Dating a christian as an atheist
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I am an atheist and I am happily married a Christian. Let me try answering from my perspective.
I think you should share your beliefs and not hide them from your partner if you want a healthy relationship. But you need to manage your expected outcomes based on your partner’s thoughts and expectations. Getting a good understanding of your partner is absolutely essential. Ask your partner these questions:
- Why is he an atheist? Was it by conscious choice? Did he study enough Christianity to decide that he would reject Christianity? Or is it because he never bothered to think about religion? Does he firmly believe that you should not convert him? Or is he open to conversion?
The answers to these questions will guide your future actions with him, and are crucial towards building a lasting relationship. It could be that he already has a good understanding of your religion, and is happy to live his life with you as long as you do not force him to convert. Then you need to decide for yourself whether you can accept this kind of partner (especially if you are the type of Christian who thinks that non-believers will burn in hell. Can you accept the thought of a loved one burning in hell?)
In my case, I studied enough religion to decide I wanted no part in it, nor do I want to be converted. I made sure my then-girlfriend-now-wife knew my views at our 2nd or 3rd date, and that if she could not accept this part of me, then we no longer need to date each other (even though we could still continue to be friends). She accepted my position and we are still happily married to date.
I’m Christian and I’m dating an atheist. I don’t try to change him, but I think our relationship would be better if he understood what I believe. What should I do?
I’m an atheist who grew up in a Christian family and was formerly a believer, so I’ve had more than a little experience with both worldviews. I have also been married to a Christian believer for going on 4 decades now. I don’t pretend to know anything about your relationship, but I’ll take a swing at answering. If I make unwarranted assumptions, I apologize in advance and if OP would comment to set me straight, I will either adjust this answer or delete.
First, if you came to Christianity the way I did, you were taught about God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost from a very young age. My family attended church multiple times each week and most of my summers were spent in either church camp or Vacation Bible School. All of which means that I doubt I could explain to someone who didn’t share these experiences or at least an approximation just what my faith meant to me when I believed. It would be a bit like trying to get across just what my Baptism meant to me to someone who’d never heard of Christianity. I could take a lot of tacks in approaching it: Explaining it as a ritual cleansing or a sociological rite of passage or joining the fellowship of Christians, but if I were to use the terminology that came automatically to me at the time – I was Washed Clean in the Blood of the Lamb and Sanctified – would be worse than using imaginary words.
For the most part, human beings are capable of great empathy, if not perfect understanding. Sometimes we can get across the importance of an experience that we don’t necessarily share in actuality with someone we care about. But when that’s the case, the person trying to send the message should take into account just what made the experience so important. For instance, the magical details of your faith almost certainly won’t be pertinent to a nonbeliever, but the fact that the experience made you the person you are today Will be. And if that same experience led you to a satisfying and rich life among people you love and respect, that’s a human connection that doesn’t really need much more explanation.
If you believe the Lord has you in this relationship, contrary to scripture which urges us as believers to not be unequally yoked to an unbeliever, and you are confident in it, then I would follow the suggestions offered below about asking him what he knows of your faith.
But, as others have said, keep your conversion pitch separate from lets-have-an-open-line-of-communication speech.
Each person on earth, if you believe as I do, you know this, I am just reminding you, was made in the image of Father God. Each one. Muslim, Wiccan, Satanist, Homeless, Crippled, Baby, Native American Indian, Hindu, Store Owner, Thief, Mafia Hit Man (I’ve seen one of those change by the way), Drunk, Prostitute, Pilot, Bomb Maker, ALL OF US.
Some get to walk in that identity of marvelous redeemed powerful Sonship through the gift of faith in Christ Jesus followed by the passionate pursuit of Him in everything we do, think, even feel.
Your friend has a bigger problem than you do. All of your conversation should be to the end of helping him find God. All of it needs to be seasoned with salt. His needs in this area are far more important than your comfort level, your desires in the relationship, your imaginings about where it may go.
Treat him with the utmost care and respect, for Daddy God loves Him, and the reason you’re in his life isn’t to help you. He is a most treasured soul and Father God would like the pleasure of his company at the Supper Table of the Lamb of God. Please don’t blow your wonderful opportunity. Don’t give him a reason to not approach the banquet table. You’re the believer; you’re the one that has the revelation. Ask God how to approach him in everything you do. And put God’s desires before yours and that man’s needs before yours. Then pray, pray, pray. And ask others to do so as well.
Then things will go as they should. And perhaps even beyond your (and his) wildest dreams.
My wife and I are atheists. We both think that our shared non-belief is important in the success and duration, 47 years, of our marriage. I don’t think we ever discussed religion before we married. We knew the religion wasn’t important to either of us and, that being the case, had more interesting things to do than talk about it. In discussing religion, I am really talking about Christianity because I am very much more familiar with it that others. I suppose a Christian-atheist relationship would be more feasible if the Christian were content to pay lip service only to his beliefs, like most “Christians” I know. However, if he were, e. g., to feel compelled to tithe, that would impact the Family financially. Certainly, if his religion forbade use of contraceptives, advocated prayer exclusively for treatment of serious illness, etc., there likely would be conflict. If he felt compelled to spend a lot of time on religious activities that would otherwise be spent on activities with his partner, that could affect their relationship. I could keep going, but I don’t think that’s necessary to convey the idea that if he did much because of religion, it could cause conflict.
Here’s the really BIG issue that overshadows all others in my mind: How can you possibly agree on child-rearing? Please don’t take offense at what I am about to say and how I say it; I am going to bluntly express how things look to at least one atheist. I could not stand to see my child indoctrinated in religion. I think it’s immoral to present fiction as fact to children. I would be very conflicted if my child’s mother tried to make him religious because I would be put in the position of seeing him being deceived and brainwashed and having to choose between just letting it happen or pushing back and making him the center of a conflict between his parents, neither of which is attractive. I cannot imagine a religious person not thinking that it was important to indoctrinate his child. I suppose if you’ll never want children, this wouldn’t be a problem.
If you browse the discussions of atheism and religion on Quora, you will quickly see that religious people very commonly think that atheists do not understand their beliefs, and that is why we don’t believe. We do understand them, quite well, which is why we don’t believe.
Others have wondered if you harbor hope of converting him. If you do, and you can’t let it go, you are both in for a rough time. Look at it from the other direction—what if he were hoping to get you to give up your (silly, to him) beliefs? If you feel that you have a right to try to change his beliefs, it’s only fair that you recognize the same right for him. Are you good with that?
I think that, if you are looking for a life partner, you would do well to keep looking. Marriage is wonderful, but it’s hard, too. Best not to make it harder by choosing a mate whose fundamental beliefs conflict with yours.