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Atheists and Marriage

Questions, Problems, Conflicts


Marriage is one of the most intimate and serious relationships a person can have in their lives; consequently, it is understandable that people wonder to what degree the differences between atheism and theism affect that relationship. Can atheists and theists make a marriage work? Would two atheists or two theists be more compatible than an atheist and a theist?

And, of course, more questions can arise as a marriage develops — for example, what do you do when your in-laws are very religious? Do you even tell them about being an atheist? Problems also develop because people develop — they may become more or less religious as time goes on, thus altering the nature of the marriage.

It is not impossible to deal with these issues, but it can be difficult because the chances of hurt feelings and offense are so great. Approaching them with patience and tenderness may seem like an obvious point, but it is nonetheless easy to forget and so very crucial.


Can mixed marriages between theists and atheists work?
This question is asked equally by both atheists and theists. Marriage is one of the most intimate and most serious relationships a person can have in their lives; it is thus understandable that people wonder if the gap between atheism and theism will create further differences which prevent individuals from making a marriage work.

Wouldn't two atheists be more compatible?
It is certainly reasonable to wonder whether an atheist and a theist would be as compatible as two people of the same position — two atheists or two theists. After all, even if an atheist and a theist can make a marriage work, it may not be worth all of the extra effort required if an easier and more productive marriage can be formed elsewhere.

I was a believer when I got married, but now I'm not so sure.
Everyone grows as they go through life. Indeed, they should grow and they should develop — intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally. Part of that growth must entail reconsidering past beliefs and calling into question past assumptions. Perhaps they won't be discarded, but they should at least be brought into the light for close examination.

My spouse has gotten more religious since we got married.
For some, the result of the process of intellectual and personal growth may be a deepening of past religious faith or the adoption of a new religion entirely. If that person's partner is not religious at all or is merely superficially religious, conflicts and problems can readily appear in the marriage.

My in-laws don't know that I am an atheist — should I tell them?
So, you've decided that you cannot rationally or reasonably continue with the religion which you used to follow and to which your spouse's family continues to belong. Your in-laws, however, are believers — perhaps even devout believers — and you don't know how they will react to your atheism. So, now what? What do you do?

My in-laws keep making negative comments about atheism
Unfortunately, not every family is very accepting of people rejecting their religion. Rejecting belief in a god altogether can be even more problematic. Sometimes, they will even denigrate those who reject their religion and their beliefs, and you will find yourself in a very uncomfortable position. An important consideration here is whether they know you are an atheist or not — the answer to this will have a significant impact upon how you choose to proceed.

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