An Atheist and a Christian: A Love Story

A (true) love story to kick off the year. I have talked to the couple and they gave me permission to tell their story.

It’s longer than most of my postings, but I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

Kate is a dyed-in-the-wool atheist. She was raised in a non-religious home, but had relatives who were Christians. She recalls her aunt once yelling at her mother over Christmas dinner because Kate had not been baptized. Kate began calling herself an atheist when she was old enough to explore the issues on her own. This wasn’t a big deal in the community she lived in, where religion was kept private and most people she knew were not very religious to begin with.

Still, Kate was very outspoken about her non-belief in God. She had a Darwin Fish symbol on the back of her car. She admits she sometimes sought out Christians for the sole purpose of starting an argument — and she would make jokes about Christianity. Not often, but it happened.

It wasn’t until she went to college that she learned her views on religion actually put her in a minority. When Kate moved into her dorm room her freshman year, she was greeted with cut-outs of Christian sayings that were placed on the wall. Her religious roommate couldn’t have been a more exact polar opposite to Kate. When the roommate opened a biology textbook, she said, “Kate, this book says that evolution is the foundation of biology!” As Kate waited for more, the roommate added, “That’s it… I didn’t think they were allowed to write that!”

As hard as they tried to get along, it was difficult. It didn’t help that the roommate told Kate she was going to hell. When Kate appealed to the roommate to be nicer, she responded that since she was already “saved,” she didn’t have to be nice.

The dorm wasn’t Kate’s only source of religious strife. The Campus Crusade for Christ chapter was a “large, intimidating presence” at her university. A separate group put up a banner in the central part of campus on April 1. It read: “Happy Atheist Day: Psalm 14:1.” (That verse states “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”) When a student ripped the poster down, it was he who was vilified, not those who put the poster up mocking non-believing students.

Kate managed to endure the Christian environment through the social support network she had back home, but that support was several hundred miles away.

Her experience with Christians finally changed during her junior year of college. She met a guy named Erik in one of her Spanish classes and they became friends. Though, as with many college acquaintances, once the class ended they lost touch. They didn’t reconnect until a year later when they found each other on Facebook.

Facebook profiles give people a chance to write a short description about themselves — they can also list their religion affiliation. Kate and Erik quickly shifted their eyes to see what the other had written in the biography field. It was a shock for both of them. Kate saw Bible verses on Erik’s page. Erik saw the phrase “I’m proud to be an atheist” on Kate’s. They decided to go out, but neither brought up what they had seen on Facebook. However, a couple outings later, they realized just how different their views were. Erik was a devout Christian who led a Bible study group. Kate owned several books about atheism and later joined her campus’s freethought group. They wondered: could you date someone who wasn’t on the same religious (or non-religious) path as yourself?

Yet, as Kate and Erik got to know each other, they found that they shared interests and beliefs on just about everything outside the realm of religion. They were becoming good friends and a tight bond was forming.

“I was a little disappointed, since we got along so well,” Kate said.

Not long after, they began dating, which was as surprising to them as it was for everyone who knew them. And their relationship helped them realize how badly they were treating people who held different viewpoints.

Kate says she learned how to speak appropriately around Christians. When she had previously heard Christians tell Bible stories, she wouldn’t hesitate to say, “Do you really believe that?” The implication was that most Christians were gullible. As she began to know more about Erik, however, she discovered there were educated Christians in the world.

Erik changed as well. Before meeting Kate, he had held the view that all atheists were the product of a bad childhood experience with religion or the result of abuse in the church. Essentially, he believed atheists were atheists because they hated God or Christianity.

Through Kate, he learned that it was possible to be an atheist based on reasoned, logical arguments. It was a well-thought-out system of (non-)belief. It wasn’t always the result of a bad experience or a case of teenage rebellion. Erik didn’t agree with the arguments, but he admits many of them do have merit.

It was a tough transition for the couple, but they began to get used to their differences.

Now try to imagine the reaction of Erik’s parents when they found out Kate was an atheist, a month after they had met her for the first time.

“But, Kate can’t be atheist!” said Erik’s mom. “She’s nice, and I get along with her!”

At the time, his parents thought his attraction to a girl who is an atheist was just a phase. When they found out he was serious about this relationship, they attempted to stop him, telling him that if he married an atheist he would be disobeying God. They were worried that Kate would change Erik’s views about faith.

They just wanted what they thought was best for him. When that didn’t seem to be working, though, they focused their energies on Kate, trying to help her accept Christ as her savior. They told her how much they cared about her, but they were worried about her not sharing their son’s faith. They were also scared. Their dream of having Christian grandchildren was slipping away. Even worse, they were afraid they would lose their son and not see him in Heaven.

At one point, Erik stopped speaking to his parents.

He understood where his parents were coming from: he, too, had once believed that deep inside everyone wanted to be a Christian — it was just a matter of having the opportunity to hear the gospel. It never crossed his mind that other viewpoints could have merit. It was as if their pastor’s reasons for believing in God had worked for Erik’s parents, but the reasons weren’t good enough for Kate. In church, they were taught that these types of theological conversations stopped with the proper Christian answer. They weren’t expecting rebuttals, and when they heard them they didn’t know what to do.

Once, around the time Kate was filling out applications for graduate school, Erik’s mom invited her over for “girl time.” It was going to be just cross-stitching and tea, Kate thought. But during the meeting, the mother brought out the Bible and began reading a verse about how God was in control of the situation. Erik’s mom also mentioned how she wished Kate believed in God — it would lessen her stress about the grad school applications. Kate nodded politely, but inside she was irritated.

When Erik’s father joined in the discussion later that evening (as Erik says, for “tag team evangelism”), the topic turned to evolution and how the parents’ pastor had told them it was flawed for a number of reasons. When Kate heard the reasons, she knew exactly the proper explanations to respond with, but this time she kept her mouth shut. It was the polite thing to do, and for Erik’s sake she wanted to keep the peace.

His parents kept their cool. They told Kate she wasn’t a bad person. She was a sinner just like everyone else. However, what was an innocuous statement for them was incredibly offensive to Kate, who did not feel sinful at all. This conversation lasted for more than five arduous hours. (Erik describes this talk as the time his parents “ninja evangelized.”)

It was this type of interaction that had pushed her even further away from Christianity during college.

Several months later, his parents demanded that either Kate convert to Christianity or Erik put a stop to the relationship.

Despite these harsh words and Kate’s belief that the parents were extremely misguided, she knew their intentions were good. They wanted the best for her, and to their way of thinking, the best involved God.

You may wonder about Kate’s parents’ reaction. Her mother told Kate not to change for Erik. That is, if Kate became a Christian only because Erik was one, it wasn’t the right reason to do so. But her parents knew they taught Kate how to think, not what to think, so they were not worried. Both of Kate’s parents told her they would accept her regardless of her decisions.

It was a far cry from Erik’s Christian home, where his parents essentially told him it was mandatory that Kate change (if marriage was in their future), but it was not permissible the other way around.

Kate continued dating Erik because she knew he was different from his parents.

But how does a relationship like this last? If you ask Kate and Erik, they’ll laugh and tell you they have no idea. (That’s not a joke; they’re serious.) But it turns out they both share core values and a passion to find the truth, whatever it may be.

They also have strong communication and conflict-resolution skills. They both strive to understand each other instead of trying to change the other. If an interfaith relationship with two passionate people is going to work, they say, you can’t be under the delusion that you will change your partner. Not when it comes to faith.

If the subject of God comes up, Kate has learned how to speak about her beliefs without making inappropriate comments. Erik no longer speaks in “us versus them” terminology nor does he use phrases like “being saved” which carry no weight outside conservative Christianity and actually offend non-religious people.

They both also share values and morals, though the reasons for those beliefs come from different places. Erik is more liberal on social issues and focuses on society’s needs such as helping the poor. He sees the Bible as the best guide book for life, not a book filled with literal truths. As he says, he is a follower of Jesus, not the Bible.

Kate says that Erik helped her become a different kind of atheist: one who is more compassionate and understanding. Christians are no longer “the enemy” for her. She removed the Darwin Fish emblem from her car out of respect to others and stopped telling (or laughing at) jokes that ripped on Christians.

For them, love is conquering the barriers that arise between people with such differing beliefs.

Erik no longer sees atheists as a threat to his religion. Instead, he sees them as people who have well-thought-out beliefs. In fact, he says that one of the most difficult challenges to his faith has been Kate’s continued atheism. He believed that if non-Christians were exposed to God’s Word, or a kind Christian who could explain it well, or at least a good church, belief in Jesus’ divinity was unavoidable. Kate was an exception to that unwritten rule.

Speaking of churches, they even go to them together. (Yes, that’s churches, plural.) They spend time going to places of worship and discussing them afterward. Each visit provides them with an opportunity to discuss faith (and non-faith) in a positive way.

Kate once visited the church of Erik’s parents, a Baptist church where the pastor made inaccurate statements about Christianity’s origins without providing any references to where he found this information and appeared to be hostile toward other faiths.

It was a dramatic change from another church they visited which was more contemporary and catered to young adults. Erik had enjoyed this church at one time, attending it for nearly two years and playing a large role in the planning and operation of various ministries. He loved their casual nature, their decision not to speak in “Christian-ese,” and the music they sang. When he had visited this church more frequently, he thought it to be accessible for everyone, not just other Christians. Eventually, it became too conservative for his tastes and the ethos of the church became combative against non-Christians. But when he visited with Kate, he still hoped she would see it for the good it contained.
Kate was not impressed. Erik couldn’t understand it at first:

“What I considered to be the best effort of Christianity was woefully inadequate at influencing people like Kate. It was then that I began to see things through her eyes. I saw how offended she was when she was depicted as being “in the dark” and “lost.” I saw the absurdity of people who claim Christ as their Lord yet live lives of wastefulness and intolerance.”

Both of them even went to a Unitarian Universalist church. This time, they both had a positive experience. It was hard to disagree with what they were hearing — the church didn’t seem to be taking a stance on the existence of God, merely how there was a need to nourish one’s spirituality. When discussing the beauty of nature, Erik could see it through a Christian filter (nature was beautiful thanks to God). Kate could understand nature purely through the elegance of natural selection.

Not only do they visit churches, but Erik has also attended Kate’s campus atheist group’s meetings. He was surprised how, sometimes, they didn’t even discuss atheism or religion very much — they were just happy to be spending time with like-minded people.

At one group event, he saw a movie by atheist director Brian Flemming called The God Who Wasn’t There. The other students didn’t know there was a Christian in their midst. After the movie, as Kate says, Erik “dropped the C-bomb.”

But the other students weren’t offended or upset. They were curious and interested. They had a good discussion with Erik and constantly asked his opinion on certain parts of the movie. Of course, some of the skeptics were… well… skeptical of his motives. However, after speaking with him, they found out he was a Christian who had given serious thought to why he held his beliefs. He could think for himself instead of merely parroting what he had been told in a church, and they respected him for that.

Kate and Erik joke about how forcing atheists and Christians to date would bring about more peace, tolerance, and understanding. Even without the close relationship, the idea that people with such different worldviews can get along so well is an important message in itself.

One question I had for them was how they would raise children if that time ever came. While neither has a definite answer, they both feel like giving the child a broad range of religious experiences is the best way to go. Erik wants to provide the child with answers from multiple sources — what mommy believes, what daddy believes, and what others believe. Kate would prefer a more secular approach, but also understands the value of seeing the wider range of beliefs. She wants her children to know it’s okay that their parents have different beliefs. Questions are also encouraged. It won’t be easy, but it will have to be discussed, and they have time before the issue of children becomes a potential reality.

In the meantime, Erik is considering adding a bumper sticker on the car to replace Kate’s old Darwin Fish. It would read: Jesus was a liberal.


[tags]atheist, atheism, love[/tags]

  • AJ

    Hemant,

    her religious views

    Atheist?!?

    same spiritual path as yourself

    Spiritual paths?!?

    a different kind of atheist: one who is more compassionate and understanding

    Kinds of atheism?!?

  • Kate’s brother

    Sounds like a couple of losers. Just kidding.

    I should add that Erik’s parents have encouraged Kate to talk to me (her brother), to find out how I found Christ coming out of a “heathen” family. I’m still waiting for that conversation…

  • Kate

    As usual, Aj’s being a nasty, bitter person…

    Hemant, thanks for posting this! :) It’s kinda weird to see it all written out. February will mark out two years together for us. Erik’s currently at an emergent Christian church and I’ve settled into the local Unitarian congregation (learning that I can now hyphenate myself as a UU-atheist-humanist). Of course we both still regularly read this blog and still each have our copies of your book that brought us closer together and inspired us to go on our own church hopping excursion. We look forward to another year of making atheists and Christians drop their jaws as we introduce ourselves as a weird interfaith couple. :)

    Erik and I both wish you the best for 2008!

    • BoughtwithAPrice

      It is now 4 years later and I have replied to this post (read below) and now to your comment. I just want to know how are you and Erik? Can you read my comment below and answer the questions?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    AJ — You raise some good points. I changed a couple things to make it more clear.

    “Her religious views” — I changed that to “views on religion” to avoid any confusion.

    “spiritual paths” — I made it “religious or (non-religious)”… it’s a bit more wordy, but hopefully more accurate.

    “different kind of atheist” — yep. I know plenty of “angry” atheists, non-angry atheists who are still passionate about it, atheists who just don’t care about religion, etc.

  • http://purduenontheists.com Jennifurret

    Well, all I can say is good luck. I am an atheist, and I dated a christian for about nine months, and it was the biggest mistake of my life. He would frequently make comments about how wrong I was, and try to get me to become a Christian. And when he had given up on that, he was constantly treating me with disdain, thinking that I was being the bad guy – that because I didn’t believe, I would go to hell, and then it would be his fault that I wasn’t saved. He ultimately broke up with me because he couldn’t have a longer relationship with someone he knew wasn’t religious, because he knew they were damned. I always tried to be accepting of his beliefs, I never argued with him, and I even offered to go to church with him. It seems you’re lucky that it’s more of your boyfriends parents that exhibit this behavior instead of him, but you’ll need the luck. I can’t imagine living a life where the people around me think I have committed a great crime, and that I was dooming their son to an eternity of damnation. That’s just the worst kind of hatred right there. So…good luck.

  • Ben

    Interesting. I really want to go back to my pre-2004 or 2005 behavior of ignoring religion and religious people. The discussions and experiences are overwhelmingly painful and depressing.

    Perhaps my kids’ world will be such that they won’t feel compelled to confront it. It doesn’t seem a reasonable hope that I’ll be able to go back to avoidance mode.

  • Susan B.

    Congratulations Kate and Erik, and I hope your relationship continues to grow and strengthen! It’s stories like these that I think can help break down these silly walls of intolerance and misunderstanding between atheists and religious folks. I hope more people will be willing to question their own beliefs, as well as their beliefs about others who believe differently.

  • AJ

    Hemant,

    Thank you, you’re usually spot on with your language, and call people when they’re not.

    Can’t let anyone think atheism is a religion, although many already have that impression, so many seem to think it’s satanism, scientism, or something else.

    I’m not averse to the word spiritual, and obviously anyone can have a spiritual experience, but a frozen waterfall, meditation, or a year in a cave isn’t going to lead a rationalist to change their views on Jesus’s divinity.

    Part of my objection to “a different kind of Atheist” is it seemed to me you were implying that Atheists are generally not more compassionate and understanding. Another small objection is that Atheism as a lack of belief in god is a tiny thing that doesn’t imply much or define a person apart from separating them from large group of people who do. The larger part is that those things do not have anything to do with Atheism at all.

    Kate,

    As usual, Aj’s being a nasty, bitter person…

    That seems uncalled for… and hypocritical.

  • http://meritboundalley.wordpress.com Joe M

    Kate and Erik,

    I hope everything works out as well for you as it is for me and my wife, who is Christian. We butt heads sometimes (what couple doesn’t), but now 6 years on, we’re happier, stronger, and more in love than ever!

    It sounds to me, from your story, that you two have the same kind of relationship that we do.

  • Kate

    Joe M and Susan – thank you for your good wishes!! I can only hope that our relationship develops as yours has, Joe.

    Aj – I was going to post a snarky comment in response but what the hell, Happy New Years. :) Best wishes!

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Whenever I’m confronted with a practicing Christian, complete with virgin birth and resurrection beliefs, I always have the same reaction. I’ve met plenty of kind and intelligent Christians, but I can never escape the opinion that they’re severely deluded. I’m consistently stupefied when I hear these individuals articulate their belief in these insane things. It’s like hearing someone talk about unicorns or the like. I don’t think I can ever fully respect someone if I was constantly reminded of their faith.

  • http://students.washington.edu/secular Michael

    What a beautiful and truly inspiring story.

    It seems that far too often, when we are entrenched in these battles of ideology, we lose sight of what really matters.

    I dated a Lutheran girl for over two years, while I was still Mormon, and the religion was eventually the cause of our downfall. In the end, we were not able to see past all the differences to see the love we shared. As an atheist now, I’m sure we’d be even worse off now.

    Best of luck to you both.

    AJ is apparently completely blind to the beauty of the story. That, or just wants/needs attention. Here’s some more attention, buddy – don’t capitalize “atheist” or “atheism.” You shouldn’t need me to tell you why.

    Kate’s brother:
    If there truly is an all-knowing and benevolent father figure somewhere out there, I cannot help but think that he would be in strong favor of love and acceptance, especially in the face of such turmoil caused by well-meaning but destructive people. The Christ I was taught about as a boy spent most of his time with the worst of the sinners, and through his example and love, inspired them. Christ never condemned, nor slandered, nor ‘tried to save’ anyone. His overwhelming love was enough. Emulate this. If the common Christian god does exist, he works through love, and time. Judge ye not, or you are no better than the Pharisees.

    I hope you both have a fantastic year!

  • grazatt

    It seems like they would be a good couple to appera on the talk show circuit.and what is the deal with Kate’s brother?

  • Maria

    AJ is apparently completely blind to the beauty of the story. That, or just wants/needs attention. Here’s some more attention, buddy – don’t capitalize “atheist” or “atheism.” You shouldn’t need me to tell you why.

    Kate’s brother:
    If there truly is an all-knowing and benevolent father figure somewhere out there, I cannot help but think that he would be in strong favor of love and acceptance, especially in the face of such turmoil caused by well-meaning but destructive people. The Christ I was taught about as a boy spent most of his time with the worst of the sinners, and through his example and love, inspired them. Christ never condemned, nor slandered, nor ‘tried to save’ anyone. His overwhelming love was enough. Emulate this. If the common Christian god does exist, he works through love, and time. Judge ye not, or you are no better than the Pharisees.

    I hope you both have a fantastic year!

    I agree! Best of luck to both Kate and Eric. If the “kid question” ever does come up, several friends I have sent their kids to Unitarian classes where they learned about all religions (and that it’s okay not to believe) and let them make up their own minds. It seems to have worked really well. I hope things work out for you. As for Eric’s parents, I hope they come around or it seems like they could really miss out.

  • Richard Wade

    I would like to hear how Erik is handling his relationship with his parents lately. The only detail I read was that at one time he stopped talking to them. Does he have to directly defy them? Does he conceal his relationship from them? Are his age or economic dependency factors in how much pressure they can bring to bear on him? This part of the story sounds like it has at least as much potential for pain for him as what Kate has gone through.

    To Kate’s brother:
    Please listen to the gentle words of Michael. For you to start your first comment with a sarcastic crack suggests there may be a good reason that she has not come to you to talk about this. Saying “just kidding” does not take away the sting of a slap in the face. This is not a matter to be “kidding” about.

    Kate is your sister. Soon enough she may be the only family you have left. Treat her with respect, love and empathy regardless of her views.

  • http://www.ineedtothink.com Seavee

    I am a new poster on this site and this is a difficult topic. I will try and make my comments as sensitive as possible.

    How does Erik reconcile the fact that the Christian Bible specifically says that Christians should not join themselves with unbelievers (Second Corinthians 6:14)? A Christian is defined as someone who follows the teachings of Christ. The Bible is generally considered the authority on the teachings of Christ. Is he a Christian or isn’t he?

    I am an atheist myself so I don’t ask because I agree with the Bible. I ask because it addresses what I see as the fundamental problem between atheist and Christian relationships. How does the Christian party reconcile their belief without becoming hypocritical?

    Please understand that I do not mean to be unkind. I simply have a very difficult time imagining how this scenario could be successful. Discussion might help me out here. Changing my mind would certainly broaden my miniscule dating pool.

    • Serenity

      It’s really much simpler than you think. When you read a science based text or article for research, help with decision-making or general information you (hopefully) take into consideration more than the words on the page. Such as, the overall message, potential biases, sections that will likely be updated when fresh discoveries, technologies, etc. are thoroughly explored. There are educated Christians and we do know that the Bible is a mass-produced, highly popular and many times over translated set of lessons that have been in the care of imperfect humans for ages. To some the core message (love) is what’s most valuable. I’m dating an atheist right now and I really, honestly am not the least bit bothered by it. On the contrary, I think it makes me a more open-minded person and a “truer” Christian because I accept and cherish him regardless of his his core beliefs. It helps that we can both laugh with/not at one another when we disagree, rather than arguing or trying to convert one another or something equally ingratious. Lol :)

  • Richard Wade

    Hemant, thank you for this wonderful story. When I want people to see the essence of what you are trying to do, I will refer them to this post.

  • Claire

    the topic turned to evolution and how the parents’ pastor had told them it was flawed for a number of reasons. When Kate heard the reasons, she knew exactly the proper explanations to respond with, but this time she kept her mouth shut. It was the polite thing to do, and for Erik’s sake she wanted to keep the peace.

    While the story as a whole was a nice example of people overcoming prejudices, this part disturbed me. I don’t think it’s rude to respectfully disagree, and it seems odd to me that silence in the face of ignorance is considered polite, rather than a way of dismissing the speaker as incapable of learning or growing. I’m not saying Kate should have spoken up right then, it may not have been the best time, but it does bother me anytime someone equates politeness with silence when confronted with ignorance.

    Kate and Erik, you are both very lucky to have found each other, as I am sure you already know…

  • Allison

    Awwwww, it’s always good to hear of another “weird interfaith couple”!

    Kate, best of luck and a world of happiness to you and Erik. My Christian husband and I have been together for 15 years now, married for 12, and have two children together. It can be done, and done happily! I’m sorry that his parents have not been reacting well, and hope they come to terms with your relationship.

  • http://daybydayhsing.blogspot.com Dawn

    Congrats Kate! I’m a Christian chick who’s been married to my atheist man for 10 years and it’s been all good. Just remember that those who look at your relationship and can’t imagine how it will work are revealing nothing but their own lack of imagination.

  • http://daybydayhsing.blogspot.com Dawn

    How does Erik reconcile the fact that the Christian Bible specifically says that Christians should not join themselves with unbelievers (Second Corinthians 6:14)? A Christian is defined as someone who follows the teachings of Christ. The Bible is generally considered the authority on the teachings of Christ. Is he a Christian or isn’t he?

    That’s getting sort of close to a no true scotsman kind of thing.

    It’s generally a more fundamentalist protestant view that argues the bible is a divine and literal rulebook and unless you’re going to argue many major denominations aren’t Christian (which is also a fairly common fundamentalist view!) then you might look into textual criticism and more liberal christian scholarship concerning the bible ( I think religioustolerance.org has some good info). You may think it’s as half-assed as any other view of the bible but it should help answer your questions.

  • Jen

    I agree with Richard; I am curious what the current relationship is between Erik and his parents.

    Kate says she learned how to speak appropriately around Christians. When she had previously heard Christians tell Bible stories, she wouldn’t hesitate to say, “Do you really believe that?” The implication was that most Christians were gullible. As she began to know more about Erik, however, she discovered there were educated Christians in the world.

    I am not sure I understand why this is a terrible question. There would be times it would be rude to ask, I suppose, but if someone expresses to me that they think certain Biblical events are literal retellings of actual events, I would ask if they truely believed that. Come on, now, how could anyone believe that the some of the stuff in there is real? There are educated Christians, yes, and many of them know plenty about their religion, but I have never heard a sane, rational person think that the Bible is a literal retelling of only literal, true events.

  • Claire

    I am not sure I understand why this is a terrible question.

    Me, either. As long as it is a real question, and it isn’t phrased as “do you really believe that pile of crap” or said with the equivalent intonation, why is it a problem?

    I have never heard a sane, rational person think that the Bible is a literal retelling of only literal, true events.

    I have. Furthermore, the person who thinks that is an educated, intelligent woman and a good friend, whose common sense and good judgement I value in every area outside that of religion.

    People will never cease to amaze me.

  • mack the knife

    Advice for atheists dating Christians: Or, what I wish I knew.

    1. Don’t be a bitch. No matter how much what they believe stuns you, shocks you, disgusts you, or pisses you off, count to 10, and give them the benefit of the doubt that there is a reason they believe what they do.
    2. Think about your own beliefs; why are you an atheist? How sound is your own philosophical foundation? How thoroughly have you *really* investigated things? Even though atheism inherently makes sense, imagine if you were brought up differently. Even if you were brought up in a Christian household, maybe your understanding of Christianity is just plain wrong. Mine was (is).
    3. Don’t change for the other person. Similarly, don’t expect them to change for you. How does this promote harmony? I don’t know, ask Kate and Eric. All that matters is that the respect is present and mutual, and that views are changed not for a person, but for the merit of the views. It is your responsibility to learn all you can about religion; you might even find a branch of Christianity more acceptable to you than the one they currently follow (ie- convert your Evangelical to Catholicism). I do believe it is possible for an atheist to legitimately become a Christian, as it is for a Christian to legitimately become an atheist. Exception: Don’t date Creationists, unless they *are* willing to change for you. No one loves a nut job. Some Mormons fit this exception as well. You be the judge, date at your discretion, and at your own risk.

    If you do fall in love with them:

    1. If you’re the kind of person who can’t deal with heartache, I’d recommend against it; it’s probably not going to work, and it just sort of sucks.
    2. But if you do, think about what you really want in the long term. If you’re considering marrying them, are you willing to raise your kids Christian? It’s probably a lot more important to them than it is to you, although that’s starting to change. As atheists, we would largely be ashamed to raise religious kids. To ease this burden, find some brand of Christianity that either a) makes sense and is tolerable, or b) doesn’t make any sense at all, and the child will rebel against it as soon as they are old enough.
    3. If you love them, but seriously can’t deal with a religious spouse or future, think about what it will feel like in five or ten years after they’re gone. Do you look forward to marrying a (sane!) atheist, who loves you and treats you right and shares your views on one of the most defining characteristics of your Self? Or will you regret it? Will you miss the Christian when he or she leaves your life? Are they truly one of a kind? Not the “I loved you but there are other fish in the sea” type of love. Not the “I’m not ever going to find anyone willing to date me again” type of love. But the truest sort of love imaginable. If this is the case, well, weigh that against their religion.
    4. We seem to weigh, today, truth more than happiness. This is one of the most defining characteristics of atheists today: we gladly give up the wonderful notion that there is a God, and he loves us, because we cannot know it to be true. Which matters to you? Are they necessarily contradicting? We are often materialists, often determinists. We are freethinkers, and often arrived at atheism by following the natural course of our own minds, despite the religious ideas floating around us. But be warned: atheism, materialism, and determinism are comforting notions too. You must question them. If you fall in love with a theist, maybe it will last, maybe it won’t. But it is up to you to at least get the most out of the experience; challenge their ideas, but also, challenge your own.

    Good luck, and Happy New Year.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Great story, Hemant!

    and thanks to Kate and Erik for sharing their story. Best wishes to you both!

    Jesus was a liberal.

    He was also a polemicist. The best one.

  • mack the knife

    Advice for atheists dating Christians: Or, what I wish I knew.

    1. Don’t be a b*tch. No matter how much what they believe stuns you, shocks you, disgusts you, or pisses you off, count to 10, take a breath, and give them the benefit of the doubt that there is a reason they believe what they do.
    2. Think about your own beliefs; why are you an atheist? How sound is your own philosophical foundation? How thoroughly have you *really* investigated things? Even though atheism inherently makes sense, imagine if you were brought up differently. Even if you were brought up in a Christian household, maybe your understanding of Christianity is just plain wrong. Mine was (is).
    3. Don’t change for the other person. Similarly, don’t expect them to change for you. How does this promote harmony? I don’t know, ask Kate and Eric. All that matters is that the respect is present and mutual, and that views are changed not for a person, but for the merit of the views. It is your responsibility to learn all you can about religion; you might even find a branch of Christianity more acceptable to you than the one they currently follow (ie- convert your Evangelical to Catholicism). I do believe it is possible for an atheist to legitimately become a Christian, as it is for a Christian to legitimately become an atheist. Exception: Don’t date Creationists, unless they *are* willing to change for you. No one loves a nut job. Some Mormons fit this exception as well. You be the judge, date at your discretion, and at your own risk.

    If you do fall in love with them:

    1. If you’re the kind of person who can’t deal with heartache, I’d recommend against it, it’s probably not going to work, and it just sort of sucks.
    2. But if you do, think about what you really want in the long term. If you’re considering marrying them, are you willing to raise your kids Christian? It’s probably a lot more important to them than it is to you, although that’s starting to change. As atheists, we would largely be ashamed to raise religious kids. To ease this burden, find some brand of Christianity that either a) makes sense and is tolerable, or b) doesn’t make any sense at all, and the child will rebel against it as soon as they are old enough (depending on how bitter you’re willing to be. I’d go with choice “a”).
    3. If you love them, but seriously can’t deal with a religious spouse or future, think about what it will feel like in five or ten years after they’re gone. Do you look forward to marrying a (sane!) atheist, who loves you and treats you right and shares your views on one of the most defining characteristics of your Self? Or will you regret it? Will you miss the Christian when he or she leaves your life? Are they truly one of a kind? Not the “I loved you but there are other fish in the sea” type of love. Not the “I’m not ever going to find anyone willing to date me again” type of love. But the truest sort of love imaginable. If this is the case, well, weigh that against their religion. Religion and atheism may seem to matter a lot right now, but one day, when you’re older and wiser, you just may regret allowing it to destroy something as rare and beautiful as Love.
    4. We seem to weigh, frequently, truth more than happiness. This is one of the most defining characteristics of atheists today: we gladly give up the wonderful notion that there is a God, who loves us, because we cannot know it to be true. Of truth and happiness, which matters to you? Are they necessarily conflicting? Which can you realistically attain? We atheists are often materialists, often determinists. We are freethinkers, and often arrived at atheism by following the natural course of our own minds, despite the religious ideas floating around us. But be warned: atheism, materialism, and determinism are comforting notions too. You must question them. If you fall in love with a theist, maybe it will last, maybe it won’t. But it is up to you to at least get the most out of the experience; challenge their ideas, but also, challenge your own.

    Good luck, and Happy New Year.

  • Kate

    Wow, lots of comments!! And lots to respond to…

    Just very quickly, Richard, I promise you that my brother and I are very close. He has a constant wit that makes us all groan and roll our eyes. What’s missing from his comment (and I pointed it out later to him) is his devious grin. He’s just a big joker, and there are no hard feelings between us. But I appreciate your words!

    I’ll comment more later, specifically trying to answer some of the questions posed here, and Erik will post tomorrow night after he enjoys his day of New England skiing (we live in the south so we’re visiting my family right now).

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Kate and Erik, good luck with your relationship. Religiously mixed relationships can work. I have been married to a Christian for about 13 years now and we have two kids (10 and 5). I am fortunate that my wife’s parents are not evangelical fundamentalists. They are mainly of the belief that everyone should belong to some kind of church but it doesn’t really matter what kind. I had my little “interview” with them early on when my wife and I were first dating. They were satisfied that I sufficiently respected religious and conservative principles (even though I was a liberal atheist). We have kind of learned not to argue about religion or politics.

    We have recently joined a church at my wife’s insistence. I have found it very interesting and participate in some ministries and meet for a weekly Christian small group. I view it as probing deeper into the Christian mind and I don’t let the mindset that all atheists are tools of the devil and are going to hell bother me. I view it as simply a fascinating mind-set.

    As for how to raise kids, we didn’t start going to church at all until our older child was already 8 years old. He probably missed the formative years of religious indoctrination. He basically dropped his Santa Clause and what-ever god belief he might have picked up about a year ago. Our younger child is more susceptible for the religious indoctrination and we will have to wait and see how he turns out.

    Probably all a child needs, though, is one parent to be non-religious to enable the child to be able to have an open mind.

    I say go for it. A mixed relationship can be a very interesting enjoyable experience where both people learn from each other… You will be living what the world at large needs to do. Find creative ways to make it work.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I promise you that my brother and I are very close. He has a constant wit that makes us all groan and roll our eyes. What’s missing from his comment (and I pointed it out later to him) is his devious grin. He’s just a big joker, and there are no hard feelings between us.

    Kate, thank goodness you cleared that up. That’s the feeling I got when I read his comment. I was getting all geared up to defend him, but now I don’t have to. Yay! :-)

  • supersmiley

    Very cool story, my husband is an Athiest, and I was introduced to Christianity at 13, with it being forcefully taught as the way things were and that you didn’t question “God’s Teachings”. We lived together before we got married, which was another hurdle that was difficult for my parents to digest, but I think that inevetably, it was the fear of the unknown. We have been married for a year now and it has been a very rewarding and challenging experience, one I have learned immensely from. I think that what you said about “speaking appropriately”, sometimes choosing your words wisely, means to avoid arguing the truth, for some of these christians, they live life by others standards, and often being open minded, especially to the older generation, is extremely difficult to comprehend. Ultimately, I wish the best for you two, I know for us, when we have kids, we will encourage them to make their own decisions and most of all, think for themselves, not to live by “standards of others”. Your story was an encouragement.

  • http://dmcleish.id.au Shishberg

    Wow. Great story. You both sound like the kind of people we need more of.

  • JoshH

    A couple of things here throw me off:

    Despite these harsh words and Kate’s belief that the parents were extremely misguided, she knew their intentions were good.

    After this, it’s said that Kate’s parents would support her no matter what she believed. And then:

    It was a far cry from Erik’s Christian home, where his parents essentially told him it was mandatory that Kate change (if marriage was in their future), but it was not permissible the other way around.

    I don’t think there is anything good about those intentions. Erik’s parents are trying to control Erik’s life and happiness. I mean, it’s pretty obvious he hasn’t given in to them, but still.

    I’m happy to see though that the two of you are happy together and love each other despite being religious and non-religious. I don’t think I could do it, to be honest. I’ve always wondered how it would feel to know the person you love most is going to burn in hell for eternity. Sorry, I’m not trying to sound harsh but that’s essentially a big foundation of what Erik believes…isn’t it? My wife is an atheist, as am I, and I couldn’t stomach her having to live with and suffer from such a dreadful, mentally tormenting thought. Kudos to you.

  • Lynn

    These two really seemed like a couple of jerks to start with. Are we supposed to celebrate that they merely learned to become decent human beings and not insult other beliefs? I’ve been an atheist since before I even knew there was a term for it, but I’ve dated all sorts of different belief systems, from Wiccan to Mormon, Jewish to Catholic. I accepted that even if I didn’t agree with them, it was their choice, and they gave me the same respect. My closest friends in college were devout Christians. Of course, I choose not to associate with those type of assholes as in your post, regardless of what they believe. How about all the people that accept others from the start?

  • http://crazyrainbowunderwear.blogspot.com yinyang

    It’s longer than most of my postings, but I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

    If they’re all this interesting (and fairly well-written), you should have longer posts more often. :)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    If they’re all this interesting (and fairly well-written), you should have longer posts more often. :)

    If only they didn’t take me so long to write… :)

  • Richard Wade

    How about all the people that accept others from the start?

    Yeah, they’re great. Problem is that there’s so damn few like that. Most folks have to go through a growing up process to get to such a state. That’s what this post is about. I’ll celebrate that. So there. Nyahh.

  • Maria

    Yeah, they’re great. Problem is that there’s so damn few like that. Most folks have to go through a growing up process to get to such a state. That’s what this post is about. I’ll celebrate that. So there. Nyahh.

    LOL. well said

  • AJ

    JoshH,

    I don’t think there is anything good about those intentions. Erik’s parents are trying to control Erik’s life and happiness. I mean, it’s pretty obvious he hasn’t given in to them, but still.

    Maybe they believe marrying an atheist is a sin that will make their son go to hell. They could get that impression from the Bible, and they’ve probably been indoctrinated to accept the premises a) God exists, b) the Bible was inspired by God. Given unjustified beliefs, people can believe terrible things with good intentions.

  • Julie

    I suppose you miss out on a lot of great people if you limit the dating pool to those who share your belief system. But to me, that’s just sort of sad. It demonstrates how pervasive religion is. Otherwise perfectly reasonable people believe really weird stuff that makes no sense, and it’s kind of the best we can do, at the moment. I would hesitate to tell an atheist to leave a relationship like this, because the truth is the chance of finding someone compatible who happens to be an atheist is probably low. Lucky me, I did it. But love is always great, if it works, so more power to you both.

  • http://reasonableatheist.blogspot.com Bart

    A question for Erik.

    Do you believe that Kate will go to hell if she doesn’t become a Christian? If so, how does that figure into your relationship?

    A question for Kate.

    Do you believe in an afterlife? (yes, you could be an atheist who believes there’s “something more” without that being a god).

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    After reading this post, I decided to do a little experiment and asked my husband if he would still love me if I suddenly became an atheist. He thought about it for a few seconds, and said, “I don’t know.”

    I kept pressuring him to think about it, and his final answer was still “I don’t know.”

    Hmmm…. interesting.

  • mack the knife

    After reading this post, I decided to do a little experiment and asked my husband if he would still love me if I suddenly became an atheist. He thought about it for a few seconds, and said, “I don’t know.”

    I kept pressuring him to think about it, and his final answer was still “I don’t know.”

    …Shocking… depressing… I’m so sorry… This should be a standard test we give men when they claim to love us. If we have to conform to their system of belief, this suggests that they don’t trust our intellect enough to make choices that are different from theirs (Remember, this works both ways!). Would you still love him if his views changed?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Linda that’s terrible. Although The Hildy tells me that if I ever decide that I want to be a Jehovah’s Witness I will never see our children again. That seem fair doesn’t it? ;)

  • grazatt

    Kate, is your bfother a convert to Christianity? How did this happen?

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    I wonder where this took place. That college sounds far worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. That “Happy Atheist Day” poster is pretty much gloating over the fact that the Bible is bigoted, and so are they. The “ninja evangelism” sounds pretty bad too–I would have asked to leave.

    Some people will get out of this that neither side needs to change the other, but I don’t think that’s true. Both parties did change, just not the way you might expect.

  • Richard Wade

    Asking your man if he’d still love you if you suddenly changed your views or beliefs about religion is a fair question, but the answers may have to be more complicated than yes or no. Loving you and being comfortable living with you may be separate things for some people. Just don’t ask him “Does this make me look fat?”

  • Erik

    Well, after a long day on the frigid ski slopes, I will attempt to answer the two basic questions it seems people have for me.

    For people that have questions about how I can be “unequally yoked” and date someone who I’m supposed to believe is going to hell, remember that Christianity is an incredibly diverse religion. Evangelical conservatives always claim that their version of Christianity is the only version, and to argue that I’m not a true Christian because I don’t follow their interpretation is buying in to their misguided view. I readily admit that I don’t fit the evangelical conservative Christian mold, and I’m not really sure what mold I fit in. There are myriad views within the Christian umbrella on being “unequally yoked” as well as what hell is and who goes there. If you’re only familiar with the hard-line evangelical view, I encourage you to branch out and learn about the diversity within Christianity.

    In terms of my relationship with my parents, it’s a back and forth situation. I know they really like Kate, but struggle with how to express what they believe the Bible says about evangelizing. I don’t really want to spill the family details on a website (any more than what’s above), but I have been financially independent for two years now and they don’t have any control other than emotional. That being said, I think Kate will vouch for me that I’m emotionally independent as well. I try to make the best of every situation that comes up with my family, but ultimately I will decide what is best for me based on my own criteria and not theirs.

    Hemant, thanks for the the work you put in to listening to our story and writing this article. I’m glad to see it’s being put to good use! By the way, I’m an Obama supporter, too, and will be anxiously watching the caucus in Iowa tomorrow :-)

  • Adam Hall

    She should have become a mental health nurse/doctor, she is obviously attracted to delusional psychotics. The bit about being a more spiritual atheist is comical. I personally think this whole thing is made up. Someone who wants everyone to get along put this little story together. “Hi, my husband and his family thinks that a zombie ghost jew speaks to him and they have conversations about evil spirits that are inside his and everyones bodies. I learned to live with this”. Talk about desperate, The reality is if they were reasonable they would stop believing in Sky-God(tm). Wow, hope this a-holes don’t have kids!

  • Erik

    Adam, I think you’ll find your vitriol to be in the minority at this website. Notice the URL…it says F-R-I-E-N-D-L-Y atheist. You’re certainly not going to win any minds over with that hate-filled comment. While I’m not sure you’re willing to listen to reason, a couple things you said need to be addressed:

    1) Taoists and Buddhists are considered atheists because they don’t believe in a god or gods, so they fit under the classification of spiritual atheists.

    2) I can assure you that Kate and I are real, as is our relationship and the story. If you don’t believe me, ask Hemant, he’s spoken to us both on the phone on more than one occasion. We’re practically pals. It’s also an insult to Hemant if you think he made this up just for shits and giggles.

    3) I’m the one who believes in Sky-God (TM), not Kate, and last time I checked there are no evil spirits in me (unless you count tequila as an evil spirit, in which case I did have an evil spirit in me on New Year’s Eve).

    4) Thankfully we live in a free country where “this a-holes” can have kids if they want to and raise them as they see fit. And we can vote! Oh the horror of freedom and liberty!!!

  • Siamang

    Erik,

    Thanks for noticing that we aren’t all like Adam Hall. Thanks for answering him with lightness and grace, it expresses well, I think, why you get along so well with your gal.

    Sorry your parents are kind of jerks about this. Actually, sorry society is kind of jerkish about this stuff. You seem to have the right makeup to get past that… good for you!

  • http://annemariehauger.typepad.com/loveembraceandlive/ AnneMarie

    What an interesting post!

    Erik-I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I was just wondering what your thoughts are on 2 Corinthians 6:14 which states that a believer should not be yoked with one who does not believe.

  • CHRIS

    This is crazy. This was like reading my life story. I am an atheist and my girlfriend is christian. The way the parents acted was very simaler to my situation. But, like the article says, “If an interfaith relationship with two passionate people is going to work, they say, you can’t be under the delusion that you will change your partner. Not when it comes to faith.”

    This is a realization that took six years for my girlfriend and I to figure out.

  • Kate

    Working my way backwards in the comments…

    CHRIS – Oh wow, I’d love to talk to you about your relationship!! Glad to see that others are on the same path. :) It helps!

    AnneMarie – When I first read that passage, I burst into tears. It was only after Erik and I (mostly him, actually) researched the history behind Paul’s words that we realized how it needs to be interpreted. As in, Paul was speaking to a specific audience (Christians in Corinth) about a specific “type” of non-Christians. Also, Erik doesn’t take the Bible to be the absolute literal word of God, so it’s not a command.

    Miller – I won’t reveal WHICH undergrad I went to ;) since I do love my alma mater, but let’s just say it was a state school. As in, a public university. Which made it all the more shameful for the banner to be hung. It actually got approval!!!

    grazatt – My brother is a Quaker. Interesting story, actually. A high school project inspired him to explore various faiths. He visited a Sikh church, a Circle of Friends meeting, a Catholic church, an Episcopalian church, a Greek Orthodox Church, a Jewish temple, and an Islamic worship service. For each religious group he went to a worship service and spent a day doing community service with/for the group. He even did the entire month of Ramadan. Read the Bible, Qur’an, and other religious texts. He really liked the Quakers and still attends meetings in Boston.

    Linda – the question you asked your husband is an interesting one. I think it’s something that matching-faith couples take for granted – that beliefs will never change. And if they do…well, what happens then?! Would the other person still love the one who changed? In a way, the “cons” of having an interfaith relationship are balanced by a pro – any change in belief with Erik and I really couldn’t ruin us. We already love each other with differing beliefs, so if there’s a change, it could be in a direction that would make us the same, and if there’s no change, oh well. :)

    Bart – do I believe in an afterlife? Hmm, good question. Following my skeptic tendencies that led me down this atheist path…I’d have to say “I’m not sure”. There’s no way to tell. It doesn’t seem very logical, but I have no proof to say otherwise. I’m not quite sure we know all there is to know about consciousness, etc. So, I’m not sure yet. Guess I’ll find out someday!

    Jeff – thanks for the encouragement! Again, it’s good to know that others have made this work. :)

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  • r. vandergriff

    I am a Christian and I am very happy for you guys! I dated a guy when I was in highschool that was a very serious atheist and it was hard and we did not make it to marriage sadly even though we were engaged. I want to commend the two of you because it takes so much dedication and backing from both sides and I remember people treating me differently when they learned that my fiance was an atheist and how people just acted like it was horrible. How many people would ostracize the guy that I loved because he was not their ideal and I still love him very much and always will. I am happy for an interfaith couple who makes it in today’s society when people do not take the time to realise that love goes beyond creed. May you both be richly blessed! Thanks for reminding me of the love of my life!

  • http://none Joel

    Would anyone know of any website links of some kind that might have similar stories (athiest and christian relationships) – I,
    and at a guess a good few other people out there would love to know about it – if anything like that exists on the web…..?
    reading alot of this post has been
    enlightening and refreshing – thanks!

  • AnthonyLOVESAmanda

    Well…This story was extremely inspiring. I wish I would have read this entry a long time ago. My name is Anthony and I am an atheist however my girlfriend Amanda is christian.
    I would like to leave a slight story of my own but it will be shorter then the one that was written. If anyone cares to read please feel free to ask me any question or offer any opinions and send to my email. Avan617@yahoo.com

    I was raised in a fairly non-religious home. My mother and father do believe in the existence of god, and have always said thing that have referred to the existence of heaven or god.
    Throughout my childhood I had said thing like “yes I believe in god!” just because I thought it was what you were suppose to say. As I got older the answer to those questions became more and more complex and vague. I became very interested in things like science, biology and the reason for life. I NEEDED PROOF. The quest of proof had lead me down a path of atheism.
    For years I hid the truth of my beliefs (or lack there-of) from my parents and family, in fear that I wouldn’t be accepted. The only comfort that I had on the subject was my best friend Mike.(who also was an atheist)
    Talking with my friend Mike was the best way to understand why I felt the way I did. He never bashed Christianity or any other religion or belief for that matter. So I became very comfortable and confident in what I believed.
    Around 15 years old I was faced with my first challenge. I was presented with the gift of being my nieces god father by my older sister. For days it racked my brain on how that would work being atheist. I even went to the little practice run that you do before the actual baptism.
    Many things crossed my mind. Was I lying to myself accepting this gift under the eyes of god with no faith? Was I lying to my sister? I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want my sister to change her mind if I told her, and I didn’t want my family to think any differently of me.
    The night before the baptism I sat in my room crying fearing what I should do. I gathered all the courage I could and gathered my family in the kitchen. (My mother,father, older sister and younger sister)I hesitated for a moment and said “I need to tell everyone something.” After a few more seconds of hesitation I blurted out: “I don’t believe in god.” And the first response I received was from my older sister who stated “thank god, I thought you were going to say you were gay!” And of course I laughed, along with the rest of the family.
    After that, the family was very accepting, understanding and even curious about it. Now I knew it was OK to be… well, ME!
    I am now 24 years old and have had my share of “Your going to hell.” or “Let me teach you about god.” etc. I found myself telling people that I was atheist right away so they could go ahead and decide whether or not they were going to talk to me.
    July 19th of 2008 I met Amanda. I had actually met her in a chat room. I showed her that I was interested and she expressed the same. The moment that I realized she was interested, I blurted out that I was atheist. (I have had several relationships that have ended in, “I can’t stay with you because you don’t believe in god.”)I wanted to let her know right away so that there was no surprise later. She continued her interest in me.
    Soon after, we began dating each other. We have had our hours of religion conversations almost trying to contradict every thing each other has said. But I can say it always came down to one thing in the end… I love her and she loves me.
    Well today religion came into conversation, and we started discussing how it would work if we decided to get married. That is how I came across this wonderful story. I literally googled “Atheist and Christian wedding.” I have still yet to find any suggestions that would be a good medium for her and I. Something that we can both relate to, but will still not stray too far from either of our beliefs.
    So please, any Ideas please feel free to contact me. I’m sure there is going to be some jerk out there that will read this and send something offensive but that’s OK. I already forgive you.

    If you made it this far, Thank you for reading.

    Anthony
    Avan617@yahoo.com

    P.s. I saw an article that I didnt even bother reading that said “why should atheists have christians rights, like marriage?” I would LOVE to meet the person who had that audacity to write that question.
    My response is: “Marriage is the right of two people who love each other.”

  • http://www.erintopia.wordpress.com Erin S.

    I loved this…I have been married to my Atheist for almost 11-years. I am a Christian…it’s been the most interesting, tough and rewarding relationship of my life. We have two children and we love each other fiercly. Well done Kate and Erik. I hope after the posting of this…since it was so long ago…that the two of you are still doing well. :-)

  • Marcia

    My daughter is a Christian (non denominational)as am I. She is 16 and her and her atheist boyfriend are pretty serious about their future together.

    I just wanted to say that it is not just Christian parents who are intolerant and rude.

    I have accepted this boy, never with judgment..with open arms. I do not preach to him and never will (unless he sincerely asks). Belonging to Christ is a personal decision. Yes, I have struggled with them not being “equally yoked” and have cautioned my daughter on the heartbreak that will come (and I believe it will-in one degree or another)..however, I cannot choose my daughters mate or make her decisions for her.

    Having said that, I love this boy. He is a decent boy. And…he his good to my girl.

    My daughter is very firm in her Christian faith. I actually do not force church on my kids and I expose my kids to various religions. They are fascinated by other beliefs (and VERY educated in them, including Atheism/evolution) , but firm in their own.

    In this situation, I accept and love her boyfriend…whereas his dad found out I was a Christian via my myspace page…within days, the boy was forbidden from coming into my home, citing that I was a bad Mother because of my Christian beliefs and I should be boarded off to a mental institution for believing in God.

    What is really interesting is that, I allowed my daughter to go to his home for a year (1-2 times a week), knowing that she was entering a strongly atheist home.

    So, just wanted to point out that religious bigotry should not be blamed on fundamental Christianity exclusively.

    By the way, I am a preachers kid and a preachers grandkid and a Guatemalan missionary grandkid.

    Peace

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Marcia,
    Yes, you are right. Bitter, bigoted people come in all brands, just as open-hearted, fair-minded people come in all brands. I guess all we can do is to encourage those of our own respective brands to practice the virtues they think are lacking in their rivals, and maybe they’ll begin to notice that their rivals often have those virtues too.

    It is a credit to the atheist boy that he has not absorbed his father’s intolerance, and a credit to you and your daughter that you have not reciprocated with similar prejudice. Life is tough enough for young couples without having to deal with Capulet-Montague hatreds tearing them apart. But whatever becomes of your daughter’s and the boy’s relationship may have not as much to do with their spiritual differences as simply being so very young. Even more well matched people tend to grow in different directions when starting so early. Whether together or parted, I hope they retain their open and accepting natures.

  • Rachel

    Inspiring story, congrats to the two of you!

    I have some questions to those Christians out there dating or in wedlock with atheists (or have other religious beliefs entering the picture).

    My question is: Does it ever get lonely?

    I am a Christian myself, my boyfriend is a Gnostic. We love each other very much, but I have some serious fears about continuing in our relationship. I don’t want to change him for the world, if he does it’ll be on his own accord. However, I fear that I myself might get a problem eventually if I start connecting more to my Christian friends and family than I do to him. It’s not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle after all. When I’d need a partner who could share with me and help guide me in my life through the word I believe in, then I’ll not have that option.
    I am a very sensitive girl, I’ll struggle if I gotta have an ongoing mental tugging and turmoil, I got to look out for myself. And I just dread the many times when I’d wish I could talk over something really deep in the perspective of how God sees it, and just not have the opportunity. Does this make sense?

    Ps: A big thank for opening such a warm and friendly site, it is so nice to know there are friendly Atheists too! Afraid the judgmental experiences go both way, had so many hurtful insults comments through the years.

    • D.C

      Iam a believer with all my heart- I always remember that god is a gentleman and would never force anything. Lead by example and pray.

  • http://www.erintopoia.wordpres.com Erin S.

    Yes, it can be lonely because I trust my feelings. My husband is a very logical person, and that is probably where we butt heads most…when I don’t feel heard or understood. However I do know he is not going to ‘understand’ per say, because he doesn’t buy it. He believes what he believes (or rather, he ‘knows’ ;-) )

    I have had to re-learn much of my approach and expectations in relationships. However I excpect that even in relationships where both parties believe the same things…this is probably normal.

    I have found though that I can discuss things deep and personal w/ him…I just had to change my expectation of how the conversation might go, or what he would say. I had to get over my fear of his rejection. It’s not always an easy thing mind you….but I have learned he LOVES me and wants to talk about these things w/ me. I may not get all the spirutal goosebumps as I had w/ people I dated in the past….but that is okay too. Those moments are personal and I have and am continuing to learn to be okay with them just being mine.

    That being said…if you really think you could not foresee a happy future w/ this person, I wouldn’t cont. w/ the relationship. I could see a happy future…even if it was hard work….trust your guts. :-) That is a big bold statement to make and rather than making it about beliefs…make sure you aren’t seeing other red-flags leading your heart and mind to such a struggle. Sometimes someone is jut not the right person for you and it has nothing to do w/ any personal belief system.

  • Rachel

    Hey Erin S

    Thank you so much for your reply. I think you hit the nail when you mention the fear of rejection. I struggle to see how he could possibly wish to discuss and talk deeply and exploratively about these things with me, even though he says he does. I just fear that we will come to a point where there will be a very clear cleft between us.

    And what about the day when we get older, and I have to get up every day with my faith that he will not be there with me after this life.
    I can see why that will never be an issue for him because he doesn’t see anything after death. But I do.

    I think… I probably know the answer to this already, but it’s just very good to get input and hear others experiences. And I am very glad that you two are doing so well, it’s definitely encouraging! At least I know my boyfriend wouldn’t break up with me just cause I changed my beliefs or views, many Christian guys don’t think like that.

  • Jainy

    I am an atheist and my boyfriend is a Christian. We have been struggling with this a lot lately. His problem is not accepting my beliefs (or non-beliefs), it’s that there’s a huge part of his life that he feels he can’t share with me. I don’t know how to make him realize that he CAN share it. I’ve tried to get involved with things he does that are church-related, we’ve had several conversations where we try to explain to each other exactly what we believe… (which is difficult because I’m not completely certain what it is I believe) everything short of sitting in church and listening to a sermon! I just feel like he’s not really listening to me. Like he doesn’t respect me. He’s said that deep in his heart, he hopes I’ll see the love of God and change, but that offends me more than he can imagine. We love each other, but can we really work through this if he’s not willing to even try? Is there something I can say to him that will help?
    I love and respect his faith. It makes him who he is! I’m just frustrated and tired of convincing myself that this will work.

  • Richard Wade

    Jainy,

    I suggest that you show your boyfriend what you have written here. You have expressed it all very well. Wherever your relationship goes, the essential thing is that both of you must be true to yourselves, and respect that the other must be true to themselves as well. Only then would you have any chance to be true to each other.

    But if even then, the differences cannot be reconciled, the gaps cannot be bridged, then because of that same truthfulness you will both know that you were both honorable and fair with each other, that neither was false or insincere. From that, both of you can move on, and heal, and in time find partners who are more fitting. Even though you did not end up together, you both will be better off for having been together for a while.

    The Star-Crossed Lovers is the oldest tale. It has been lived and told, lived and re-told over and over for hundreds of centuries. We never tire of telling it, never tire of hearing it, but we never seem to learn from it. We keep on living it, one more time. Young people seem helpless in their love. Their hearts and heads do not connect. They would not have any hope for other couples in just such a predicament, but they cling to their own dreams of somehow, somehow, somehow…

    Their love is beautiful in its foolishness, whether it is the blithe ignorance or the stubborn defiance of the unlikeliness of what they desire. Such sad beauty is the stuff of poems and songs. I praise and thank all foolish lovers, whether they stay together or not, for their quintessential humanity.

  • Rachel

    Thank you for sharing Jainy, and thank you Richard for that grain of truth that made my day. If nothing else but for it’s poetic beauty and truth =)

    I have been giving this some thought now.
    To have a faith, any faith, is like being in a room. And to take on a new faith is like stepping through a door and standing in a different room. If you are two people with different beliefs you are essentially standing in two different rooms. No matter how much you talk about, explain or try to share it from each side of the door, you cannot see the other room, and you can’t be together in that place unless one goes one way or the other.
    So the question is: Are you happy about living in separate rooms in this area of your life? It’s not a “talking area”, it’s an “I’m either okey with this or not”. I’m not okey with it, because I love my new room, but I can’t share it with the one I love the most. And it is incredibly lonely. It makes me sad, heavy of heart, and it surely affects him when I am this way.

    Jainy, you seem to be okey with it, as is my boyfriend. You are wonderful for being so open and loving about it, trying to make it easier for him. What I realize though is that no matter how much my boyfriend appreciate and respect me, there is just no way he’ll be able to stand with me in this beautiful room, and experience what I experience. What I don’t understand though, is why he is fine with me not sharing his place. It could be the impact that this life has on me, I don’t know, but it’s difficult for sure.
    I can’t know what it’s like to be an atheist until I’ve lived it. You can understand on an intellectual level and respect and appreciate it, but you can’t live it. Living a christian life is such a life directing lifestyle. I foresee many hard conflicts for the both me and you.

    I am fine with close friends being Atheists or Gnostics, I think most of mine are! But when it comes to someone so close, so intimate, the one to share my everything with. It just meets that wall hard.

  • Matthew

    Rachel said: “And what about the day when we get older, and I have to get up every day with my faith that he will not be there with me after this life.”

    Why can’t we just be dead when we die? We wouldn’t be floating there all dead and in limbo, we wouldn’t be stuck in a hole in the ground or in an urn somewhere. I can’t remember who said it but I completely agree with the person that said, “I was dead for millions of years before I was alive and I wasn’t inconvenienced in the slightest”.

    I’m asking a serious question to the religiously inclined here. What if we’re just dead when we die? Why would that be so bad?

    PS Congrats to all those that have made their relationships work in this scenario. Personally, as an atheist, I just don’t think I could make it work if I was married to someone that believed in a personal god that intervenes. It may sound horrible, but I really have a hard time respecting someone that believes that.

  • http://weather.ou.edu/~darlingt/index.html Travis

    My girlfriend and I are going through this right now. With minor changes, this could be what our story looks like in a little while. Kate and Erik, we look to you as living proof that a Christian and an atheist can live together in happy harmony. Despite the differences, we can accept one another’s views and learn to be accommodating. Thank you, Hemant, for posting this.

    EDIT: @Matthew: There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you believe. It’s just not what the “religiously inclined” (and by that I assume you’re referring mainly to Christians) believe, and there are some who feel it is their sworn duty to make you believe what they believe. Why, I don’t know, because sharing your beliefs should never be a forced action, but that’s for an evangelical Christian to answer, not me. *shrug*

  • Juanita Rogers

    I wish you both the best. As a Christian married for the past 21 years, with 4 kids, it is tough enough – marriage and bringing up kids, to cope with ordinary disagreements between yourselves. I should imagine that your parents, Erik, only want the best for you as they love you very much, and as they genuinely believe that adherance to what the Bible says is the best way to live. The commandments and teachings are meant not to be a rigid rule book but a mor

  • Olenka

    I’m an atheist in a relationship with a deeply Christian man and we’ve been thinking about our differences a lot lately. He says that he’s changed himself to accommodate my atheistic views and has become more secular (I didn’t know this), but wants to return to his old self and be close to God again.

    We’re moving in together soon and he already told me that his mom wants him marrying a Christian woman. I think we can make it work but he fears that the more he changes the less I’ll love him. I love him more than anything, and don’t want him to give up on our relationship just because of our different beliefs.

    Thank you for this story, I had my boyfriend read it and we’re both determined to make this work.

  • hval

    lol funny thing my fiance and i have been looking for a story like this for such a long time. only thing is its the other way around for us, i’m catholic and he’s atheist.
    and its true about the whole Christians thinking that atheists are uneducated and rebellious. i mean i thought that for the loooongest time! until i met my fiance.
    we had many arguments when we first started dating but every time we had to remember about how much we have fun and thoroughly enjoy each others company. so we eventually did agree to disagree. i understand his beliefs and he understands mine and we respect it.
    i just wish more people would be willing to stop being so scared of others beliefs. they’re interesting and if they were a true believer they should be able to learn and understand that although it may not be true to them but its true to other people.
    <3

  • joy

    This is a great site! Thanks to all of you who have shared with so much depth and realness.

    A question to the Christian/atheist couples who have tied the knot: did you have a marriage ceremony? If you did, what components did you include? Are there any interesting resources out there that show how others have gone before?

  • Jorge Chacon

    I am atheist and all my ex’s have become atheist as well after dating me. They love it. Now my wife is a fanatic Christian or … at least she was. Now we are really happy being atheist.
    Open their eyes by showing them that their own opinion is what matters, and not the selfish phylosophy of religion.
    Show them how to be free and love without expecting anything in return. Simply love the world. Life is beautiful :)

  • Cynthia

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post this story.

    -Devout Christian engaged to the love of her life who’s an Atheist

  • Adrienne

    Thank you for posting this. I’m a follower of Jesus, not the Bible or traditional Christianity and I recently fell in love with an atheist. It’s so encouraging to know that our relationship isn’t doomed to failure simply because we disagree about God.

  • Olenka

    Nevermind, we broke up haha. I am now dating an atheist.

    Much better. :]

  • angel

    this is a blind kind of love..not being judgmental but this is disobedience in a sense that instead of being firm with eric’s belief, he is protecting kates’ feelings more that what the Lord has asked him to do as a Christian…not that he should not date with her, but he should be firm in letting kate know that he could not marry a non-Christian because doing so would not please God, his main priority…this is compromise…loving someone who does not love your God..that’s a clear compromise..

  • http://madambrownie.wordpress.com Theresa

    OK, I have a question. How you you live in peace with a non christian if christians believe that non believers are going to hell? Does Erik not believe in hell? If he does, I’d imagined he’d be worried about Kate. I’m in a relationship with an atheist and love him. But I just can’t reconcile that part.

    • Morgan

      Maybe Erik believes that it is God alone that chooses who goes to heaven or hell. And he is a merciful Lord so I feel that if someone is honest and truly seeking to find the truth and to do what’s right then that’s what really matters. There are many different paths to take in life and I wouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that mine is the only valid one. Religion is a personal journey and it will be different for every one. some will believe in a God, others in many Gods, and still others in no God. I think God would see this as okay because he wants what’s best for everyone and they need to find that out for themselves. :) Plus what proof do we have that we’re right… It’s called belief for a reason. You can’t blame people for just not believing.

  • Richard Wade

    Theresa,
    Perhaps you could consider it this way:

    Your god is not contained by religion. It’s always, in the last analysis, up to your god. Regardless of what a scripture says, regardless of what self-serving people who preach their spin on that scripture say, regardless of whether a person lives an exemplary life of love and compassion without a moment of belief, or connects all the Biblical dots in belief while living a life of selfishness and cruelty, regardless of whether someone ever even heard of any particular religion, regardless of every possible combination of character, behavior, lifestyle, belief, or level of devotion from 0 to 100, Your god is not bound by any of these conditions. It’s up to your god, not you or anyone else. Regardless of how sure you are, your certainty is puny compared to your god. Don’t try to predict something that by your own belief is vastly beyond your understanding.

    Love well.

    • just a christian

      Actually It’s not a difficult thing to understand, God says not to be unequally yoked and that anybody who doesn’t believe in him and his son and that Jesus christ was sent to die for humanity’s sins they are going to hell. Either Erik loves God and does what God commands of him, or he ignores God and does what he wants. He’s clearly chosen this athiest against God’s will and he’ll have to answer to God on judgement day.

      It basically comes down to Erik’s either a devout christian and will do what God wants which is to not be with this un-believer. Or he’s going to keep watering down his faith.

      • Open-minded Atheist

        Yes, the Bible says that one of “God’s” commands is not to marry someone who doesn’t believe he exists.

        But the Bible also advocates slavery, genocide, rape, genital mutilation, treating women as beasts, “holy war”, and a myriad of other terrible things.

        I’m not saying that there aren’t some good concepts in the book (e.g. love thy neighbor, treat other as you would like to be treated, etc).  But bear in mind that the Bible was written over many years during some of the bloodiest periods in history (and even sparked quite a few of them as well).

        It’s a two thousand year-old text.  Obviously, it’s a little out of date and could do with a rehashing to suit modern times.  It should be taken with a pinch of salt, not followed verbatim.

        The religious and non-religious can have successful partnerships just as much as two religious partners or two non-religious partners can.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    I wonder if Kate and Erik are still together two and a half years later?

    This was an interesting story, but my goodness! Kate has the patience of a saint. There’s absolutely no way I would be able to put up with that much religious drama. The outside world is religous enough! To have religion intrude into my relationship and family life would be too much for me.

    In the meantime, Erik is considering adding a bumper sticker on the car to replace Kate’s old Darwin Fish. It would read: Jesus was a liberal.

    So Kate has to replace her beliefs with something she doesn’t believe in? What’s wrong with a Darwin fish? Evolution is a fact. If Kate wants to show support for evolution on her car, she should be able to do so. And why would you put a bumper sticker about Jesus on your car if you’re an atheist? Is this a shared car, or has Erik taken it upon himself to decorate Kate’s car? Personally, I have no idea if Jesus even existed, and if he did, I don’t care about him one way or the other. I certainly wouldn’t put a sticker with his name on my car.

    Kate says she learned how to speak appropriately around Christians. When she had previously heard Christians tell Bible stories, she wouldn’t hesitate to say, “Do you really believe that?”

    It depends what tone she was using, but the question itself is perfectly valid. There’s no need to come across as rude or snotty or superior, but I see no reason to coddle Christians when they say they believe in all sorts of fantastical things. I probably wouldn’t even bring it up with them, but if they insist on talking about their supernatural beliefs with me, why isn’t it okay to ask them to justify those beliefs? I’m guessing “speaking appropriately” with Christians means not expressing incredulity that they can believe such things? But then how can we ever expect them to be able to think outside the culture box?

    • Alexis9darling

      I know this post is over a year old, but my atheist boyfriend just sent it to me. Very sweet! If you want to have better conversations with people in general, you should try to be less condescending. That’s just disrespectful.

      • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

        Is this a reply to me? Was there something in my comment that you found condescending?

        I’m still wondering why the burden falls entirely on Kate. Why should she have to pay deference to religious beliefs? Perhaps it would be wiser never to discuss it, but if she does choose to have conversations about Christianity, then she should be able to express disagreement or criticism in a civil and polite manner. It sounds like Kate was told that “speaking appropriately” with Christians means never asking any hard questions.

  • saved

    Wow I almost finished reading the whole thing. I thought it would have had a better ending. The title should not be an ‘Athiest and a Christian’ because Erik is not really a Christian. I’m sorry bro but a true follower of Christ does not ignore scripture and choose to love a girl rather than love God.

  • Richard Wade

    saved,

    Wow I almost finished reading the whole thing.

    Finishing reading things can really give you a clearer view of things. Here is the update.

    It is hard to express how very, very absurd Christians seem when they declare from their own self-appointed, self-defined, and self-righteous place of “true Christianity” how some other Christian is not really a Christian. Right now, some other Christian is saying the very same thing about you, and for the very same reason: Some part of your behavior does not resemble his.

    If you can’t understand Erik’s love for both God and Kate, then I don’t think anyone will ever be able to explain it to you.

    Take just one tenth of all that energy you put into judging and disapproving of others because they aren’t carbon copies of you, and put it into simply helping people, and I think we’ll all see a marked improvement in the world around you.

  • Christian

    A verse immediately comes to my mind after reading this. Would like to give this verse for Erik to read: 2 Cor. 6:14. The word here for unbeliever is apistos, someone who is without faith.

    I know what your parents were trying to say, Erik, and though they didn’t have the words for it, their meaning is obvious… if you are a true Christian, certainly you don’t believe light can be together with dark? it is one or the other. there are no gray areas: Matthew 5:37.

    I urge you to read this article, Erik:

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5795&printer_friendly=1

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    You’re two years too late, Christian. Kate and Erik are already married.

    I suppose you think he should divorce her because she’s on the “dark” side?

  • Richard Wade

    Christian,
    Please see my comment directly above yours, addressed to “saved.”

    You are in the awkward position of trying to oppose love. Perhaps your black-and-white thinking is just too child-like for this world of gray realities. Maybe Jesus would not be as eager to cast stones of disapproval as you are, discouraging two loving, giving people about whom you know so little.

    These two people don’t need your nay saying input; they have something you perhaps lack, hearts that are open far beyond narrow minds. Instead of uselessly wagging your superior finger, try offering a helping hand to someone else who actually needs help, without requiring any agreement of belief in return. That would show the purity of your own heart, which is the only heart you should ever be correcting.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Christian, check out Deuteronomy 13:6-10 if you think that it is OK to follow biblical advice about unbelievers. In for a penny…

  • just_forgiven

    Hi Hemant,

    Thanks for sharing this story. I’m a christian. It sounds good that a conflict that should have stemmed from differing viewpoints have been resolved and they are working on their relationship.

    My best friend of almost 30 years had married an atheist guy more than ten years ago and she eventually embraced the same non-belief.

    It pains me secretly for her to leave her faith so that she can make things work between them. But they have one of the most wonderful, giving and healthy relationships around — one that many christians should even emulate.

    If I were to base it solely on that I would say that an atheist makes better partners, ergo atheism is closer to the truth than christianity.

    But by the grace of God, He has given me His patient and loving heart for them to continue to be their friend, cheer for them, celebrate their triumphs and share their sorrows and challenges in life.

    God taught me to have an open mind and an even more open heart for them. There are many things that they excel in and their values are even more christian-like than some believers. They have done well not only in their careers and in their family life but also their hearts are always trying to do what’s best and have others’ interests in mind.

    It still pains me that despite all that goodness and wonderful stuff they cannot enjoy the simple childlike faith and God’s amazing presence in their lives. It could’ve been beautiful if they knew Him personally and be able to thank Him themselves of the blessings that they have been enjoying all along.

    I’ve come to realize that through all of the long years we’ve maintained our friendship, it was all because God the Father wanted to teach me how to be more like His son Jesus Christ who gave His life for us…unconditionally. He continued to love and understand and wait patiently for people who don’t even bother to acknowledge Him. He just loves…

    In the same way, my friendship with her and her husband comes with no strings attached and have grown over the years.

    I always thank and honor God for the privilege of enjoying their wonderful friendship!!!

  • Richard Wade

    Hi just_forgiven,
    I commend and thank you for your graciousness toward your friends. The generous love that you model after your prophet is what all people, both of faith and without, need to practice. Through your friends, you have seen that anyone can do it. It just takes willingness.

    You know your friend best, but I wonder if you are correct in saying that she left her faith “so that she can make things work between them.” If that were the case, I would expect that she would not really have changed her beliefs, but only buried them. That would probably cause resentment to fester, and it would become a wedge between them.

    For their relationship to have lasted this long and for it to be as happy and successful as it sounds, it seems more likely to me that she left her faith for her own well-considered reasons as an individual. People don’t deeply adopt beliefs or genuinely divest themselves of beliefs just to get along with someone else. They can fake it, but it will very often cause problems in the relationship. It has to be an “inside job.”

    Some people, as their minds change and develop over time, become unable to be satisfied by the simple childlike faith that you mentioned. Just as our bodies change as we get older, needing more of one nutrient and less of others that we previously needed, so some people’s minds change in what they need. It’s not about being “better” or “worse,” merely different.

    Nevertheless, I think your friends’ lives are made richer by your presence, and by your open mind and heart toward them. Whether that is attributable to your faith or to your simple healthy humanity, from my point of view, it doesn’t matter. Just keep doing it.

  • Charles

    Matthew Says:
    July 22nd, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    I can’t remember who said it but I completely agree with the person that said, “I was dead for millions of years before I was alive and I wasn’t inconvenienced in the slightest”.

    Mark Twain, according to this site.
    Good grief – I read this blog fairly often and somehow missed this post (which is two years old).
    I consider myself "agnostic" (it sounds nicer than the other a-word). My wife is a Christian who believes in the literal story of Adam and Eve, Noah's ark, and her duty to tithe. I think the reason our marriage is so good is that I basically don't say anything derogatory about her beliefs (tempting as it is sometimes), and she hasn't killed me (Deut 13:6-10).

    (Interestingly, I know the Bible better than she does. The other day we heard a news story about polygamy, and I mentioned that King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11). She didn’t believe me, so she grabbed her NIV and read it herself.)

    I’d be interested in hearing more thoughts on couples like this and how to make it work. When we got married some two decades ago, we were both just “Poinsettia and Lily Christians”. But the trend seems to be that she’s becoming “more Christian” as time goes on, and I’m becoming “more agnostic”. In other words, it doesn’t seem likely that she will stop believing that the Bible is the actual word of Yahweh, or that I will begin believing that the creator of the cosmos sacrificed himself to himself to save us from a hazard he created, any time soon.
    Richard Wade – You’ve almost certainly addressed this “mixed couples” issue. Can you suggest some links? Thanks

  • Josh

    What an aweful sad story. To see a young man who was brought up in the solid truth about God leave the core of his faith to have relations with a girl. I’m not a religious person by any means. My faith does not make me religious but opens my eyes to what really matters in this life. Point blank : God is real. His name is Jesus. And yes your life is meaningless without him. I know this for a fact. This goes far beyond any earthly religion. If this offends you then I’m sorry but the truth offends people sometimes. For those who don’t believe, seriously, ask God to show you himself and he will if you are truely seeking him. I promise you this.

  • Olenka

    ^ Lol… what a sad thing, for a girl that was brought up with the solid truth of atheism to leave the core of her intelligence to have relations with a boy.

  • Pingback: Should Christians date unbelievers? Some (weak) biblical exegesis « Loftier Musings

  • Cheese

    I just got the ax for being an atheist. Although my belief comes from both bad religious experiences and research, I feel they are similar. People who dont have bad experiences hardly care to think about Christianity as much.

    Ho hum, I really liked her.

  • Megan

    I’m only sixteen (please don’t look down on that solely for that reason), and I’m a very strong Christian. I stand firm in my faith. However, I’m somewhat educated about other religions (I’ve been researching them for awhile now) and I do not, under any circumstances, look down on anyone because of their beliefs. I respect everyone’s beliefs, no matter what they may be. My love for God has given me the strength to love those people as well.

    That being said, I am dating an athiest. No problems have ever come about concerning religion. There may be one in the future, but there hasn’t been one yet. When the topic of religion comes up (and it rarely does), it doesn’t phase us. I talk, he listens, he talks, I listen. Then we move on to a different supject.

    I think the thing that helps us and our relationship the most is that we are both open minded, and we both know that neither of us can change the other’s religion (or non-religion). We don’t make fun of each other in that area, either.

    It really helps to see posts like this. Thanks for posting it, Hemant. And I commend you guys, Kate and Erik. Good luck in the future with your relationship. I wish you both the best.

  • Olivia

    This was the great divide between Plato and Aristotle of the ancient Greeks – and Jesus was still 300 years away from even being born! :-)

    Is there a god who intervenes in the affairs of men or not?

    Does a God own your life or do you own it?

    The essence of Christianity is the premise that “man needs saving from himself by an external force” (original sin).

    Once a decent, honest people understand and learn to trust that they are actually good (though fallible sometimes) all fear and mistrust drops away and so does the need for any kind of mystical Redeemer.

    Gods are the creations of men, not the other way around. In religion, any religion, all that is good, noble, beautiful and honorable just gets shoved into God’s quarter and all that is horrible, ugly, ignoble and cowardly gets shoved into a Satan’s. Really, all these attributes are within the human heart (always have been) and are a choice that each man must make for himself as situations arise in life which demand a response from us.

    I think many Christians hold onto their faith and morality so strongly because they believe that morality has to include God. But all men need a code of morality to survive – and have one actually, whether or not they are conscious of it or even able to formulate it into words. Morality shouldn’t be the final end of what a life is all about but rather be a tool to direct us toward purpose and happiness.

    Personally, I think when Kate and Erik have children this issue will become a problem until Erik realizes his faith is childish. I don’t mean that in a mean spirited way, but emotionally, it’s similar to a young person teetering on the edge of adult independence but still needing to hold the hand of a parental father… is God not called our heavenly father?

    Adults don’t need parents – heavenly or otherwise. Just a wonderful lover will suffice and it seems that Erik has that in Kate.

    • Alexis

      Olivia, I fear my atheist boyfriend thinks like you…ugh. Have you dated a person of any faith or only the faithless.

  • C D

    Jesus wasn’t a liberal. He called his mother “that woman,” killed a fig tree for out of season, helped a gentile woman only after she compared herself with a dog, healed a man after letting him die…

  • C D

    Jesus wasn’t a liberal. He called his mother “that woman,” killed a fig tree for out of season, helped a gentile woman only after she compared herself with a dog, healed a man after letting him die…

    • Alexis

      CD, Jesus was too a liberal! All he did all day was talk about love, peace and self control. He got in disputes with the conservative pharises, made water into wine, spoke of communism… Jesus was a down right 1st Century hippy. Ha ha ha! I love that man!

  • Tyger

    I am twenty and dating my best friend of eight years.  He is an atheist even though I refer to him as an “on the fence” atheist.  I’m a Christian, but extremely liberally minded.  I accept everyone’s beliefs and so does he.  We both tend to make fun of the really bigoted people though.  He’s switched back and forth a few times to Christianity since we started dating, and I unfortunately told my mom about it the first time.  Perhaps I should correct her since he’s an atheist again and has been for a couple weeks.  But she doesn’t even know we’re dating.  As far as the parents know we’re still “just friends”.  And I was atheist for a very long time before I switched back to Christian.  That switch involved tons of switches between the two faiths.  But I don’t really expect him to join my faith.  He did have bad experiences but has thought out his lack of faith extremely well and I enjoy debating with him because we agree on so much religiously, until it comes to things like Heaven, Hell and God and they’re existence.  He believes God is cruel for allowing good people to suffer while letting the bad live scotch free.  I don’t know how to answer him because I struggle there as well.  I believe in the existence of Hell as proof of God’s love for us and respect for our choices.  If we choose to live in a way that is against Him then we end up in Hell because we would be more unhappy in Heaven.  So, perhaps, under that belief system, people of different faiths could get into Heaven.  I am not sure.

  • David

    I know it’s 4 years old, but, cool story, and, it’s a shame more American Atheists and Christians can’t get along (I say that as an outsider, as I’m in the UK, but, from the blogs and sites I’ve seen, it seems both sides seem to have a lot of issues, it’s quite sad really, they should get off the internet more and enjoy life together, I can’t say why Christians attacking Atheists or Atheists attacking Christians/Christianity is such as a “great” pastime, over here, Atheists/Christians/Muslims/Sikhs/Hindus, etc all get along with each other, work with each other just fine, and yes date, have sex with and marry each other, and there are no problems, the ones that do have problems are usually laughed at by the mainstream).

  • BoughtwithAPrice

    To me this is a HUGE JOKE! Why cause I was so open minded when I was younger that I thought I could be in an interfaith relationship. What came out of it me getting further away from my relationship with God. Erik it’s really not worth it when you think about the fact that you love the Lord and you would probably want to raise children in the same belief. Kate, how would you feel about raising children as Christian? Erik how you feel about raising non-believing children? In the end if you say your relationship has not reached that point of seriousness or that it doesn’t matter, well I beg to differ. Time is too precious to settle for something that God has not willed for your life. We all have choice and waiting for what He has for us is one of them!

    • HisPrincess

      AMEN!!!  I was getting so discouraged reading these lost comments! :”( it saddens me that people…”christians” can be so blind. It’s times like this that I can’t wait to be with my beloved sister and brothers and my beloved Jesus in heaven! It’s hard not to feel like an outcast in this fallen world but praise God for the people He brings us to confide in and stand by out side for Christ! Praise Him! 

      To all you believers in Christ out there who think they can have a God-honoring relationship with an atheist please pray for discernment and guidance. Sounds like a dangerous, slippery slope. Everyone is some kind of “religious” and everyone worships a god or something…someone. People can say they are open to everything but that is not even possible or logical. You can mutually disagree on topics but everyone has definite beliefs. According to the the “open to everything” belief how can you be open to believing two opposite things like sex before marriage and no premarital sex. there’s no exceptions and no buts, you either believe in one or the other otherwise it’s irrational. if someone truly believed an apple was really just a really red orange are you saying you would actually consider? according to that view you would have to. Doesn’t make any sense. Atleast i will stick to my God and His word and i WILL NOT misconstrue any of his teachings and WILL NOT twist his words around to my own selfish, sick benefit.  I don’t understand the pain allowed by Him in our lives but He advises us through scripture that it is for the better and I can’t wait for whats to come for our patience, and discipline, and hardships we’ve endured! Atleast we believers Love God so much and love His people so much (or should anyway) that we do everything we can to encourage you to eternal life! What greater friend than someone who cares for your salvation??!!!  and believe me, us followers who have been humbled enough to know, we will be the first to admit we are disgusting fowl creatures! Thank goodness for His blood He shed! can any of us sacrafice our loved one’s the way God sacrificed His Son for us?! I don’t even know if i could :( and for such filth too!  some thing to consider: I wasnt born a believer. Now im reborn! But i was an atheist at one point so i would know a thing or two about secular living wouldn’t i?! why are we so bound and determined to rid the world of christianity. the one religion that seems pretty fiercely combatted?! cause people know the truth way deep down and they were made in the image of God they have a peice inside Him for always no matter how much they fight it. People are afraid though. Heck im afraid! terrified! and i know my words are provactive and seem insulting but i don’t care. i wanna love on people including people who mock and blaspheme cause that’s what God’s called us to do! it’s so scary though im praying fervently for spiritual strength for it!!! ive written too much it’s just hard to stop once i get going!!! i challenge you atheists, universalist, spiritualist,etc to take the second path i did!!! do it…unless you’re too afraid….MOVE! I dare you just move from the place you’re in! ask questions, be defiant and seek out answers. Research christianity and scripture for yourselves, if even from a scientific standpoint. There’s so much biblical historical evidence that holds true to science its not even funny!! and please pray for conviction all you Christians in a relationship with an unbeliever; from a fellow believer, please stay in prayer and do not lose touch!!! GOD BLESS!!!

      • Mina

        Your both obviously from the 18th century ignorant and naive

  • Melissa

    I really appreciate this story. It really makes me feel good that there are people who can make this type of relationship work, and is helping me to get through a personal issue I have been struggling with for the past few weeks.
    I am atheist, and I was recently seeing a guy for about a month who is Christian.  We never had any discussion about religion, but he knew I was atheist before we began dating and I thought he may be Christian. We got along really well and were very comfortable with each other from the beginning. Suddenly, literally overnight, he pulled a “180″ and began acting strangely. He continued hanging out with me nearly every night, but acted less comfortable and shunned my touch. When I tried to hold his hand as we watched a movie he would “have an itch” and keep his hand out of reach, or find another way to keep me from touching him. I felt like my touch disgusted him, and was very confused about the sudden change. After about a week of this hurtful passive rejection we had an uncomfortable conversation. He told me about the couples he knows through church, and how he wants a close relationship like theirs. He said he had a certain kind of girl in mind, and though “this has been fun for the short term” it wouldn’t last because I do not fit the image he has in his mind of what he wants. Specifically, I am not a Christian. To him, this meant we could never “really connect” like the couples he knows through church do. He did not want to take the time to get to know each other, didn’t think it was worth a try, or worth the work it would take to see if he and I could work in a relationship.
    I was not terribly hurt by us not working. We had only been seeing each other for a month, and I had not even had time to develop any real feelings for him yet. I simply enjoyed his company. What bothered me is his rejection based on religious differences that we had never even discussed, let alone fought or disagreed about.
    This rejection in many ways made me feel the rift between myself and Christians grow. It left me feeling bitter towards those of faith, which is something I have never had. I have always had Christian friends, and have always understood the emotion involved in faith. I have always respected the beauty of faith, and I have seen the wonders having faith can work to help people get through difficult times. To feel suddenly separate, and rejected, from Christians, and people of all religions, has been very difficult for me. I live in Alabama, and to feel a rift between yourself and people of faith can leave one feeling very lonely. Even though I have been atheist for years, I have never felt that it was something that would hurt my relationships. The idea that my relationships could be limited by religion, especially with my own by far being the minority, left me with an uneasy feeling.
    My point is, this story is the first thing that has helped to make me feel better about what has been happening in my life. After reading this I began to believe myself when I said, as I have so many times in the last few weeks, “He’s wrong. People of different faiths can connect and have meaningful relationships. People can work through their differences and create a stronger relationship when doing it.”
    Thank you so much for sharing it.

  • just a christian

    I think Erik really needs to re-asses his faith and decide whether he’s actually a christian anymore…

  • Lacy Taylor

    Thank you for this story! It gives me hope that it can work..even with the parents and their “opinions”

  • DominicDEH

    I absolutly love this story it gives me hope that my own christian atheist relationship can work. thank you for qutting up this fantastic story.

  • Mchelle

    I couldnt even finish reading this, eriks decision to even consider dating kate was a straight slap in the face to god, because the bible reads n Amos, “how can two people walk together if they cant agree in which direction to walk in?” Erik definately dissobeyed God for getting romantically involved, and now we assum that later erik becan to lose interest in God because the impact on a person from the world is much stronger than the influence someone from the light will have on someone from the world. Eriks parents were right about him losing his faith, and as for being marred and having children? It is so sad if that were to happen only because their own children would grow up confused, as christians being confused is not correct before the eyes of God it then tricks christians into believing that sex before marriage is ok, it says that drinking is okay as long as yiu dont do it all the time, watching horror movies is “ok” also being bisexual is of Od as long as they oth trully love God, but none of these things is love for God, you must read the bible to see for yourself, and this trully hurts my feelings because one christian defys all christians and represents God, and these decisions arent of God, the bible says to correct with gentleness and it seems that eriks oarents did the correct thing in trying to help kate turn her ways more importantly trying to change their sons mind.

  • Cloisterella

    Are Kate and Erik still together? It would be great to hear from them!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      They are!

  • BillMilligan

    Heresy! Jesus was an anarchist, an anarcho-conservative radical.

  • BillMilligan

    I’ve been married to a woman for 14 years. We have never, in the 16 years we’ve known each other, discussed our religious beliefs. I think she is vaguely aware that I’m a Christian. I think she might be too. Maybe she’s an atheist. I don’t know — it’s none of my business.


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