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The God Squad: In marriage, do Catholics and atheists mix?

February 18, 2011|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Question: I've been reading The God Squad column since I was a teenager and enjoy your perspective on life and spirituality.

I'm a 25-year-old woman and have been in a committed relationship for 18 months. Things are going very well between us, and we've begun spending more time with each others' families. We have a very comfortable relationship; he makes me smile and laugh, and he is a gentleman. I truly love him and have started to think about marriage and kids.

There's just one problem that's causing a deep hurt and confusion in my heart: I was raised Catholic, but my fiancé is an atheist. My heart tells me that as long as two people love each other, they can overcome anything. However, my head tells me that our differing views may lead to significant issues down the road if we do marry and have children.

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While I no longer practice Catholicism as devoutly as I once did, I have fond memories of my Catholic schooling and upbringing, and I would want my children to be raised with some kind of Christian faith. We've never discussed having kids or how we'd deal with religion, but I have a nagging suspicion that my fiancé wouldn't support my decision to raise our children with a religion.

My fiancé was not raised in any kind of faith, and he had negative experiences with previous girlfriends trying to force him to convert. He knows I'm a Christian but still makes comments and jokes about God and Christians being "silly" and the Bible being a "fairy tale." I don't think he's trying to be hurtful; in his mind, I think he's trying to "enlighten" me.

Do you think it's possible to make this relationship work long-term? I'm really conflicted because of our opposing religious views. I have a sinking feeling whenever I think about this. I need to hear someone else's opinion, and I trust yours. — A., via godsquadquestion@aol.com.

Answer: Thank you for your articulate and heart-rending question. Let me explain my ruler test to you, in the hopes that it might help you approach your difficult spiritual choice.

When I counsel couples who are considering marriage but find themselves on two different sides of the religion question — whether it be Jews/Christians, Christian/Hindus, Christian or Jewish/Muslims, different denominations of Christianity, or your situation of Catholic/atheist — I take a ruler out of my desk.

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