Can Atheists Marry Christians… and Make It Last?

Christianity Today asked a panel of experts whether interfaith marriage was ever okay, especially given the Biblical dictate about not being “unequally yoked.”

For the most part, the panel accepted interfaith marriages as a natural consequence of our society, but they had some limitations.

Here’s discredited sociologist Mark Regnerus:

… I will, of course, prefer that my children marry fellow Catholics, but the distance between some traditions is further than between others.

What I don’t recommend is a marriage to an unbelieving spouse, to one who professes an altogether different religion, or to an obstructionist who systematically places barriers in the way of your Christian development.

Shun the non-believers. Shuuuuuuuuun.

A strike against the atheists, who want nothing more than to suppress God!

Then we have Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:

Marriage is not a merely social or biological construct, but an icon of the union between Christ and the church. Both husband and wife are held accountable to the community for the marriage itself.

But in a marriage of a believer to an unbeliever, the church has authority and discipling capacity over only one party. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit and the reign of Christ through his Word, only one party is able to live out explicitly the picture of the gospel embedded in the marriage.

I guess that means the other party wants to booze up and become violent? I’m not sure where Moore’s going with that, but his disdain for non-Christians comes out very clearly.

Finally, there’s Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of ‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America, who at least has some statistics to back up what she says:

When I looked at the religious tradition of [survey] respondents, I found that the biggest gap in marital satisfaction was for evangelicals married to nonevangelicals. About 30 percent of evangelical Christians are married to someone of another faith. Roughly one third of all evangelicals’ marriages end in divorce, and that climbs to nearly half for marriages between evangelicals and nonevangelicals.

Religion informs how we spend our time, how we spend our money, where we decide to live, and how we raise our children. Disagreements over such issues can lead to unhappiness and divorce.

This is key. It’s not so much about religious beliefs as it is about the values the couple reflects. I suspect Riley would’ve encountered the same results if she surveyed passionate Republicans married to passionate Democrats. For people who don’t really care much about politics, those labels may not mean much, but those who value Republican ideals will inevitably butt heads with those who don’t. Same with religion. A serious evangelical Christian’s going to have a tough time being married to a hard-core atheist (and vice versa).

Or so it seems.

Just to offer a rebuttal to what everyone else was saying, I asked my Christian friend Alise Wright (who’s written about her atheist husband before) what her thoughts were and, as usual, she phrased things beautifully:

While our situation is different in that my husband and I shared a faith when we first married, and that changed 13 years into our marriage, I believe that Christian prohibitions against being “unequally yoked” can add to the burden that is placed on interfaith marriages.

There will be difficulties in any relationship. Difference of opinions about how you load the dishwasher or how clean “clean” really is. You’ll have arguments about politics or how you spend money. Through all of those situations, couples are rightly encouraged to find common ground and love one another beyond their differences. Yet when it comes to differences of faith, we immediately advise against it, rather than helping couples find ways to work through those differences as well.

Due to our differences in faith, my husband and I have had to work on our ability to communicate a bit more. It requires us to find the areas where our common ethos meet and build on that. It requires us to be more generous and more forgiving with one another because we are determined not to be another statistic in the broken marriage category.

Interfaith marriages are happening. Rather than simply saying, “Don’t do that,” the Church needs to look for ways to encourage couples who are in these marriages instead of leaving them to their own devices. If we truly want to recognize marriage as something beautiful and sacred, then we need to provide tools to help those who have married someone outside of the Christian faith find that in their spouse and in their marriage.

I can’t add anything to that — she’s absolutely right. As with all marriages, you have to work through your differences. Religion is a big one, no doubt, but it, too, can be overcome.

(image via Shutterstock)

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.

  • The Other Weirdo

    I was never able to make my relationships with religious women(or women with religious parents) work. As a NonKnowistWhatTheHellIBelieve at the time–I had not yet applied the atheist label to myself–I found that I was the one expected to make all the compromises. After a half dozen of those, I suddenly realized that accommodation was never going to work–they kept demanding more and more–and walked away. I’ve tried several times, with different women, and it was always the same song and dance.

    • Mario Strada

      Yup, that’s pretty normal. Fortunately, my wife has always been a bit of an apatheist, but when we got married and her family offered to host the ceremony, I was adamant that I would only agree if it was a secular ceremony.
      They answered that it was going to take place in their garden and I foolishly assumed that it was good enough.

      I was wrong. Unfortunately, I was also 2000 miles away and pretty much stuck.
      But that was the last compromise I made to accommodate religious rituals in my life. The only other time was last Christmas when my stepmother in law, from the philippines, asked us to go to church as a family. At that time I felt that this lady had been so generous and selfless toward us that fulfilling her request was the least I could do.

      • Silent Service

        I used to go to church to make my wife happy twice a year. Christmas service and Easter service. That ended about the time our son desided that he wasn’t going to go to church anymore. He was 8. Mom wasn’t happy at the time but she has gotten over it since then and is much happier sleeping in now.

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m just struck by this:

    Roughly one third of all evangelicals’ marriages end in divorce

    So one third of people who think gay couples marrying will destroy the institute of marriage already can’t manage not to destroy their own marriages or follow the Biblical commandments on marriage…

    • Mike

      I’m more struck at how its only a third (of all evangelicals, which are like ~30% of the U.S. population). I think the average percentage of marriages that end in divorce is around 43% so that’s saying something positive about the evangelical community (or maybe not positive–lets just say they have a lower rate of marriages that end in divorce than the general population).

      The implication is that the average marriage outside of evangelicals has a considerably higher chance of resulting in a divorce in order to bring up a 10 point difference in the national average.

      In that sense, they have a point. If all you’re looking for in marriage is stability (really the only thing this “divorce rate” shows) than being an evangelical married to another evangelical is a statistically more likely way to succeed.

      If, in fact, the 1/3 stat is correct and with the usual hand waving of this is clearly situational. Of course.

      • baal

        “is a statistically more likely way to succeed.”
        They have above average pressure to not divorce. That makes me question whether or not saying married is a success for the evangelicals.

      • Gus Snarp

        Yeah, I wasn’t really thinking about the average population divorce rate. You make a fair point. On the other hand, for a group that makes that big a deal about marriage, you’d think that a third would still count as a massive failure. Yes, statistically we can say they’re doing better than average, but would they willingly compare themselves to average, or would they expect a higher standard?

      • doug105

        Divorce and remarriage
        U.S. divorce rates for various faith
        groups, age groups, & geographic areas

        http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm

        Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significantly higher than for other faith groups, and much higher than Atheists and Agnosticsexperience.

        So ya not so much.

    • Beth

      My husband and I have to do premarriage counseling with my pastor (at the time). This pastor told us flat out the the divorce rate for Christians is the same for non-christians. He gave a really creepy wood cross that says: marriage takes three
      I guess it means Jesus is watching…pervert!

      • Tainda

        I just got an image of Jesus being ceiling cat…

  • Rain

    What was that old saying about “lies, damn statistics, damn lying statistics, and damn you you damn lying statistics”. I forget who was the one who said that.

  • eric

    It requires us to find the areas where our common ethos meet and build on that.

    This. Speaking from experience, do not try to come to agreement on the existence of God with your spouse. Come to agreement on things like “we want our kid to have a sound, mainstream, science education.” “We won’t lie to our kids about what each of us believe is important.” “Violence is bad.” “Charitable giving will be around X dollars, and we agree to give to these charities or split it evenly between your choices and mine.”
    Come to agreement on the practical, day-to-day issues first. Then, if you really feel like it, you can argue theology in your free time.

  • kaellinn18

    “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:12-14

    “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14

    But we all know the Bible has no contradictions.

    I was born and raised a Christian and was very devout until a few years ago. I left the faith after some serious reading and reflection, coming to the conclusion that it was all BS. My wife still believes, but she’s more of a Universalist now. We’ve been married over ten years and are very happy together.

    • Blacksheep

      I don’t see it as a contradiction. I see it as advice, the first being practical advice, and the second being more of bottom line rule to avoid complications in a marriage. The second is good advice if one is still single (I’ve seen so may more relaxed, happy, and stress free relationships built of like-minded individuals), The first is helpful to people who find themselves with someone who is not like-minded.

      • Olive Markus

        The perfect example of Doublethink in action, folks!

        If that’s the case, then I see:

        Leviticus 18:22 Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

        as merely advice, as well. If you aren’t at all sexually attracted to men, then don’t lie with a man as you would prefer to lie with a woman. That would, indeed, be detestable.

        I can play this game, too.

  • Tainda

    I think I have mentioned this before but…

    I refuse to date religious people with the exceptions of Wiccan and Buddhists, no idea why lol

    I was married to a “Christian” (in quotes because he never went to church) man and that was when I was a closeted atheist. There is no way I would be able to be married to someone, and be totally happy, who believed in a god.

    I also don’t agree with marriage of any sort but that’s a different matter entirely :)

    • Agni Ashwin

      Would you be able to marry someone who believed in a goddess?

      • Tainda

        I wouldn’t be able to marry anyone because I don’t like marriage :)

        But if you’re referencing the Wiccan thing, I honestly have no idea why I can deal with that. Maybe it’s because they aren’t shoving it down your throat and are pretty easy going. At least all the ones I know.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I have a question for Alise, if she is reading this…do you believe the part of your theology that says there are ramifications for worshiping no God or the wrong God? To put it more bluntly, do you think that your husband’s existence is earning him an eternity of unimaginable torture beside your eternity of bliss?

    I always think that if I were a Christian married to an atheist, that would really like weigh on me.

    • Agni Ashwin

      “Before I was close to someone who had no beliefs about an afterlife, I never really gave it much thought outside of “believers go to heaven, unbelievers go to hell.” In the past two and a half years, I have read considerably more about hell than I did in the previous 30-something years. I still haven’t completely settled on what I believe about the afterlife, but I no longer accept that things are as black and white as I’ve always been taught. I’m far more hopeful now, not just for me, but for everyone that I meet.”

      http://alise-write.com/things-that-have-gone-missing-because-my-husband-is-an-atheist/

      • Art_Vandelay

        Yeah, that’s pretty much where my wife is. Though technically a baptist, she’s really just in some sort of ambiguous “I like to think there’s something bigger than me” type of thing.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      As Agni shared, I hadn’t given it much thought before my husband’s deconversion. And since I wrote that, I would say that I’m much further along on the path to Univeralism than I was. I’ve definitely abandoned hell. I MIGHT believe in annihilation, but since that’s pretty much what my husband expects anyway, I figure that works out for all of us. ;)

  • Miss_Beara

    I had friends who didn’t want anything to do with me, one after saying how great God is and how I should believe like her, after they learned that I was an atheist. That really hurt. If you can find an understanding boy/girlfriend or friends, that is great, I am sure there are a lot of them out there.

    • Tainda

      I’ve been told the same thing. I told my “friend” that I would be better off without them if they think that way. Still hurts though

  • Rodney Chlebek

    I know an atheist and a pastor that are together.

  • RobMcCune

    Both husband and wife are held accountable to the community for the marriage itself.

    So much for marriage being between one man and one woman.

    • smrnda

      No the church has to come between you and anybody else. I noticed that a way some churches handle marriage is all the men are in one group, and a man tells them how marriage works. The women get their own group, but they might be told how marriage works by a woman, but often a man.

      If your marriage isn’t working, you ask the preacher what to do and then you get ‘discipleship.’

  • dcl3500

    Well I guess my wife and I buck the trends, she was a religious person and a Republican too, whilst I am an Atheist and a Democrat and so far we have lasted close to 25 years of being married, in the meantime, politics aside, we have watched the devoutly married marriages crumble time and time again amongst our circles.

    In the interest of disclosure, she has since become if not Atheist, Agnostic, the events at Sandyhook last December put her over the edge on this, but I had seen it building for years, and I honestly can say it was never any pressure from me to make her see it my way. It was just the world and the way it is.

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      Awesome! I’m in a nearly identical situation, though we are just 6 years along and going strong. I doubt she’d ever become an agnostic, but I’ll bet you thought the same thing 20 years ago about your wife.

      • dcl3500

        Honestly, it really never has been an issue for us or a concern for me. We loved each other and that was the only concern. We did get married in a church, and I always thought that was for the benefit of my Mother and our Grandmothers, but she did admit a few years ago that it was for her too, so back then, perhaps it did matter a little more to her than she let on.

        Anyways, cheers to your 6 years so far and nice to see it can work out for others too! :)

    • Baby_Raptor

      I can do Christian, but I can;t do Republican. No thanks.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    With discussion of marriage and associated problems, I always find myself wishing the conversation included language explicitly referencing and separating religious marriage from legal marriage. I may be wrong, but I think the increased perspective would help resolve some of the same-old issues.

    • Frog_in_a_Blender

      A very good point. Imagine how much easier the whole same sex marriage issue could be solved if the government had never gotten into the marriage business. All ‘marriages” should be conducted by churches and, from the states point of view, all these relationships should be defined as civil unions. No more talk about the “sanctity of marriage.” Problem solved.

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        I’m right there with you. And even with the current situation, the specificity of legal marriage, contrasted with religious marriage, would surely highlight the irrelevance of religious dictates for anyone not marrying for religious reasons.

      • Silent Service

        I think you overestimate the reasonableness of the fundamentalists. If marriage was only a church ceremony and all marriages were civil unions for government rights and privileges the fundies would be screaming that allowing gays to have civil unions would force clergy to perform marriage ceremonies for them. It would be the same arguments with only minor language changes. The reason is that the fundamentalist attitude is that people must live by God’s Law or society is going to hell. It doesn’t matter what you call it. They want to be able to punish you for your sins and government recognition prevents them from doing so. They honestly believe that the story of Sodom and Gomorra was about a promiscuous and perverted people being punished by God for their sexual transgression; and they are terrified that failing to stop it from happening here will bring about God’s wrath down on us all. But mostly on them for failing to stop it.

        There is actually a layer of compassion in their bile and hatred. They honestly believe that we are all going to burn in Hell if we don’t change; and they want to save us from the horrible fate that they imagine Hell to be. They really do believe that their hated and bile are a greater love. They really do believe that heaping enough scorn onto us will convince us that Gawd is real and to repent to Jebus.

        • Stev84

          Yeah, the whole “We’ll accept Civil Unions” thing is a huge lie. They don’t. In every state that either had domestic partnerships or civil unions, they’ve fought just as hard against those as against marriage.

      • Stev84

        Wrong. It’s churches that need to get out of the legal aspects of marriage. Just like in civil law countries. No more clergy performing legally valid weddings and acting as notaries for secular legal documents. People get married at city hall and can then have an optional religious wedding. But the two need to be kept distinct. This whole marriage license thing just confuses people.

        Also historically, marriage simple doesn’t belong to the churches. They didn’t get involved in it until the middle ages. Ironically, early Protestant leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin saw marriage as a worldly matter and wanted the churches to stay away from it. That’s why it was Protestant regions that first introduced some form of civil marriage or civil registry. Even the theocratic Puritans saw it that way when they settled in America.

        • Machintelligence

          Government involvement in marriage in the USA is a fairly recent development. It was largely in response to the polygamy of the Mormons and the possibility of inter-racial marriage after the civil war Most laws only date back to 1862 or later.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    And there’s David Silverman who is married to a theistic Jew who fully supports his hardline atheist advocacy.

  • Frog_in_a_Blender

    Why would an atheist want to get married? As far as I am aware, marriage is an archaic religious institution which we should really have little use for in the 21st century. Women are no longer thought of as the property of their husbands — at least outside of fundamentalist religious communities. There are many, many kids being raised by unmarried, or single parents and the vast majority of them turn out just fine. I can’t begin to count the number of long and happy relationships I’ve seen fall apart within a short time after a wedding. I really think it’s time to evolve beyond some of these old traditions. Especially the ones that create more problems than they solve.

    • Carol Lynn

      Wha….? And miss out on all those tax breaks and other nice legal touches like being able to visit in the hospital and inherit and get spouse benefits?

    • Katatonic

      In the US, married people enjoy benefits that the single and non-legally-partnered do not, from tax advantages to social security to the rights to make decisions in health/life/death/medical situations. Until that changes, marriage will persist. Fortunately, some states are making progress for their LGBT residents, including my home state Washington.

    • BrandonUB

      Why would an atheist want to get married?

      This strikes me as such a stupid question that it seems implausible that you’ve actually considered it seriously.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      In the case of my wife and me it was the only practical way we could live in the same country.

    • baal

      I wanted to be able to sleep in the same bed as my wife in either of our parents house when we visit?

    • Anna

      I think Europe is moving that way, but in the U.S. getting married is still considered a sign of maturity and respectability, especially for the upper-middle class. It’s not just about legal benefits (although those are important); marriage also tends to make friends, family members, and the general public see you as a serious and permanent couple.

      That said, I share some of your objections. One of the main reasons I haven’t gotten married is because I really dislike those connotations. It’s the presumption of permanence and respectability that bothers me. I don’t think being married is better than not being married, and I hate the implication that marriage makes you a stronger couple, since I don’t believe that’s the case.

      • Tainda

        My thoughts exactly. I get so sick of the looks I get when I say I’m single. Especially hate when they try to set me up like it’s horrible that I don’t have a man and they must help me be “whole” lol

        • Anna

          Totally agree. This was a consciousness-raising book for me:

          http://www.amazon.com/Singled-Out-Singles-Stereotyped-Stigmatized/dp/0312340826

          Even though I’m in a long-term relationship, everything the author talks about resonated for me. How society treats couples has always made me a bit uneasy, and she really gets to the root of it all.

          • Tainda

            I may have to get that

        • CraftLass

          I get those looks too and I’ve been in a solid relationship for 17 years! We don’t have any desire to marry, especially as I’m against the whole concept. Even in countries where a wife is not legally property, the pressure on a woman to marry makes many rush into it, or devote time better spent doing other things into the hunt for a husband, and even marry the wrong person just to hit some societal milestone. Sure, I’d like the perks on some level, logically, but its hard to justify doing something you don’t believe in just to save money.

          Being utterly single has some massive advantages, too, so this pressure just to be coupled up is ridiculous. Far better to be happy alone than with the wrong person.

          • Tainda

            “Far better to be happy alone than with the wrong person”

            I say that ALL the time. I make plenty of money on my own and I’m confident enough in myself to not need someone around 24/7. My best relationships have been “weekend warriors” (spend the weekends together and then each go to their own home!) and that’s the way I prefer it.

            • CraftLass

              You know? That sounds lovely. My relationship was like that for about a decade before we took the plunge of living together. That kind of relationship tends to involve way more quality time than more traditional ones… :-)

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    They lost the battle on the “only white christians can be married” rule.
    They lost the battle on the “only heterosexuals can be married” rule.
    Now their attention is focused the “only christians can marry christians” rule.
    I can’t imagine what it will be next.

  • Ryan Hite

    It works rarely and it is probably not a good idea to start. The best way would to be if it works before committing to marriage.

  • ajginn

    Without the indwelling Holy Spirit and the reign of Christ through his Word, only one party is able to live out explicitly the picture of the gospel embedded in the marriage.

    What he means by this is the picture of marriage given by Paul in Ephesians 5 which compares a marriage between man and wife as a picture of the relationship of Jesus to the church. Just as Jesus dies for the church so should a husband be willing to sacrifice for his wife. Also, wives should submit to their husbands’ authori-tay just like the church submits to Jesus. It fits perfectly with their twisted views of women.

    Also, note the nod to being under the authority of a church. Moore, like most of the neo-Calvinists, is big on being a dictator over the lives of the people in his church. These guys think that the church should handle criminal matters inside the church without being subjected to legal authorities. He’s a narcissistic control freak.

  • ajginn

    My wife and I have been married going on twenty years now. We were both strong believers at the time (although for years I had been pushing my doubts down). Five years into our marriage I finally told her I didn’t believe in god. It was devestating to her and I said I would continue working through it. For the next twelve years or so I played the part and half convinced myself that evangelical christianity was the truth. It created a ton of cognitive dissonance in my life but I was happy overall because I love my wife and kids.

    In the past two years circumstances caused us to leave our church, resulted in her becoming disillusioned with christianity and me being free to come out to her as an atheist. She still clings to a modicum of belief but I think that will fade over time. It’s hard to completely abandon nearly 40 years of belief overnight. Regardless, our devotion to one another has never faded or waned. We love and are committed to one another for life. Our marriage has never been better.

    Religion is poison.

    • Keyra

      True, religion is poison, but Jesus is the antidote

      • MrRoivas

        Right. Because Christianity isn’t a religion.

        Sell your Brooklyn Bridge elsewhere.

      • Dave

        How much Jesus is required to cure someone of religion poisoning? Asking for a friend.

      • Jasper

        And reason is the antidote for the antidote

      • Baby_Raptor

        Jesus is the cause.

        Do yourself and us a favor and just stop coming to this blog now. Nobody here wants to hear your preaching. Have some respect for someone other than yourself and score your points elsewhere.

      • Kodie

        You have an imaginary friend.

      • http://www.facebook.com/tuibguy Mike Haubrich

        I hear this a lot, that relationship with Jesus is not religion, but where does that relationship come from if not religion. There is no question that believing that you have a personal connection to a deity (self-son) is a religious precept and to pretend otherwise to be disingenuous to both yourself and to those who you tell it to.

      • Tainda

        The only prescription is more cowbell

      • Blacksheep

        Amen.

      • ajginn

        Nonsense. Jesus, if he ever existed, died over 2000 years ago. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus stated that the generation in which he lived would see his return. Clearly he was a false prophet.

      • Omega

        Jesus is myth and his creators were patriarchal pieces of shit.

      • Alconnolly

        Ah yes the homeopathy route of religion. A tiny bit of the poison will cure you!

  • BrandonUB

    Well, just as a matter of basic fact, it’s obvious that believers marry non-believers and it works some of the time.

    For me though? No, I’m pretty confident that I have no interest in that at all. I had a long relationship with an Evangelical, and it was sufficient to convince me that I’m simply not compatible with deeply religious people. I don’t know how well I’d do with someone that’s a bit squishier about their religion, but I suspect it still wouldn’t go very well. The part where most people in my profession and general education level aren’t very religious anyway makes this pretty easy to pull off, as far as meeting other non-religious folks.

  • BobaFuct

    So did Solomon attend church with all 700 of his wives?

    • Silent Service

      Well, he did build a massive temple.

  • Olive Markus

    “But in a marriage of a believer to an unbeliever, the church has authority and discipling capacity over only one party.”

    Did anyone else find that this reads as extremely creepy and almost abusive?

    • Art_Vandelay

      I originally read it as “disciplining” capacity which seemed worse. What the hell is discipling capacity?

      • Olive Markus

        I did at first, too. I was outraged that the “disciplining” wasn’t discussed more in the original post, so when I re-read it, I realized it was “discipling.” However, even if it isn’t overt or possibly even what he meant, it still has the same controlling and threatening tone.

        • Art_Vandelay

          I looked it up and came to the conclusion that we shouldn’t even give them the benefit of the doubt here. “Discipling” isn’t even a proper verb. I think it’s just a typo and they meant “disciplining.” So yeah…still terrible.

          • Olive Markus

            More terrible, if that is the case. :

    • BobaFuct

      The whole religion is creepy and abusive, so to me it just read like everything else….

    • Silent Service

      Yep, I saw that too.

    • ajginn

      These guys are HUGE on having authority over their lay members. They also believe that criminal activity should largely be handled in-house without legal authorities becoming involved.

      Spousal abuse? The church can handle it, We’ll have the elders talk and pray with the husband. Also, you probably didn’t submit to the god-given authority of your husband.

      Child molestation? We’ll have the offender confess to a body of elders and pray with him. Also, we will have the child he molested meet with his molester so that the molester can ask for forgiveness.

      They’re 21st century Puritans through and through and they wear that badge with honor.

    • smrnda

      I did. It seems like the church is pissed off that it can only piss and shit on one person and not their spouse. I think the fear is that the non-religious spouse will resent their desire to micromanage and control the marriage.

      From my experience being around Christians, churches sometimes expect people to be open books when it comes to their marriages – pastors ask couples questions that I’d consider incredibly rude and intrusive.

      • Olive Markus

        I agree. Growing up in the Catholic Church, it was expected that I was to confess any sexual thought or behavior I had to my priest – not details, but that they existed and how grave I considered them to be; according to my CCD teacher, anyway. I don’t know exactly how much I was supposed to tell, because I never said a word about it. I’m sorry, but no. A preteen or teen girl should in no way have to tell her priest about her “impure” thoughts. In the same vein, nobody should be required to talk about their marriage to Church leaders. Willingness to talk is another story, I suppose :).

        • smrnda

          Another problem is that churches are full of people who think they’re the equivalent of licensed counselors. They’re keen on extracting information from you so they can pull out their latest BS theory.

          I don’t have kids, but if someone was asking my kids that question, I’d probably call the cops. People should ask themselves how creepy it is for an adult to be asking a young teenager that in the first place.

          I knew an ex mormon guy who told me they were demanding to know how often he’d masturbated and how long he’d been doing it each time. That struck me as adults being disturbingly interested in underage teenagers’ sexual habits.

          • Olive Markus

            I totally agree with you there. It is beyond disturbing that this is even allowed, let alone expected.

        • baal

          “it was expected that I was to confess any sexual thought or behavior I had to my priest” ..”A preteen or teen girl should in no way have to tell her priest about her “impure” thoughts.”

          It wouldn’t shock me to find out there is a double standard but I was dragged to at least 16 different RCC churches as a boy (child / teen) and they never mentioned anything sex related to me once. Also, more than a little creepy.

          • Olive Markus

            I had a CCD teacher spend the entire year talking about sex. Some of it was actually very good and helpful advice, and he himself wasn’t at all creepy. I think he was trying to prevent his daughter (also in this class) from having premarital sex. Ironically, all three of his daughters were pregnant before they graduated high school.

            But he emphasize that we needed to keep control of sexual thoughts and it was something we needed to bring forward in confession.

            I do believe that we are taught was boils down to individual opinion, particularly as children. Like I said, I never mentioned anything of the sort in confession, so I have no idea what the priest would have really wanted to hear. The priest we had for the longest time – 8 years, I think – was pretty obsessed with talking about the evils of premarital sex, most likely because we lived in a pretty backwards (conservative and religious) place where teen pregnancy was extremely common.

        • FlightedChemist

          It took me until I was 21 to figure out how screwed up that was. Confessing masturbation face to face with a 42 year old man when I had told literally NO one was bad enough- but imagine the shame when he told me that I had essentially lost my virginity. For a young woman who up until that point had been putting all of her energy into “saving herself for holy marriage” that was quite a blow. But the church likes it when their believers feel like proper sinners, so I suppose that should have been a point in their court. Too bad that one back-fired pretty spectacularly.

          • Olive Markus

            I’m so sorry you were pressured into doing that :(. It is so shameful!! The losing virginity thing? Terrible to play mind games like that. Virginity is to me, now, arbitrary, but when I was young, it was such an important concept. I can only imagine how that must have felt to you.

            I was so brainwashed that I didn’t even attempt masturbation until I was 20-ish.

            • FlightedChemist

              It was probably the beginning of the end of my track with religion- I’d been doing my own research on masturbation around the time I had the confession and the discrepancies between what the medical/scientific and what the religious communities had to say about it were astounding. I found that the more I learned, the harder I found to ignore good, sound research and reason.

              Luckily, virginity has also become something of a backwards social concept in my mind as well. It’s a state of being, sure, but one can’t extrapolate character or value from it. But somewhat related to the topic of the original post, I can see where issues surrounding sex could be tricky to navigate for inter-belief couples unless the religious party happened to be particularly liberal in that manner. There’s an inherent darkness around sex for Catholics, unless you’re doing it the church approved way, in which case it’s lily white. It’s tough to forge a normal, adult relationship with a non-believer who doesn’t have the same hang-ups.

              My lover is a not-very-vocal atheist-leaning agnostic who has deep respect for the religious but likes to sleep in on Sunday mornings and doesn’t ascribe to the nonsense rules. When I began my relationship with him I was “Catholic”, following the rules for the rules sake and because I had never explored the possibility of there being any other way. My family found out and warned me that I would end up being “dragged down” by him- that I would lose my faith.

              Two years later, their warnings have proven true. I would offer that advice to anyone embarking upon an inter-belief relationship. I had already embarked on my journey of deconversion, and looking at life through the eyes of someone I loved and trusted who also happened to deny God’s existence helped me along the way. He’s fine and a far better adjusted adult than I am- I realized I could have that too.

              For the religious person who isn’t ready to examine what it might be like on the other side, however, I think the relationship would be much more turbulent and possibly even traumatic. Perhaps if a person is so comfortable in their chosen faith that they have no doubts it would be fine- but I personally know NO person of faith who doesn’t second guess religion at least a quarter of the time, and it wouldn’t be fun to navigate life with someone who was constantly (and completely unknowingly) poking at the doubts with their very existence, especially when the religious party isn’t ready to face them.

  • Silent Service

    As someone who was a non-believer when I married a believer I can honestly say that it doesn’t work well. After only 10 years she lost her faith as we raised a son together. Surprisingly there were no fights and no great battles over faith and over church. My son went to Sunday school every week with his mom and afterwards I’d ask what he learned and then we’d analyze the lessons so I could teach him critical thinking without calling anything he learned at church absurd. By the time he was 6 he had the whole Santa/God thing figured out all by his self. Shortly after that his mother had it figured out too. It did help that his first great love has always been astronomy. Creationism just isn’t as awesome as planetary astronomy.
    Kids can be wonderful teachers. I never had any intent of de-converting my wife. It just happened as we raised a smart and inquisitive son together. He would ask questions and the simple answers of creationism didn’t stand up to physics and astronomy. And life is much easier now since I don’t have to avoid discussing religion at dinner. Well, not as much. :)

  • Ian Reide

    Mostly no, and mostly no.

  • Buckley

    My ex wife and I were together for nearly 19 years (10 married) and were certainly not believers. We were both spiritual (she still is, I’m not). Our marriage falling apart had nothing to do with the way we thought about beliefs…right up to the point where I nearly died and then my slow recovery was because I “didn’t believe in a higher power…I’m too negative.” Negative, yes (nearly dying will do that to a person when they are recovering) the other I could care less…Now I’m much happier with the person whom I’m with because we both don’t believe and we share a similar world view. My Ex and I were walking on parallel paths that we thought was the same path to eventually realize that we were diverging. Neither of us wanted to change our viewpoints (and no one should have to). So we went our separate ways, and are much happier for it. There was obviously much more to cause our divorce, but our belief/non-belief was an issue.

  • SeekerLancer

    Whatever works for you. It’s great to have different opinions and interests than your partner but I don’t think I could handle being with someone with a completely contradictory worldview.

  • Keyra

    Atheists getting married is awfully hypocritical (as marriage is a God-given ceremony). But I’m sure not gonna marry anyone who mocks the faith & ridicules those who do believe. Not looking forward to a marriage full of “flying spaghetti monster, pink unicorn”, “harry potter, lord of the rings”, “sky daddy, sky fairy, jewish zombie”, “your god is cruel”, arguements

    • Michael W Busch

      No. Marriage is not a “god-given ceremony”. It is a particular form of legal contract that assigns benefits and obligations to two freely-consenting adults – at least in much of the current world. In other times and places, it has been a very different social structure.

      But all of the different forms of marriage were designed by _humans_. People have gotten married since long before the Christian god was invented.

    • Pepe

      We might soon have to stop feeding this^ troll.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        She clearly isn’t returning to read anything and is only trying to stupidly poke and run away. I vote for dumping her entirely.

    • BobaFuct

      Your argument, by definition, is completely wrong. Go ahead and think about why that’s the case….I’ll wait.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Christians who get divorced are being awfully hypocritical.

    • Carmelita Spats

      So God picked up the tab for my wedding? ROFLMAO! I’ll tell my dad that
      Yahweh needs to reimburse him since marriage is a “God-given ceremony”. I thought it was “Dad given”. Last time I checked, Yahweh-the-Yahoo was a chigger infested free-loader who spent his days roaming around the Judean Desert, impregnating virgins, ordering genocides, bossing Israelites, blabbing about how “great” he is, drinking margaritas and playing poker and tossing around recent headlines,
      painting Satan’s toenails beet red, giving lousy advice that NO ONE needed or wanted in a low contralto voice, torturing animals, refusing to pay ANY child support for the kid he spawned, dumping his responsibilities on a slightly pissed off minimum wage carpenter named “Joseph”, impregnating Joseph’s fiancee so that premarital sex could be forgiven and making people swallow his ten stupid rules in tablet form. He’s a shifty one, that Yahweh.

      • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

        But that is just the Old Testament God. The New Testament God is different. He loves you while you are alive and waits till you die to cast you to Hell to be tortured for all eternity unless you stoke his ego enough and claim your worthlessness.

    • Mario Strada

      Bullshit. One can marry in church, but if it’s not recorded in your local city hall or equivalent office, it means squat when it comes to benefits, taxes and so forth. So it’s clearly a secular contract that some people like to dress with religion.
      I have been married over 20 years with my wife. It takes balls to claim my marriage is not valid because it wasn’t blessed by your church. According to the state of California and the federal government we are married just like anyone else. God given my ass.

    • Baby_Raptor

      LOL

      You *are* aware that the world existed before the Hebrews created your God, yes? Please go get a dose of reality before you come posting here again.

    • TCC

      That’s fine not to marry someone who would mock something you strongly believe, but know that not all atheists are like that. My wife and I are celebrating our tenth anniversary, and while she’s a Christian and I’m an atheist, I have no interest in mocking her belief (although she knows that I don’t have a high opinion of religion these days).

      TL,DR: Faulty generalization is faulty.

    • Kodie

      You would drive them crazy with your delusions anyway. All for the best.

    • Beth

      Not all atheists mock religion, and not all Christians hate atheists. If you are so easily offended go shut yourself back under your bridge and stop looking to be offended.

    • godlessveteran

      Troll alert.

  • Beth

    When my husband and I met, he never called himself an atheist, but he told me he has serious doubts about God and Christianity. I on the other hand had only met two atheists in my life and still didn’t understand how any one couldn’t believe in a god…any god. I taught Sunday school, I was co-chair of christian education, and Secretary of the worship committee.

    Twelve years later my husband calls himself an agnostic but does think that there is ‘something’s out there. Agnostic diest? He says he prefers the agnostic title so I take him at his word. And I am an atheist. Did I mention I am generally liberal and he is generally conservative?

    We have always approached belief systems like religion or politics with a smile and a laugh. We might disagree but we don’t take criticisms personally.

  • Loic

    I can’t even imagine being married to a religious person. There could just be no depth of trust there for me–how could I trust the person to make sound decisions? I was raised in a very religious family, whom I love. But there is a big distance, a connection gap caused by having to keep my mouth shut about how damaging and lame I think supernatural belief is. I need to be able to vent about it with my partner, LOL! And trust that my partner will think about things using critical thought and reason.

  • smrnda

    I’ll be honest, I have very very few religious friends, so no way would I try this.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    I had to go through 30 women before I found one that didn’t yell out “Oh God” during sex.

    Just kidding.

    I’ve been married to a very moderate Christian for almost 20 years now so it is possible with some give and take. She is really more of a Universalist in that she doesn’t believe in Hell – just heaven. I did end up going to church with her a few years but for most of our marriage (include the past few years) we have not. I couldn’t see being married to a fundamentalist.

  • Chris

    My wife (Catholic) and I (Atheist) have been married for 18 years. Religion is never an issue. I suppose if we were at each other’s throats trying to change one another it’d be different, but then we probably wouldn’t have married in the first place…

  • CraftLass

    Until I met my current partner I don’t think I ever dated an atheist. I’ve been with Catholics (which I was raised as, technically), a spectrum of protestant Christians, pagans, spiritual hippies, a few Reformed Jews, and even an Orthodox Jew. The only real religious issue was with the last, and that was more about his parents than him. The issue was made moot by my lack of desire for children (a big deal on many levels, as Judaism is considered to be passed on from the mother of a child). He broke up with me for not being Jewish, then spent the next year trying to reverse his choice (sorry, not a good enough, he knew my beliefs going in). It can be a real challenge but if it’s the only major difference, it doesn’t have to be that big of a deal. I have yet to meet a couple who don’t have at least one major difference…

    Since I am fascinated by religion and belief I actually found myself savoring the opportunity to get inside my partners’ heads and try to understand why they believed what they did. But I am a bit odd that way. ;-)

    OTOH, having a partner who is an atheist, was not raised in any religion, and who despises religion even more than I do is pretty refreshing. Our issue in this arena is he doesn’t understand why I read blogs like this or go to skeptic events, he thinks that we know the truth already and that’s enough. I think that one can never learn enough. He supports my choices, just doesn’t really get them.

    So, yeah, all couples have differences. It comes down to which you can live with and which you can’t, a choice that no one can make for you.

  • Noelle

    If God hadn’t wanted me to like atheists so much as a young Christian, he shouldn’t have made them so attractive.

  • Baby_Raptor

    /shrug

    I’m an Atheist and my fiance is a Christian, though admittedly he’s in a serious doubting stage. He really wants to keep his faith, however.

    We make it work. It’s actually been a good thing for the both of us; the debates are educational and improve our arguments.

  • Will Chain

    “Shun the non-believers. Shuuuuuuuuun.”
    Is that a Charlie the Unicorn reference?

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

      Yep. I’m old school.

  • Tor

    My partner’s devout Catholic mother and “agnostic” father were married for almost 60 years.

  • Omega

    Don’t stick it in crazy or let crazy stick it in you.

  • HeatherNicole

    Soo, your Christian friend is a Christian doesn’t think it’s helpful to follow the Christian prohibition against being unequally yoked . . . why does she cling to the ridiculous religion again? Because the parts that she knows are good and helpful without its help are good and helpful, and she can just toss out anything else and still call herself “Christian.” ::sigh:: I will NEVER understand this point of view! It is nonsense! The religion you are claiming says something very clear. If you disagree, then you disagree with your religion. If you know better than your religion, then YOU DON’T NEED IT and SHOULD DITCH IT!! Nothing else makes any sense!

  • Trolldrool

    My mother is a christian and my father is an atheist. They have been married for well over 20 years now.


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