Letter From an Atheist Married to a Christian

Letter From an Atheist Married to a Christian September 22, 2008

"me you" words written on torn and stapled paper on white

I get lots of questions asking about atheists marrying Christians. I have an atheist friend who is married to a Christian, so I asked him to address this issue. Here’s what he wrote:

I’m a bona fide marriage expert. Not because I have some fancy Ivy League degree hanging on my wall, nor because I’m a published marriage counselor—no, I’m a marriage expert because I’ve been married twice. I’m a big believer in the school of you-don’t-know-it-until-you’ve-done-it. Having done it twice, I now know it twice as well. Hence, marriage expert.

My first marriage was to a lovely woman of like-spirituality. We were both humanists (which is a fancy term for do-gooder atheists) of Jewish descent. That marriage failed when she realized that she didn’t love me. ME! How could she not love me? You probably don’t know me, but I am very lovable. I know this, because my second wife, an even more lovely Christian woman named Rachel, told me so. Rachel also told me that our marriage is a resounding success, and I believe her. We both have no doubt that we will be together until we die, at which point we will be separated. According to her, I will go to hell and she will go to heaven—or, in my version, we will be dead. Either way, we won’t be together anymore, and that’s sad.

But how can this marriage really be a success? Rachel is a Christian and I am a heretical Jewish humanist. How can we fully be together when we don’t share the same spirituality? How can we unleash the full potential of our marriage if we have a spiritual chasm between us? How can we possibly understand each other when we approach life so differently? What will we teach the children? For Pete’s sake, think of the children! (If anyone knows Pete, or why he cares about the children, please let me know in the comments—oh, and tell him I want back my copy of ABBA Gold.)

As tempting as it was to ignore the problem of our differences and hope it went away, Rachel and I talked about it, and decided that since we valued our marriage too much to leave it to chance, we would be proactive about addressing our differences: we’d do it the hard way. What is it about Jews and Christians that they need to suffer to feel alive? Wait a minute, maybe we aren’t so different after all! No, that’s not it. We’re different. Might as well face it. We’re really, really different.

Women and men are different. Christians and people of other faiths are different. Christians of different denominations are different. Republicans and Democrats are different. Bostonians and San Diegans are different. Mice and men are different. Even Milli and Vanilli are different—in fact, they aren’t even themselves.

I am not a woman who was born in San Jose, CA, grew up on a farm in upstate New York, matured in Washington, has six siblings, and is passionate about her family and her faith. I never will be that woman, and while I can understand her, empathize with her, feel pretty in her clothes, and love her deeply, I will never really know the depths of her experiences or the convictions of her beliefs. No one will, except God (if you’re into that sort of thing). I don’t want to be her Savior, I want to be her husband. I want to spend every day getting closer to her and knowing her more, faith and all.

Everyone has faith of some kind, even atheists (we can’t prove there is no God, we simply believe there is no God). By recognizing your own faith, even if it’s belief in mammon—or as Washington Irving called it: “The Almighty Dollar”—you can understand how essential faith is to the core of our being. Everyone has the ability to relate to the fervent wholeness of faith, and to understand how it can permeate every aspect of one’s life. You don’t have to share the same faith to know how your spouse feels about their spiritual connection. It’s the universal feelings that come from faith, even if the faiths are different, that are the foundation from which you can connect, share, learn, and grow. Your marriage won’t fail over differences; there will always be differences. It will fail if you are not honest with each other, and lack respect for one another—spiritually or otherwise.

Marriage is a partnership. Each partner brings the best and the worst parts of themselves to their marriage, and the success or failure of their union depends on how they embrace the good and the bad. In a successful marriage, two people, who are different by virtue of being people, find the common ground on which they relate to each other, and use that as a foundation. They grow toward each other by learning about and respecting their differences, and then stay together by willingly meeting each other’s needs, whether they fully understand them or not. That last part, that really hard part—that’s love.

That love is what my interfaith marriage is all about. Rachel would call that the manifestation of God’s love and grace in our marriage. I call it my profound privilege to be able to spend every day of the rest of my life growing a little bit closer to my wife.

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  • I'm in awe. You don't see this kind of mutual respect and selfless love very often.

  • Wow!….Hmmm, wow! Incredible honesty and insight! This post is a keeper!

  • Love it!

    That being said, I don't think I could be with a woman who sincerely thought I was going to Hell, if for no other reason than that would be sad for her. (At least I hope it would be sad for her.)

    Otherwise, brilliant letter.

  • I am right there with Skerrib, Kelly, AND Morse. Beautiful and sad. David and his wife are able to deal with the sad. I would suffer in that department.

  • Thanks Kelly and Skerrib for your kind words.

    morsec0de, Rachel knows that I'll be with you and my friends and family in hell, so she's not worried about me. She also says there's no sadness in heaven, so she's pretty sure that she'll be over me anyway and won't care where I am. 😉

    ric booth, Rachel and I don't feel sadness much, we are nearly always very, very happy. We live in the present and we do that very well. When we are sad, humor helps a lot (for an example, see what I just wrote to our friend morsec0de).

  • Thanks for passing along that letter, John. I think the writer articulated a response to your "Christian Marrying a Non-Christian" post better than I ever could. To be honest, your post took me aback, because I know MANY "theologically discordant" couples who seem to have FANTASTIC marriages … but maybe, as a single Gay man, I didn't feel qualified putting in my two cents' worth.

    I mean, I know you weren't implying that marriage between people of differing faiths are necessarily DOOMED to fail. I know you believe that it would be HELPFUL if a married couple shared the same faith, and maybe you have a valid point. You certainly articulated it well enough. It's just that finding love and compatibility in this world isn't all that easy. Some people bounce from relationship to relationship in hopes that eventually they'll find Mr. or Ms. Perfect … and if it hinges on sharing the same faith, that search not only may never end, but a lot of perfectly compatible people might be left behind. Sometimes you just gotta settle for "Good Enough."

  • Wow, David has some profound insight about marriage relationships. I've been married 35 years, most of which weren't blessed with such wisdom on my part. Hopeful, I'll keep getting better at it.

  • Chuck: Of course you're "qualified" to put in your two cents worth. I'm always pleased to read your invariably sane, rational thoughts. Gay or not, single or not: Love is love; relationships are relationships. Everybody's got wisdom on that stuff.

    To the rest of you: Thanks so much for your thoughtful, warm comments. I know they're compelling David to do what he usually does when he's made happy, which is to get some shaving cream and … well. Never mind. But he's happy.

  • David, thank you so much for this post. I was the writer of the original message and there has been much heartache over this. However your post has given me a lot of hope and peace, you said it in a way I never could, I never thought I would hear. And I know this may mean little to you but I pray that God continues to bless your marriage 🙂

  • This only affirms that John's blog readership is just as brilliant, witty, insightful and pretty in their wife's clothing as is John.

  • This is brilliant!!! Your professions of the ultimate, "Agree to Disagree" is so refreshing that I'm just going to have to throw something…right now! Beautiful. Good for the both of you in your understanding of acceptance and love. (Pete says heck no, I love me some ABBA)

  • I'm curious. Was Rachel a Christian when they married or after the fact?

  • Bee Hay

    I love this. As an atheist in a relationship with a devout Christian, this gives me hope for the future.

  • Christine, thank you for your comment and your blessings. May you have much peace and happiness.

    Longing for Holiday, Rachel has been a devoted Christian her entire life.

    Anita, I didn't say that I "look" pretty in my wife's clothing, I said I "feel" pretty. I'm just as ugly as John no matter what I wear.

    To everyone else, thanks for the great feedback.

  • dana111


    How did your wife handle the objections of her church and her family? I am sure your wife was taught from a earlier age not to be "unequally yoked" with an unbeliever. As a single Christian female, I don't think I could ever marry a non-Christian man without experiencing some type of shame or ridicule from my family and friends. I am certain that your wife was "encouraged" by other Christians NOT to marry you. How did she cope?

  • imm

    ahh.. the mysteries of love… (:

  • Dana111: Forget the ridicule and shame of other Christians, but what do you personally think of the Biblical command?

  • I'm with Dana111 on this. I am going out with a fantastic guy but not christian, the ridicule and disappointment that comes from my family is sometimes hurtful not only to me but to him!! My personal view on that command is that you are unequally yoked if the partner doesn't support and love you and try to understand and encourage. But just as is said in the post, you can be unequal in so many other areas why is this the make or breaker??

  • dana111

    (Warning- Long-ish post ahead:)

    Good questions, Longing for Holiday and Christine. I met a man over the summer that I care about deeply, but he is not a christian, and I have always been taught not to date unbelievers (and because I'm not entirely sure of Paul is really saying, I am NOT dating him at this moment). The prooftext always given is 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, but the word "marriage" is not stated anywhere within that particular chapter. However, I have read on some theological websites that Paul is specifically talking to Corinthian Christians who were continuing to participate in idol worship after their conversion. Sadly, I have heard this scripture used to prohibit interracial marriage, business partnerships with non-christians, and ecumenical fellowships (primarily between protestants and catholics). I feel as though Paul would have been very clear if this were a pronouncement concerning marriage. Also, I have been reading a book suggesting that this particular interpretation was developed by John Calvin while he was living in Geneva (feel free to do a Google book search for "Sex, Marriage, and Family in John Calvin's Geneva" by John Witte and Robert McCune Kingdon). I am open to any and all suggestions on how to properly divide this scripture without letting neither my fear nor my personal desire for this man get muddy the waters.

  • dana111

    Sorry… take out the "get" in the last sentence. Good to know that my college education has paid of…

  • dana111—one last thing I thought of while brushing my teeth—I suggest you reread John's post on this topic and the comments that followed. John gives some very good advice on why intermarriage is challenging and is likely to fall far short of its emotional (and spiritual) potential. He's not wrong, but I think there are exceptions to his rule. You need to figure out if you and your friend are one of them.

  • Candace

    Ok, I take it back — if I met an atheist like David, I'd marry him in a heartbeat 🙂

  • Atheists do NOT have faith. That's what makes us atheist.

    You don't believe Peter Pan is real… but you don't have faith there's no Peter Pan. Same with Zeus, Ra, Apollo, and all the other "fake gods" invented by men.

    I don't "believe there is no god". I just don't believe there is one. I'm a "believer in waiting", you could say.

    Faith is "belief without supporting evidence" – and everything (EVERYTHING) I believe to be true is supported by some amount of evidence. Different things require differing amounts of evidence as well. If you tell me you can flap your arms and fly to the moon, I'd need more evidence than if you told me you own a 1952 Micky Mantle baseball card.

    Get it? Probably not, but that's ok. That's why you're a god believer and I'm not.

  • dana111,

    I can’t help you with the scripture, and neither can Rachel – I asked her. We both took a look at it and on the surface it does look like it’s referring to idolatry and not marriage, so I don’t really know what to tell regarding doctrine. I will tell you that both Longing for Holiday and Christine make good points—it all comes down to you, the people you love, and your relationship with God. Let me explain.

    I asked Rachel your first question and she told me to tell you that at first her family and friends were not too thrilled with the idea of her marrying a non-Christian. They were looking out for her because they love her, not because they judged her or were concerned about how they might be judged by their community. Once they met me and saw how wonderful we were together, they were very supportive. All they cared about was her happiness.

    The two questions you must ask yourself are:

    1. What are the motives of those whose judgement/ridicule you fear, and are those motives Christian and loving, or socially driven?

    2. Does this man love and respect you honestly for who you are in all ways? Remember, he can only do that if you have been honest with him about who you are in all ways, including your faith.

    Okay, there is a third question, and it’s the one that you stated and are struggling with. Let me paraphrase it. Do you believe that God doesn’t want you to marry a non-believer, or that the Calvin interpretation (which I suspect is meant to help and protect believers from the challenges of intimacy with a non-believer — again, I’m no theologian) is a good practice (but not a dictum) that may not be right for you?

    I’m putting it to you in this way, because I asked Rachel this question as well. She said that while the Corinthians scripture is often used for marriage, she feels that there are many ways to be unequally yoked and that often ambivalence in scripture means that you need to work harder to find God’s meaning. Rachel suggests that you take some time and pray on this, and look for God’s guidance on what being unequally yoked means in His plan for you.

    Maybe it will be helpful if you prayed on the two questions that I posed above in addition to your question on the scripture, but please remember that you are getting advice from a Christian and a Humanist who love each other dearly. We each believe in our own way that we are meant to be together, but what’s right for us may not be God’s plan for you.

  • gatsome

    I'm curious as to how you would allow any children to be raised? I'm under the assumption of course that many atheists (including myself) would not really appreciate the dogmatic brainwashing of any children I've had.

    Some (including myself) would go to such lengths of considering this a form of mental abuse. I have no doubts that you love and confide in each other but this would be a pinnacle issue that has the potential to drive a permanent wedge.

    If she caves she's forsaking the very things she believes in, if you allow it you're being irresponsible and reckless with the most important duty you have as a parent. Either way one of you is coming out the loser if you choose to have kids.

  • gatsome

    Also, as dave D said earlier, atheism isn't a faith and it could be construed as offensive to label us [atheists] as having one.

  • Jessica


    I have a friend who is an atheist and her husband is a recovering mormon. He still believes in God though. She was raised in a way that presented atheism as fact and he was raised the opposite. Neither one wants to raise their daughter that way. They present everything in a…"some people believe…" kind of way. They will present things to her as they come up. He handles the spiritual stuff and she is fine with that as long as he doesn't tell her that it fact. They kind of leave it up in the air. My friend doesn't like that she was raised not knowing anything about religion. She says that it leaves her unable to relate to people that are religious. Having said that we have been friends for 4 years and she's one of the best human beings I've ever known.

    As for me, my husband is agnostic and I am a Christian. I take my daughters to Church with me and he watches football. I will teach them what I believe to be true and at some point if they decide to explore other areas then I will support that. They shouldn't be ignorant of what else there is out there. Too many people believe that Christians are sheltered and brainwashed and I don't want that to be true for them. If they can honestly say that they have seen what else there is and still choose to be a Christian it means a lot more than only ever knowing one thing.

  • gatsome

    I was born and raised as an "ignorant Christian" until my late teens when my conscious raised to a level of understanding that had to leave God behind. I would not want my children taught Christianity as fact (which they do if you ever allow them into Sunday School). It closes their mind to more probable scenarios that do not include God in any form.

    I would much rather they live out their childhood without fear of an invisible sky wizard's vengeful wrath and make their choice later on. Christians do not think it is harmful to raise children in a Church when it can be disastrous. The "hands-off" approach is best because Atheism does not require teaching or instilling any facts or theories where as Christianity forces you to live your life a certain way.

    One upbringing is mentally invasive and the other is not.

  • Gatsome, You raise some very interesting points. First, I'd like to say to you and to dave D that you're both right. Atheism isn't a faith. It has no church and no doctrine, but to say that atheist don't believe in anything is false. There many things that you can't know, but believe are true. For example, you believe mathematical axioms that are the foundation of modern science, yet they can't be proven (that's why they call them axioms). It's not wrong to believe in axioms and they don't constitute a faith, but if you understand that you believe in something that isn't proven, then you can accept what it means to someone else to believe in something else that isn't proven. That's all it takes to be tolerant, and if you're willing, understanding and loving. There's no reason to be intolerant or act superior to people of faith, just as there is no reason for them to pray for your soul — which I think is one of the most passive aggressive and arrogant things anyone can "lovingly" do.

    We don't have children, therefore I'm not entirely sure how we would handle it. We've talked about it some, but until it happens it's hard to say what we will do. I was raised as a highly educated practicing Jew and chose not to be of that religion (although I'm still of the people – meaning, I have a shared history and culture with all Jews, but I am no longer part of the Jewish religion). I don't resent other Jews for their faith and practice, though I would rather have not spent many hours in prayer and in fear growing up, however; I think that I'm more rounded for having done so. I'm sorry that you think that religious teachings are so insidious and harmful. They do teach good values for the most part, except for religions that teach that the people of their faith are right and everyone else in the world is wrong and therefore going to hell (the follow up being that we should hasten their journey, i.e. the Spanish Inquisition and the Jihad, or that we need to convert them).

    I'm a big believer in pluralism, knowledge, and tolerance, so I don't see anything wrong with exposing children to a variety of beliefs, and saying to them, "daddy believes this and mommy believes this, and you will someday know what you believe." That may be confusing to a child, but hey, there are a lot of confusing things that a kid needs to learn these days.

  • dana111

    Thanks, David!!!! I truly appreciate you taking the time to respond to my posts. While, according to the Bible, all scripture is inspired by God and useful for the challenges of every day life, I know that people have historically attributed specific commands to specific verses that may not be completely verifiable by scripture. As of right now, because I cannot faitfully say that 2 Corinthians 6:14 does not mean marriage, if I were to marry a non-christian, I would be committing sin (see Romans 14:23). So, I continue talking to God and reading His Word, realizing that if this particular man in not the one for me, God will provide one when He sees fit, if it is in His will to do so.

    Again, thanks to you and your wonderful wife! God bless!!!

  • Meghan Sanders

    (David Barach, I love you. Did you get so smart in Jew school or Atheist school?)

    I don't consider myself Christian and I don't consider myself an Atheist, mostly because I find labels confining. I don't believe in God, but I'm not against the belief in God, either. I like possibilities (and firm handshakes, and pickup trucks.) I believe in being kind and good to one another.

    I know both David and Rachel, and their marriage is amazing and inspiring. It is inspiring because of love and faith they found in each other and the unconditional care, devotion, and encouragement they give each other everyday, while still being true to themselves. They have so much faith in each other, that their beliefs can be different. That is very powerful.

    If they were to have a child, it would held, and nurtured and loved. It would be encouraged, educated. It's beliefs would be shaped by the patience and love (and laughter) that David and Rachel give not only to each other but to everyone else, too. If they were to have a child, it would believe in his/herself. It would not feel threatened by different beliefs, but inspired and challenged. It would seek goodness and love from everyone. What could be more Christ-like?

  • Paul


    First let me say thank you for a challenging, interesting well-written post. I almost didn't read it because of your statement about being an expert from being married twice. I am in that same boat and understand what you mean, but I have an acquantance who is 5 times divorced, and I dare say that he is far from a marriage expert….. and certainly not 5X the expert of my friend Tom who married right out of high school and has now been married 25 years.

    I absolutely loved this line in your post "They grow toward each other by learning about and respecting their differences, and then stay together by willingly meeting each other’s needs, whether they fully understand them or not." There is much to be said for that kind of love. Thanks for sharing your experience

  • johnification

    hey man keep up the good work!!! If you could visit my personal page I would really appriciate it I'm sort of scrambling for subscribers right now!!!



  • Kathy

    A lot of times it's not about what we think or what we feel, but what God asks of us. If the pursuit of our own happiness is our greatest goal, then disregard for a lot of Biblical principles would come into play (such as immediate sexual gratification). The Bible says to not be yoked with unbelievers, and often times in the Bible, the word 'yoked' is speaking of marriage specifically. The simple difference of faith presents a coin dilemma. On one side, the viewer can see it as the most ignorant, unloving and unpractical 'rule' imaginable (to leave someone because they don't share your faith?!) on the other side, it can be seen as, you want the person that you love the most on Earth to know and love the other greatest love of your life, God. And s/he who is not with God, is in a way, against God (despite respecting Christianity and all). It's just very difficult to, let's say, love the man who does not love your own son. It's not even on that level, because God is above human. I just feel that it's a great pull and struggle at all times either towards one end of choosing God or choosing the man that you love. Choosing the man that you love who does not love God is not choosing God. For God himself already told you that does not please Him. In the end, following God simply brings the greatest joy to your own self and the greatest good to others, including the non-Christian man that you love. And isn't that what you want, at the end of the day?

  • Dan Harrell


    Please let me thank you for posting one of the most cogent and articulate notes I have read in a long time. It caused me to think in a new way about topics I thought I had settled in my mind.

  • Chana Goren

    Wow, that was a bit mind boggling to say the least. I am Chana, David's aunt (his mother's sister). I love and respect David and Rachel and wish them much health, happiness and understanding. Rachel is the best thing that has come into David's life. But, we can not ignore the hurt and pain of his parents when he "removed" himself from the Jewish faith. I too am a modern orthodox religious jew as his parents and his grandparents. I have six children who have each chosen to deal with religion in their own way. Each has chosen the parts of Judaism which are agreeable to them. Some are more observant some less, we accept them all with love and want them to be happy, healthy, productive and kind people.

    The large majority of people are "born" into their faith, it is not something they chose. Therefore, it would seem easy for us to say if one's faith was a given and not a choice, why do parents get upset when their child rejects their faith. A feeling of failure and rejection is the answer. A child, no matter how old, is always searching for his parents recognition and acceptance. How can a parent accept and recognize what is completely against the core of their belief and upbringing? Is there really a way to overcome this without insult, disappointment and heartache?

    On one hand – we can not force one to believe

    on the other hand – we can not force one to accept

    Don't for a minute believe it is simple.

    Sure living as a loving, caring understanding couple is a wonderful and warm bubble but outside the bubble are people who were hurt. Not intentionally, not out of malious but hurt none the less.

    When David and Rachel became a reality (married) there were two choices. One to disconnect from them or two to continue to love them as part of our family. Thank G-d (I know David doesn't believe in him) the later was the choice and we love and care for David and Rachel.

    We wish them only good times but don't for a minute believe it has been an easy path emotionally for his family.

  • Mike


    Gatsome: I was born and raised as an “ignorant Christian” until my late teens when my conscious raised to a level of understanding that had to leave God behind. I would not want my children taught Christianity as fact (which they do if you ever allow them into Sunday School). It closes their mind to more ……..


    I agree 100%!!! I dont understand why christians (or any other religion) think its not harmful to take their children to church. They are basically brain-washing them into believing something that may or may not be true! If we bring our kids up to believe that it is good to kill people then that is what they will believe! A little extreme, but just an example.

  • Peter Close

    I am a Christian and want to wish you every blessing in your marriage. It is great you love her so much and seek to live and understand your differences. Why cannot Christian’s express this so well. God is real, he meets you where you are not where someone else thinks you or God should be.

    Please keep an open mind, God can make himself know in unexpected places.


  • SpinDoctor5

    I was surfing the web today for theist/atheist relationships and came across this. I just want to thank you so much for writing this, it really spoke to the situation between me and my partners. He is an agnostic that seems to be evolving into an atheist and I'm a "free-thinking" Christian. I read different articles, websites, etc. that say it would never work b/c we aren't "equally yoked" and I think its straight garbage. Just thank you so much for writing this, I will keep this link and read it anytime I need proof that a difference in religious thinking doesn't equal failure.

  • Heather

    I am currently engaged to the sweetest man I have ever known. We have so much in common, and he is supportive of everything I do. I am currently struggling with how my family will react to him because I was raised in a conservative Christian home and he does not believe in God. I believe in God, I just don't believe in all the dogmatic views I was raised with. We are so happy together, and this posting gives me hope that our marriage can succeed.

  • Kisseliss

    This post made me cry, so I had to reply…

    My daughter's father is agnostic and we have fallen back in love and started dating again. My family is so upset with me because he's not a christian. In fact, they were glad we decided to split when I became pregnant.

    I'm having a lot of anxiety because my family won't accept him due to the fact that he doesn't believe in God. I get scolded for spending time with him and I'm constantly being told that we are not putting our daughter first. This is not the case.

    This post boosted my spirits and made me realize that our relationship isn't "DOOMED." I copied, pasted it and saved on my computer to inspire me when I'm feeling judged!


  • Kiss: I'll make sure the guy who wrote this letter sees your response here; I know he'll be glad for it. Thanks very much for writing in.

  • pencil

    I sure wish there were more single Christians in my area.

  • Um, being Christ-like.

  • Kay

    This is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve ever seen on the nature of Love. Thank you! You give me hope that there are truly great men out there.

    I was loosely raised Southern Baptist & Lutheran. The hellfire & damnation in Baptism turned my mother & myself off completely . We eventually found a Lutheran church with a really great pastor. He didn’t “preach” he just talked to us about finding our own way while following not merely the letter of the law, but it’s spirit. He commented that the letter of the law was often written for that particular time, and that we should study the Law, and find it’s deeper meaning, the underlying truth about what was required of us, and apply that to our lives as best we could. After the hellfire and damnation of a “literal word of God” church, this was liberating. I had always had serious reservations about a number of Christian doctrines, but the message of this pastor lightened my heart, and made me reconsider. This was in the South, in the late 70s. To my young and fairly sheltered eyes, other than Christian and Jewish, there really wasn’t much out there. I had heard of Buddhism and Islam, but no details, and no knowledge about where to go to learn more. When I left home, that church was too far away, and I was again exposed to the kind of Christianity I despised. After doing more study on the core concepts, I decided I couldn’t accept the dichotomies. It didn’t fit. I knew what I felt & believed to be true about the nature of deity in my heart & soul, I just didn’t know what name to put it under. I left, and I’ve never looked back.

    A few years later I found pagansim, and it really fit. No pressure, no proselytizing, no threats of eternal torment, no notion that we mere humans will automatically make bad choices unless were are told what to do by some priest. I wasn’t being told to surrender my Will to some nebulous deity with a brutally violent history of sexism, persecution, and abuse. I wasn’t being told I had to obey some scripture whose origins are questionable at best. I was encouraged to think for myself, to figure out what I wanted, what I valued, and how to live in a healthy and responsible way. Not because some Deity decreed it, but because it contributed to my overall health & happiness, and gave me some peace in this crazy world we live in.

    I did a lot of research, the thought patterns and how individuals were valued was very important to me. This works for me, and I’ve been on this path for 20+ years. Early on, I was fine with interfaith dating. Not anymore. Please don’t take this personally, but in no way could I ever date a Christian again. I’ve met a very few Christians who are genuinely fine people. Warm, open and non-judgmental. I know a number of people in interfaith marriages, some happy, some not. I’m not against them, that’s their choice, but it’s not for me. My world view is so different than that of a Christian, I find I need someone who really understands how I think, and they have a hard time with that. My boyfriend of 8 years is a Taoist, and while our beliefs aren’t identical, they’re very compatible. It works. I can’t imagine being married to someone who believes we are born damned.

    His family has a hard time with it. They are what I call “general Christians”. They hold to the core beliefs, but do their practice in their daily life rather than in a church. They kind of ignore that their son is not Christian anymore and hasn’t been for a decade. When it comes up, they get very uncomfortable. We don’t discuss what I believe. Period. They know by how I’ve treated their son that I’m a not a bad person. He explained some of my core beliefs in a very simplistic way when we first started dating, but it’s not something they know enough about to have a grip on. In general they just prefer to ignore that I don’t even remotely believe what they do. So what’s the downside? Several of his family members are very religious, and not in a good way. There are family things that he would like passed to him that he will never have. The family basically believes that if something happens to him, that I’d trash their heirlooms because I don’t share their beliefs. This has been going on for years, valued possessions going to family who is likely to sell them for the money once the grandparents are gone, rather than to my boyfriend who would love and cherish them. All of it is based in fear. His sister finally told us what was going on in the family meetings he never knew about. He’s very upset, and so am I. If he died, anything from his family that was given to “us” while we were together, or only has interest to them, I’d return to them. Heirlooms should be with the people who will love and value them, and I’d be going against his wishes to do anything else. Things from my family would go to my uncle or my cousin. It’s all very simple and logical, but apparently they don’t believe I have enough decency to honor his wishes.

    Which brings me to my biggest gripe about Christianity. In my experience, they act as if they have a “lock” on all that’s good. If it’s good, it must be Christian. If someone of another faith does good things, they are in shock. To them, it’s just not possible to be a good person without being Christian. Never mind all the lying, stealing, cheating, abusive priests, politicians and businessmen who are “Christian”. Faith, Charity, Good works, all are looked on with suspicion if you’re not Christian. I don’t do good deeds because it’s “commanded” of me, I do them because I have a kind and generous nature, and it’s how I want to be treated. I don’t want to live in a world that’s mean and has no grace, no kindness. So I do my best not to create it. I’m not perfect, heck, I’m venting here….. but I try to be my best as a whole person, the good and the bad.

    In the end I guess I’d prefer that people have “faith” over “religion”, but it’s also my experience that too many humans are nothing more than cleverly disguised sheep who have no desire to think for themselves.

    Thank you for letting me vent.

  • First of all, allow me to add my appreciation of this post to the already long list of fans. This is an issue I was confronted with a while back and still never came to a solid answer on, but reading your insights – and the astounding love and respect that exists in your relationship with your wife – was very insightful indeed. I agree with some of the comments that it would, typically, be something sad (at least for a Christian) to know that the person they loved would not be spending eternity with them. I've heard the theory that those in heaven will no longer care, but I don't know if I agree with it or not, and frankly the thought of spending my entire life with that knowledge in the back of my mind would be painful for me, if I truly loved the person (which I would have to, to marry them, right?)

    I would also like to add here a response to Kay and Kisseliss: I'm not sure how much this will mean to either of you, but I would like to express a very sincere apology to you both for your life experiences with Christians – the harshness and judgment you've dealt with at their hands/words…etc. As a Christian, I try to be as accepting of all people as I can possibly be. It is sometimes hard to know where to draw the line between accepting and going against ones own beliefs, but it would be nice if more believers tried a little harder. I know there are a lot of well-meaning (or at least they think they are) Christians who do the exact opposite of their hearts intent – they turns people off and offend them.

    For my own part, I am still a young person and still learning the nitty-gritty details of the Christian faith. I was raised in it, but I also came to a point where my intelligence begged for a more solid foundation than simply what my parents had been feeding me. I can say with all sincerity that I believe in an Omniscient Creator who loves me just as a am, regardless of how well I do or don't do in this life, so long as I love Him and am doing my best to live a life that is pleasing to Him, and that I came to this decision regardless of my family.

    To Kisseliss specifically, go to the Word. Look through the scriptures to support your choices, or at the very least to use in defense against the way your family is treating you. I know from experience that it is very hard to be in discord with ones family, but if you are using God's word to show them how their treatment of you and your boyfriend is wrong, or how the choices you are making for yourself and your child may be right, they cannot stand against you. If they will not support you out of love, then they (if they truly believe themselves to be Christians) will support you because it is written in the Bible.

  • Aged Parent

    What a wonderfully respectful and thoughtful discussion.

    My husband and I both came from Jewish families – his parents were Orthodox and mine were somewhere in between Conservative and Reform. His father was … well … let's say very zealous, and would tolerate no point of view that didn't match his own; his mother believed in doing whatever it took to make other people happy, even if that meant living according to principles that were not one's own.

    My husband rejected the Orthodox "rules" and became an ecumenical free-lancer; whereupon his father disowned him. I eventually decided that while I'm neutral about the existence of "God," I do not believe what people say about "God." My parents never tried to "convert" me to their way of thinking, mostly because they treasured each other's invdividuality and therefore could do no less than respect mine.

    So I guess that means he and I are in a "mixed" marriage. But we've been married for nearly 53 years, and while we've disagreed about many things – we argue a lot about politics, for example – we've never fought over religion, because we both agree that religion is personal and each of us is entitled to our own views.

    We didn't fight over how to raise our children, either. We just let them know that it was okay for their parents to have different religious beliefs, and that it was okay for them to differ with us, too.

    Please notice I haven't used the word "faith" at all in this context. Like Kay, I reject the idea that unless I adhere to a set of tenets handed down from above, and practice certain rituals according to "the book" – no matter what! – I'm doomed to eternal damnation, or whatever the punishment du jour happens to be. Unlike Kay, though, I'm still fine with interreligious dating and marriage. It seems to me that stable and loving marriages are based on mutual respect that includes appreciation for each other's differences even though one might not fully understand those differences. I can't imagine being married to a man who couldn't respect my convictions even though mine don't align perfectly with his own, and I sure don't like being around people who insist theirs is the only way to think, believe, worship (or not) and behave.

  • Mrs. Muhammed

    Sarah wrote, It is sometimes hard to know where to draw the line between accepting and going against ones own beliefs, but it would be nice if more believers tried a little harder. I know there are a lot of well-meaning (or at least they think they are) Christians who do the exact opposite of their hearts intent – they turns people off and offend them.

    I think you expressed quite well the difficulties my dear right-wing evangelical, fundamentalist, literal Bible thumping friends and relatives faced when they heard I was dating a Muslim. On one level I very much understood their frantic concern and earnest confrontations, and if our positions were reversed, I might have said many of the same things and perhaps worse. So that kept my offense in check, at least somewhat. But some rifts are permanent, and I feel that by making the choice to marry him in spite of all the opposition, I have weakened the close relationships I once had with many of my beloved people. I know my sisters both agonized with their consciences over whether or not to attend my wedding. They loved me and earnestly desired my happiness, but they were so thoroughly convinced that my decision to marry this man was a sin against God, and furthermore, they had a responsibility to their preteen daughters, to shelter them from exposure to my dreadful example, that it put them into a terrible quandry over whether or not to attend my wedding.

    If I could have worn a millstone around my neck and plunged into the depths of the sea, I would have gladly done so, just to save my nieces from my poisoning influence and spare my relatives from all this agony over my decision. But no millstones were handy, and I really wanted to marry the guy, even if I half believed the dire warnings about hellfire and damnation. So I closed my eyes, plugged my ears, and walked down the aisle.

    It was a ridiculous wedding ceremony, to be sure. I would have infinitely preferred to just do the deed in a courthouse somewhere–no guests, no fuss, no cake, no gifts. But my parents would not have considered me married unless I did so in front of God, so my tolerant, long-suffering husband-to-be and i sucked it up and agreed to the venue–a museum that USED to be a church (still had a big-ass cross hanging over us as we exchanged vows), officiated by an obnoxious minister chosen by my parents for no other reason than that he was originally from an African country that was home to a sizable population of Muslims. I don’t know why my parents figured this qualified him to officiate, but he agreed to it, and I suppose my parents didn’t think many other ordained ministers would, so he got the job. In the end, all that mattered was that we were legally and civilly married, and if it made my parents sleep better at night to know that it was a quasi-“Christian” wedding, then I suppose it was worth it.

    We’ll mark the seventh anniversary this summer of our successful, happy marriage. I went through a period of anger about two or three years in, when I realized that my marriage was successful and happy. It really pissed me off to think that a lot of ideological rigidity would have prevented me from marrying this fabulous man. It seems to me that in today’s world of globalization and tolerance, the conservative commitment to doctrinal purity and ironclad sectarianism is a thing we should leave behind in the interest of modernization and enlightenment.

    We now have two kids, even though we’re not at all sure how to raise them religiously. My husband practices a tolerant and inclusive Islam, and has never expected me to convert or change my beliefs. He respects the culturual values of my faith, and in fact these shared values make us very compatible as parenting partners. I support his faith practices, and encourge the kids to take part in his daily prayer rituals. We don’t eat pork–it’s not hard to avoid. That’s really about it. As far as what to teach them to believe–well, I like what some other posters in this thread have shared about child-rearing. I would like my kids to grow up in the understanding that different people believe different things about God, and that they needn’t have a religious label to have faith–or, if they do choose a label for themselves, it should be an educated and freewill adult choice rather than an inherited one they are stuck with and are obligated to carry along with the family name.

    So I guess it is evident to the reader that I do not honestly beileve that my husband is damned to eternity to hell unless he recites the sinner’s prayer, nor will my children suffer the same fate unelss they believe the “correct” doctrines. I long ago concluded that evangelism was at best a benign nuisance, and at worst, offensive harrassment. I am grateful that my husband thinks it is sweet and touching when my relatives share their testimonies with him in their blatant efforts to convert him. He was really amused when I related to him what my mother once said, “I believe he MUST be a Christian because he acts so much like one.” He told me that his mother likewise believes that i must really be a Muslim because I’m such a nice person. If that sort of reasoning makes our marriage more reassuring for our mothers, then so be it. Our parents deserve the security and serenity of their insulated faiths, and we have no wish to disturb their peace.

    It was really frightening at first to stake out my own uncharted path with no precedent to follow. I didn’t know anyone else in my broad evangelical experience who married outside the faith as I did (unless you count the one cousin who married a Catholic). But now that I’m “out”, I can’t imagine ever wanting to get back in. or wanting my children to be raised in that cocoon. I feel that I am now finally an adult and am responsible for my own independent thinking. I want my children to be well educated critical thinkers, fluent in a constellation of faiths and cultures that represent our global community.

  • mdjgirl7

    I really liked your letter. I am in a very similar situation. I am the Christian and my husband is the Atheist. At first I was very sad of him and in a way I still am. I know God is in control and it is not my job to change him. It is my job to love him just the way he is:-)

  • cdd

    I could'nt resists posting my few (okay more than that) sense worth. So here goes..I was brought up by two God-fearing parents and have always considered myself a Christian. The first Church my dad brought us to, was in actual fact a cult. That coupled with other circumstances led my family excluding my dad to stop going to Church. In the span of about 6 years I've prayed and built a relationship with God. However, my understanding of the Bible's teachings were shaky. Within those 6 years I met a non-Christian who truly loves me for who I am and for being a Christian. I was warned by others about getting into a relationship with a non-Christian but did not understand the degree of disapproval God and fellow Christians would have. My perspective was that I'd rather find a man who truly loves me and would take care of me than a Christian who doesnt (example of my parents). I started going to a different Church more than a year ago and am suddenly bombarded with the fact that my relationship with my boy friend is a sin. My boy friend has felt pressured (my fault) to convert and I know that scared him. But he loves me dearly nonetheless and does his best to understand me. We were both brought up in a traditional family where dating isnt really heard of and being in a relationship means that we have the intention to marry in mind. One thing good about this situation is that it has made me work hard on my faith because for him to understand, I must understand first. Thank you for your post it has given me hope. Although I will never stop hoping my boy friend will one day convert, Im glad im not alone in the journey of love and understanding that you and your wife and my boyfriend and I will embark on. Thank you.

  • janedough

    I just came upon this post randomly, and as a "most-of-the-time" christian married to a "pragmatic optimist with zero faith" (his words) it was pretty much exactly what I think I needed to read. Thanks!

  • Litesp33d

    It always makes me smile when I hear a religious person say something like

    "The first church i went to was a cult"

    Surely a cult is a religion whose beliefs differ from your own.

    It therefore follows that ALL religions are cults.

    When you have done comparative study of religions other than you own this becomes obvious.

    I was christened but became more atheist as I read the Bible. After reading this book I don't know how anyone could worship this God of the Old Testament who is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully . And Jesus agreed with all the previous teachings.

    Did you know the King James Bible was put together by a committee in the 1600's primarily tp prove King James had the divine right to govern England and Scotland at the same time? And this is offered as a divinely inspired text.

    Statistically atheist based marriages end in divorce LESS often than religious ones presumably because at least one of the parties enters into the relationship with both eyes open to the reality of the commitment rather than with both eyes closed in prayer for god to make it all OK. And as there are no gods this explains a lot.

  • Why is it everytime the topic of "sin" comes up, sexual gratification is sure to follow, as if it is the most evil of all sins listed in the Bible? It's why I love the Tanakh (or what Christians call "The Old Testament") which is supposedly the foundation of the Christian faith, which–when talking about all of the sins and/or abominations which God hates in Proverbs–neglects to mention sexual sin. What God DOES mention, however, is: picking on the poor or the widow, slander, greed and others.

    Also, I love how people quote Paul when he WAS married and supposedly left his wife in order to "follow Jesus." He was either a Pharisee or a Sadduccee and they had to be married to uphold those positions…so…does that make Paul and adulterer?

    Nothing against you, Kathy, but this sort of thinking is why more people are opting to leave the church and count themselves as "other" in regards to religion.

    Personally, I love this article and it is proof that TRUE love, REGARDLESS of differences in religious beliefs, CAN overcome "much."

    Time doesn't permit me to respond more, but I hope everyone is having a wonderful day!

  • Teemu

    Litesp33d, there are lies, bigger lies and then there is statistics. Properly interpreted statistics show that atheist divorce way more. In those numbers that base your claim, they just asked if you are divorced and what is your religious affliation. They didn't ask if you had been ever married. When that important question was asked atheists had way higher divorce rates.


    Atheist divorce rates would be even higher if you counted cohabitation with mutual wanted child and break up after that.

  • Alek

    What a dysfunctional marriage..

  • Wait a minute.
    Atheist don’t belive there is no god.
    We simply don’t belive in the idea of a god.
    It’s not the same, those are completly diffrent issues.

  • Shhh… quiet down Can’t you see the sign? It says Stay off the Semantics (no matter how important – and mistaken – they are).

  • Teri

    i have found the letter written by David very inspiring. I would love to hear from Rachel. What words would she say to me as i am a christian and the man I am about to marry is an athiest? I love the Lord and Shane respects that. I am so uncomfortable with the feeling of how I am disappointing my God and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and that I am disobeying God in order to fulfill my own wants and desires to know and love Shane. Please my heart is hurting. I have read article after article of Christian urging me to flee. this is the first letter of hope and respect and encouragement.


  • diann

    this is such baloney!!!!!!!! His wife has to be one who’s a Christian but obviously not living it daily (working faithfully in ministry, reading, praying, fasting, etc)..not to judge but I just don’t see this as the truth–How can you love someone who won’t acknowledge your life giver, your redeemer, your healer, your very reason for being? that’s like me hooking up w/a guy who won’t acknowledge my natural dad at all–as if he didn’t exist at all. I just refuse to believe that she’s just THAT into God as this man claims.

  • diann


  • I know these people personally. She’s as strong and convicted a Christian as exists. Her whole life is a Christian ministry. I have two other friends who are Christian pastors who are married to atheists. It’s not that big a deal.

  • Macy

    I was an atheist when we were married a couple of decades ago and still am, and now my husband has decided to pursue his Christian faith in a big way. I’m finding it very difficult to maintain any kind of balance — now there are crosses in every room, Jesus stuff all over the car, bibles everywhere. I don’t seem to have a voice in the situation. He expects me to shut up and let him do whatever he wants. Any objection on my part is met with a tidal wave of temper and hysteria. Clearly, he’s got emotional issues, but I’m doing my best to hold it together for the sake of the family, but I don’t know how much more I can take. I am perfectly fine with him pursuing his religion, but does that mean I have to live in a house decked out with religious paraphernalia? Also, when it comes to the kids, he only wants them to hear his side of the story, of course, and I’m supposed to say nothing at all about how I feel. What to do, what to do…

  • T

    John, in light of this, if you had to answer the original question again, would you answer it differently?

  • jess

    I would love to hear from Rachel as well. I am also a Christian who is married to an atheist.

  • The word “disfunction” should describe something that lacks function. Their relationship is very functional, it’s just not traditional or recommended. They have success and they will continue to have success. This man has an excellent example of Christ’s love in his life. I would not be suprised at all if he eventually accepts Christ himself. It’s certainly not uncommon for one spouse to lead the other to salvation.

    Best wishes to the two.

  • I’m certain a cult is not just a religion. Cults are harmful, both to human rights and spiritual wellness. Cults often have doctrine that perverts scripture or they use it to further a non-religious agenda. (Racial supremacy, political advantage, polygamy or money.) Occasionally, human suffering and even death result such as in Wacco, TX.

    My Pastor once said:” The Bible is a very basic message. Anyone can read it or hear it and come to understand it. If someone has to explain it to you, watch yourself. You may be dangerously close to joining a cult.”

  • Mike

    I am an atheist and I am dating a Christian woman. I have read many webpages like this one looking for insights into the challenges.

    After much reading I HAVE learned something from all of these posts and it is this, Paul’s advice in 2 Cor 6:14 is fairly good. “Do not be UNEQUALLY yoked with an unbeliever.” (then he goes on to spout a bunch of offensive insults regarding non-believers. (oh well, we unbelievers will turn the other cheek and forgive Paul) But the first bit is really good. It is not the connection between people of different faiths that Paul warns against but is the unequal connection.

    To illustrate look at the original letter from David B and then look at the comment written by Macy. In the case of David B the couple are working with each other on an equal basis and treat each other with respect and it sounds like they may have a long lasting marriage. In the case that Macy described, her partner is behaving as if she does not matter, and honestly all that Christian decoration around the household probably starts to feel like a rebuke. I hope they can work through their differences before it’s too late.

    In one case they are equally yoked, and in the other case they are unequally yoked. I think Paul was advising against commitments to non-believers where the believer is subservient to the will of the non-believer. I think that the same advise works both ways.

  • Very well said, Mike. Thanks.

  • DR

    Answers like this are so awful and depressing. That you’d actually possess the arrogance to suggest that you *know better* about who this person *really* is as you read for 30 seconds on the internet used to infuriate me, but now I find it totally repulsive and understand why non-believers run from Christians as fast as they can. THe hubris is so astounding and yet we just let you say this kind of thing over and over again, make this kind of presumption over and over again and give you a pass. I’ve had enough.

  • Happy at last

    Wow, i been searching for a blog like this, i am a christian and fell in love with an Atheist, we are doing so well in our new relationship that it seems scary to tell other christians because i do not want to hear the judgement. I believe a christian and atheris can mate and meet without religion, christianity isn’t about religion its about my relationship with God and his relationship is about his unbeliefe, non beleiver, we have respect, care, and hope for one another. I was married 3 times and all 3 profess to know God. But now i found this man, and he found me, we are happy.

  • Happy at last

    thank you for your letter, i am a Christian dating an Atheist. i am happy, i was married 3 horrible times, and this new relationship is working for me. I want to know how to not allow judgemental friends and family member push me back into something that didn’t work.

  • Happy at last

    Thank you for your post, i live Christ like and my boyfriend lives free of pain, judgement, redicule, etc.

  • Mercedes

    I am dating a man who many would consider an atheist. He sometimes refers to himself as an agnostic. We have been in our relationship for over a year now. In the beginning I was torn about starting anything with him because of our faith differences. He has also expressed some fears on his end from past relationships. His lack of believe in God stems from his childhood. He was molested by a preacher as a child and it made him lose faith because he didn’t want to believe in a God that would allow something like that to happen to him.

    I know all to well what the Bible says about being “unequally yoked and guarding your heart” but I know that I love this man. My relationship with God is important and I am trying now to rebuild my relationship with Him. Recently I have started to wonder about my choices and if I should continue down this road. I don’t want to give up on my relationship but I also don’t want to lose sight of God either. What i truly desire is to let the love of God shine through me for my boyfriend to see and know that God is love and that I love him. He respects my faith and I respect his. I trust that things will work out as they should.

  • Gene

    It would be great if you guys could post some websites or blogs here where we could read more viewpoints on how to make a theist/atheist marriage work. Just came out (of christianity, that is) after three years of reading and studying, and it’s not going so well. She’s angry.

  • Hope

    Hi, cheer up… people will confuse you, religion will confuse you, but if you have a relationship with the Living God, He’ll direct you personally. Only He can read hearts, only He holds the future in His hands, only HE can guide you. But you must be prepared to confront the truth. Ultimately, it is your Creator that you are answerable to. If He’s real, if He’s alive, what is HE telling you? Lay down a “fleece”, if you like, fast and pray, if you are so led, at the end of the day, if you are sincere and genuine in finding out God’s will for you, you will get your answers, AND peace, AND miracles.

    Some Church folk will “parrot” the word, and one or two verses, but remember Hosea’s story… would Hosea’s contemporaries have thought he was hearing from God? What about the mother of Jesus… can you imagine her going off to a ladies’ church meeting and announcing her good news? In today’s culture, she’d have been locked up in a psychiatric ward.

    Bottom line: if you’re a believer, and have a relationship with God, what is He telling you?

    And to any dear “atheist” reading this… bear with us, what if we indeed hold a truth beyond your wildest imagination? 🙂

  • Mary

    The idea that theists and atheists cannot coexist is an imaginary line.

    As a christian myself, married 7 yrs to an atheist, I can attest that mutual respect of each others individualism can and does supercede any devisivness between our opposing beliefs.

  • Lightning

    I’ve read a lot of posts on this site about making theist/atheist dating relationships work. I’ve also read a lot about how these types of marriages can work. But my biggest question is how do you make a Christian/atheist courtship work? Especially if one believes in pre-marital celibacy and the other believes sex is vital to knowing whether or not you want to marry a person. One belief relies heavily on faith where the other belief is based on the need for evidence & experience to bring about certainty. Help…

  • Mel

    I am so appreciative of your words. I needed this reminder…God IS in control. I’ve been so sad that my husband is a non-believer. This helped me. Thank you

  • Angela

    Thirteen years and three kids into our marriage, my husband came to the conclusion that he is an atheist. I was not duped. He has never been religious and does not attend church with the rest if us, but I assumed he just didn’t want to go to church and give up his Sundays. I never suspected his absolute disbelief in God. Anyway, I do respect his beliefs. My only concern is that he makes degrading comments toward all religions and even though he doesn’t come out and say so, I feel that he is not respectful of me. Quite frankly, I thinking he thinks I am dumb now. Right now we are still ignoring it because it doesn’t change our daily lives. It does not change my love for him, but I still secretly feel sad. I really don’t know why I am leaving a comment other than I haven’t shared this with anyone else, including my family, who by the way includes three clergy members.

  • Bete

    You are not an atheist at all. You can’t make a distinction between your Jewish background and your claimed humanist belief. Atheism is not a faith FYI.

  • DR

    Given the rather obvious reality of people being able to self-identify without any help from any of us on the Internet (including you), being Jewish is a often an exclusive cultural identity and has nothing to do with faith at all. Perhaps you might want to consider giving people the last word on who they are.

  • Gavin

    There’s a risk he’s not respectful and IMHO, talking about will stop its fermentation in your mind. Just do it calmly!

  • Pete

    Here, here DR, I fully agree. I knew it wouldn’t take long for the atheists to rush in and cry “Foul” on that statement.

  • Wendy

    I appaud you in respecting your wife’s choices and beliefs. I hope that remains the case and you are able to live respectfully together for years to come. That’s what I expected to have, but sadly, its not to be.

    Neither my husband nor I grew up in religious households, but I have always felt a spiritual pressence. He knew I considered myself Christian, and said that it didn’t bother him to be married in a religious ceremony (not in a church, but with a minister who was a close family friend of mine). Several times he told me that he “wished” he could believe. My father is Christian; my sister is atheist, so I grew up with varying opinions and I didn’t think it would be an issue.

    Things went along fine for years, and I was more and more aware that his beliefs were leading him away from belief in a higher power. At one point he mentioned a book (Can we be good without God?) and I even bought it for him for Christmas. I guess I thought of him as a humanist-atheist. I respected his opinions and choices, although I did not share them.

    But in the past few years he has become obsessed with reading everything on atheism; blogs, youtube videos, Dawkins, Hitchens, Tim Minchen (. . . he even bought the t-shirt!). I know that some of what he reads and watches ridicules Christianity, and he seems to get enjoyment from that. He has become condescending toward Christianity and has told me that it’s evil and dangerous! He has said things that make me feel he thinks I’m a stupid, blind follower.

    Meanwhile, our daughter has chosen to be atheist; our son has chosen Christianity and began attending youth events with a friend at his church. In the past year or so, my son and I began visiting different churches and eventually found one we are very comfortable at and are now regularly attending church on Sundays. Never having attended church, I am finding comfort and community in this, and my son thoroughly enjoys youth group activities.

    This week I discovered that my husband has be emailing our pastor without my knowledge because of a comment my son made about a discussion on evolution at youth group. In one email to my pastor my husband stated that he isn’t sure if the information (on evolution) was shared out of ignorance or deliberate intent to deceive.

    I feel so betrayed and humiliated. I haven’t been back to church since finding this out, and am so angry I’m ready to divorce my husband.

    Whether he is willing to admit it or not, his views have swayed our daughter toward atheism, and I’m expected to respect her choices without interference. He didn’t even speak with me (or our son) regarding the evolution discussion; instead he disrespected our beliefs (and my judgment as a parent) and interfered in our religious choice.

    I just can’t understand how someone who expects to have his views respected can show so little respect for others?

  • Wendy

    Hi Angela,

    I can totally relate. (I just posted my experience.)

    I’m at the end of my rope. I’d love some advise from John or anyone else on how to set boundaries or rules for respect in an Atheist-Christian (or other religion) relationship. I honestly see my relationship with my husband heading for divorce if he continues to be so arrogant and condescending about our choices.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I find it deeply troubling, that *after* he has married a Christian, your husband starts to see Christianity as evil. You see, the real reason, it seems to me, that racists needed there to be miscegenation laws was because, as long as no one marries a black person, it’s a lot easier for whites to dehumanize them. But to admit of the possibility of truly being in love with a black person—or in your husband’s case actively being in a loving relationship with a Christian, disallows us from sustaining without much constant cognitive dissonance the idea that being whatever it is we think it’s inferior to be really makes one so vile – so inferior – after all. Granted, as I’m sure he’d have no problem proudly affirming, he is descended from apes, perhaps it is the manifestation of an apish mind’s seeking to dominate his mate, just as Christian men are all too often inclined to use Scripture to justify their regarding of their wives as inferior—only, here, the book of the Scripture is called “The God Delusion,” and it says nothing about wives generally but speaks rather to the inferiority of believers, one of whom his wife just so happens to be. Of course, the motivations for his increased interest in opposing religious belief are surely more complex than this; yet I fear the effect, as regards your and his relationship, is, or will be, no different.

    You see, we men have a strong tendency—and a fair degree of desire, inasmuch as it bolters our egos and feeds into our imaginings of manliness—to see ourselves as intellectually superior to women. While we may indeed do better, statistically speaking, at mathematical and spatial reasoning (among others, though this certainly not always the case, comparing any given man to any given woman), we are somewhat lacking generally, relative to women, in empathy. This not only gives us typically lower social intelligence, but also lower verbal intelligence. (And so, for example, while we might do well at spatial reasoning, this still can’t always help us get where we need to go when we fail to ask for or to follow directions. I like to think it kind of tends to even out in the end. And while we’re on the topic of things I like, I also like to grunt and point: it’s just so much easier than this whole “language” thing.)

    All that to say—and, man though I am, I do have sufficient empathy that it pains me to say this—I think, somewhere deep inside, your husband really does think you’re stupid, and doesn’t want his son to be fooled.

    It’s a serious matter, one that needs to be specifically addressed in your relationship.

    Judging from what you’ve written, you’re clearly as sensible, intelligent woman, and your husband needs to respect the sort intelligence that you have—for instance, in your awareness of this spiritual crisis in your marriage (or as your husband might be more willing, if not more able even, to understand it, the impending devolution of emergent phenomena over interconnected aspects of your collective being)–even as it might be somewhat different from his own.

    As for your last question: “I just can’t understand how someone who expects to have his views respected can show so little respect for others?”

    See, for men, this is simple—we have, typically, a somewhat more limited capacity to understand this silly womanly inter-personal notion of respect you seem to have—his views have to be respected because they’re “right” (while being wrong, which the views of others’ are understood by implication to be, is an inherently unrespectable attribute). And how do we know his views are “right”? Because their “rational”, unlike such womanly notions. (Both men and women have this tendency to consider whatever makes logical sense to them to be rational, and to regard everything else as, by definition, simply irrational. For woman, however, it simply doesn’t matter as much, as you typically value more the truths to be found in interpersonal interactions compared to the truths to be found in personal internal mental actions. Thus, woman are somewhat more prone to “gossip”–that is, to chit-chat about personal relationships–while men, if they do indeed anything more than grunt, nod, and point, tend to discuss sports or other areas where claims are more fact-ish—that is, often somewhat more mundane, and more easily verifiable.)

    I assume you’ve attempted to communicate: 1) how it makes you feel that he would email the pastor without first having shared his concerns with you, his wife and—at least in my opinion you ought to be (but I understand that every relationship is different)—his number one confidante; and 2) how his arrogance and condescension (as you refer to it in your other comment below) make you feel.

    As for number 2 at least, it’s likely however that he didn’t really get the message. You may have to keep broadcasting that signal for a while before he really tunes it in—before it sticks.

    But as for number 1 . . .

    Well, as much as we may hate to verbalize them, men have feelings too—and clearly your husband has a strong feeling of, to put it bluntly, fear (don’t let the disdain fool you; hatred is but a more active response to fears) regarding religion or at least the Christian religion. And he’s reacting to this fear the way that men are typically programmed to: Men don’t admit they’re afraid—even to themselves; they can’t, because they’re supposed to be the protectors (that and being the providers are exactly why men have the greater average muscle mass, body height, etc.)

    So here he is trying to “protect” your son. And let’s face it, if there were a bear about to maul your boy, the last thing you want is a husband who cries, “I’m scared!”

    You also do not want him to pause for a moment to think, “Maybe I’d better discuss this with my wife first before trying to save our son who is in danger.”

    No, you’d want him to act basically the way he did, the way he’s instinctively made to. The problem arises here, however, from his responding this way in a situation where it serves no one’s best interests for him to do so. He ought to understand this as something of a failure of evolution on his part. Times change, but men are still, well, men: to a significant extent, insensitive to emotions but hypersensitive to perceived threats.

    And so it seems your husband’s a little sensitive around this issue; it doesn’t look much on the outside like that girly sort of sensitivity that men are often so quick to deride, but deep down inside I don’t really think it’s all so different. And when people are sensitive around an issue, they often respond less than fully rationally. And while I wouldn’t hold out much hope to hear him ever directly admit it, I think that’s exactly what the problem is here.

    What more concerns me though is the problem behind the problem: what has made his so sensitive to the “danger” of religion? Certainly the things he’s been reading fuel his opinion in that regard, but it almost seems, from what you describe, that just as you develop a deeper interest in religion, so too does he develop a deeper disdain for it. And that seems a bit troubling to me. I’m hoping that’s just a mistaken perception of the situation here (and trusting that it couldn’t possibly be the other way around). But whatever the case may be, it seems to me the two of you need to get on the same page here, that there may be a substantial amount of communicating (in honest and heart-felt fashion) that’s gotten put off for far too long in this regards. Tempers may flare somewhat, but everyone’s just gonna have to try to be as patient as possible: hopefully, you will both prove equally committed to resolving the issues currently driving a wedge into your marriage. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

    First, what do I mean by resolving? What should you expect to achieve? Well, the way I see it, is not that you will both necessarily see eye to eye, but that there will be a deeper understanding and appreciation, and from your husband’s side at least, a deeper respect, for one another’s perspectives and, more importantly, for one another personally. I feel that the key here is not allowing the labels of Christianity and atheism to define one another. Defining you is just something for people who don’t really know you to have to do in order for them to make sense of a world with you in it. But you two know yourselves and one another so much better than that. Don’t let a little word like “Christian” pin you down, and try not to box your husband in with your understandings of terms like “atheist” or “humanist”. And don’t let your husband do the same, whether to you, as a “Christian” (and thus whatever else that implies according to his way of thinking) or, equally importantly, as regards himself, however he might be inclined to define himself. (Not that we can’t adopt labels for ourselves by which we’ll identify ourselves to others, but we ought not to let them affect the way we relate to the ones closest to us.)

    Now, perhaps the reason he emailed the pastor without talking to you about it was also out of fear, this time about how you’d react, which of course he would see as totally irrational on your part, which in turn is how he might easily justify it to himself. But things become much more difficult for him when he’s confronted with the dilemma of justifying this to you. I would recommend—though I first must warn you that I’m certainly no expert on relationships, nor am I any kind of psychologist or anything of the sort—that you not make him go through the tortured logic he surely would in an attempt to do so, but rather address this sort of thing under the framework of how it made you feel, and try to get him to share not merely what he thinks—I suppose you already know well enough what he thinks—but to verbalize how he truly feels. He will resist you at first; he may get defensive; he will try to maintain his delusion that he really is a rational being, and by virtue of his rationality, ultimately correct in the matter at hand. But if you go easy when he gets defensive, yet demonstrate a relentless resolve to pursue the matter in the interests of saving your marriage, then I suspect, one way or another, you’ll see within a week’s time where his heart is at: either he’ll let down his guard over his inner self in order to guard his family against relationship crisis (even though simply admitting the existence of such sort of crises is a highly unmanly thing to do, it might seem to him), or else he will demonstrate a disinterest on his part in regards to your relationship, in which case the best you can do, it seems to me, is to try to part on good terms (for the sake of the children as well as your sanity), before—God forbid—he may one day be found doing worse behind your back than exchanging emails with your pastor.

    And don’t let him convince you you’re making a big deal out of nothing: If he cares about you and it’s a big deal to you, then he’s going to have to take it seriously. He’s going to have to accept that he’s no more the decider of what matters in relationships than which way the clouds go as they sail across the sky. And the heart of the matter here—the spiritual discord of which this exchange with you and your son’s pastor is just a symptom—is something I believe threatens the very being of your relationship.

    If your husband proves himself up to the challenge of addressing the growing disparity in worldview and interests between the two of you, if you think your pastor will be up to the challenge, I’d encourage the three of you to sit down together at your pastor’s office to have a nice long conversation regarding everyone’s concerns, responses to one another’s concerns, etc. Or if your husband would be too uncomfortable with that, I think it would still be good if—this time with your knowledge, but without your direct involvement or supervision or anything—he’d continue an exchanging of thoughts with your pastor, provided your pastor has time and the knowledge of the rational basis of his/her faith that are likely to be necessary to make such an exchange fruitful. If not, perhaps he might want to try offering his insights into the error of our ways here on John Shore’s blog. I think it could be just the challenge he needs for him to come to have a deeper appreciation for the *rationality* of a Christian worldview (that is, any one of many, some of them more, some less, rational Christian perspectives); plus, the position of token atheist around here is vacant at present.

    Besides all that, perhaps your husband will see the need to seek for (secular) marriage counseling.

    Let me emphasize once more that I make no claim to being any sort of expert in such matters.

    But allow, in closing, that I quote someone who does (David B., friend of John Shore), by re-emphasizing a couple of points from the original post that I think could use repeating here and that your husband too might benefit to hear, if not to learn by heart:

    “Your marriage won’t fail over differences; there will always be differences. It will fail if you are not honest with each other, and lack respect for one another—spiritually or otherwise.”

    “In a successful marriage, two people, who are different by virtue of being people, find the common ground on which they relate to each other, and use that as a foundation. They grow toward each other by learning about and respecting their differences, and then stay together by willingly meeting each other’s needs, whether they fully understand them or not. That last part, that really hard part—that’s love.”

    Whatever path you choose, good luck to you, Wendy!

  • I enjoyed every word of this post. Thank you.

    I knowingly married an “Atheist”, but the fact that he attends church with me, works 2 jobs so our daughter can go to a Christian school (and helps her memorize scripture), combined with knowing him the way I do for more than 10 years, makes it hard for me to believe he is a committed atheist. I think of him as an “atheist of convenience”.

    For some, I think it is just SO much easier to claim to believe in nothing than to be held accountable for believing in something.

    Still, he is a good and loving man and, although I wish we could prayerfully make decisions together as a married couple, I love him and our life together. I have made the decision to continue to trust God with his future and not try to manipulate it myself.

    Putting myself on par with God and his ability to save or convince someone of the “error of their ways” would make me the humanist, not the follower of Christ I claim to be.

    Right? 🙂

  • Wendy


    Thank you so much for your very thoughtful response. You thought of things I never considered, and really made me step back and think. I’m still processing, but wanted to let you know I very much appreciate you taking the time and effort to help a stranger!

    Thank you and God bless!

  • page83

    I am a christian who is madly in love with a non believer. The fact that he doesn’t believe yes it bothers me but I am willing to work with that. I do believe that everyone should believe but at the same time God gave us free will to choose. I am ok with taking our son to church and praying for our family with out him. Thank you for this site I now know that I am not alone. You can’t help who you fall in love with. I will love him till I die!

  • Jana

    I am a Christian, engaged to an Atheist. I can’t describe the war in my heart to anyone. In many ways my fiance acts more Christian than me. When he met me, I was a divorced woman with three kids. He takes care of us, he accepted my kids as his own (even though he has never been married and doesn’t have any kids), and he always puts my needs above his own. I love him so much. As much as I believe in my God, that much he doesn’t believe in any God. We agreed to respect each other’s points of view. We can often discuss our views without getting angry at each other, although I always end up feeling sick with heartache. The problem is, what you believe, Christian or not, will permeate your life, and dictate what you will and will not do. I realised that when I make decisions based on my Christian view my reason is regarded as invalid. When I experience something and I try to share it with him, I am regarded as a child that believe in fairies. He also actively fuels his believe by reading anything that is anti-Christian, and disregarding anything that is pro-Christian (which I guess I also do, just the other way around). My biggest problem is what he watches. He loves comedies. But often comedies openly ridicule Christianity or Jesus. At times like that I become extremely upset. I usually walk away and try to find a way to cope and deal with it. If he must respect me, then I must respect him. He is not a child, and I can’t tell him what he must and must not watch. But I am also fiercely loyal to my God, so I constantly end up feeling that I can’t love him and love my God, because they constantly come in direct opposition to each other. I also tend to be very intense which doesn’t help at all… So. Do I find some coping mechanism, and love him regardless, or do I walk away and die of heartache? I am very very confused. Views from atheists on this one is very welcome.

  • Tc

    Thank you for this. Lately I’ve been having a lot of anxiety about dating my atheist boyfriend. I have always had bad anxiety and convince myself of the worst things possible. Late one night I made myself believe that God didn’t want me to be with him because he isn’t a believer. I love God with all my heart and would never stop believing in him just because my partner doesn’t. I’m just afraid that I might be going against God and I’m also afraid of my boyfriends salvation. He supports my beliefs and never asked me to change. This is the first partner that loves me for who I am and actually makes me happy. I’m so afraid of losing him and I know even if I meet a Christian man that does not mean that we would match up like my current boyfriend and I.

  • DJ

    Idk if this is late or not, but the bible speaks of this Jana.

    Paul says if you are an unbeliever married to an unbeliever, and you become Christian, stay with him or her.

    If you are single, and the bible and gov agree that single means unmarried, you must break off the reletionship. For the very reasons you’ve address in this heartfelt 2am post. It’s not even enough for a Christian to marry another Christian solely because the other person is a Christian. Just think obits an athiest.

    The goal is to not settle for anyone who can take care of your earthy needs but lead you to holiness and relationship with god FIRST. Then all that stuff come second.

    Praying for you sister! Jesus is Alive!

  • Tracy

    What a beautiful letter. This, I think, is key: “I want to spend every day getting closer to her and knowing her more, faith and all.” I think many of us want marriage to be easy, and it seems best to wall ourselves off from the differences. Don’t like your spouse’s soccer passion? Leave the house when its tournament time. Don’t agree with your partner’s faith? Ignore it, don’t talk about, never attend the synagogue, mosque, church — that place that brings him or her solace, challenge, community, depth.

    But if we took this attitude? If we tried to appreciate what was meaningful to him/her, read some of the books that matter to our partner, learned some of those team names. Of course its not easy — but if you want a deep and meaningful relationship, you extend yourself.

  • Hannah Grace

    I have so much to say – don’t know if any of it will be useful.

    “I realised that when I make decisions based on my Christian view my reason is regarded as invalid. When I experience something and I try to share it with him, I am regarded as a child that believe in fairies.”

    Oh sweetie. This is not good. I am a devout Christian dating a staunch atheist, and we have had our share of respectful debates that leave me feeling heartache. Sometimes we joke respectfully – but we make care to never patronize or disrespect each other. She doesn’t treat me like a child, or a deluded sheep, because that’s incredibly patronizing and points to a lack of empathy and love. She respects and loves me as a Christian – it is part of who I am, and in her eyes, a positive part of who I am and something she loves in me – even if she doesn’t share the same belief.

    I respect her strong atheism, and her own humanist views. We share similar moral values, and look for the similarities.

    I feel like God is not an angry being who will be furious at not being respected. God is humble, and loving. Lots of the jokes about religion are attempts to make sense of a belief that is confusing for outsiders, or to poke fun at aspects of belief that seem destructive or illogical (predestination, for example). I feel like God is compassionate and near everyone, and too strong of an in-group out-group understanding of God can be negative and even blur the image of God, which is on the face of everyone.

    In one of my theology courses (I am about to graduate with a degree in theology) we discussed theology and disability. The Enlightenment idea that we are all thinking, logical beings whose ability to use reason and language are the key to humanity, and whose beliefs determine our destiny, may not always be the best angle to take to theology. So many of our ideas are rooted in our specific cultural context, rather than being universal truths, and not helpful when trying to understand God. Many people with intellectual disabilities are not ever going to be able to understand God as an intellectual concept, but this does not bar them from the Kingdom. Many people who would be considered part of the Christian camp experience times of intense doubt and atheism. On the other hand, often Atheists experience an inner light which leads them towards an understanding of the Good, even if this light is not identified with anything supernatural. There is not a strict binary between those who know God and those who do not – and many feel that God is working within the fabric of reality to draw all beings to his arms to be redeemed. This is what I have experienced with my atheist girlfriend, as she somehow hones my own beliefs and draws me closer to God through our differences, rather than our similarities.

    I don’t know if this helps, but many blessings to you.

  • Hannah Grace

    Sorry, realized I didn’t emphasize this one point enough – that being different is ok, but being disrespected is not. If you are being disrespected, there is a problem. And a man approaching a woman with a misogynistic, “dear, you are so gullible” approach needs to check his own behavior.

    I hope you find a way to love him as he is, and for him to love you as you are. Maybe seeking out other couples in interfaith marriages would help you.

  • I think this represents an “equally yoked” marriage b/c both partners seem to be willing to do everything in their power to love, honor, respect their spouse and to understand the other’s POV. So long as neither feels they have to dominate in the relationship, they can work it out.

  • Charlotte Stice

    I don’t know, guys. Doesn’t the Bible say not to be “unequally yoked?” Doesn’t it say that we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son, the kingdom of Light, and what fellowship has light with darkness? Which is, of course, a rhetorical question, because we know and just read about a couple, one Christian and one not, who has lots of fellowship together. But it seems to me we’ve been told not to do this, and God doesn’t give us these commands to make us miserable, but to protect and provide for us. So I don’t believe it’s ever best to marry an unbeliever, and I’ve known many people who have experienced great heartache in doing so. Certainly not all, of course. But how many lines are we going to blur and how much fudging of Scripture are we going to take?

  • Elizabeth

    It’s a tricky question, for sure. “Unequally yoked” is Pauline, though. Look around on the more recent threads for some précises of Paul.

  • Andy

    That letter was written to the Corinthians almost 2000 years ago, not us. Paul’s reasons for the things he said may not be applicable to every situation today. Or do you still believe wives should be submissive to their husbands?

  • Jill

    Unfortunately for many women, many men still do.

  • Erin_D

    But seriously, if you’re going to have children you better have a plan ahead of time.

  • Erin_D

    AND I’d get the plan written up contract-style, signed & notarized. No backsies on what we agreed upon before we were married!

  • Kiknk

    Thank for all these posts,

    I have been spiritually dead for a long time now, and five months ago I met an amazing guy. I have been through so much heartache and depression over men. I had given up almost any hope until I met this man who is a non-believer. But at the time when we met that was not much of my concern. Recently, I have read a book called Young and in Love by Ted Cunningham and it’s kind of opened my eyes again to faith. This book was helpful because I am getting serious with my boyfriend and we want to marry one day and this book explains young people in love, marriage, and finding the right person.

    Basically I’ve spent hours in worry and distress because I’ve been thinking that this man I love and I will never work out because of our differences in faith. I enjoy reading all these helpful posts because I have re-gained some hope. In my heart I realize that it may be wrong to be with him because I’m still ‘single’ in God’s eyes. But I have that feeling that this guy is the one, and I would be devastated without him.

    This post in particular helps posted by TC;

    Thank you for this. Lately I’ve been having a lot of anxiety about dating my atheist boyfriend. I have always had bad anxiety and convince myself of the worst things possible. Late one night I made myself believe that God didn’t want me to be with him because he isn’t a believer. I love God with all my heart and would never stop believing in him just because my partner doesn’t. I’m just afraid that I might be going against God and I’m also afraid of my boyfriends salvation. He supports my beliefs and never asked me to change. This is the first partner that loves me for who I am and actually makes me happy. I’m so afraid of losing him and I know even if I meet a Christian man that does not mean that we would match up like my current boyfriend and I.

    If anyone has advice for me I would grately appreciate it.

  • Julia

    I’m definitely having the same problem in my Christian/Atheist relationship. Im incredibly religious and believe you should save sex for marriage and he thinks of sex as a natural part of a relationship and pretty much necessary for couples. This is by far the hardest thing we’ve yet to face and yet it seems to be scarcely discussed in forms such as this. I know this post is quite old but i would love it if someone could help me out if they have any input or have been in a similar situation.

  • Are you guys planning on getting married?

  • Wonder

    Perhaps you should speak for yourself. As far as I know the only thing atheists have in common is non belief in the existence of deities. Isn’t the rest supposed to be up to you?


    Let me just be blunt. I am a liberal Christian. We do exist. I am
    outspoken and support such things as gay marriage and most other views
    liberals share…I am all of these things, realizing I will answer for
    my acceptance of things that are, how shall I say it, anti-religious I
    suppose, once I find myself before God. But after a recent relationship
    with a non-believer who wanted so much to keep the relationship that
    for a period of time he pretended to become a born again Christian in order to keep the relationship going… I do NOT see that I could
    ever find myself in a relationship with someone who does not share my
    faith. There were rough times during the period that I dated this man
    and during these times I wanted to turn to God in prayer…but I was
    praying alone. I wanted a home where we stood together strong in our
    faith and I wanted to go to church and church activities and make
    friends within the church but I could not see this being natural to the
    man I was seeing. Sure, he may have placated me but I’m not a child and
    this isn’t a matter of the existence of Santa Claus, but rather my Holy
    Creator. Where I turn to God in times of despair he looked for other ways to
    cope with the issue. God could not be at the center of a marriage when I
    was the only one who believed in Him in the first place. Every situation
    is not the same but I suggest people strongly make a decision early on
    as to whether they wish to involve themselves in a relationship with
    some one who does not share their beliefs. At our core, what we believe
    makes us who we are…Sharing my life with someone who thought my
    beliefs in Christianity were hogwash left me feeling resentful.

  • Caroline Mann

    I’ve been following this blog for some time, but have decided to post under my current circumstances. My boyfriend (an Atheist) and me (a Christian) have been struggling with reconciling our differences and therefore envisioning a future together. When we first started dating, I used to get extremely anxious about this-will he go to hell? what if he never believes? what will we do about raising kids? will he ever go to church with me? should I end this now? But as time has gone by (2 and a half years), I’ve come to a peace about our differing beliefs. Reading responses like this have given me hope and precaution. My therapist, who is also a Christian, advises me to stay in the relationship because he is a wonderful guy and we have a very healthy relationship. However, last night, after a stupid argument (that had nothing to do with faith), he began a conversation about how we never talk about the future, and whether I would be happier dating a christian. I assured him that he was the one I want, and I’m in no rush to get married (I’m a graduate student-who has time for anything?). He said he wasn’t sure he wanted to get married (which I think is BS because he’s never said that before). Then he said he felt like he was holding me back from my faith (not true, I’ve been going through kind of a meh phase with church but still attend small group with my friends and pray). I ended up sobbing as he told me we should take a two week break so I can see if he’s “ruining my life.” I’m devastated. I don’t want to break up. I want to marry him. But I’m so confused and feel like I could use some loving input from someone on the site (Atheists and Christians) who can help me communicate with him when our break is over and talk about some of the things we’ve avoided talking about for too long.

  • Laurie House

    I know I’m a little late, but I’d love to know how you’re doing!! I too am dating someone who is a non-Christian. While I’ve never had an experience like yours, I do know that I want to spend the rest of my life with him, and have come to peace with his agnosticism.

  • recycle bin

    I just broke up with my girlfriend because of this. We met almost a year ago.. Since then we have not argued once. She is the most awesome person I’ve met. We have had so many good times I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. Even the thought of perfume makes me ill. Its the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever done. I feel like i have trampled a flower. . Every moment we shared was just incredible.. We had our own world, and after wrestling for 4 months broke it off. Im 37 and believe men shouldn’t cry lol but this had knocked me as I’ve learned the hard way of trying to find a good woman which she is through and through. I’ve dated Christians and non all with varying outcomes.. But she isn’t Christian, and not fiercely atheist, in fact quite open i guess, but i eventually forced myself to since i tried to imagine the faith differences after the buzz has worn off, kids arrived etc.it’s just too big of a thing. I hope i did what is right even though it hurts like crazy.

    Iwant to be able to pray with my wife. That alone is probably the single most powerful thing two believers can share.. And part why I did what i did despite everything inside telling me otherwise.

    I hope this inspires someone, it helped typing it out.. I truly couldn’t imagine not sharing and growing in Christ with my life partner. Period.

    I hope i have done Gods will in this matter despite my internal messages. I don’t think it’s a sin marrying a non believer, but realistically speaking its a long shot very few succeed in.

    To God be eternal glory.

  • Guy Norred

    For what it is worth, though I know of numerous un-equally yoked marriages, mine included, that seem to make it all work very well, I can’t say that it doesn’t at times add an extra level of difficulty. I do not in any way mean this to come across as thinking you made the wrong decision. That is something I, or anyone else besides yourself for that matter, can never know. In thinking about this situation lately, it has occurred to me that since we are each on an individual faith journey, it would be a very rare thing indeed for two people to always be truly at the same step. I look at my parents marriage and know that their almost 50 years together were times when their lined up and times when they didn’t. True, even at their very furthest, they had the same starting place of faith in Christ.

    Peace to you through this difficult time.

  • BarbaraR

    Agreed. My husband and I have very different views on this but we have been together 10+ years and I don’t see that changing.

    I think the more important aspect is not whether both people share the same faith, but that each respects the other one’s views. If that is missing, the relationship will suffer inevitably over one issue or another.

  • blainehwl

    This is where I have a total loss of understanding.

    What do you want to pray with your wife about?

    Here’s an idea…pray for an amputee to regrow their limb(s). As soon as it happens, when One-Legged Willy tap dances, pat yourselves on the back and know that your protestations have accomplished something.

  • Maria Hope Clark

    My fiance and I are christian vrs atheist and before the last two weeks I would never have stated it that way. But within the last two weeks he now pushes his sci fi world to attempt to destroy my christian beliefs. He is not one to be wrong, and as we entered this relationship knowing each others beliefs, we decided never to push our beliefs on the other. I truly love him but if our time is going to be spent arguing beliefs, It’s just simply time to move on… OR IS IT????

  • Banh Mi DSLR101

    I ( a christian ) just broken up with my gf , I hope she can beleieve in Christ, but then after 8 months, I just feel she steperate me from God. I have to pick one, God or her. I break up. I just sad, very sad… but God is the one care for me all the time, and I beleive He had a good plan for me in future. a wife, who can sing all the worship song together with me.

  • Reni Ray

    Wow. The book ‘UNFAIR’ completely changed my life and made me feel not left out. Then this letter saved me, again, tonight, because I am currently engaged to my best friend who is, sadly, an atheist. Thank you, John Shore. You have changed my life.

  • Liana DeJourdan

    This whole situation leaves me puzzled due to the fact that Christianity (and most religions) are supposed to emphasize love and understanding, yet you aren’t letting yourself be happy due to your love of god. Wouldn’t your god want you to be happy, full of love, or even complete?

  • Johnny Fever

    You have to understand what’s going on here. This man is very understanding and is not threatened by your religious beliefs. Christianity is a world that Christians view reality through, but it is not reality itself. Reality is just reality. There is also an atheist world, a Hindu world etc. Pure being (“reality”) is beyond all of this. I know what you’re going to say: God is the pure being beyond all of this and Christianity is his revelation of that to us. But, again, that is imposing this world on pure being. If you had been born at a different time or in a different part of the world, you might think, man, how can somebody be a Christian, when Brahman is the ultimate being, and Yahweh is just this mountain god that has convinced people he is the supreme being…? Your husband understands this, evidently… Who is the truly spiritual person here…? I think your husband is. You might say, well, pure being is another world. I agree. In some respect it is. But it’s a world in which we admit that we are human with all of our limitations and accept that what we perceive as reality is filtered by those limitations… I can view this from a Christian perspective, or an atheist perspective or whatever… but they are all perspectives and each have their own artificial limits…

  • Johnny Fever

    I think it might be useful for you to view things from the “non-believer” perspective. Many Christians seem patronizing and condescending to non-Christians, sometimes to the point of ridiculing “non-believers”. When you possess “absolute truth”, this probably makes sense to you, but that seems very arrogant and egotistical to me… Many people in history have believed they possessed “absolute truth” and look down on “non-believers”. To many Muslims, Christians are delusional “non-believers”. To a Marxist, religion is the opiate of the masses (or something like that)… Examples such as this can be multiplied endlessly… If your husband is a jerk, he’s a jerk and I feel sympathy for her. But, I think it’s worth observing how many perspectives there are on this issue.

  • Johnny Fever

    I don’t get this. How can you have such a condescending attitude towards your husband and think you love him? What if he said to you, “I’m so sad that you have been misled into your delusional Christian belief system, but I still love you?” Would that seem good to you?

  • Heather F

    It’s obviously been a while, but I am curious what Rachel has to say. How did she feel about the relationship and its affect on her relationship with Jesus. Has it been encouraged? Has she grown? Sometimes I feel like I am trying to justify biblically how my relationship with a non-Christian is okay. How did she know it was okay??

  • Catherine Wong

    I’m in the somewhat-same situation. He’s technically agnostic. He believes in God, but he doesn’t like the cookie cutter Christian groups that our town has. I don’t blame him since I’ve resorted to listening to worship services and sermons online as the churches in our town are…. Backwards. Totally different from the church I grew up in (I switched countries). But he did express interest to check out the church I attended before I moved countries.

    Also, I was raised by a toxic and abusive Christian mother who had failed relationships all her life, and for some reason, can’t seem to find a “good Christian” man, not to mention a good regular man. My mother doesn’t really respect me as a woman anyway. But anyway, I never liked going to church with people, or family members. I loved going to church on my own. Hence, I don’t really see it as a problem if he didn’t want to attend.

    The main thing we have in our relationship is honesty. I am honest about how I feel, and he is honest about he feels. We don’t hide anything, and most importantly, we respect each other, and we treat each other as equals. I’ve seen Christian marriages fail because they used Christianity as a mask and ignored the true problems in their relationships, or they don’t even respect one another.

    I’ve turned down dates from Christian men because underneath those sweet words and bible quotes, I knew they didn’t respect me, or view me as an equal. They believed that my role should be that of a wife and a mother, but I’m a type “A” personality hence my attitude is a problem and that I have to change before we get anymore serious. I can’t keep talking about career or travelling and exploring the world. I have to stop doing solo overseas trips. They don’t want to travel to Norway or Iceland or Denmark because that’s where the Vikings are from and Vikings are pagan worshippers (But I LOVE Scandinavia!!). I have to stop telling little girls that they can be leaders in a company. I have to stop telling the girls that they should stand up for themselves and say no. I shouldn’t tell girls they can pick up a wrench and change their own tires. I can’t tell girls they can be welders at a shipyard. I have to stop learning Icelandic because it is the language of pagans (so untrue). I have to stop watching the science channel, cosmology or particle physics specials, or sci-fi movies because it “undermines” the bible. I didn’t just hear this from one church. I heard this from all the churches in my town (Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Apostolic, Pentecostal, Methodist…. etc). And honestly, we have too many damned labels.

    For my SO and I, We talk about our future, how religion will play a role in our relationship. We talk about our future kids. And we decided that we will give them a choice. Just as how God gave Adam and Eve free will. Even before meeting my SO, I’ve always believed that God gave us free will. Hence, we in turn, cannot force Christianity or any other belief or political views under someone else’s throat.. The more you force it on other people, the more they’ll turn away.

    And my SO loves it when I sing Christian songs (or any songs). The songs I know by heart are either English gospel, Icelandic hymns/folk, Faroese folk music, Sámi folk, or modern Japanese. So that’s all he gets to hear.

  • KrisN

    I’m sorry to hear you’re in so much turmoil. My husband is Buddhist and I’m Christian and I’ve had past great relationships with atheists, Muslims, Daoists, etc. We work, because we generally respect each other’s beliefs. But, even before respect, we are honest with ourselves about what’s important to us spiritually and what are out boundaries/deal breakers. You have a right to research information, including from your spiritual tenets, to assist you; but, ultimately, you have every right to decide without being shamed into rejecting or accepting someone of a different faith (or other areas). No one else can (nor should they) dictate to you what you should do. It has the propensity to breed confusion and resentment. Again, I’m sorry to hear you’re in so much pain. It might not help now, but continue ti be honest with yourself about what’s important to you spiritually (you mentioned praying together). And use that as a guide when you meet potential partners. I don’t like to date guys who smoke, but threw that out the window when I met a cute guy (ex-boyfriend now). Because I disregarded something that was very important to me (non-smoking) for a temporary priority (physical appearance), I never accepted the smoking and only made us both miserable when I addressed it. I wish you peace and the absolute best as you assess what matters most to you faith-wise and move forward with finding someone with whom you can connect on that matter. Best.

  • Jenn <3

    who was the author of this book? I am dating an atheist and trying to figure out if we have a future.

  • don’t_take_things_forgranted

    I’m a liberal Christian and my husband was a Christian when we dated and in our early marriage. We fell on hard times and he turned agnostic after we had already had a child. It’s been a few years now and another child later. He’s now an atheist. We really don’t talk about his beliefs or my beliefs but once in a blue moon because it will end in argument. We’ve decided not to push our religious/non religious beliefs on our children and let them get older and decide. I feel that if we didn’t agree on that then our marriage wouldn’t have lasted. As long as we have other things to talk about and still love each other, we are working it out the best for our family. It’s not for everyone but not every relationship is the same.

  • Nick Scott

    Atheism is nothing to be sad about. One can make the case that it creates space to be even more moral and virtuous than stale, ancient, and fixed religious morality