In Faith and In Doubt: Read an Excerpt

Now Featured at the Patheos Book Club
In Faith and In Doubt
How Religious Believers and Nonbelievers Can Create Strong Marriages and Loving Families
By Dale McGowan


In Faith and In Doubt puts the secular/religious mixed marriage in a cultural context, counters the hair-pulling naysayers, tells the stories of real couples who have succeeded as well as some who've failed (and why), and offers suggestions and strategies for ending up in the success column. Readers may be considering a relationship that crosses this gap, or they may currently be in such a relationship and hoping to navigate it well. Or maybe you have a child entering a secular/religious relationship and the hairpulling naysayers have you worried. Or maybe you're just interested in one of the most fascinating and understudied corners of the age-old dialogue between faith and doubt.

I hope the whole book is useful and interesting for believers and nonbelievers alike, but you'll be the best judge of what works for you. Read straight through or head for the sections that matter most to you. Here's the map:

Part One covers the big picture—how marriage, religion, and irreligion have changed over time, and the ways religious believers and nonbelievers are different from the stereotypes we carry in our heads. If you're a believer married to a nonbeliever or vice versa, this section can help you see your relationship through a wider lens, as part of a fascinating wave of social change.

Part Two puts the secular/religious marriage in the context of real life through the stories of the following eight actual couples:

Tom and Danielle. Married as an agnostic and a liberal Southern Baptist, Tom and Danielle had to survive a rough patch as Tom moved into a more activist atheism and struggled with what he could and could not respect.

Scott and Dhanya. A nonreligious American and a Hindu born and raised in South Africa, Scott and Dhanya's religious difference is only one of many bridges they've had to negotiate.

Hope and David. Parents of five, Hope and David were both born, raised, and married as conservative Baptists. Then David, who had been headed for the ministry, lost his beliefs entirely, sending the marriage into a tailspin.

Arlene and Nate. Already Southern Baptist and atheist from the start, Arlene and Nate were always able to be light and playful about their religious differences—until their son was born, and things got serious.

Evan and Cate. An atheist and a disaffected Catholic find common ground and a welcoming community in a Unitarian Universalist fellowship.

Anna and Gary. She was Catholic and he was an atheist at their wedding. Within a few years, she was an atheist and he was a born-again Baptist.

Cassidy and Bill. Both were Evangelical Pentecostals when they were married, but Cassidy's loss of faith and assertion of a new personal autonomy was not well received by Bill, who saw it as the breaking of a sacred promise.

Andrew and Lewis. A moderate atheist and a moderate nondenominational Christian, Andrew and Lewis have found that their differences are dwarfed by the common ground between them.

Part Three breaks down the common issues—the first discussion, weddings, specific practices, identity, communication and respect, extended family, parenting, and divorce—drawing insights from the featured couples and many others, as well as expert opinion and social science research.

If all goes well, you'll end up with a new perspective on the secular/religious marriage. It isn't so strange after all.

8/16/2014 4:00:00 AM
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  • Dale McGowan
    About Dale McGowan
    Dale McGowan has written several books from the nonreligious perspective, including "Parenting Beyond Belief", "Raising Freethinkers", and "Atheism for Dummies". His book "In Faith and In Doubt" is the first to focus on marriages between religious believers and nonbelievers.