A Mixed Marriage – Agnostic and Catholic
Lostgirlfound, Karen, DaGoodS and a few others around the internet have written stories and comments about de-Conversion from Christianity and how it has affected their marriages. I would like to write an article with a dual authorship. Me – HeIsSailing, and my wife, oh… let’s call her RoseMary. We are going to write this article together, maybe each writing a paragraph or two, and asking each other questions as we go. Maybe this will give us all an insight into how to communicate when one person in a marriage leaves Christianity, and another continues in the faith.
HeIsSailing: RoseMary is a little nervous about what to write, so I will lead off with a couple of questions. How would you describe my Christianity when we got married? How do you describe my beliefs now? How are our beliefs different?
RoseMary: You were very by the book. You always quoted the Bible, and sometimes I did not know what you were saying, because I did not grow up with the Bible. I grew up being part of the Catholic Faith, so we did physical things like join the choir, gathering supplies for the people in jail, collecting canned goods and other similar items for the slum areas.
HeIsSailing: Did I confuse you sometimes?
RoseMary: Sometimes I did, because I felt like I needed to brush up on my readings fast! I felt I needed to start reading, and get competent if I wanted this marriage to work! I could see how important the Bible was to you.
HeIsSailing: How do you describe my beliefs now?
RoseMary: Your beliefs changed a lot. It is flexible. Things are not as big a deal as they used to be. You are more relaxed. But there are still some questions that are left unanswered. I am not sure if you are looking for the answers, or are willing to leave those questions unanswered. There is less pressure from the faith that you used to have and you are able now to see other beliefs on the same level and give them respect and give them proper recognition. You don’t see it as the Christian way or the highway.
HeIsSailing: How could you tell when I started to lose my faith in Christianity?
RoseMary: During one of our Bible studies, you started to ask some other questions beyond the scope of the topic, and wanting for the group to be actively involved in actual outreach and participation in society. And all the while I was just in the background observing, because somehow I knew that the Baptist people were not going to get themselves involved with that idea…Because they were not going to do that. And the Baptist services that I go to with you is all about yourself – how can you build a personal relationship with Christ. From the songs all the way down to the last bit of the sermon it is the same trend – no mention of how you can be out and visible among the poor. I always felt good about myself after the Baptist service – it was like a pep talk before the crazy week – and I think I needed that at the time, but there was no mention of helping out the poor.
HeIsSailing: *laughs* OK, now that you have taken the opportunity to not answer that last question and just trash my old church…But can you talk about some of the things that were troubling me at the time, or did you find it all very confusing?
RoseMary: When you asked certain questions about things in the Bible, but I did not understand the questions because I cannot relate to it. I don’t know what you were talking about. But I could understand that you wanted to go beyond the trivial stuff in the workbooks from Bible Study.
HeIsSailing: Yes, I was asking some very deep stuff that even [the assistant pastor of our church] was having real problems answering. Or the answers he gave were intellectually very unsatisfying. Do you remember the night when I was sitting at the desk with my bible open writing in a steno pad? I was doing things like comparing the different Gospel accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ and other textually critical analysis of the Bible. You once came in the room and I was in tears. What did you think when you saw me like that, so distressed like that?
RoseMary: I so wanted to tell you that, it is not the end of the world, although it may have seemed like it. Because for so many years you believed in everything that the bible says. I wanted to say that it was no big deal and to tell you that the bible should not be your sole source of belief. Like hungry people starving will never be solved by the bible. But it will be solved if people share and practice generosity. I was concerned because I did not like seeing you disappointed or sad or troubled. I am your wife, and all I wanted was to give and show you the best there is in life. And I wanted to say also, “welcome to the real world”. This is how you do it.
HeIsSailing: And that is one thing that I learned from you. That the Purpose of Life and Solution of Life and the Sole Source of all our being is not found in one source – The Bible. While I do not believe in your catholic faith, through communication with you, I at least appreciate it for what it is, and understand how they are at least trying to deal with very real theological difficulties that is in an intellectually honest way that I found lacking in my Baptist church. After much scrutiny, if I ever was to become a Christian again, I would not be seeking the ‘Personal Relationship with Jesus’ again, and the Bible would not be my sole source of Truth.
HeIsSailing: One of the most painful things I have had to hear was being criticized for being in an illegitimate marriage with you because I was not Catholic. Do you think God honors our marriage even though I no longer believe in God?
RoseMary: Yes. Based on my beliefs, I would say yes. I just don’t know how to explain it. I see God as a very loving God. I don’t think he will make that as a reason not to acknowledge our marriage. Even though you do not believe, that will not be a reason for him to not honor our marriage. I married you, not because of your faith alone. I married you, and I still believe our marriage is valid because I love you for who you are good or bad. And that is how I believe in God – loving believers and unbelievers.
HeIsSailing: The way I see it, when we married, we both made vows. We made them to each other, to our families, and to God, as we understood God to be at that time. Those vows are still valid as far as I am concerned, even though our views of God have changed. I feel sorry for people who are so stagnant that their views of God *never* change. If there is a God, what does he expect of us?
HeIsSailing: You were a large influence on how I now view Christianity, and Catholic Christianity in particular. You provided a different viewpoint that I had never been exposed to before. Have your Christian views changed during this ordeal of my de-conversion?
RoseMary: Well, any new things that I have learned, if that is what change means, then yes. But these changes, I treat them as life experiences. All these things that I have seen from you or learned from you re-affirm my faith. Now I see more why it does not really matter what religion you come from, or why should there even be a reason to change from one religion to another. It is not all about religion. It boils down simply to HOW you believe. And how these beliefs will help you develop into a better person.
HeIsSailing: So are you trying to say that, God does not really care what religious mechanism you choose to worship him, whichever religion you decide on fine by him?
RoseMary: I would say yes. I guess I learned that from your experiences and from friends who were not happy with the Catholic faith. What I am just saying is that they waste their time, and their tears and everything else on trying to find a religion in the religion mall that will fit their needs. Whatever religious sect you were born into, you have to ask yourself, “Do I let that religion dictate my life, or do I use it as a tool to make my life better?” That is what I believe God wants us to get out of religion. Not to be dictated by it, but to learn from it. To learn about our cultures. To learn what is going on around the globe. And being actively involved in society. God does not want us to be church wallflowers. I don’t think he created us just to read the Bible. He wants us to be out there and experience life to its fullest with other human beings.
I learned that there is no perfect religion. That has been the marketing scheme of all religions. They all have their faults. If you are in the religion mall, you will probably be asked to choose between “Do you believe in God or do you not believe in God”? If you choose to not believe in God, then you are given choices, and you simply shop around there. Now if you go to You Believe in God, I can just imagine all sorts of religious sects with banners and flyers selling with all their fancy logos and slogans, “Step right in! I have the best religion! 50% Off Sins if you come in this religious store!”
HeisSailing: The religion mall. Spoken like a true woman. Well, if I may, I did not choose my NoGod stall. I think I had no choice in the matter after investigating the evidence. But, what does it mean to have choices in the NoGod stall at the religion mall? What choices do I have?
RoseMary: I think the choices that are laid in front of you are… ‘Do I continue to grieve loss of my faith or do I go on with life and be happy’? Right? That is a choice. Second, do you let that stop you from doing good to others, just because you have no church service to meet at? Do you let the religious sectors stop you from doing good? And another thing is, do you let this kind of situation be a reason for you to be a target for other Christians. Like will you be miserable when they try to convert you? Or will you use it as a tool to discover all opportunities available to you? Because you are more open minded than before. And you are ready to accept the unique, dangerous, exciting treasures the world has to offer.
HeIsSailing: Thank you – I am at peace.
HeIsSailing: One last thing – I am posting this on a website that receives over 2 million hits per hour!! Just teasing, but there are many people leaving Christianity for many different reasons, and many of them are taking very confused Christians spouses along for the ride. I have heard many stories. They are often hurt, confused, angry – some have children and some threaten divorce. I am very lucky that you are a wife who listens to me, and is open minded and will not condemn me, even though I know you don’t always understand where I am coming from. You have a captive audience reading this hanging on your every word. Do you have any advice for the Christian de-convert or their spouses?
RoseMary: RUN!!! Just kidding. Well, you have to ask yourself, did you marry because of compatibility and religious status? If you did, then you have sadly set a limited span of your marriage. Ask yourself this. Which marriage will God honor more: one where you live up to your vows of love, honor and cherish your spouse, or one where you believe in the Trinity? You marry because you deeply love the person for who he or she is may be or will be – past present and future. When you marry, you do not know what is going to happen in the future – I did not know that you were going to leave Christianity. Maybe if they had a Christian crystal ball that would help us tell the future, I bet you a lot of people would be scared at what they saw in the future if they looked inside. But I think this is a coward’s way out. You build relationships with people through thick and thin, through good and bad experiences. I understand the grief and disappointment – I mean that is part of it. But in order for a marriage to work, you need to be able to communicate your honest feelings. Be free to communicate even though it may be painful to hear or confusing to understand. And there is a verse in the Bible – and now these three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. If you truly love each other, it does not matter what barriers you face – you stick together and learn from that and learn from it and make your love grow stronger. And each step you take, and each day that passes, you cherish every moment you spend with each other.
HeIsSailing: I just have one piece of advice to add. Communication and education. Don’t be afraid to challenge your cherished beliefs and assumptions. Don’t be afraid of discussing this stuff with your spouse. And don’t be afraid of a Divine retribution from God. Tell your believing spouse that you love him/her dearly, but if the marriage is to work, you must engage in some uncomfortable conversation. Don’t try to convert or de-convert your believing spouse. Honor their beliefs but at the same time you must make your beliefs or loss of belief be known to them. Please don’t be afraid. Communicate. Learn from each other. That is what we have done, and our love for each other has surely grown stronger because of this process. I think it is only natural for people who have been married a long time to have evolving beliefs – people change. This should not be a reason to hurt a marriage, and it is a shame that it does.
OK, my wife is getting really tired now, so it is time for this article to end. It was kind of fun to do, and is just another way to communicate our changing spiritual beliefs. I hope someone out there can take some encouragement from it.