Is Jesus Getting in the Way of Your Relationship?

Natasha Scripture — who, despite her name, isn’t very religious — wonders whether her boyfriend’s faith ought to be a dealbreaker for her:

When I first told my friends I was dating an actual Christian, they were all uppity about it: “Well, you have to respect someone’s religious views.” But when I mentioned he was abstaining from bedroom business for devout reasons, all of a sudden he was a total weirdo in their eyes (I’m patting myself on the back right now for being so open-minded). At first, it was a refreshing — almost romantic! — change from the norm, which usually involves the guy trying to seal that deal as soon as possible. But slowly, a feeling of insecurity started creeping over me…

Here’s a sliver of the type of conversation we’ve had more than once:

“Jesus used to say…” (boyfriend says)
“Please don’t quote Jesus. You know it makes me uncomfortable.” (me, all squirmy)
“I wish you would open your mind a bit more. You would be such a powerful Christian woman…” (him, being sincere)
“You’ll never convert me! I wish you would read Dawkins!” (me, in near tears)
“Jesus’s love for me is real.” (him, unwavering)
“I wish you would read Hitchens!” (me, in near tears)
“Jesus sacrificed for us. All of us.” (him, unwavering)
“You love him more than me.” (me, in tears)
“I do. I can’t help it.” (him, pious)

But nonetheless, here I am, wondering, should I just be a little less picky and let this one slide? Or is religion going to be a deal-breaker for me? The older I get, the fewer deal-breakers I want to have, because it’s not like it gets any easier.

Leave. Leave now. Leave now and never look back. This will not end well.

It’s not that a relationship between a religious and non-religious can’t work. But when the other person’s god becomes a higher priority than you — when anything becomes a higher priority than you — things are bound to come to a halt before long.

I didn’t always feel that way. I used to believe it was possible to date a theist as long as we shared the same values. But as I’m getting older, the way my significant other views the world rates higher and higher on the Priority List. I almost feel dirty saying it because it seems like I’m bordering on intolerance, but while I can get along just fine with religious friends and colleagues, I would probably lose some respect for the person I’m in a relationship with if she told me she was going to church, or praying during difficult times, or reading the Bible as a source for inspiration. For some reason, that same thought doesn’t apply to the other people in my life — if they’re religious, I don’t necessary lose respect for them. It just doesn’t faze me at all. But if that mutual respect isn’t there in a relationship, can you really build from there? I don’t know if I could (though I know plenty of couples who make it work).

If you are dating someone religious and it’s very serious, how do you make it work?

Incidentally, Jesse Galef once wrote about a slightly different question on this site: “Could you date someone who could date someone who is religious?”

(Thanks to Joseph for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Anonymous

    This relationship will never work. Dump him, move on.

    • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

      How does a Nihilist determine what are good or bad values for a relationship? Or in someone else’s relationship? Not mocking, serious question.

      • Anonymous

        All I said was that it was not going to work. I gave no values for a good or bad relationship.
        This one is pretty simple though, he will never stop trying to convert her. That alone will kill the relationship.
        As it has been pointed out in other reply’s he doesn’t/can’t respect her as a human. That will probably also cause problems.

        Being a nihilist doesn’t mean I’m blind to the obvious or that I don’t understand how people feel. I can actually be  pretty observant.

        • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

           he won’t stop trying to convert her? I dunno, from the paraphrased conversation it seems more like she was trying to convert him. He made passing comments about Jesus and hinting at how much more respect he’d have for her if she were Christian. But she’s the one yelling at him to read Dawkins and Hitchens.

          • Demonhype

            Typical passive-aggressive conversion techniques.  You do realize that religious people, especially those of the privileged majority faith, know they can saturate each and every conversation in Jesus and God and Bible-talk without anyone seeing it as out of sorts.  And anyone who contradicts them is usually seen as the “extremist” bad guy trying to deconvert others?  They take full advantage of this, puking their religion into every single situation and conversation, often apropos of nothing, knowing that if the unbeliever has no defense because if s/he dares to argue, question, or otherwise disagree s/he will be accused of “being the one trying to convert”.  Because people in our culture have been socially trained to let religious crap slide to an absurd degree, but to regard even the slightest hint that someone is an atheist as the same as a murder conviction.

            No, he is definitely the one trying to convert her, using those tried and true tactics.  If he loves her and she has told him that there is something in his life she does not agree with or like and would prefer not to be constantly engaged in that something (be it faith, sports, porn, anime, James Bond fandom, etc), then it is not just rude and insensitive that he insists on  bringing it up, it is evidence that he does not love or respect her.  Her turning the tables on him to try out her way of thinking does not magically make her the conversion-happy extremist.

            • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

               so yelling back at him, practically pleading and begging him with tears in her eyes to read Dawkins and Hitchens is not an attempt to convert?

              If you think not, try reading that sentence again and replace “Dawkins and Hitchens” with “The Bible.” Sounds emotionally manipulative, doesn’t it?

              • http://www.facebook.com/people/Georgia-Stanton/647620116 Georgia Stanton

                I don’t mean to step on any toes here, and it might just be my interpretation, but I saw the whole wishing for him to read atheist writings things not as trying convert, but trying to get him to read something that might help him understand her position and why she doesn’t want to be a ‘Christian woman’.

                Sometimes explaining how you feel about these things is hard in an emotional situation, and (again, not making assumptions, it’s just my interpretation) it seems like a better idea to avoid the conflict and point to somebody else who has expressed these ideas already in a clear, logical, sensible way.

                I really, really wish my mother would read/watch some of Greta Cristina’s works, for instance. Like ‘why are Atheists so angry’ and her explanations about why Atheism isn’t just another form of faith.

                • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

                  Well if a Christian was yelling at me and crying, telling me how much they wish I would read the Bible, I would certainly take that as an emotional manipulation. Dawkins and Hitchens books may not be scripture, but it conveys the same message IMO.

                • http://www.facebook.com/people/Georgia-Stanton/647620116 Georgia Stanton

                  Mmm, I can see your point (although I didn’t take exclamation points to mean yelling, which would seem rather dramatic).
                  I just see the conversation as him bringing up Jesus, her feeling uncomfortable in a way she seems to have explained to him before (and reminds him of), and him apparently interpreting this discomfort as some kind of flaw on her part. Or just not caring – either way. I don’t think it is fair to make the judgement of emotional manipulation when there’s a good chance it was just – you know, emotion? Having said that, I obviously can’t make that claim either and-

                  … It just occurred to me that this is all about a very brief, fairly non-descriptive example of a conversation and really, the most important point should probably be that they’re not communicating well at all either way.

                • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

                  I would certainly agree we probably shouldn’t analyze a short paraphrased discussion too much. There biggest problem isn’t who’s trying to covert who, it’s that they have shitty communication.

  • Woman

    The relationship won’t work, but not for the reasons Hemant specified.  It won’t work because your boyfriend has an image of what a “Christian woman” should be – and that includes his partner, whether she is a Christian or not.  That image likely involves submission and obedience: God/Jesus is first, him second, future children next, and you last.  He can’t respect you as a human being because he has been taught that women are servants to men, and that lack of respect will kill the relationship faster than your differing theological beliefs. 

    • Anonymous

      I wouldn’t quite put the hard misogyny in there. The popular fundie/evangelical view of female gender roles is the insidious complementarism doctrine. Men and women are “complementary” and need each other to be complete. The man is more of the final word, but men are taught to try to reach consensus decisions if you’re lucky to have a decent pastor.

      I’ll bet he’s not in love with her as she is, but with the Christian Woman he expects her to be. Somehow, “unequally yolked” hasn’t occurred to him, or he’s seeking to convert before getting serious. If you bring up that phrase and he’s any kind of serious Christian, that’s when you’ll know how possible the relationship will really be.

      • Anonymous

        I agree, I found that line to be very insidious. And yes i am scared for her. 

      • Kelly Lane

        LOL – and he won’t be following any of those liberal pussy teachings of Jesus… just her! haha I love that. They despise those wealth distributing, free medical care supporting, peace and love ……. no wait…. that’s JESUS! haha

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

       The line about a “powerful Christian woman” is very off-putting. Sounds like he sees her in a larval state.

  • Michael

    Agreed. Recently I was in a relationship with similar awkwardnesses that I was willing to overlook for her. Then inevitably we had an entirely justified argument and instead of thinking of ways to put it right I found myself searching for reasons to try. It’s not a good thing to realise that you don’t have a reason to save your relationship from an argument about timekeeping.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

       I made the decision about my ex-girlfriend the same way. It’s one thing to put effort into making the relationship work. It’s another to be able to stop and actually consider how much work you’re putting into it.

  • Anonymous

    He takes religious way, way too seriously. If it were just some vague belief in god, sure, that could work out. But he sounds like some born-again nutcase. He may not be a fundamentalist, but Jesus/god still take up too much of his thought process

  • Anonymous

    That conversation reads like abuse to me.  Replace “Jesus” with any other name, and it’s super creepy.

    • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa E

      It is a classic cult technique, to elevate a single, specific person (even an abstract person like the Christian Trinity) to always, under all circumstances, be more important than your family and friends.

      Bible verse drop!: James 1:27 says that true religion is in the care of others and oneself, not in the pointless adoration of the big guy in the sky.

      • http://www.facebook.com/brittany.brelsford Brittany Brelsford

         No, James 1:27 says (NLT): Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring
        for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world
        corrupt you.

        • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa E

          … that’s what I said

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Buchy/542338898 James Buchy

       Your statement is very accurate, it’s genuinely creepy and it happens with cults and some cultures. It’s also EXTREMELY dangerous. Charles Manson’s “family” worshiped and loved him the same way. Same with David Koresh.  On a national scale, look back at Imperial Japan during WWII. Hirohito was worshiped as an actual god in the eyes of the majority of the Japanese. Ask any GI who served in the Pacific theater during the war and they’ll tell you just how fanatical the Japanese soldiers could be.

    • Kelly Lane

      There is a hard working young man named Jesus Martinez somewhere, that wants to tell you all ….. “You r savior was a damn Mexican! It’s pronounced “Hey-Zus” LOL

  • http://twitter.com/GoddessGeek Naomi

    My college-age son was dating a Hispanic girl, who was semi-involved with her Catholic faith. They were getting very serious, but decided to have a long talk about the religion. Even though she isn’t a regular attendee of Mass, her culture and family are very tied into the ‘idea’ of the church, with its beliefs, traditions, rituals, and so on. The deal killer came when she said that children *must* be raised Catholic. He also felt that he would have never been fully accepted by her family, or constantly pressured to convert.

    I’m glad that they were mature enough to work through this early. He’s now looking for a nice atheist girl  ;)

    • Roving Rockhound

      I think I can put myself in the shoes of the girl your son was dating – I’m a Hispanic girl, probably a couple of years older, who has had to fight tooth and nail to go against tradition and not participate in Catholic rituals (and my  family seems even less Catholic than hers). If she lived in Latin America during her childhood, she comes from a culture where there are no non-Catholics. People don’t go to secular schools, there are no kids from other religions (I knew one Jew – that was it), and Catholic imagery and language are everywhere. It’s not as extreme as with fundies in the US, but it permeates the culture much more widely.

      Not going through Confirmation was a fight (that included the threat of expulsion from school by my principal, and the threat of dragging me to a psychiatrist by my parents because something had to be wrong with me). I don’t plan to get married in a church, but the pressure will be intense (even more if I end up with a Hispanic guy – both sides!). And the children better be baptized – I wouldn’t discard the possibility of caring family taking the kid for the afternoon and getting it baptized. It’s acceptable in the church to do it with just the godmother and godfather there.

      I’m not “out” as an atheist, but any hints of dissent are immediately noticed. I’ve pointed out the sex abuse scandals of the Legion of Christ (they run the school that many of my little male cousins go to), that Mother Theresa was not the saint that she was made to be (in a nice, not threatening way), that the pope is undoing the progress that the previous pope had achieved…. did not end well.

      Your son’s ex might have recognized that she couldn’t get away from this without breaking away from her family and culture. It’s a tough choice.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Francis-Montes-de-Oca/100000177616186 Francis Montes de Oca

        Roving, totally understand where you are coming from. I moved a few states away, and although I miss my family like hell, I’ve never felt so free. My husband and I married at a courthouse, and when I told my mom over the phone that no one is invited, and that it is a completely private affair between my husband and I, she burst into tears. I did not feel like hearing “que dios te bendiga” 100 times on our wedding day. I managed to only hear it once or twice over the phone instead. :) If any of you have had the opportunity to learn Spanish and read my facebook newsfeed, your eyes would fall out due to the mention of god for simple things like noting the nice weather or a birthday.

        Now I’m a happy Hispanic atheist girl married to a lovely apatheist guy. :) Far away from my family’s crazy ways (even though I love them)… So I just deal with them through phone calls and the occasional card.

        And they said childhood are the best years of ones life. I wish.

  • http://twitter.com/Jon_Wilburn Jon Wilburn

    Wow! Great topic.  A couple of things to remember from a Christian’s perspective:

    The Bible tells us to: Love the Lord God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

    Secondly, it teaches us to love our wives (significant other) as much as I love myself.

    So, loving God doesn’t keep me from loving my wife any less, but God is my#1 priority and I don’t expect a non-Christian to completely understand that … no offense.  There may be times where I do things from those convictions that she may not like but that doesn’t mean I love her less.  Of course, this is coming from a guy who is married to someone with the same belief system.

    As far as being married or dating someone with a different belief set, then there will be times of difficulty, no matter how well you’ve worked things out.

    Blessings,

    Jon

    • http://twitter.com/0xabad1dea Melissa E

      Not trying to be confrontational/disrespectful, just frank:

      to people outside of Christianity, the idea that you’re expected to *LOVE* (not “respect”, not “obey”, but “LOVE”) something invisible, unheard, and otherwise completely abstract more than you love the person in your arms who you have sworn a lifelong obligation to is… …. creepy. 

      I am an ex-fundamentalist. They used to tell me to love God more than I loved or ever will love any rotten, ugly, sinful human. During my first teenage romance, I felt like a horrible, horrible person because I didn’t “love God” more than I “loved Danny”. Then I grew up and realized that. is. what. CULTS. do. 
      Danny and I are still friends nearly a decade later, me and your god, not so much :)

      • http://www.wantonsoul.com/ Nowhere Man

        heh, love the use of the word “cult”

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

      Former Christian (and Muslim) here. I think perhaps the concept of romantic love and/or love of other people is being confused with another type of love. From the Christian perspective, aren’t there different kinds of love as described in the NT, especially when one goes to the languages that the books were originally written in?
      I’m not sure it’s entirely correct to state (only) that you love your god more than your spouse. It might be more correct (theologically and linguistically) to state that you love your god more, but also in a different way…a way that is not possible to love another human being. Does that make any sense? :-)

      As far as being married or dating someone with a different belief set,
      then there will be times of difficulty, no matter how well you’ve worked
      things out.

      I come from a mixed family, where my father was Muslim and my mother was Christian. There were many times of difficulty, but they always seemed to work it out…mainly because neither of my parents took their religion too seriously. I imagine that if you had a couple that both took their different belief systems very seriously that maintaining a relationship would be more work than it’s worth.

      Blessings

      Any particular reason you chose to write that on an atheist blog? You could just as easily have chosen “Thanks” or “Cheers” or some equivalent, but you chose “Blessings”. Why?

    • Erpease

       

      Secondly, it teaches us to love our wives (significant other) as much as I love myself.

      However wives are told “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord”  and “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” in the same chapter.   The New Testament uses several words for ‘love’; the original Greek here is ‘agape’.   No mention in Ephesians for wives to love their husbands.  Same in Colossians.  Titus does mention wives loving their husbands,  “Then they [older women] can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to
      be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of
      God.” though that has no mention of how the husband should treat his wife.  

    • Andy

      “So, loving God doesn’t keep me from loving my wife any less, but God is my#1 priority and I don’t expect a non-Christian to completely understand that … no offense.”

      I don’t think that anybody has a problem understanding that concept. It really isn’t that complicated. It should be clear why a non-christian doesn’t agree with the idea, though.

  • Thesaintsrevenge

    There is a line in the movie “Legends of the Fall” will Brad Pitt and a similar conversation comes about, Brad Pitt who plays Tristan. He is talking to Samuel about fucking his future bride, Samuel and Susanna being religious and pure, up to that point.  I see the similarity of Natasha and her BF, but I recommend the same as Tristan.
    “Tristan: Samuel, God bless you. You are good at everything you try to do. I’m sure it’ll be the same with fucking. Samuel: Tristan, really. We’re talking about my future wife. Tristan: Oh, you’re not gonna fuck her? Samuel: No! Tristan: No? Samuel: No! I’m planning to be with her. Tristan: I recommend fucking.” 
    Epic answer for the religious minded. 

  • Neutroncapture

    My last relationship with a christian pushed me from agnostic to militant atheist. Run before you lose your sanity!

    • KrGuest

      Mine too, except it was 8 or 10 years into marriage before the other person really took to Christianity.  Still here, still clinging to sanity, but wishing I’d had the foresight to see that this third guy named Jesus would muscle himself into our marriage!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=116400943 Leo Buzalsky

    My wife is a theist, but she never goes to church anymore (it was pretty much that way before we started dating).  This, though, is bad.  First, he wants her to be open minded, but he apparently does not think he needs to be himself.  That is a large red flag.  It also appears that she may not be in a state to really handle such conversations if she’s going to tear up over them.  She’d better get out!

    • Kelly Lane

      that’s a future domestic violence case, screaming at her to go now!

  • Marguerite

    I agree that this isn’t going to work out, and it’s not because the boyfriend puts his god above his girlfriend. It’s because they’re both at loggerheads trying to convert each other to each other’s way of thinking, and neither seems to have any intentions of wavering.  An atheist and a Christian who’s this hardcore have such profoundly different ways of looking at the world that there’s no real way of reaching a compromise. So yes, I’d say this highly likely to be a dealbreaker.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jen-Lytle/1197164204 Jen Lytle

    I couldn’t even get to “boyfriend” status with anyone who would ever sincerely start a sentence with, “Jesus use to say…”

    • kaydenpat

      I wonder why he’s with her.  Doesn’t the Bible say that believers shouldn’t be unequally yoked with non-believers?

      I’m sure there are plenty of happy believer/non-believer relationships out there, but this guy sounds like he’s using Jesus as a crutch — especially if he has to quote the Bible to someone he knows is not a believer. 

      • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

         It sounds like the guy doesn’t see her as a non-believer, but as a future believer. His delusions at work.

    • Kelly Lane

      Don’t really mater what he said or whether he did or not. Same as anyone else who has been dead for 2000 years.  … it don’t matter … can we please move along …

  • Camels With Hammers

    There’s nothing remotely intolerant about not wanting to marry someone who does not share your core values or views about reality. These are by far the most important priorities one can have in selecting someone to be utterly bound and intimate with for the rest of one’s life and, especially, to raise children with. Richard Wade explains why this is so very well.

  • Nickolas Johnson
  • Anonymous

    The Christian boyfriend has a double standard.  The girlfriend needs to be open minded, but boyfriend is being pushy to get her to accept HIS mind as her own, which is called special pleading.  I’m willing to accept someone having their own opinion as long as they don’t try pushing it on other people.

  • http://nomesartsyfartsystuff.blogspot.com/ nome

    I have dated the very religious in the past and at some point the fact that you are not willing to become religious will not be a point THEY can get over. After all you (and your children) will only go to hell for not being believers and moat very Christian people cannot get over that. 

  • Amerist

    Since I cannot format my posts in Chrome for some reason,  I’ll try to keep things short. ^^

    It does sound like she shouldn’t be in this relationship. The boy obviously doesn’t respect her for her own cultural or personal experience and if he’s posturing when he speaks with her (and suggests that she change to suit him): He doesn’t want a beloved; he wants a trophy and a pet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    But when the other person’s god becomes a higher priority than you — when anything becomes a higher priority than you — things are bound to come to a halt before long.

    Full disclosure, I’ve never been in a relationship, but this just sounds odd. It’s not possible to have a happy loving long successful relationship unless your spouse is your #1 priority over everything? Does that apply to all situations? How does that work?

    • Kataton

      Larry, I agree. My partner and I are both as ‘married’ to our careers are we are ‘maried’ to each other. Sometimes work is simply a more important priority to one or both of us than each other. It’s not always easy, and it probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but I know that if I always put my partner first, I’d be giving up some other very important things in my life. Same with him. And that’s asking too much.

      • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

        Yeah that’s kind of what I was thinking. I’m not just talking about careers though. What if a friend is in real bad need of help and your spouse also wants your attention or needs your help to a lesser extent?

        I don’t think the spouse should necessarily take priority over everything. They shouldn’t be like a god you’re infatuated with and obsessed with making happy at the expense of anything else. It seems more reasonable to have other priorities sometimes. Again, I’ve never been in a relationship so I have even less experience at how a good relationship works, but I think a relationship can work however 2 people want it to.

        But if Natasha is brought to tears because of the lack of devotion her parner has for her, it’s probably never going to be a healthy relationship if that continues.

        • KrGuest

          Very well put–a spouse should be pretty much more important to you than anything else, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have other priorities too and accomplish many things outside the relationship if you are both important to each other.

          More to the original point, church-goers are regularly told to put God first, at the center of the marriage and all waking moments, and well above everything else in importance.  That’s why this guy feels the need to convert her.  And of course, that only works if both people buy into that, so the relationship should be canned ASAP.

          • Demonhype

            “Your wife is very sick and needs to go to a hospital.  She’s unconscious, so it’s up to you to decide what to do.”

            “But I believe in faith healing and the promises of Jesus, and Jesus is the most important thing in my life–even more important than my wife.”

            But somehow she’s the one who’s unhinged and needy.  I’m not romantic, I vomit at chick flicks, I am the least needy chick in the world I think, but I would be at least concerned at a mate who puts his faith above me–because I can think of situations where that might be a very real problem in the real world.

    • Anonymous

      Your spouse, in a healthy relationship, is you number one priority.

      This is a two way street, and that is why it works. 

      “Sometimes work is simply a more important priority to one or both of us than each other.”

      This works because each spouse recognizes how important these other priorities are and makes concessions because of how important those priorities are to each other.  See being top priority does not automatically mean the world revolves around you/them.

      If someone claims that *god* is their top priority then barring that same mutual consent the relationship is doomed to fail.

      • Demonhype

        Exactly!  Would your job come before your spouse if, say, you got a call that your spouse was in an accident and is in the hospital?  Or your spouse needs some major dental or medical care, but the only money available for this important procedure is the money you were saving to buy a book or take a course to improve your job performance?

        • The Other Weirdo

           Mine wouldn’t, but for some people it would.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

       I think it’s meant as “when the other person’s relationship to their god becomes a higher priority than their relationship to you.”

      Not that your significant other must be the most important thing in your life. But if they aren’t the most important personal relationship at the time, that’s a sign of a big problem.

      • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

         yes, but to quote Hemant, “when anything becomes a higher priority than you — things are bound to come to a halt before long.” His emphasis, not mine. Most important personal relationship is reasonable, but more important than anything?

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elizabeth-Masters-Hiatt/1089954620 Elizabeth Masters Hiatt

          The more I think about it, the more that I realize I generally agree with Hemant. The people in our lives should always take precedent over everything else. So, my family and friends are more important that my professional life. That guy walking across the street is more important than the hurry I’m in to get to the store, etc. I agree that my partner comes before everyone else in my world. I love my friends and family and I would do just about anything for them, but if push came to shove, I would choose him. I could conceive of situations where that may not hold true, but none of them are really healthy relationships. 

          In a good partnership, each person makes decisions based on the benefit to the other. In my life I made a decision about my education that may have a negative impact on my career in order to stay close to my partner. I would not have made the same choice if I was single, but I’m not. The idea is not to become a martyr to the relationship, but to create a safe space of mutual love and compromise. You can’t do that if one half of the partnership values another person or entity more.

    • Anonymous

       I think it can work, but there has to be at least a general agreement on where on the list the marriage stands. If one person has their partner as their highest priority and the other does not, it’s very easy for resentment to build.

      In the particular case of the post, it seems fairly hard to imagine that it could work. It’s not just that one person has another being as a higher priority, it’s that his highest priority is a being that his girlfriend doesn’t think is real. Not only that, but his first love, God, is “telling” him to bring his second love, the girlfriend, into the fold. So she’s essentially a vague deist being recruited into being the secondary sister-wife in a threesome marriage where she thinks one of the members is imaginary.

    • Mairianna

      Maybe it isn’t “your spouse” that should be the #1 priority, but “the couple” as the #1 priority.  What would you do so you can remain a couple together?    What are you willing to forgo or give up or change to continue to be with that person?  It’s not an all or nothing situation.   I’m not sure if I see either being able to make changes to be together.  And I’m not saying that’s bad.  It just may be something important for her to recognize in her quest for a relationship.  Maybe religion isn’t something she’s willing to accept in her partner. And it sounds like non-religion isn’t something the guy wants to understand.  It’s mutual.  They should part for each owns benefit.  

  • beijingrrl

    I disagree that your list of deal-breakers should get shorter as you age.  Petty issues about physical traits should go (e.g., he must be taller than I), but core values should strengthen.  My husband and I have been a couple for 23 years.  We met when we were 18.  There were behaviors we could each put up with those first few years because we were young and in college.  Would either of us consider being with someone who still did those things in their 40s?  Not a chance.  Over time, a couple is either going to grow together or grow apart.  Having a good foundation of common goals and outlooks makes it so much easier to grow together.

    • chicago dyke, evolved outlaw

      i agree. and i’ll add that i don’t think there’s anything wrong if people change as they age, and grow apart. the emphasis on the idea that everyone can find their “one true love for life” is wrong, imho. people change, and that’s OK. this post makes me wonder what most atheists would do in a marriage if after decades of being together, one partner suddenly turned into a raving xtian. i know what i’d do, without hesitation. 

      • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

         The expectation of lifelong or “”””true”””” (I ran out of sarcastic quotes) love should have died out with the 30-year lifespan.

        • Greisha

           Why?

          • amyc

            …because it’s unreasonable and unrealistic.

  • Kataton

    My grandparents were a ‘mixed’ couple and made it work for over 40 years until my grandfather died. I’m sure it helped that Grandma was United Church, which is fairly left, and that she harboured a deep scientific curiosity her whole life. Nonetheless, she was devout. And Grandad compromised-he let Grandma take the kids to church. Perhaps he knew things would be socially easier for kids in a small paririe town in the ’50′s if they were churched, and perhaps he knew that setting an alternative example in their lives at home would help them walk away from faith one day. Sadly, I never got the chance to ask.

    In the end, though, though they disagreed fundamentally on, say, 15% of their worldviews (and, yes, it’s a BIG 15%), they agreed on the other 85%. They found much to love and respect in each other. Belief or lack thereof isn’t the only thing to respect about a person. Are they kindhearted? Honest? Do they care about equality? Do they act with integrity? Are they open to difference? Do they treat you, your family, your friends, well? These are all deeply respectable quslities that have nothing to do with one’s religion or atheism.  

    • Kataton

      All that being said, I really think the relationship described in this post is doomed. 

  • alt+3

    I’ll admit I’m probably not the best person to get relationship advice from, what with only having actually been in one-ish relationship but for me as soon as somebody becomes a nuisance in my life I usually disassociate with them.

  • http://www.wantonsoul.com/ Nowhere Man

    If you love someone you accept them for who they are regardless of vast theological differences. If that is impossible, then perhaps the issue goes far deeper than religion.

    • http://twitter.com/m_ethaniel Mistletoe Ethaniel

      Oh no no no no.

      That sounds strongly like “if you can’t handle this difference in religion, then maybe YOU just don’t love him enough, because if you DID love him you’d let this thing go.”

      Unconditional love, loving a person regardless of differences, can indeed be a wonderful thing.  But there’s a difference between loving a person and accepting a toxic behavior.  You can love a person, in your heart, however and through whatever you like; but if you accept (and thus allow) an intolerable behavior– be it religious manipulation, addiction, abuse, or whatever else– that’s not love.  That’s making yourself a doormat.

      • http://www.wantonsoul.com/ Nowhere Man

        Heh,  something like that.. let it go.  Although I am not at all a true Believer, I don’t know that I would necessarily label it as toxic behavior..  To me religion is such a ridiculous notion it should not even be considered a factor in a relationship. Almost like joining some kinda goody-goody club like the girl scouts.  It is the zealots of their faction that use it as an excuse to participate in these  cult -like activities when in my opinion all of that is totally unnecessary. There are plenty of Christians that don’t feel the need to take it that far (although I will admit they are few and far between). If religious manipulation is what you’re worried about then the key word is -manipulation-, religion is just the add-on.. 

        I agree, you never want to make yourself a doormat, but at the same time don’t let petty differences be a deciding factor in how you choose to pursue a relationship with someone you deeply care for.  Real love is better than that.

  • chicago dyke, evolved outlaw

    sis is married to a Christian. note:  i only use that word to describe people who actually “walk in Jesus’ footsteps” wrt to things like charity, humility, praying in private, and honesty. he lives up to all that. so she’s fine with him. they dated for several years, and even broke up for a while over their differences; she refused to accept his faith or promise their children would be raised as Christians. they have learned to compromise. he takes the children to church on sundays and she’s *glad* for the time off being a mom, heh. but she also picked the school they attend- a jewish prep school that teaches children of all/no faiths about all religions. the love they share for each other is the bedrock of their marriage, and while i’m sure i could probably pin him down in an argument and get him to say he loves Jesus as much as her, i don’t think he’d say he loves him more. 

  • Ida Know

    Hemant, can I just say, I love that you know the difference between “faze” and “phase”?  A quality all too rare.

    Oh, and I agree completely with your advice to Natasha.  This guy has as much as *told* her point blank that he is unwilling to even try to understand her point of view, while at the same time he expects her to abandon it and submit to being “molded” into his vision of a “powerful Christian woman” (that’s “subservient Christian woman” in fundiespeak).

    If it were me, I’d burn rubber getting out of there.

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

       It makes me think of Obi-Wan Kenobi talking about Anakin turning into a “powerful Jedi” one day.

  • Anonymous

    I (Atheist) am married to a Catholic woman. Our marriage of 20 years has worked wonderfully. However, if she was as Gung Ho about Jesus as your boyfriend seems to be, I don’t think it would have worked at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tiffany-Jade-Brown/640358790 Tiffany Jade Brown

    I don’t think it will work. Interestingly enough, however, four years ago, I was the Christian in a relationship with someone who didn’t care about religion one way or the other. Now, we’re both staunch atheists and married. So, I’m just going to say that I’m glad he put up with my craziness, though I was never quite as devoted to Jesus as this guy sounds.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-GK/507761207 Joe GK

    Hmm, I used to be like the boyfriend. I was a liberal YEC (wrap your head around that) and my love at the time was an ex-wiccan, ex-christian, apatheist. My love for her was sincere as was my love/fear of what I believed was god. However, her religious views and history terrified me. I was convinced that it was god’s calling for me to “save” her, because I loved her so much. The relationship ended poorly, but for reasons unrelated and not before I managed to convert her. I still think back and shudder when I think of the emotional blackmail; specifically using her love for me to win her over for Christ.

    Currently, I- a young Irish/German atheist- am engaged to an older-than-me Filipino/Chinese Catholic. We are comfortable with each others’ views and have found what works for us with some pretty effective boundaries. So, in a way, my anecdote implies that the situation Natasha Scripture seems to be in may be to toxic to work, but not all inter-faith (including lack thereof) relationships are toxic.

  • SystemsReady

    Dude, in that example, he was making her cry. Does she really want to do have to deal with that kind of emotional stress on a normal basis? She should leave before things get more serious.

  • Aaron Scoggin

    Maybe he thinks that he can “fix” (convert) you? That’s the only reason I can see for him wanting to continue a relationship with you, especially if you’re resistant to the idea of being a Christian. 

    I would just have a serious talk about his values and priorities, and see where you fit. If you’re not #1… Say goodbye.

    • Thackerie

       She already has the answer. He told her he’ll always love “Jesus” more than her. I can’t fathom why she hasn’t left him already.

  • Flockofchickens

    If your girlfriend says “I’ll pray for you” or “I wish you believed in God”, you know you have no chance. If they think that you might be overly critical of the Tea Party and they have friends in the Tea Party, run. Run quickly.

  • Sharon Crawford

    Religious belief is a complete dealbreaker for me.  I couldn’t live with it.  I have friends who are mildly religious — doesn’t bother me. But I can’t imagine living with someone who talks about gawd and angels and saviors or who believes that popes or preachers have some kind of moral authority.
    My husband and I have been married for twenty-five years. Our views of the world are very similar but not identical. But on one thing we see eye-to-eye: we’re atheists. Period.

  • Anonymous

    In love as in politics, jebus will always and forever be the deal breaker. There is simply no reason to attempt compromise.

  • Anonymous

    I could marry a liberal Christian (in a country like America, you can’t be too choosy on this issue). I think as long as you find a compromise on how to raise the kids and as long as we agreed to either debate peacefully or not at all over religion, the relationship should work out fine. I’m not sure if I would want my younger kids being taken to church, but if she wanted to do the “mommy believes this and daddy believes that” I would be okay with that. Kids in that situation normally turn out Atheist anyway. And I think that humans have evolved to believe in religion so I wouldn’t fault her for having a tough time freeing herself from the web. My goal is to decrease religion in society over all, not focus all of my concern on the beliefs of one person. As long as we respect each other and come to a compromise, it should be fine.

    P.S. Though I think it is kind of sad that the article describes not having sex as “refreshing”.

  • Neil

    It took me two relationships in my younger years (about 3 1/2 years of my life) to figure out that I could NEVER have a real relationship with a deeply religious person. 
    I’ve seen people do it with less committed believers, but it takes a certain laziness of belief and a lack of intellectual curiosity, or at least a great habit of putting people before beliefs.  The ones who make it work generally don’t like to argue such issues, especially not with each other.  They seem to treat it like more of a cultural ID or a favorite band than a set of beliefs about reality.

    Some of my close friends are quite religious, and even much more politically conservative than I am, but we meet on a more or less even field of mutual experience and respect.  It’s just not the same in a permanent romantic relationship.  The need for at least some continuity of belief becomes great, at least if one wants honesty and equality in the relationship. 

    In  my (limited, anecdotal) experience, religious people with a strong religious belief have a very hard time understanding non-religious attitudes, much moreso than non-religious people trying to understand religious motivations.  EVERYTHING is about their “personal relationship with christ” (or whatever godly delusion).  In the end, EVERYTHING must be seen through this lens, which (obviously to a non-religious person) means that it’s really all about one person’s personal delusions and emotional impressions. 
    If trouble starts in the relationship, it is never because the religious person isn’t listening, but because something in the relationship (almost guaranteed to be on the part of the non-religious one) isn’t “right with the lord”.  Also, since the non-religious person doesn’t take god into account when making decisions, you can expect to have your opinions ignored or at least put on a lower priority, you can expect your significant other to trust other churchies more than you, you can expect a lot of shit-talking from other churchies and family members, while your S.O. will never speak up for you but will defend nosy, spiteful church friends….all kinds of fun.  And every disappointment, every argument, every time the religious person might be expected to grow a bit or to realloy try and see it your way for a change…nope…it’s just “god trying to tell them something.”  That something is often to change, ignore, place blame upon, or get away from the “bad influence”, or at best, they might humbly, givingly, condescendingly “accept you for who you are”, which of course, will never involve actually listening to you or changing themselves.  

    In short, if you like selfishness, insecurity, and intellectual dishonesty in a mate… if what you want out of your relationships is to be belittled, ignored, distrusted, and expected to change, demur, or shut up gracefully whenever “god” (aka, your S.O.’s emotional whim) demands, then go find a committed religious believer to hook up with RIGHT NOW!  It’s like a purely emotional BSDM, without any of the fun parts at all.  The fun parts are sinful, of course.      

  • Alice

    Your relationship has past it’s expiration date. Throw it out now before it starts to stink.

  • Anonymous

    Or sum it up with another, more pertinent question: Can ANY relationship work when your partner genuinely believes that you’re going to Hell, and would rather maintain the belief that anyone who doesn’t say the magic words is doomed to an eternity of horrible torture for all eternity than loosen that belief enough to respect their partner’s lack of desire to convert?

    (This makes me wish Christians were more acquainted with their own faith. Jesus died, we’re all saved. Period, end of story, no magic words needed. Even ye with as little faith as a grain of mustard seed. Right? Right. Get over it.)

  • Alchemist

    This guy loves an imaginary friend more than you.
    Enough said.

  • Nude0007

    He is way too religious.  He is disrespecting you by not accepting your right to believe what you want, and to insist on preaching about his when you have already asked him not to.  Without respect, you have nothing.  Tell him off and get out fast!  HE is the closed minded one (but I bet you knew that already)

  • Erik Cameron

    Not really relevant to this discussion but…

    Why is it wrong for someone to put other things ahead of you in a relationship?
    Most people care about their kids more than their relationship. It’s okay to care about your job or your family more than your partner. If you and your partner want a less serious or less typical relationship it’s alright as long as you are both clear on what you want from the other.

  • Keulan

    Ok, reading that article, I have a few thoughts. First, she should dump her boyfriend, since he can’t respect her right to believe what she wants. I wouldn’t want to continue dating a religious woman who kept trying to convert me to her religion- it would get annoying really fast.

    Second, while she may not be religious, she does seem to be one of those vaguely “spiritual” types, and thinks we should “embrace the mystery of life” rather than try to understand it. Fuck that noise. I’d rather have knowledge and understanding of as much of the universe as possible. I see nothing appealing in embracing the mystery.

    Third, she likes Twilight. Ugh. I cannot respect someone who honestly thinks the Twilight series is good.

    Fourth, she suggests non-religious people should do as Alain de Botton wants us to do, and borrow ceremonies and such from religion. No thanks. Count me as one of the atheists who doesn’t want to see us becoming more like religion.

    Clearly, religion is not the only thing that is somewhat of a deal-breaker for me in relationships.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimikoneko Katie Bojorquez

    I married a Catholic man, who’s in the military. We had decided to get married after his basic training, and given the nature of the military(you don’t plan things because you will be disappointed) we had decided to get hitched on his leave. He talked to his parents, and they convinced him that he absolutely NEEDS to have a Catholic wedding, otherwise it would feel like the marriage was cheapened somehow. They were very hesitant at first, because I am an atheist, but I reassured them that I wasn’t trying to get him to renounce his faith, and we were going to baptize the children that we had. My deal with him was he can baptize as long as he doesn’t force them to go to church, or bribe them. We’re also not circumcising, because he gets to baptize.

    We later found out after his leave that I was pregnant, so we didn’t have the giant Catholic wedding his mother wanted, our marriage has never been cheapened and we’ve had no major problems so far. We share same views minus the whole god thing, and he’s expressed his beliefs to me. We’re not basing our relationship on religion, but overall.

    However, if my husband was anything like the Christian boyfriend above, I don’t think I could deal. It’s one thing to date someone who has a strong belief in God, but it’s another for them to try and convert. He’s looking at this like he can change her, and that’s the entire basis of the relationship. She needs to get out, otherwise, it’ll make her bitter over time. =/

  • Mel

    “The older I get, the fewer deal-breakers I want to have, because it’s not like it gets any easier.”No, it’s not easy, but the confidence you feel in yourself after truly understanding what the deal-breakers are and realizing that you no longer have to put up with someone else’s bulls hit is very rewarding.  I hope she runs like hell and can find a supportive non-believing community which does make the single life a little easier.

  • Lurker111

    Run and do not look back.
     

  • The donkey&the skull

    “Leave. Leave now. Leave now and never look back. This will not end well.”
    I second that advice.
    I’ve been there and done that.

  • absent sway

    I think such a partnership would be difficult but possible, but the number of “in tears” moments described here suggests to me that this isn’t working and she could do better. If she found this sort of conversation to be a casually amusing quirk of his, or if she found his spiritual practice fascinating and thought they were having stimulating intellectual discussions about it, then cool, but this? No.

  • Paul

    I’ve been married to a christian for over 10 years, been together about 13 total, but we have done well due to a mutual respect. Early on, she knew I was “not very religious” (i considered myself agnostic until about a year and a half ago), but she just accepted it, didn’t try to change me (though I think she always hoped I would), and we generally kept to ourselves on the topic. We never did the church thing much, because we always liked our sleep too much, and now she works weekends anyway, so that makes it easy. We share many of the same values, so we get along fine.
    This story you share is scary. Without that mutual respect, this is doomed. Good luck

  • Paul

    I’ve been married to a christian for over 10 years, been together about 13 total, but we have done well due to a mutual respect. Early on, she knew I was “not very religious” (i considered myself agnostic until about a year and a half ago), but she just accepted it, didn’t try to change me (though I think she always hoped I would), and we generally kept to ourselves on the topic. We never did the church thing much, because we always liked our sleep too much, and now she works weekends anyway, so that makes it easy. We share many of the same values, so we get along fine.
    This story you share is scary. Without that mutual respect, this is doomed. Good luck

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

       Shared values is important, and even then, sometimes a couple can have widely differing views on some issues and still get along. A lot of it comes down to whether or not two people have mutual respect for each other as you put it.

  • The Other Weirdo

     Been there, done that, still living with the metaphorical scars 15 years later. The odd thing about religious relatives is that even if your partner is nominally non-religious(doesn’t go to Church, not even for Christmas) as talks about religious as though it were a clutch for the weak, she’ll still demand a full Church wedding to please the other relatives. The atheist ends up being the only one making concessions. You have to have an incredibly strong sense of self to resist, and you need to in order to retain any right to self-determination, and rights to your make decisions regarding your own children.


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