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By January 21, 2012

Can an Atheist Find Love and Marriage With a Christian?

Dear Ms. HeartBeat:
Are religious differences a deal-breaker when it comes to a serious relationship? Can a Christian and an Atheist, or a Catholic and a Jew make it work?

I come from a very non-religious family that has never practiced any religion. My parents were both raised as Baptists when they were growing up, but they’ve since studied religion and decided that there was no real logic behind it. So my sisters and I were raised Agnostic/Atheist. My stance was never questioned until I met a girl at school whose family is Catholic.

She says that we may as well break up because her family would never approve of her marrying a non-Catholic. Even though she admits they aren’t that devout in their religion anyway. I love her and see her in my life forever. I wish she were not so scared about what her family thinks.

Any advice for me?

In Love and Confused

Dear In Love and Confused:
Religion is a very touchy subject with most families, especially when it comes to their children. I think religion is even more important to families than race or the age of a potential partner! Why? Because many people believe that their spiritual beliefs dictate what will happen with their eternal soul once they die. Therefore, similar religous beliefs can be a very powerful screening tool to eliminate suitors.

My belief is that spirituality or religion is like a wagon wheel. In the center is God. The spokes of the wheel are the many different paths (religions) that people take to find what they believe is God. When you think of it that way, it means that everyone is going in the same direction with a common goal… they just have different routes to get there.

As far as relationships go, if you have two people with difference religious backgrounds, how they get to God shouldn’t be an issue. Both people are trying to achieve the same goal and arrive at the same destination, they are just taking a different route to get there.

The key is that the two people involved respect not only each other as people, but their differences and similarities. Not everyone has the capability to be so tolerant and accepting. What it means is that when one is religious and the other is not, neither tries to press their viewpoints on the other. Neither denigrates the other’s belief system either. There is such mutual respect that it’s amazing; the mutual respect  carries over into other areas of their relationship.

When two people are truly able to accept each other for who and what they are, a difference in religious beliefs will make no difference. It’s just like one enjoying water sports and the other partner can’t swim and has no interest in it. Or perhaps one likes to knit as a hobby and the other prefers model car building. Each has their own way of looking at the world. There is no need for everyone to be the same, or to see things the same. Just because you are in a relationship with someone does not mean you are Siamese Twins joined at the hip and required to be exactly the same in every instance.

Give folks space to be themselves! Enjoy them for what they bring into your life and let the rest go. The people capable of doing this one thing can have a fulfilling long-term relationship with someone completely opposite of them in religious beliefs.

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