Mel, over at Crushed Caramel, wanted to know what we would do faced with this situation:
You are in love and the person you have been courting for some time wants to marry you. Although you are very close, there is one main difference in your outlook. One of you believes in a Creator and wants to practice a particular faith. The other does not believe in a Creator and despises all religion. When the two of you talk about beliefs, emotions run high and generally the conversations have to be cut short because it can become hurtful. You realize this may cause challenges, despite the love you share.
In a comment on her post, I wrote:
What would I do? I’d turn around, walk away, and never look back. This is such a fundamental matter and one that essentially defines who we are. It can’t work in the long run.
In a response to my comment, Mel asked me this:
Here is a question for you…and it is not meant to be controversial or provocative, I just wonder what you think. I can see that if one partner did not believe in a Creator and was anti-religion and the other partner was very actively religious and constantly pontificating about it – there could be fireworks. But what do you think of a couple who agree to disagree and decide to talk about it? Or the partner who believes in a Creator does so silently. Perhaps someone who believes in a Creator but steers clear of religions who seem to have their own agenda. Someone who silently prays but does not speak about their beliefs to their partner because they know it would be provoking. I have a few friends in exactly that boat. I have seen a lot of love in those relationships, but also a lingering sadness.
Okay, so here’s the deal. I’m an atheist. I believe that the notion of a supernatural “creator” is a man made creation. I am not, however, anti-religion. My philosophy when it comes to religion is “whatever floats your boat.”
That said, I have no patience for the holier-than-thou religious cheerleaders who are certain that their religious beliefs are right and anyone who doesn’t embrace them is wrong, who go around proselytizing, calling atheists immoral and saying anyone who doesn’t believe in God can’t know right from wrong or good from evil, or who try to foist their concepts of morality or their religious beliefs upon the rest of us through legislation.
My wife, the woman I’ve been married to for more than 40 years, believes that a “higher power” exists, but she doesn’t refer to it as “God” or the “Creator.” She also believes that there must be something beyond our Earthly life, but doesn’t call it “heaven” or “hell.” And while she considers herself to be somewhat spiritual, she’s not religious and finds most “organized” religions to be off putting.
She and I are fine together because religion is not an important factor for either of us, and the fact that she believes in a higher power and I don’t has not been an issue. But in her question, Mel noted that “one partner did not believe in a Creator and was anti-religion and the other partner was very actively religious and constantly pontificating about it.” And she asked whether such a couple can “agree to disagree” and, thus, be happy together.
My answer is that even if they agree to disagree, each person, in her example, has deeply held beliefs that are fundamental to who they are, and those beliefs are in diametrical opposition. Such intrinsic elements of someone’s being and nature can only be stifled for so long before a pent up resentment for having to suppress their true nature starts to boil over.
Bottom line, in the context of Mel’s question, my response is that opposites don’t attract and love does not conquer all.
Anyone else want to weigh in on this?