Dale McGowan Announces That His Next Book Will Focus on Religious/Non-Religious Marriages

Dale McGowan — who has already cornered the market in writing about atheist parenting — just announced his next book project. It’s one a lot of you may appreciate:

Many of the most common questions I get from secular parents are about issues around this kind of mixed marriage. Though there are several books on marriages between partners of two different religions — including half a dozen titles on Jewish-Christian intermarriage alone — there’s nothing for the biggest belief gap of all.

Sounds awesome. I’ve heard so many stories of atheists who end up dating (or marrying) religious people. There are all sorts of obstacles those couples have to overcome — can you have mutual respect for each other’s beliefs? How would you raise your children? What would the wedding look like? Would your in-laws know about your beliefs or would you keep those to yourself?

I also can’t wait for what I assume will be Dale’s next project after this one: How to handle mixed-religion divorces.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • ortcutt

    My advice to the unmarried out there: do yourself a favor and marry someone who is also non-religious. It avoids a lot of unpleasantness.

    • primenumbers

      Yup.

    • Sergio Castro

      Would the down-voters please explain?
      I can’t imagine being in a relationship with someone who believed something that I found offensive, ridiculous, and hypocritical. There is no way I could “respect” that person.

      • pansies4me

        I didn’t down vote anything, but I think you might be able to be in a relationship with a believer who wasn’t *religious*. I’m thinking the None types who are as secular as any atheist, but have a belief in some sort of god. You don’t really know what a particular person thinks about god or religion unless you ask them. I dated a born-again Christian many years ago, and that was doomed to failure, let me tell you. I’m very happily married to an extremely secular, nebulous god-belief, hates organized religion type person. It’s not for everyone, but I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

    • ReadsInTrees

      I’m an atheist who isn’t married to someone that’s non-religious. I’d say he is not religious, but somehow that sounds different than non-religious. He’s not specifically against religion, and would not call himself an atheist, agnostic, or non-believer……but he isn’t religious either. He just doesn’t really think about it enough to be anything.

  • Lurker111

    “Dale McGowan Announces That His Next Book Will Focus on Religious/Non-Religious Marriages”

    In other words, Hell.

  • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

    “can you have mutual respect for each other’s beliefs?”

    Well, my answer is a resounding no. But I can respect a person without respecting their beliefs. It’s just a matter of whether they can accept that or if they’ll take it personally.

    • meekinheritance

      Respect? Probably not. Love? Definitely yes.

    • ruth

      Can you? For example, if a person thinks homosexuality is a sin and that gays are going to hell can you still respect them? Can you respect people that have a nasty view of the value of someone else? I know you can’t respect their beliefs but beliefs are part of the entire person and really can’t be separated. It is like saying hate the sin, love the sinner.

      • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

        I said nothing about respecting bigotry and hate toward other people. I have many colleagues who are pro-gay, pro-abortion, etc. but religious in a warm and fuzzy “God is love and if you’re a good person you’ll go to heaven” sort of way. These are highly intelligent people, and excellent physicians. I can respect them, their skills, their knowledge, and their goodness as a person without respecting their beliefs in a higher power, heaven, kosher foods, etc.

        I imagine if I loved someone, it would be similar. I could overlook how silly I thought their notions about the big guy upstairs are if there was a solid foundation of respect and trust in other areas. Admittedly, I’ve got it easy, as I married another atheist.

      • CJ

        I see where you’re coming from, but I think you can still respect them if you understand why they still believe these things. It’s easy for us to label these people (the religious) as idiots, or call them dumb, and or bigots, and in some cases maybe they are. But I like to think of them as just not having opened their mind up to knowledge yet, or opened their mind up to being skeptical about God at all.

  • gg

    I have a son in a religious/atheist marriage. It’s working so far, more difficult now with children involved. I point out that my parents were in a similar marriage and it is more common than they think. I DIDN’T tell her most of the children in the marriages I referenced turned out to be atheists..

  • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

    That’s excellent. I’m in such a marriage (although it wasn’t that way when we got married; I deconverted a year ago), and I’ve been looking for good information or even discussion of what it’s like in such a relationship (at least, more discussion than “It’ll end badly”). I’m looking forward to what Dale comes out with.

    • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

      I’m interested to hear the differences when people go into the marriage already knowing that beliefs differ vs. one of the persons deconverting while in the marriage. I hope both topics are covered.

  • Helanna

    I’ve always been kind of curious about these marriages. Honestly I don’t think I could marry somebody who was very religious – their worldview is just so different I can hardly imagine life through their eyes. Still, I’ve heard quite a few success stories, so apparently it just depends on the couple.

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    My husband is a Christian and I knew that when I married him. I was a never-believing Catholic. We’ve been together nearly 10 years (married for 6 of the 10). It can work. Maybe not for everyone. It probably helps that my husband is a skeptic on just about every other topic. I was into woo-woo when I married him and took on some of his skepticism. He’s also a strong proponent of a secular government. I’m excited to read this book.

    I’m kind of sick of people giving an authoritative “NO” on this topic when I’m sitting here in one of these relationships and happy as a clam. Shit… David Silverman’s wife is a believer and so is Todd Steifel’s. I think Tracie Harris of the Atheist Experience has said her husband is also a believer. Any of the ups and downs I’ve experienced with my husband have had NOTHING to do with religion. That’s not to say your mileage may vary, but how can you say NO when I’m here proving otherwise?

    • ruth

      The answer is it depends on the beliefs each of you have. If you agree on values and have similar world views except for the god thing, I can see how it could work.

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    “can you have mutual respect for each other’s beliefs?”

    What use is respect for eachother’s beliefs if you respect and even love eachother?

  • pansies4me

    Count me as a “mixed marriage” adherent who is extremely happy. My husband is a classic None. He was raised Christian, as was I, and he may even be inclined to tell someone that’s what he is, but he considers religion/faith to be such a completely personal thing that he wants nothing to do with organized religion. It creeps him out when his family members get all Jesusy. My in-laws found out rather by accident that I’m an atheist, and they aren’t that keen on it. They accept and love me, but they certainly don’t love that particular aspect of me. We have a son who is being raised without religion, which really bugs my FIL. He very recently lamented to my husband on the phone that “we’ve lost you to the Democratic Party and atheism”. LOL. My husband’s response? “First of all dad, I’m not an atheist, and second of all, what’s wrong with atheism?!”

    Do I think he’s mistaken about how he makes sense of the world? Yes. His beliefs about god don’t bother me because he doesn’t expect me to share them in order to love me, and the reverse is true. We agree that our son is free to choose his own path, as well. If anything, my husband gets very annoyed with his dad for trying to tell us we need to take him to church. In my particular marriage it really boils down to the fact that my husband is as secular as I am in every visible way. His thoughts about god are personal, and he has every right to them, just as I do. It’s a complete non-issue between the two of us. The only conflict is us against the in-laws, and that is even very minor compared to other stories I’ve heard.

  • anon

    Well, it took 30 years but my mixed marriage fell apart based on religious views. My spouse got ill and became extremely religious and tried to force his views on me and accuse me of disrespect when I simply disagreed with his views. He would yell and scream at me and tell me how horrible I was and dogmatic for not believing in god. At a point I realized that I no longer cared for this person and the disagreement did turn into disrespect. And we split. It totally fucked up my life and still does. It would have been easier if he had died. And frankly, I wouldn’t care much if he had. That is how bad it got. We both end up looking like jerks.

    • baal

      I know I’m just a random person on the internet but I’m sorry that happened and wish his church didn’t enable him to be that way.

  • ReadsInTrees

    I married a believer, sort of. If asked, my husband would probably say that he is a Christian, but just because it’s the default in this country. I did sit him down once to ask specific questions about what he believes or doesn’t believe, just so I knew how to “define” his beliefs when others ask about our mixed marriage…of when we have kids someday, so I know how to say, “Well Mommy believes this, and Daddy believes THIS, but you can believe whatever you want…” From what I can gather, he’s really more of an agnostic deist…ish. He thinks there’s SOMEthing, but not your usual image of a big bearded guy. He would like to think there is an afterlife, but he hasn’t really put a lot of thought into it. For someone who has put a LOT of thought into ALL aspects of religion, I find is slightly baffling to just get, “I don’t really know” or “I hadn’t thought about it”. Still, an atheist and a hadn’t-really-thought-about-it agnostic cultural-Christian is better than an atheist and an evangelical.

    • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

      Are we the same person?

      • ReadsInTrees

        *checks self* This would be a really weird time to find out that I have an alternate personality that came out without my knowledge.

    • ReadsInTrees

      Whoa! I spoke too soon! Literally, just yesterday (the day after I posted above), my husband came home a little unhappy because his mom confronted him unexpectedly about me being an atheist. She said that the atheist group (Atheists of Maine) that I’m part of is a cult that wants to make everything think the way we do. She is worried that I’m going to make my husband be an atheist, that the rest of the family “is not going to handle this very well”, and that our kids won’t go to Sunday school and I’m going to make them atheists too. Sooo…..my nonchalance above concerning my MIL’s opinions on me being an atheist was a little premature. I guess she cares after all. My husband was upset because he didn’t really know what to tell her because he doesn’t like talking about religious stuff to begin with. I asked if he’d like me to talk to her, and he said yes. So, this should be interesting. I’ll have to explain that she’s known me his long, and knows I’m a good person, so finding out that I’m an atheist shouldn’t change that. My husband’s beliefs are up to him, and I’m not goin to make him think what I think. Our future children will get a good, solid religious education (possibly through a local UU church) and they can decide for themselves what they want tp believe. Ironically, I’ve been trying to convince my husband to go with me to a local UU church because I know he’s been struggling a little bit lately with spirituality after a couple of friends/coworkers have passed away from cancer. I thought maybe a non-denominational church that explains spirituality in a variety of different ways might be a good way for him to form his views on the subject. Soooo…out of any of us in my husband’s immediate family, I’m the only one trying to get him to visit a church.


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