Can atheists and Christians make it as couples? If Scripture is her real last name, no wonder Natasha’s boyfriend is confident he’ll be able to turn her to Jesus – something the life-long atheist would rather he stop doing.
I certainly never thought I’d end up in a threesome.
Unfortunately, I don’t mean a ménage-a-trois in that sexy French way. I mean, I’m in a relationship with my boyfriend and God. Well, his Christian God (a God I don’t believe in).
It started out as one of those close friendships that blossomed into something deeper over a three-year period (don’t they say those are the best kinds?), but the deeper we went, the more I realized how much value he places on the Christian community from which he sprung, and just how important his faith is to him. Or, as he likes to say, “I am my faith. You can’t love me and not love my faith.”
I can’t say I’m enjoying all of Penn Jillette’s God No! book. He takes too long to get to his points and the digressions into his sexual exploits and crazy ass parties are starting to weird me out. I like him as an entertainer but I don’t want to know that stuff. It’s a little too personal for my liking. That said, he did make an interesting point early on about proselytizing: why he, an atheist, respects Christians for doing it and why they should do it as much as possible. He’s done a video version that Campus Crusade for Christ and other churches have used in their own services. It might not be this one, but in this Penn says,
How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you…
In the video, Penn’s explaining how a complete stranger came up to him after a show and gave him a bible. Penn was flattered that this man cared enough about trying to save him. Inside the little volume were several phone numbers and email address so that when Penn was ready to change, all he had to do was call. In God No! he says that people often tell them they’ll pray for him, too, but so far all it’s proving is that prayer doesn’t work.
Back to Ms. Scripture:
He thinks marriage is the union between a man and a woman and God and I think it’s an archaic institution that conveniently provides a legal framework should the unfortunate circumstances of divorce occur and there’s children and teakwood furniture to fight over. (It’s also a great excuse to throw a fancy party with all the people you love.) He thinks pre-marital sex is unholy, and I don’t think I can marry someone without having a trial run. He has conversations with God every day, all day long (so he says), and I scroll through my Twitter feed and re-tweet tweets from “Shit Girls Say” and Mindy Kaling.
When I first told my friends I was dating an actual Christian, they were all uppity about it: “Well, you have to respect someone’s religious views.” But when I mentioned he was abstaining from bedroom business for devout reasons, all of a sudden he was a total weirdo in their eyes…
No, friends, you can respect the person and still think the general beliefs are complete and total bullshit. His values do set him apart in this day and age, though. It seems like pre-marital sex is far less a sin than it used to be. It’s a pity contraceptive use is considered so unholy in some circles, though. Maybe they wouldn’t have to freak out over the choice to abort if the women weren’t getting pregnant in the first place. Can I say “Duh!” here? Sex for procreation is important when infant mortality is sky-high and you might need a replacement in a hurry, but these days? It shouldn’t be a mortal sin to have a little (protected) fun with body parts once in a while. Does he avoid masturbating, too? She doesn’t say.
I never thought about religion as being a deal-breaker. A voice inside me says a similar worldview is important, but it’s not like my guy doesn’t also wish for a humane world. And he’s not a weirdo — he engages in normal male activities like beer-drinking and obsessing about football scores. He doesn’t file his nails or anything. But he wants to go to church, with me, on Sundays, just like he used to with his father (a pastor) and his siblings when he was a child. I tell him to go on his own, because I’d rather practice my crow pose at yoga class (that’s spiritual), but he gets upset. One day, he went to church (by himself) and said he screamed at God for all the pain and complexity in our relationship, and asked him why it was so difficult, why he had to fall for someone who did not share his beliefs.
Well, what did He say? I asked.
I have a lot of relatives that never go to church. I don’t know if they still believe in a god; I don’t think it’s any of my business to inquire. One of my uncles converted when he married someone very devout but a great-uncle of mine is married to a woman who goes to mass every week and he never sets foot in a church unless there’s a wedding or a funeral. Religion doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. But think about this. Natasha writes, “Yet we all know rule #1: You can’t change a person. You have to love a person for who they are and not who you want them to be.” Her man is ignoring rule #1, as if it won’t apply because he’s a proper Christian and wants to change her for her own good. He wants her to go to church with him. He wants her to agree to raise their hypothetical kids his way. He wants to change a lot of things about her, apparently, but her lack of belief has made her who she is, who he loves, just as much as his faith has made him. What right does he really have to tell her she’s wrong and needs fixing? How come he can’t just accept her for who she is?
For a woman who claims to think his version of marriage is out-moded, why should she feel pressured to get married at all? She can have kids if she wants them, even if she isn’t married. Not with this guy, we see, but maybe this large disagreement on child-rearing should be taken as a sign that the two of them aren’t as compatible as they think they are. Maybe in this case it is an insurmountable difference. If he’s unwilling to let her remain atheist, or raise their hypothetical kids without a specific religion, then she should probably break up with him, even if she does love him with all her heart.
But that’s just my opinion. She’ll have to decide for herself.
If it were you, what would you do?