love someone’s religiosity despite thinking their beliefs and values are to some considerable extent pernicious?  In my next post on this topic, I addressed the question, “What Can An Atheist Love In People’s Religiosity?

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://outofthegdwaye.wordpress.com/ George W.

    I have a theory about religious people. I feel that people find the God that they are looking for. If you are judgmental, xenophobic, mean, and angry; so too will your God be. If you are inclusive, inquisitive, helpful and kind; then so too is your God. Even the ones who hold fast to sects that talk fire and brimstone, judgment and hellfire have trouble, if they are good people, with the issues of suffering and revelation.

    What I hate about religion is that it serves (for those who are full of vice)as a justification of those things that we should be trying to overcome.

    In this sense, I find it quite easy to love religious people. I would most certainly dislike a person who was full of those traits which I find deplorable. I also find it quite easy to love those people who exhibit those traits I value.

    One of my closest friends is a “Reborn” Christian YEC. Although I certainly deplore his reasoning when it comes to science, I value his friendship and find his problems with suffering, revelation, and literalism speak volumes about his character. He always listens (though maybe doesn’t hear)when I discuss the issues I have with his Young Earth positions.

    I really do not find it uncomfortable talking about religion, so long as there are some basic ground rules. My friend refrains from deciding where my “soul” is headed and I refrain from overtly mocking his beliefs. It works for us.

    • Daniel Fincke

      I think that quite naturally people’s gods are to some extent projections of their own values and personalities. But you could be a genial, open person like I was and yet still think your Bible just requires you to disagree with homosexuality. Even if that’s a bad argument and it really doesn’t, and there are all sorts of arbitrary hermeneutical choices you’re not realizing you’re making, etc. You could really, as I did, just have a fundamentalist’s view of absolute truth in an absolute Word of God and feel forced into certain positions which sound like something only an emotionally homophobic person would think, even though you’re not emotionally that kind of person. You just think of it as a truth issue and follow it out logically and dispassionately.

      It’s a prejudice to think that everyone who has a negative and demeaning view of others can only have it because of hate. I don’t hate dogs, I quite love them, but have been raised to believe as an abstract matter that I am superior to them. I’m sure many a cultural racist or homophobe or chauvinist, etc. has internalized beliefs and attitudes that do not come from any well spring of emotional hate, even if there words are those of haters. Sometimes they’re secondhand hate which is totally abstracted from the original motivating emotional prejudices.

      And also our gods reflect other sources that may be at odds with our values. Not everyone’s god approves of them. Some people live in terror of their gods. In my own psychology I realize in retrospect God’s idea of love was coincidentally just like my parents’. And just the way I never doubted my parents’ love, I never doubted God’s while I believed. And of course many an overbearing picture of God is just a projection of many an overbearing father.

      I’m sure there are other psychological and cultural sources too all intermixed in the gods we project.

  • http://deathmetal.org Will the Viking

    For whatever its worth, I’m very impressed (me and my tiny opinion). Very clear and balanced and thoughtful. I’ll have to read through it a bit more before I offer any criticism (I think I have some, but I want to make sure they are fair and not just criticism for their own sake, most atheist blogging I see isn’t this strong). That may take some time due to school work, but for now I’m also spreading this around.
    In the meantime, I applaud you. Way to represent your side with honor.

  • Mary C. Young

    I like what you’re saying but I think that I’m having trouble believing that there really is a difference between “loving the sinner and hating the sin” and what you’re saying. If I have what you’re saying wrong, please correct me because I do genuinely want to understand what you’re saying.

    Since I don’t actually think that there is anything wrong with how an atheist views or values the world (I can’t blame someone for not believing in an unseen or illogical God) I’ll use another example: I’m mostly anti-abortion. I’m not decidedly, always in every case against abortion. I can certainly see why people feel pushed to get them (a society that doesn’t value life and is sexist against women which puts them in a position of utter helplessness when they wind up pregnant). I don’t believe in throwing blood on women at abortion clinics and I’ve never protested one, but I do believe that the casual nature with which many women get abortions points to a really serious issue with personal responsibility and respect for human life. There is a certain type of abortion I really don’t respect and that actually makes me mad to think about – and that is adult women who come from stable economic situations with supportive families, a completed education, and a job getting an abortion because they don’t want to have a baby (this is, in fact, the largest growing demographic of women who get abortions). I have friends whom I know who are in precisely the position I just mentioned who would in fact get an abortion if they were to have an unwanted pregnancy. While I may have meaningful friendships with them, there is something fundamental about the way we view the world which would definitely push me ever from being as close to them as I am say, to my family, best friend, boyfriend etc. Whether rightly or wrongly, I believe they have extremely selfish ideas about when and where personal responsibility is important and when desire and comfort override love and sacrifice. And, on the converse, rightly or wrongly, they think that I have prosaic, religiously motivated, or even sexist views of women’s rights over their pregnancies. While we may not condemn or ostracize one another for this viewpoint, we certainly judge one another for it and that sort of judgment that points to the deepest way that someone views the world is hard ever to be truly overcome. As much as I might try to word it otherwise (and my friends on the other side) it really is a matter of loving the sinner and hating the sin. I don’t just dislike the opinion my friends hold concerning the issue, but the very part of them that motivates them to think that way – a part that I think is self-centered and lacking respect for life. And they don’t like the part of me which is anti-abortion – which they think is oppressive and narrow-minded. If I ever wanted to, say, seek advice from a friend that holds such an opinion on abortion, everything they said to me would be weighed against how they viewed life and responsibility and whether or not that world-view would negatively color their advice.

    The same sort of issue stares in the face of the atheist vs. theist debate. For atheists whose atheism is a fundamental part of their self-identity and who don’t think that the God hypothesis is simply false but actually harmful, they don’t just dislike the religious opinions of their friends that help them to justify hateful, oppressive and evil viewpoints – they dislike the part of that person that would allow them to submit to the God hypothesis, and organized religion, in spite of the logical fact that no God hypothesis of any religious type can be proved and, even further, actually seems highly unlikely. I read in your blog time and time again how important statistical and fact-based truths are to the way you understand the world, process issues, and decide what is right and wrong. I know that by virtue of being a religious person and, even further, participating in organized religion, I am suspending my disbelief and believing things that are beyond logic and argumentation – which means that I dismiss as not that important the thing which you find most important in forming your world view and value judgments. I trust in things I can’t see or explain which is completely antithetical to everything you hold dear. Even if on the surface we hold similar opinions about tolerance, love, freedom, etc., can you really say that you “like” the part of me which chooses to ignore logic and believe in God? I find that hard to believe. Furthermore, while I may answer “faith is a gift” which is what motivates me not to condemn or judge atheists (while still thinking that they’re wrong), not every theist holds my position and would actually dislike the fundamental part of an atheist which motivates atheism.

    On a personal level, I think that in every important relationship, there is a part of us that loves the sinner and hates the sin. But for issues that are part of the core of someone’s identity and how they interact with the world, could that ever truly be overcome? Would you, for example, marry a religious woman or seek out a Catholic priest for advice in a moral dilemma?

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    Can you really love religious people if you hate their religion? I think so.

    I know several people who are deeply religious but who use their religion to guide their own lives. They may talk about their faith, but it’s always in relation to how it impacts their thoughts/actions/feelings. They never try to use their beliefs to alter the behavior of others. While I don’t believe in their gods or agree with the tenets of their religions (I even sometimes cringe when I realize how dependent they are on their faith for the most basic life decisions), it’s easy to love those people for who they are.

    Others are hard, if not impossible, to love–because of their religious beliefs. These are the people who bring religion into every conversation and situation, and always use it as a battering ram against others. They’re always focused on how *their beliefs* mean you have to change who and what you are. You are to convert or suffer the consequences. My instinct is to run far away, and fast.

  • Ben Finney

    A person’s sexual orientation generally permeates their life, just as religion does for some people.

    A person’s sexual orientation is a factor in a great many of the events in their life that shape their opinion, just as religion does for some people.

    The big difference is: sexual orientation isn’t a matter of beliefs held and factual claims about objective reality. It’s something that is in-built, and changing it is not a matter of convincing the person of a different position.

    Religion is not like that: even though people entangle it with their identity, it is still a matter of a position on objective reality, of beliefs, of truth about the world. And it is evidently the case that millions of people have their position on religion changed by reasoned argument.

    To the extent that a person’s beliefs and positions impact their behaviour toward others, or their policies, or their teachings, or their other actions; yes, I do think we can hate their religion if it negatively impacts those things, without hating the person.

    That’s because, unlike sexual orientation, and despite what the person may think, beliefs (whether religious or otherwise) are open to criticism and are prone to change through being convinced otherwise. We must not allow anyone who uses religion to support their actions to tell us it’s off-limits for discussion.

  • Daniel Fincke

    I never said that we should allow religious people to tell us that it’s off-limits for discussion. And I never even said that we need to not hate their religions to the extent that they are objectively deserving of hate.

    But nonetheless, their religiosity is something else which has aspects (in addition to the wholly disagreeable faith and other vices religion tends to worsen) that can be appreciated amidst their religion itself.

    We can, and I wholeheartedly agree, must stand up in many cases against false beliefs. We should insist to people that they are not immutable parts of themselves which cannot be avoided but ethically and epistemically require rigorous reevaluation.

    But, nonetheless, serious religious people’s religiosity is far, far deeper a part of them than just some beliefs they have. As you put it, it permeates their lives. So, you have to be pretty careful that in hating their religion, you are not hating them. You have to find ways if you are to love them to make peace with a great deal of them that is shaped by their religiosity, even as you take a necessary principled stand against their errors of belief and ethical practice.

  • Roger Williams

    Dan, I have a personal problem with them. I have been “in the vocational ministry” full-time or part-time for around 40 years. I have found the most angry, insecure, dishonest people to be Christians. The more they wave the Bible, usually the least trustworthy they are. For years I have avoided doing business with anyone who describes himself as a Christian businessman. From past experience, I know he’s gonna screw me.

    After an experience around eleven years ago, I finally had a talk with myself and admitted it is all a bunch of caca de bovine. Their actions spoke much louder than their words many times. My final experience at that time with this one church was the last straw.

    Although I am now employed by a church in a non-teaching/preaching role, it is almost all I can do to listen to this wussy preacher give his sermonettes every Sunday, knowing that he is not only getting a $60,000 salary, but a TAX-FREE $40,000 housing allowance to do virtually nothing. And the church hired his wife as the church secretary as well. Two incomes plus $40,000 tax free.

    And the guy is too damn cheap to spend a hundred bucks to take his wife out for dinner.

    I don’t hate the religion of Christians as much as I hate their refusal to live by it except when it is convenient…ie…bashing others with the Bible for various condescending reasons.

    Sorry for the rant.
    RW

  • De

    I’ve been reading some of your essays on this blog, and I enjoy the clarity and depth of your writing.

    However, I feel as though in this case, you wrote the first part of the post honestly and openly, but then try to reach a conclusion that doesn’t follow.

    Can you really love religious people if you hate their religion? I feel like your logic should have reached the conclusion that no, you cannot. In this way, I have to agree with Mary C. Young, even though I’m a pro-choice atheist who disagrees that there’s something wrong with a woman looking after her own desires rather than having a child she doesn’t want, since I do not value the life of an unconscious embryo.

    What I dislike about religious people is not simply the particulars of their beliefs, but the very personality traits that lead them to believe blindly. I can’t love the “reverential, spiritual, hopeful, traditional, superstitious, loyal, purpose-oriented, zealous, morally concerned, grateful, idiosyncratic, wondering sides” of people while trying my best to eradicate the negative expression of many of those traits from my own personality.

    “Loving the sinner while hating the sin” is something we do to certain degrees. None of my friends are perfect, and neither am I, and yet I manage to have friends and love others. There is no need to love all aspects of people for that love to be real. What matters here is the degree of these flaws we recognize in people, together with the closeness of that person’s relationship to us. I can tolerate a lot more negative traits in a person who is a friendly acquaintance than I can in a person with whom I am truly intimate. If a person really takes their religion very seriously, I will not be capable of forming a strong friendship with them. This is perhaps an unpleasant conclusion, but I think it’s more true to the points you bring up.

  • http://twitter.com/mikehypercube MikeHypercube

    I like what you’re describing here. When I made the transition from being a Christian, I came to the conclusion that religion is essentially a disease of the soul. Which of course begs the question, what exactly are all the good and proper things which the religious loosely group under terms like soul and spirituality. What is the sort of ‘irituality’ which is naturally that of the human. Being on the search for that is effectively being on the same path that many (or maybe some) of the religious are also on.

    Of course those believers who don’t really believe but merely believe they believe, are not on that path at all. Although I was a believer for 20 years and cannot share the disdain of many of my fellow atheists for the Christian and other believers, I can’t help feeling that if they truly love God with all their heart and truly seek to know Him, they will eventually get to the point where He admits that he doesn’t exist. How few make it to that point!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Beautifully put, Mike! That’s just like my point when I argue that my deconversion was actually the culmination of my years of religious ardor, not its lazy abandonment.

  • festersixohsixonethree

    I identify as an evangelical antireligionist rather than an angry atheist, but it’s hard not to get pissed off at the stupidity and lies and revisionism of the Christian Right – especially during this current election cycle.
    But I find myself tired of being angry – although it’s been a life-long reaction to unfair treatment and deliberate lies. So I’m finding these posts particularly thought provoking. Which is always a good thing.
    To the point of the post – my very dearest and longest-held friend (44 years!) is a devout “Christian” who does not identify with any organized religion – and is, moreover, a professor of religious studies at a well-known university. She is also an activist, a writer, a protester and an ever so quiet subversive.
    The planet would be a far different place if her brand of Christianity were the norm.

  • Dark Jaguar

    As I hinted at before, I know all too well how easy and seamless it is to get caught up in religion. It doesn’t mean one is weak or stupid, just unequipped. So, how could I hate someone just because they believe such nonsense? I’ve never truly hated anyone actually. I’m not a very passionate person most of the time, which hopefully doesn’t make people upset with me for failing to be as angry as I should over the myriad injustices of the world. (I realized rereading that that it could be interpreted as sarcasm. I really do mean what I say there. I may not have as loud a voice but I’ll certainly do my best to stand beside others on causes. I’m wondering if there have been any psychological studies on varying tendancies towards passionate attitudes or more… “grey” attitudes towards life in general.)

    Also, the vast majority of my friends and family are religious, with a few exceptions. The majority of those that are religious tends towards a moderate sort of religiosity. What am I to do? Just sever all my connections to everyone I’ve ever cared about? No, the people I care about are still important to me.

    However, I think “learn to love their religiosity” isn’t the way I’d put it. It really comes off in too pandering a light, and it changes the definition most people have of what it means to be “religious” just to make it more palatable. Well, that’s how I see it. I do appreciate your meaning though, that we certainly can appreciate the desire for “meaning” and a certain satisfaction in one’s place in the world.

    When it comes to religious arguments, when they occur (a large number of my family are in the dark on my atheism, though a lot more are aware of my progressiveness with a couple of exceptions), I tend to pick an abstract or specific “other” we can both talk about. I don’t say “YOUR beliefs are stupid”, though they are, I say “THAT belief is stupid, for example this person over here having them”. It puts some space between “us”, the friends or family, and the belief. Heck, in some ways it even helps that friend or family member just picture for a moment not having that belief. Mind you, often I don’t get too far even that way, but it’s a good way to make sure that when all’s said and done, there’s not a shattered relationship to clean up.

  • http://larrytanner.blogspot.com/ Larry Tanner

    If my experience is an indication, it is possible to love someone’s religiosity. My wife of 12 years is a devout Christian. I think Christianity is not only false but crazy.

    But my wife needs Christianity in her life. Going to church does something for her. She likes it. She likes going to Bible study, too. Shel likes ideas such as holiness, sacrifice, and worship.

    She knows what I think of religion generally, and hers specifically. We could make a big deal of it if we wanted to, but the fact is there’s so much more to our lives. We have children, and we’d like them to grow up to be happy, decent people. We have a house that we would like to be more or less clean and secure. We have neighbors, families, stuff to do. On most everything about how we actually go out and conduct our lives–we agree completely and complement each other.

    There are plenty of couples who live together wonderfully despite being totally opposed politically. Many couples manage despite one partner being cat and the other dog. Marriages stay together even when one person has a temporary or permanent health/physical issue. It happens, and it’s no big deal. I really can’t understand why people think it is a big deal.

    My wife loves me, but more importantly she gets me. She appreciates my personality and is my biggest fan. She thinks I’m attractive enough. She’s interested in my point of view on things going on in our life. I feel the same way about her.

    So, yeah, I facepalm every now and again with my wife’s admiration for Lord Jesus. But she also doesn’t like seafood. She ain’t perfect. But I never asked for or wanted a perfect spouse. I wanted someone who was smart and cute, someone who thought my jokes were funny, and someone who would take care of me and let me take care of her.

    If she ever wants to drop God, Jesus, and Church, I don’t think I’ll mind. It’s not a requirement; heck, it’s not something I really think about, much less want. Right now, however, my wife is a Christian, and a devout one. In her religion, she is the same passionate person I fell in love with years ago and the same one I come home to every night. Her religiosity is a fact. It’s the reality of who she is right now. I can live with it. It does absolutely nothing negative for me. It doesn’t change me or what I think. It’s no threat to me.

    • Chay

      Larry, I found what you wrote to be incredibly uplifting…

      I’m a self proclaimed Christian, but I struggle often not with the belief in God, but the function of the “church”. The people in the church, the way things are run etc…are really what either draw people in or turn people off.

      The majority of people regardless of your core beliefs are very opinionated about their own belief system. After all, it is your experience and hopefully pursuit of knowledge that has molded or solidified your core beliefs.

      I for one don’t choose to hate anyone or force my beliefs on anyone. I don’t agree that you can’t love others but disagree with the sin. Whatever you deem that to be….i don’t like to use the word hate, because there are so many areas or subjects that I’m still finding I don’t have a defining stance. I can understand arguments on both sides of many issues, and in those I choose not to lose sleep, but to try and continue to educate myself. At the end of the day, I have gay friends, atheist friends, agnostic friends, christian friends etc…obviously in all these groups I may have different beliefs than others about certain topics.

      I am constantly reminding myself not to be so quick to judge ANYONE…because people like to put a label on Christians, atheists, gay, etc….and so on…due to some belief system, but what makes people flawed is their characters and the fact that we are all human. Regardless of my beliefs I still manage to constantly do human or imperfect things…it doesn’t make me any more of a hypocrite than the next guy or gal…it makes me human. I don’t care who you are…unless you believe that there are absolutely no rules in life…do whatever you want, murder, kill, steal, lie, cheat etc…then at some point…probably more often than people would like to admit…we all fail upon those conditions.

      That being said, its the essence of my struggle with what Christianity has become and then the way it is perceived…it’s perceived as a group of people with a strict law by which they judge themselves and others….when in reality the choice a christian makes is between themselves and the God they believe in…they don’t answer to anyone but that God…their “salvation” is not based on what others think about them, or even what they can do right or wrong…that’s all false if someone says otherwise. At the same token, I won’t tell someone else to believe in that system, because once again…it isn’t my choice to make, nor do I think I have everything in life all figured out.

      I choose to and want to love all those people around me of I think of good character…if I have TRUST in them in our respective relationships….I’ll enjoy our time spent together in whatever environment. We are all the same species, and will continue to have to find a way to coexist and be productive forward moving in our lives for the sake of society…


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