Is It Possible to Marry Someone Whose Religious Beliefs Differ From Yours?

Okay, I know it’s possible because I’ve seen lots of people do it. I guess I’m asking the religious folks on the SDMB if you feel you could have a good relationship with someone who doesn’t feel the same way you do about religion. This person would be good for you in every way EXCEPT you would not share a religious belief. A good partner, lover, parent, friend, worker…the whole shebang. But one of you would be a Jew or an athiest or an agnostic or Wiccan or Catholic or Christian or Muslim. Could you do it? Why or why not?

No, I couldn’t do it, because in a marriage, I would expect my spouse to be able to fully participate in my faith, and support me spiritually. As a Christian, I would not be in a marriage with a non-Christian, not only because it’s counselled against in the Bible, but because I couldn’t fathom being with someone I couldn’t go to church with, study the Bible with, pray with, and who wouldn’t be able or willing to hold me accountable for meeting the standards of Christ, and vice versa.

For most people, their spiritual life is a process, a “walk” if you will. While it’s not essential, moving through that process is considerably more enjoyable and more easily done when there is a partner who is also engaged in that process, and not observing from a position of respectful but uninvolved outsider.

Think of the difficulty of losing weight in a marriage when your partner isn’t dieting and has never had a weight problem. The fact that they aren’t dieting with you and aren’t working through the process can make you both miserable. If dieting, which is usually temporary, can be so stressful when it’s not a shared experience, how much moreso can one’s faith walk be in the same circumstances?

Moreover, barring a change of heart, there’s much less room for religious-based conflict when both sides of the marriage are in accord on the basic concepts. Two Wiccans aren’t going to get into an argument because the husband is taking the kids off to yet another Solstice celebration, sigh, moan, whine. An observant Jewish husband won’t whine to his observant Jewish wife when she refuses to stop at McDonalds on the way to synagogue on a Saturday morning.

Then there’s the issue of kids. Whose truth is the right truth? How much instruction is too much? When the decision is made to raise the kids as “kinda both,” doing the whole “expose them to mom’s religion and dad’s religion, and when they’re older they can choose for themselves” what happens when Dad decides that the kids are going to too many services at mom’s church and not enough at his mosque or vice versa?

What does the atheist mom do when she realizes that she really isn’t okay with all that God stuff, and every time the dad and the kids go off to a religious service or observance she becomes a little angrier or a little more resentful and a little more distanced from her partner and her children?

How does the Christian mother married to the Jewish father handle it when the kid comes to her and says “Mommy, how come Daddy doesn’t believe in Jesus? Doesn’t the Bible say that we have to believe in Jesus to go to Heaven?” in a way which doesn’t compromise the faith that she proclaims, doesn’t freak out the kids and doesn’t bring condemnation upon the dad?

It’s possible to do it, but if both sides of the relationship truly intend to hold to their own faith and be active in it with any, it’s going to bring some conflicts. Why go into a marriage with an extra layer of potential problems built in? I wouldn’t do it, and I’d be hard-pressed to recommend that anyone do it.

I know people who do it and do it well, but I don’t think I could myself. My faith is a big dimension in my life, the basis for a lot of what I do and how I think. I want to be able to share that with my husband.

When I was dating an atheistic Jewish guy, it was a problem for us. There was just too much we couldn’t share or understand. There were other problems too, and I never considered marrying him, but that was the main reason why.

My husband and I both have the same faith, and it’s a big help in our marriage; makes it much easier in some ways.

I wouldn’t do it, because it’s too important to me that my hypothetical husband and I participate together in spiritual activities.

Then again, my protestant sister married a very nice Catholic boy, and they seem to have worked it out reasonably well. I realize that’s not QUITE the same thing, but considering my sister and our parents belong to the Church of Christ (that’s the same church that His4Ever belongs to, if you need some context), it’s a pretty wide chasm.

Posted by :EchoKitty

But one of you would be a Jew or an athiest or an agnostic or Wiccan or Catholic or Christian or Muslim.

I noticed you wrote Catholic or Christian. Do you remember those people the Romans fed to the lions because of what they believed 2000 years ago. They were known as Roman Catholic Christians.
How is it now they are no longer Christian?

World wide Catholics account for 3/4 of all Christians. Protestants account for 1/4 of all Christians. You are out numbered 3 to 1. Read some history it will do you good.

I’ll throw in a voice from the other side of aisle. No pun intended. :slight_smile:

My wife is a Christian, and I’m not. However, I’m very supportive of her faith - I like the fact that she’s a Christian, because I think Christianity does a lot of good, even if I don’t choose to buy into it. I attend church with her, as it’s important to her, even if it bores the pants off of me. :wink:

I do have religious beliefs - I believe in a kind god, and all - I just don’t think that this particular god is Christian in nature. However, I have strong faith that there’s something out there. This helps our relationship substantially. I don’t think she’d be able to be with me if I were an atheist, as her spirituality is very important to her. It’s also worth noting that she doesn’t take the bible too literally. She believes in Christ, accepts the overall message of the bible, but views most of the stories in there as allegorical.

I certainly think that cross-faith relationships can work, but it’s important that each member is accepting and supportive of the other’s faith.

And by the way, BeatenMan, Catholics account for only about 50% of all Christians. If you’re going to be condescending, at least get your facts straight.

Agnostic/Catholic marriage here (although shes not really practicing ) 2.5 months so far without religious incident. Then again we have only been married 2.5 months so I guess time will tell…

No, I would not have married Mrs. Shodan if she had not been a Christian.

There is even a passage in the New Testament recommending against marrying a non-Christian.

I suppose it could work, but it would be a temptation to which I don’t think I could have subjected myself.

Of course, I did date people of other faiths, but not seriously.



My wife is a Quaker, and I’m an atheist. I don’t question her right to believe in what she wants to believe, and I support her (intermittent) attendance of Quaker meetings. By the same token, she doesn’t press me on my nonbelief. When we have kids, we’ll explain our respective philosophies, and why we have them, and make it clear that they’re to make up their own minds on the issue.

Geesh BeatenMan way to get off on semantics.

It is possible, but not recommended.
I almost did this very thing 2 years ago.
It would have been a mistake.
The beleifs of his religion were too different from mine for me to be comfortable with it.
Now if your saying a Methodist and a Lutheran, well, thats okay IMHO.

I don’t see it so much of a question of “how closely do your religious beliefs mesh,” it strikes me more as “how tolerant are you of each other’s beliefs” or “how open-minded are you.” My grandparents didn’t agree with each other’s beliefs (Grandpa was an atheist, Grandma was a Catholic), same with my parents and most of my aunts and uncles (lots of atheists marrying Catholics, a few cases of members of different Christian denominations marrying), and all of these marriages went without any kind of major religious conflict because both partners respected each other’s beliefs. My grandpa didn’t mind that his kids went to church every Sunday with his wife, and my grandma didn’t threaten him with hellfire or tell the kids that he was a wicked man. When the kids asked “Why isn’t Dad going to church with us,” the answer from my grandma was a simple “He has different beliefs than I do.” My grandma and grandpa (and my aunts, uncles, and parents) were under no illusion that their beliefs were perfect or self-evident, and that anybody who disagreed with them was therefore evil/irrational/stupid/whatever – they were comfortable enough in their respective faiths that they were able to respect the beliefs of others, and grow in their own faith from the conflict in belief. Grandpa died an atheist and Grandma died a Catholic (within one year of each other), and they’d enjoyed over fifty years of happy marriage in the meantime.

I’m a Unitarian, my soulmate is an atheist. It works. (Of course, I’m a Unitarian, which is not quite the same thing as being orthodox about anything).

We are good friends with a couple - he is an atheist, she is a Baptist. They are apparently happily married. She takes the kids to church, he stays home.

Other people have said it, but its more to do with “can you respect the other persons beliefs” and “what are you going to do with children.” Those are the points of contention. My husband and I have had our only personal religious battles on those two things - often tied together.

I don’t believe in Jesus and I’m not sure about God; my wife is a Christian–we’ve been together for thirteen years without any real problems. Of course, we haven’t haven’t had to deal with the issue of what to teach our (infant) daughter yet, but I’m sure we’ll sort that problem out without too much difficulty when the time comes.

There are some problems from time to time with our respective families . . . sadly, Catholics and Pentacostals don’t always mix very well. It was an interesting wedding . . .

Hrm … that’s the second time in this thread that such a passage has been mentioned. Which passage is it?
– from a curious heathen

2 Corinthians 6:14-17

“Be ye not unequally yoked with non-believers” may be the one they are thinking about.

no idea chapter/verse

EchoKitty: (emphasis mine)

The answer for me is no, and the reason is that word I bolded. Religion is not a peripheral thing in my life, it defines my entire lifestyle. No one who does not share the lifestyle could by definition be a good partner in implementing it for me, nor for my children.

No doubt people of other religions could be good friends, workers, parents (to children of their own) and lovers. However, a spouse is supposed to be a partner in one’s life goals, and not sharing such an essential portion - perhaps even the entirety - of one’s life goals, as defined by their religion, is a fatal flaw in sucg a marriage.

I’m in almost the same situation as Mephisto. I’m agnostic, my wife is Catholic. She actually works for a Christian organization. (Salvation Army) Like Mephisto, we also have a young daughter. (now 3 years old) My wife wanted to have her baptized as a Catholic. I didn’t. For the first and only time in 13 years our religious differences caused a problem. Eventually I relented with the understanding that I would have the opportunity to expose our daughter to other points of view as she gets older.
We have a very happy marriage. I don’t interfere with her Catholicism and she doesn’t interfere with my agnosticism. I think the attitude that a potential mate MUST share the exact same faith as ME is immature and selfish.

I totally disagree. You must be in agreement with your spouse on your most essential values (or else, you could marry someone at random, it wouldn’t matter). If your belief in god is a central element of your personnality or way of life, it’s perfectly reasonnable to select a partner on the basis of his/her faith.
That would be true for anything else, anyway. Your political opinions if you’re very involved in politics, your moral values, your passions (say, you spent all your free time sailing and your potential mate can’t bear being on a boat), your lifestyle, etc…
That’s not childish at all. Considering this sort of things before commiting with someone else is a very mature approach, at the contrary.