I’m Jewish, he’s an atheist: Intermarriage, and what I have to leave behind

Guest post by RobberBaroness
Remember when Tara and Tayo jumped the broom and smashed the glass? Photo by Amy Ann Photography.
Remember when Tara and Tayo jumped the broom and smashed the glass? Photo by Amy Ann Photography.

Intermarriage wasn't supposed to be something that I'd ever have to deal with. I'm the daughter of a rabbi and a cantor (and the stepdaughter of yet another rabbi!), sent to Jewish day school as a child, raised Conservative, and while I'm unsure about my personal beliefs, my identity as a Jew has always and will always be super important to me. I've been to weddings my father officiated, listened to him explain how stamping on the glass is a reminder not only of the destruction of the temple but of the constant work we need to do in a marriage, and even sang Sunrise, Sunset in the chorus of my own temple's Fiddler on the Roof production.

Just my luck the love of my life turned out to be an atheist…

He's a friendly atheist with a deep appreciation for the aesthetics of ritual and religion, and my family has been fine with our relationship. He even considered conversion for a while, before deciding it would be spiritually dishonest to profess faith in anything, as much as he loved Judaism's culture of intellectualism and constant questioning. Any religion I want in our wedding is okay by him, but it will still be an interfaith wedding.

Which means, of course, that it can't be Conservative. The denomination I was raised in will not perform intermarriages.

While some Jews find this horribly unfair, I actually don't. I totally get it. Judaism in general (Conservative Judaism especially) is dwindling, and children of intermarriages tend not to become Jews. More than that, in order for a Jewish ceremony to actually mean something, Judaism should be part of the couple's life. It's great when religious Jews marry religious Jews because something special and holy will be a shared part of their lives, inform their values and help them grow together.

I get it. The prohibition against Conservative rabbis even attending intermarriages is less reasonable to me (and some family friends will be skipping our ceremony due to this), but overall I get it.

It still means I'm leaving behind the way I was raised, and the denomination that I feel the most connection to. (As the joke goes, I may not go to shul often, but the shul I don't go to is Conservative!) I'm speaking right now to several Reform and Renewal rabbis and cantors (Reform clergy will perform intermarriages where the children are promised to be raised Jewish, and Renewal clergy get to make up their minds — which all clergy do to some extent, anyway).

My wedding will be spiritually appropriate to a questioning couple with doubts about eternity but a love for culture, and a belief that transcendence is possible. I will be just as Jewish and my husband will be just as supportive and engaging in that Jewish tradition as ever.

It still means other-ing myself from my family. And that's never easy.

How have our other interfaith couples handled this often sticky religious issue with each other and your families?

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Comments on I’m Jewish, he’s an atheist: Intermarriage, and what I have to leave behind

  1. I’m having an interfaith wedding. I’m a Pagan, he’s a Christian. There are some pretty conservative Christians in the family and I don’t know how well the Pagan half of the ceremony will be taken.

    We’re booking a celebrant who is familiar with interfaith weddings so she will explain the bits of the ceremony as they happen so people can understand what’s going on. But I don’t know if that will be enough for people who aren’t tolerant of paganism.

  2. Duuuuude. I’m a Jew-ish (emphasis on the “ish”) gal marrying an atheist, too! Just giving a shout out 🙂

  3. I’m Wiccan or I straight up like to call it, I’m a Witch he’s agnostic. We were both raised conservative Christian and both of us have lost friends and I have lost my family (blood wise) for believing what I do.

    And yet we are not having a public handfasting or traditional cermony.

    Here’s why. We don’t believe it is our job to put our marriage, life, family, or even our future children into a spiritual mold that has to be filled a certain way. It is more important to us that all of these things are completely open to all spiritual experiences so that we may grow as people. And really love all people. Our wedding will not being a “showing” of faith. Rather a celebration of who we are, there will be nodes towards what I believe and aspects of our Norwegian tradition, but we don’t want to smother anyone. We will have our own private “ritual” of marriage on our honey moon.

    • I get what you’re saying about it not being a showing of faith for you. That’s cool.
      For me, it wouldn’t feel like my wedding day without the religious bit.

      I’m going to get my partner to “pre-warn” and prepare people who might not like it in his family and I’ll do the same with mine. They can choose whether to come to the ceremony.

    • As a pagan, planning a wedding with my no belief partner, there is no way I couldn’t incorporate pagan ritual in my wedding. My spirituality is as much part of me breathing, and it wouldn’t feel right without these elements. Luckily, as long as I don’t make us do anything too funky, my man is perfectly cool with this 🙂 I couldn’t care less what the people coming along think, or if it makes them uncomfortable, as it’ll be one of the most important rituals of my life! So its great your plan is to have a separate ritual, I hope its just as special for you 🙂

      • Like I said. There will be aspects of wicca in our wedding. I love some of the handfasting vows. But I have never wanted a flashy handfasting or strictly pagan cermony, however we look forward to the ritual of our own we will be doing just for us two, no people middle of the redwoods, with nothing but the goddess and us along with ancient trees. That makes us happy 🙂

  4. Been in an interfaith marriage for two years now. I’m Christian, my spouse is Jewish. I’m actively involved in my church, and I find Judaism extremely interesting and love our family’s home practice in both religions’ holidays and rituals.

    We live in the heartland, so there are no rabbis in not-needing-to-fly distance that are willing to participate in interfaith weddings. The responses we received from our inquiries to Jewish clergy were all kindly meant, but some of their words were very hurtful. (“Just so you know, I don’t think you’re bad people” was one of the more memorable.) I was offended by clergy who refused to participate in our wedding and in the next breath urged us to raise any children in Judaism. I was indignant on behalf of my spouse, who always wanted to have a Jewish wedding, indignant that they would deny someone who loves Judaism so much this important life-cycle moment within his own culture and religion.

    My pastor joyfully performed an interfaith ceremony, and it was wonderful. Exactly what we wanted. But I have to admit, I still feel gunshy trying to engage with Jewish community. I’m trying to move past bitterness into forgiveness, but I’m still struggling.

    • maaaaaaan. As a future rabbi, and daughter of an interfaith marriage myself, I want to give all of those rabbis a stern talking to. Like, SERIOUSLY stern. It’s our job (in my opinion) to help a couple towards finding a meaningful way to integrate Judaism into their future lives and family together. That starts with being open to performing a wedding.

  5. I sometimes refer to myself as a mudblood (thanks Harry Potter, which I’ve never actually read). My father was Jewish, my mother was Methodist, and she converted in a reform synagogue to marry my father. They raised me and my sister in a Conservative synagogue and we each had a Mikvah for good measure. But my street cred as a Jew was always in question.

    My first wedding was performed by a Lutheran minister, but we used my father’s tallis and my (now ex) mother in law’s garden trellis to form a chuppah. I taught my protestant farm boy (ex) husband a few phrases in Hebrew, and we broke a glass together.

    My next wedding will be decidedly less religious. I’m marrying an ex-Catholic turned pagan, and I’m an atheist. I still consider myself a Jew – ethically, culturally, heritage-ly Jewish – but I have no idea how to incorporate this into our wedding, or even if I need to.

    • just so you know, JK Rowling did not invent the term mudblood. it is a racist term that was used to describe “undesirables” during WWII such as Jews, Gypsies, and other people who would end up in concentration camps. Some people would be extremely offended to be referred to in that way, or to hear a flippant use of that term.

      • Interesting! I did a pretty extensive study of WWII, including some in depth papers on German eugenics and never saw ‘mudblood’ in use. I’d love to hear more about its pre-Rowling history and a cursory search is only turning up Rowling references. Do you have any sources I could use?

      • Do you have a link, because I’d love to learn more. I certainly hope my use didn’t come across as flippant, since I was referring to myself and the very real ostracism and bullying I’ve faced from Jews of “purer” heritage than me.

        • She is probably referring to the German word “Mischling” which literally translates as “mutt” like a mixed breed dog. It could be viewed as being equivalent to the term “mudblood” but I am not aware of any literal use of the term or a commonly used direct translation from the Nazi era.

    • Check out Secular Humanistic Judaism – we are the kind of Jewish you describe, and have 50 years of experience celebrating weddings, creating community, etc. You might find a sympathetic and talented officiant for your ceremony through the Association of Humanistic Rabbis (www.humanisticrabbis.org) or the Graduates of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism (http://iishj.org/about-alumni.html). And mazel tov!

      • We were married by a secular humanist rabbi, and it was incredible. I am Jewish, the husband is atheist, and our Rabbi just totally “got us”. The ceremony was perfect, and frankly, I WISH I lived near his synagogue, because I would love to become a member (we got married across the country from home, we picked a rabbi in our wedding town and got to know each other via Skype. We were able to build an amazing ceremony the centered on equality and strength as a couple and as independents, and not even the oldest, most traditional Jews in the crowd caught on enough to comment on the simple fact that there was no mention of God anywhere in our ceremony.

        We also signed a Ketubah with secular humanist text.

  6. THANK YOU for posting this! In my own inter-faith relationship, I’ve been hard-pressed to find advice or wisdom I could take seriously. I’m a Christian, and serious about it (like, ‘future-pastor’ serious), and my partner is in the same boat as yours–interested, supportive, but too honest to pretend that he can believe it. I wrote the ceremony myself, and our Lutheran pastor will perform it; it’s decidedly Christian, but in an accessible way. Because we’re getting married on a farm (more accessible than a church to his family) we’re incorporating a lot of language about planting seeds and nourishing them, and ‘bearing fruit’ by living well in the world. We’re asking all of our guests to bless us with a ‘prayer, blessing or wish.’ I definitely had to exercise restraint; some rituals and language that are important to me would make his family feel really weird, and wouldn’t be very honest for him either. I hear you. It’s hard. For me, the most important thing to remember is that my relationship with God and my relationship with my partner are not in competition; they are complementary. They each help me love the other better. And that it is a beautiful thing to be surprised by love.

    • I’m in the same situation as you. But I’m struggling, really struggling. My entire life I’ve been taught not to marry a non-believer. I’ve read the books, seen the evidence, felt so sad for the women who attended church without their husbands.

      I can’t help but feel that I’m doing the stupid thing by marrying a non-Christian. Even though he and I suit each other so well.

      • I know exactly how you feel. I was raised in a fundamental conservative Baptist church (cant get any more serious than that lol) and growing up, we were always taught not to be “unequally yolked.” That a believer cannot marry a non-believer.

        Growing up, I understood what they were saying but since my father didn’t attend church with my mother for such a long time, I grew up used to that. I had family that were catholics and I had other family that just stopped going to church and backslid, so to speak. So I saw all sorts of situations going on.

        I don’t understand to the full extent since my fiancé was raised Catholic and still identifies as Catholic, even though when he does attend church, pray, or even talk about faith it relates more to the non-denominational faith that I practice. So we both believe and have faith in the same God. Yet, there are people I know who would still see this as wrong since he was a Catholic. I was raised in private schooling, I also attended public schooling, and I’ve traveled to different countries so I see my faith differently than most would.

        What I have told people is this: I have prayed and prayed a lot about marrying him and God has given me a peace about it. I don’t feel any doubts or worries because I know God has brought us together. Love does not live in a box, we put it in a box with all sorts of boundaries.

      • You’ve got my prayers, and my empathy! One thing that really helped me on this front is reading 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul talks about the contentious issue of eating food that had been sacrificed to idols. Essentially, he says that there’s no one right way to go–each person has to prayerfully follow their own sense of God’s call. If there’s a question that we’re uncertain on, we can apply all of our best wisdom and prayer, and then make a choice to do what seems faithful to us. And when someone does something that’s different than what we have chosen, but do it in their best attempt at being faithful, we have the job to support their efforts to follow God, rather than to tear them down.
        Another important thing for me was the moment when I realized what I was afraid of. I was afraid that if I married this man, I would lose God’s love and be a ‘bad Christian.’ Sister, I’m here to tell you that if that’s what you’re afraid of, it’s a LIE! There is nothing you can do to count yourself out of God’s story. We all have to make choices the best way we know how, and then have faith that God will use us in a beautiful way just how we are. So make your choice in joy and in confidence, whatever it is–don’t make it in fear. You are loved by the God of the universe, and that is not going to change, no matter WHAT you do. I’m praying for you!

      • I know the feeling. I actually broke up with my fiancee because of that once – I’m a die-hard Christian (loosely Seventh-Day Adventist), and he’s an agnostic. At the time, though, he was going through a bit of a more militant atheist phase, and I while I believe everyone is on their own journey and can live with that, I can’t handle people actively bashing my dearly-held beliefs, pretending like my experiences aren’t real, or not defending me sufficiently when I’m under verbal attack over my beliefs. So I broke it off with him.

        But y’know what? I still loved him, & he still loved me. We ended up getting back together 2 years later, but not before we had a really serious talk about the place of faith in my life & in our relationship. He promised to be more supportive & open-minded, and apologized for going off the rails… he actually seemed a little embarrassed about the whole thing (he’s normally a very open-minded and mild person). And you know, I feel pretty good about it 🙂 We still get a few comments of concern here & there, but mostly people are good about it, cos they know he’s a good guy who lives a lifestyle that’s not far off from what most of us in my church do. And my pastor has said he’s seen interfaith marriages work before, & that respect and open-mindedness are the most important things. So yeah, feeling pretty good about it 🙂

        The flip side of this is that especially in our world, nothing is guaranteed. I know one Christian couple who had been married for 20 years and then the husband de-converted & is now a rather die-hard atheist. So, I guess marrying another Christian in that situation didn’t really matter much to some extent… you never know when a person will change their mind. So why try to plan for that?

        So basically, I think if he’s a good match for you, is willing to be respectful of your beliefs, and you agree on a lot of moral issues (something that’s important regardless of religion), and if you can handle not being on the same page sometimes, then go for it. That said, if you think his lack of belief will drag you back in your own faith in any way… then I’d give it another look before continuing with the wedding.

  7. I’ve also dealt with a certain amount of un-welcome-ness being an atheist marrying a Jewish man. I’m sure the children will face a certain amount of intra-Jewish prejudice (a reality I was totally unaware of prior to exploring this whole ‘intermarriage’ thing). I was ranting about how maybe more people would want to be active in the Jewish community if the Jewish community were more welcoming to the non-Jewish partner; especially us atheists! I don’t even have a religious belief to be “inter”-whatevered with! The only religion the kids will get will get will be Jewish! Gah! We’re tentatively approaching the one Reconstructionist group in town, but the looks I got were all sorts of unsettling. (Does not help that I’m your standard-issue tall, blonde Scandinavian type. I get it; it’s just unsettling for me.) I’m totally willing to be all the supportive there is, and then finding the essays written by rabbis who feel that it’s worse for Mr. Star to be marrying me to be the most terrible thing out there….it’s frustrating. I’d consider converting if I could convert straight from Gentile atheism to Jewish atheism. Is that a thing? That should be a thing. Anyway, I’m glad there’s other people who’re in the same boat; empathy’s always nicer than sympathy. 😀

    • I feel you! I’m Jewish and will my marrying an atheist. Judaism will be the only religion in the household, but we still face discrimination. This is the first time in Jewish history that Jews have married non-Jews in such high numbers, and everyone is extremely suspicious, even scared. But they have to accept us – the Jewish community will grow to include us, because although many Jews believe our families will fade into gentile society, we know we won’t 🙂

      • I *do* get an amount of where they’re coming from as well; I mean, Jew-Gentile relations don’t have the most startlingly brilliant history, or anything, and your modern skinheads don’t really help at all. Googling ‘nipster’ just makes me ten *more* kinds of angry and sad. And even more determined to be totally supportive of all (as he puts it) the nagilas he possibly could hava.

        (It’s a terrible joke, I know.)

    • Definitely see if you have a community affiliated with Secular Humanistic Judaism in your area – they welcome and celebrate people living a secular lifestyle who are connected to Jewish culture and peoplehood. In other words, families and couples just like what you’ve described! Contact information available at http://www.shj.org or http://www.csjo.org.

    • Where are you located, if you don’t mind my asking? Because I’ll be ordained Reconstructionist in a few years and I’m honestly shocked that you’ve been receiving a less than gracious welcome (not that I’m doubting your story at all). Our movement has been fully open to interfaith families for decades now and I think I’ve maybe met one or two Reconstructionist rabbis in my life who refuse to perform intermarriages. In fact, many of us younger seminarians are the products of interfaith marriages ourselves. All I can hope is that as this younger crop of seminarians graduate, experiences like yours become less and less common.

  8. Posts like this strike home with me, because I’m currently in an interfaith relationship. We’re very serious about each other having dated for many years, but I’m Christian and he’s…not. He doesn’t really have any religious beliefs, having not grown up in a spiritual or religious family and for the most part it’s never an issue. But as we become more serious about our relationship and the potential for marriage I find myself wondering what I’m doing. Like the author this was never the plan. I am/was supposed to marry a good, conservative christian man, with all the blessings of our families and churches. It’s such a departure, and I love reading about the intermarriages, because it’s just a strange road for me. This article sort of encompasses some of my feelings of change and shift in my viewpoints about marriage and religion. Thank you!

    • I know what you’re going through. I was raised Baptist & always thought I’d marry another Baptist. As fate would have it, I’m madly in love with an unofficial atheist (He’s told very few people about his true feelings on religion because his family is highly religious.) and we’re getting married in a few months. I’m glad there’s so many other people that are going through similar things. Loving someone of a different faith/non-faith is definitely an interesting situation. If you love each other, that’s all that matters. There will be family & religious officials that may not understand why you couldn’t fall for a good (insert faith here) boy but in the end, all that matters is that you’re in love and are happy. The rest will work itself out in the end.

      • This is a lovely sentiment, but I’d really recommend having a talk about child-rearing before you make a commitment to someone without faith or of a different faith. I think people tend to assume that children should be raised with some kind of organized religion, whatever the parents’ personal beliefs, or that the mother will make all the decisions regarding the children’s spiritual education, but your partner may not be OK with either of those. It’s easy to ignore your partner’s faith (or lack thereof) as long as it doesn’t really have any repercussions, but I think before you have kids, you and your partner really need to think about how important these things are to you.

        I’m a culturally Christian atheist who’s dated guys of a variety of religious backgrounds — Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu. I have no problem with the idea of raising my kids with a different culture (as long as some of mine is passed along too!), but I would not want to send my kids to church or raise them believing in any religion. That has been a surprise to more than one guy I’ve dated, as they assume kids have to be raised with some kind of religion, so it’s definitely something I’d discuss before getting serious with anyone.

    • Sister, it sure is a journey! I wish that I could give any advice, other than ‘pray hard.’ Well, and ask the wise people you know what they think about your real-life relationship. Many in my family and faith community were so cautionary at first–but as they got to know my honeybee, many of them came to the same conclusion as me: that he is GOOD for my faith, not bad for it, and that he’s a man who reflects God in a powerful way, even as a non-Christian. People who love you honestly will be able to look beyond the ‘love is blind’ state to tell you if your relationship is pointing you towards or away from God’s love. One thing: you don’t have to believe it when people tell you “it’s no big deal” or “do whatever you want, as long as you’re happy…” In my experience, it IS a big deal. It was at times a hard decision, and came with lots of tearful prayer (and subsequent spiritual growth!). I feel confident I made the right choice in my circumstance, but I would never say that my decision would be right for others without knowing them well. God bless you, sister!

  9. “It still means other-ing myself from my family. And that’s never easy.”

    Such a powerful statement that I could totally resonate with.

  10. Thank you for this powerful and poignant essay. There are some Reform rabbis who no longer make demands about how the children will be raised–they realize it is not really possible to extract such a promise, given that people change over time in terms of their beliefs and practices. Also, there are interfaith communities (especially in New York, Chicago, and Washington) formed on the idea of complete acceptance of interfaith families, equal respect for both partners, and interfaith education for children. You might want to check out my blog (onbeingboth.com) and book (Being Both) on this topic.

  11. To the original poster, I want to let you know that you’re not alone. Your reasoning and thoughts are nearly identical to where I was a year ago.

    I too was a dayschool girl, raised Conservative, in one of the few non-egal Conservative synagogues left. Active in USY, performed in Fiddler twice (then helped out with sound on a third performance), even had an uncle disowned by a grandparent for marrying a Buddhist, and definitely was not supposed to marry a Protestant-raised atheist. My now-husband took a conversion class and decided that he couldn’t ethically convert to something he didn’t believe in, and I respect him enough to respect that decision.

    I definitely wanted to be married by a Rabbi, and didn’t want to be married by a rent-a-clergyman who I had no personal connection with. We were lucky, the Rabbi of the Hillel I attended for 4 years of undergrad and 2 years of grad school agreed to perform the ceremony, and also counseled us before the wedding. It was a fairly traditional ceremony, she made sure to translate everything to English and explain it for the non-Jewish guests, and it worked out really well overall.

    I’ve been pleased and humbled by the level of acceptance I’ve met across the spectrum of Jewish observance. My Orthodox best-friend-since-Kindergarten declined to be a bridesmaid due to the intermarriage, but still attended the wedding and even did my hair. She was the an excellent officially unofficial bridesmaid. Her mother also attended, and between them they helped make the wedding a truly joyful occasion. Since the wedding, the rabbi at my Conservative shul has invited us over to his house for dinner multiple times, and everyone is happy to see my husband at the non-religious social events he comes to.

    I hope you have similar good luck with finding an officiant, and I’d be happy to lend a sympathetic ear if you want one.

  12. Many couples with one atheist partner and one Jewish partner find it difficult to select a rabbi, community, etc. One option that works for many couples is a cultural Jewish community. There are many of these around the country, and they allow couples to celebrate Jewish heritage without compromising the non-theist partner’s principles. Many of these communities are affiliated with the Society for Humanistic Judaism (www.shj.org) or the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations (www.csjo.org)–and they welcome and celebrate such “mixed” marriages!

  13. Just an fyi, I married a non Jew. Neither of us thought religion was worth bothering about. Big mistake. Not only for my kids, which was huge, but also for myself. I was cheated of so much by my youthful hubris.

    I now realize what a ‘blessing’ it is to be part of a Jewish community and I threw that away for most of my life. Jews really do care about others, to the point of sending in their own children to defend their tiny state from aggressors, in order not to kill enemy civilians of a people whose entire rationale for name and existence is to destroy them. Check the facts, so few people really do.

    Sure, it may be a human weakness to want to belong to any tribe, let alone one full of great and mostly humble people, but last time I checked, yup, human.

    • Just a thought, but this is pretty similar talking to a bride to be about divorce rates or could be compared to such. Perhaps sound advice but a poor place to put it. Just my 2 cents

      • Kat, didn’t even realize this was a bridal forum. Oops! You’re right about that then!

        I wish there were a way for people to talk to their younger selves from the future, how different our decisions might be, how many fewer regrets. Hopefully everything will work out for the best for them.

        I really did think it was the stupidest thing to consider religion when I married. I’m still an agnostic atheist, don’t have a clue about ultimate reality. But do finally know a bit about being a human. It’s nice to have community.

  14. Have you looked into the Reconstructionist movement at all? It’s more traditional in terms of use of Hebrew and ritual than many Reform shuls, but also more socially open (at least here in Atlanta). I not only married an Atheist, but am now in a Poly Quad with a Heathen and a Lutheran. I want to find a Jewish community where I don’t have to walk on eggshells around that. I’m still trying out congregation https://congregationbethaverim.org/ (we recently moved MUCH closer). I know it’s not the same, but maybe a congregation like that would give you the sense of tradition you might not feel connected to in a Reform shul (please note, *I* was raised Reform due to my mom marrying my Methodist father, but I personally have a preference for a lot of the ritual I’ve seen with my Orthodox cousins that isn’t included in the Reform tradition).

    • As a future Reconstructionist rabbi, I am SUPER HAPPY to hear that Reconstructionism is working out for you! As I like to joke, we’re to the right of the Reform Jews ritually, and waaaaaaay to the left of everyone else politically 😉

  15. I basically could have written so much of the begining of this post: (Jewish with an atheist partner who considered converted, but decided it was dishonest and prefers to be a friend of the Jewish people than a Jew himself, not being able to be married by our Conservative rabbi, totally understanding the ban on performing intermarriages, not totally understanding the ban on attending them, etc).

    We got married a week and a half ago. We got married a week and a half ago, in a very Jewish ceremony. (As a very religious Jew, it was very important to me, and okay with him.) We found a renewal rabbi we really liked, and we ended up having a fairly traditional egalitarian Jewish ceremony, with a few modifications. (We wrote our own ketubah, and modified harah aht, and added a verse from the song of songs to it.)

    For interfaith folks in the Bay Area, I’d highly recommend checking out Building Jewish Bridges (http://buildingjewishbridges.org/). It’s a non-profit that works with interfaith families. Dawn Kepler, who runs it, can help you find a rabbi or cantor, and also runs a ton of interesting programming for interfaith families, on issues they may run into, raising kids, holidays, cultural differences, and all sorts of things. Plus, she’s just an awesome person.

  16. It’s interesting to read about so many interfaith relationships with atheists – it would be interesting to hear from more couples with two “active” religions. I’m a liberal but spiritual Christian, and my husband is a similar sort of Muslim. We have many similarities in our core beliefs, which makes us confident that we are on the right path overall, but we’re aware that it will take a lot of understanding and communication as we eventually have children, celebrate both sets of holidays, etc. 🙂

  17. For anyone wanting a lighter take on ‘mixed marriage’, look up Irish comedian Dara O’Briain’s clip about it on YouTube. For obvious reasons, the Irish idea of it is commonly Catholic/Protestant.

    NB: He is an irreverent atheist and likes to swear, in case that might offend anyone. But he’s SO funny!

  18. Hi! I’m italian and -as you can easily guess- i was growing up in a place where Catholic doctrine is super-important. But the fact is that i’m a free-thinker (and i’m not even baptized: my parents didin’t care) As a child i was curious and i made my reasearches about different believes, but at the end of the journey i decided that religion (every kind of religions) is not for me. Now the problem: my fiancee is not a really pious person (he didn’t pay a visit to a church in 10 year and it was not a my fault.. if he wanted to attend at the mass i have never thought to stop him) but he want a religious, classical Catholic wedding (and a catholic baptism for our future children too).
    He couldn’t give me an explaination that demonstrate that he really want it: “my mother would aspect it”, “i was raised up by a nun and i don’t want to disappoint her”,”yes, but my uncle is a priest and he can celebrate the wedding with a low price”, “I don’t want to give up the presents for the baptism of our children”.. etc etc.
    They are not the motivations of a devoted catholics, arent’ they? I’m not against rites e cerimonies, but i pretend honesty: do you want it? Show me that you need it. You don’t need it? Better spending our time/energies/money in other things. Now i “won” the battle: we will do a state marriage, but i suspect is for money (catholic marriages are really expensive) not because my fiancee is starting to think differently.. and the problem will show again at the birth of our first baby.
    Now: if my future sons and daughters would have a spiritual belief (catholic, pagan, wicca, muslim, wathever) i will not interfere with it. But in my opionion they have the right to choose that: doing the baptism when they are so little thay they only cry or poop is not only illogical: is undemocrat and.. immoral, sort of. But my fiancee insist: for the wedding we will do what i want, but for the baptism would be his time to decide. I think this is not fair: my freedom against the freedom of my ipothetical future children. What do you think abou that? i would like to listen different opionion from a different country. Thank you. (sorry for my poor english)

    • I think you’re right about his motivations for wanting these things are not because he’s a devoted Catholic, which makes the ritual seem pretty hollow and self-serving to me. And I agree that children should be allowed to choose their own belief system as they grow older and more aware of the world around them, instead of being baptized into a religion when they’re so young.

      But that said: I was baptized Catholic as a child but was never raised with religion as a priority, and though I had a brief spell of Christian devotion in high school, I consider myself atheist now. Am I mad at my parents for baptizing me? No. Do I think it’s affected my life in any way? No. Ultimately I’m pretty sure the only reason why my mom did it in the first place was to make her mom happy, and I’m completely okay with that. I was never confirmed in any church, and my parents let me find my own way.

      So while I’m glad you’re challenging your future husband on things that he seems to be doing out of obligation rather than actual belief, this might be a good time to compromise. I certainly don’t feel Catholic, even though I technically am, and I’m sure many others who were baptized but chose not to follow that path feel the same way.

  19. Welll i never fully believed that the question of religion would come up when we planned to get married but boy was I wrong. I find myself flustered. I was raised christian. Most of my family attends church and i have been to several churches when I was younger(trying to find what fit)my mom was always very supportive. Nothing ever really clicked or felt right until i started studying wicca/paganism. I fell in love with my soon to be husband who was raised in a very religious family(German minotes). His family is very conservative. It was hard to decide on which kind of ceremony to have. I have always wanted a hand fasting and he just wants me to be happy. I was informed early on that some of his family will not be attending our wedding.(this hurts beyond measure because I believe they should be there to support him)i have decided not to do a full on ritual and have wrote our ceremony from scratch to try and make it where everyone will be comfortable. Am I in the wrong for wanting them to attend to support him(he has a very small family)no matter what religious or spiritual connotations our wedding has? Our wedding is also on Halloween because this was when we started dating and an all around fun holiday for us. This has also been a topic of derision for some of his family who don’t like the holiday? Help I need to know its ok for not everyone to support our day without having my feelings hurt(albit not intintionaly) by their unwillingness to attend? Opinions please my wedding is next month

    • I have an atheist friend who married a Menonite man. His family were pretty cool about the whole thing, although I think their ceremony was town-hall. She never talked about any negative connotations. I think yes, it’s ok for you to want support and love from his family, but at the same time you can’t pretend to be and do something you’re not. This is your wedding, not theirs. If love isn’t enough for them, then they are losing out on something beautiful.

  20. I was raised Episcopal, and have drifted into spiritual but rejecting the Bible for it’s problematic parts, and he was raised very lax Jewish, and became atheist. We decided to just have a nondenominational wedding officiated by a friend. We have incorporated the stepping on the glass, and no Christian traditions (there were none I know of that made me feel good about marriage, the whole woman as possession and servant thing just grosses me out too much). I like the idea that we’re building our ceremony around ourselves, the unit we are creating is going to be reflected in it.

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