Marry an Atheist or Punch Yourself in the Eye… You Decide.

For many Christians, you’re in for one hell of a time when telling your family and friends your spouse is an atheist. It’s hard enough for atheists to come out to our own parents, but to tell the religious people in your life that you’re going to breed with a heathen, that’s gotta be rough.

(And if any Christians on this site have ever had to do that, I’d *love* to hear the stories. I would ask atheists, too, but I can’t imagine many of us would have the same problem telling the family we’re dating a religious person… personally, mine would be thrilled.)

Anyway, somehow, Kevin (atheist) and Cori (Christian) make it work.

Cori writes about the “White Elephant of Unbelief” she deals with when talking to friends and family:

I have yet to meet a person who speaks comfortably about the whole [religion/non-religion] thing to both of us together or either of us apart. It’s like being married to an alcoholic or a drug addict – we have this ‘secret in our cupboard’, this white elephant in the room, that everyone feels we need to skirt around.

She also talks about the benefits of being with someone who has such a different view on life:

Fact is, I’m crazy about my atheist husband! I love and deeply respect his journey and all the many things he is seeking and finding. I respect so much his integrity, his way of thinking, and his careful and deliberate way of forming ideas. Similarly, he has a deep respect for my faith and would do nothing to hurt or undermine it. We both love the endless conversations we can have around our beliefs, which give us such a richness of insight into paradigms different from our own.

It’s a sweet posting. The comment thread is not too bad, either.

(Via Kevin’s Memoirs of an ex-Christian)

[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, marry, White Elephant of Unbelief, Memoirs of an ex-Christian[/tags]

  • Curiosis

    When my wife and I married almost ten years ago, we were both christians. However, about two years ago I deconverted and became an atheist.

    This was probably the rockiest part of our marriage. But we have since come to accept this difference between us. She is even able to joke about it now where before she couldn’t even talk about it.

    My parents know that I’m an atheist. My dad, the Baptist deacon, is disappointed, but doesn’t treat me any differently. I don’t know if my in-laws (Church of Christ) know specifically, but they do know that I am no longer a christian.

    If my wife asks that I go to church with her, I almost always do. Except for not getting to sleep in, I really don’t mind that much. I don’t volunteer the fact that I’m an atheist, but I’ll be honest if asked.

    What saddens me, what I would rather not think about, is that if I had been an atheist 10 years ago, my wife would not have married me.

    I applaud Kevin and Cory. I hope that they have a long and happy marriage.

  • Mike C

    I respect so much his integrity, his way of thinking, and his careful and deliberate way of forming ideas. Similarly, he has a deep respect for my faith and would do nothing to hurt or undermine it.

    I think these attitudes would be key to making this kind of relationship work. Good for them!

  • Helen

    When I started dating my husband (he wasn’t then, of course) neither of us were Christians. Then I became one and he continued to be an atheist, which made the relationship not ok in the eyes of most of my new Christian ‘friends’.

    We got married anyway. I didn’t ask the pastors of my conservative Church to marry us because I knew they wouldn’t marry a Christian and an atheist. So we asked a pastor of another church who was happy to do it.

    We’re still married and now I’m almost an atheist myself (not because he ever tried to make me one – without him pushing me at all I came to have a lot of questions about what I’d been believing)

  • TGA

    My wife is a Roman-Catholic from a very devout RC family with several sisters, a monk, and a priest. They are all wonderful people and they make for stimulating company.

    We never mentioned my atheism to them. We got married in her family’s church and I attend funerals, but otherwise I never go to church. They don’t ask, and I don’t tell.

    My wife is no longer practicing, although she’s still a believer. She also believes in things like Feng Shui, homeopathy, and the afterlife. Her supernatural side annoys me, but we respect each other’s beliefs and rarely approach the subject.

    For what it’s worth, she’s just as exasperated as I am with fundamentalists, bible literalists, hatred spewing televangelists, and the Vatican’s stance on contraception.

  • King Aardvark

    I’m amazed, quite frankly, that they are able to have good natured conversations about their differences in belief. I’m atheist and my wife is christian, and whenever our differences of belief come up, bad juju happens. Not cool at all. Without bringing up religion, our personalities mesh really well though.

    My parents, who are also both atheist, did in fact look at me funny for going out with an overtly religious person. They didn’t make a big deal of it, but it did strike them as odd.

  • mr k

    I’m currently dating a christian, but it’s not such a big deal here in the UK I think, where most of us are at least agnostic. We discuss religon, and while she believes strongly in God, she doesn’t have the smorsgabord of fundamentalist beliefs that I suspect most atheists could not put up with. We disagree sometimes, but our discussions about faith have never been that heated.

  • Daniel Morgan

    My wife and I went through what she and her husband are going through. I agree with the first commenter that it was the rockiest point in our marriage, as we were both believers when we met and married.

    If you love each other, it will work out. In our case, the difference in perspectives dissolved as one of us began to see the reasons for the others’ position; no coercing was necessary, or could’ve worked. She may find her situation the same — that over time, you either meet each other in the middle, or one of you moves towards the other.

    No matter what, though, keep in mind that issues of faith are just that — abstracta in our head, while people are real, and we need them.

  • Randy

    I was a bible believer for 25 years. I left the faith 7 years ago. My girlfriend of two years is a Christian. What is funny is that, if I was still a believer (fundamentalist, biblical literalists) I would not consider her to be a “true Christian” because of her “Sunday only” Christianity and because of some of her beliefs. But, she is indeed a Christian, and we rarely discuss religious topics because it never ends well. She will get upset and I’ll get my feelings hurt. I learned this early on. I desperately want to be able to express myself to her, but she easily dismisses my comments…not overtly, but I can tell what she is thinking.
    Funny, I have forgotten more bible than she will ever learn, yet she has no desire to know what I think or why.
    I am madly in love with her, but how long can I just keep my mouth shut when I read, hear, or observe something absurd?
    She attends church every Sunday morning. I go with her perhaps once every two months. That’s about all I can take.

  • Julie Marie

    I was first a devout Catholic, then a conservative evangelical, for 20 years. My husband was “unchurched” as they say, when we met, although he did believe in God. I got him all churched up in my conservative evangelical church, then a little over a year ago, I started deconstructing my faith.

    He was, I know now, glad for the break from my uber-religiousness – and glad to be free from the expectation that we would attend church every Sunday and Wed. Although we didn’t discuss matters of faith much, he was quietly reassessing what he’d been taught over the last 5 years too.

    Issues have come up since that have rocked our marriage to its core. Two years ago I would have attirbuted it, at least in part, to Gods withdrawing his presence from our marriage because of my choices. Its been a difficult six months – and the first major crisis I’ve faced without the absoulte assurance that there was a divine plan for me and everything would be okay. We’ve worked very hard, individually, and as a couple, to identify and address the root cause(s) of our troubles and have decided its not beyond our strength to rebuild. We don’t talk a whole lot about spiritual matters – he’s still a believer with a conservative evangelical roots (thanks to me, ) and I still believe there’s something out there bigger than I can comprehend. We leave it at that.

  • shaun

    I vote for the punch in the eye!
    My husband and I were both vaguely deistic when we met and got married. In fact, before we married he seemed to have a stronger awareness of some kind of divine.
    Since then, I’ve gotten more religious and him less so. I was baptised as a Catholic when our first child was 3, and now, 5 years later, he has books on atheism on his bedside. (Both our kids are baptised, and our oldest gets first communion this year.)
    And . . it kind of sucks. And to be honest, it sucks because I don’t think either of us really respects the other. I’m sure he would agree with Randy, above, that he can hardly keep his mouth shut about things he finds “absurd.” I often feel that he is doing some kind of adolescent combat with a highly simplistic, junior high view of faith, like its some leftover rebellion against his parents.
    We are committed to working it out, but frankly I hate it, and though I try to be positive I cannot imagine how it can. (Ironically, my husband the atheist is sure it will, and I, the “faith in things unseen” one, am more prone to despair on the subject.)
    If dealing with disapproving friends or relatives is the biggest challenge in a mixed marriage, I’d say you’re golden. Add some children and some basic disrespect to the mix and it gets way way scarier.

  • Randy

    You know Shaun, there are physically abusive marriages that end in old age, yet I am worried about a two year relationship because of what stirs, unsaid, in my head.
    I guess that is the problem. I can’t say anything to her, and I end up having the conversations with her anyway, in my head. And it ends just as bad, or worse than it would if we had talked.
    I guess I will never understand how religiously mixed romantic relationships can survive.

    I resent her spending every Sunday in church.
    I resent her tithing her hard earned money.
    I resent her valuing what her minister says over what I have to say.
    I resent her never asking me my thoughts on religious topics.

    That’s a lot of resentment, but I love her so.

  • Kid Charles

    Randy, I know EXACTLY how you feel about not being able to have discussions about certain topics with a girlfriend, and instead having them end badly in your head. With my (ex)girlfriend it wasn’t religion, she was a solid atheist like myself, but it was a few political issues instead. She had some Randian Objectivist tendencies (haha, no wonder it didn’t work out between us). She would sometimes say the most abhorrent things about health care, for example that she didn’t want to have her tax dollars go towards other people’s medical care, including children! I’m sort of a Socialist Humanist so you can imagine my reaction to these sorts of comments which I found intollerably selfish and frankly, immoral. She wasn’t even close to being poor, so that was no excuse. At any rate I learned to avoid a number of subjects, but it added a lot of stress to the situation because of how antithetical our belief systems were. I admired her in a lot of ways, but her views on certain things contributed to the end of the relationship. The real reason it didn’t work was our vastly incompatible personalities, but the political stuff sure didn’t help. In retrospect, maybe they weren’t entirely unrelated. At any rate, I wish you the best, you certainly seem fond of your mate despite the problems.

  • Frank

    I think it’s much deeper than religious differences. It’s a matter of intellectual compatibility. There are studies that substantiate that there is a strict correlation between religiosity and lower IQ. The higher one’s IQ the less likely he will be impressionable enough to subscribe to religious superstitions. I could never marry anyone who subcsribes to any personal god(s), for the same reason that I couldn’t marry someone who believed in alchemy, astrology, psychics, ghosts, or unicorns, etc. I respect everyone’s right to believe and delude themselves with whatever their superstition is, but that doesn’t mean that I have to actually repect their beliefs. I think that if a non-religious person marrys a religious person then inevitably it will not work out because they both will be operating from opposing belief systems – one based on faith and the other on reality!