One of the great things about living in an ostensibly free society is our choice to bone wtih abandon. Catholics doing Jews, Jehovah Witnesses getting down with Jains, and Zoroastrianists bumping and grinding into Buddhists — desire is beholden to no single devotion. Now, your families might not be super happy about it, and maybe you have some moral reservations, but if you just want to knock boots with a hottie with a body of differing beliefs, it's pretty easy to get freaky without too much complication.
But when it comes to more long term commitment or marriage... well, let's just say I know quite a few self-proclaimed shiksas who've been dumped because their chosen one didn't choose them for something serious. When it comes to praying to a god vs. multiple gods vs. not praying period, can two people make it work in the long haul?
Well, NPR profiled couple Maria Peyer and Mike Bixby, an extremely loving duo with four kids (from previous marriages), who are seemingly perfect for each other — except she's an assisting Lutheran minister and he's an atheist.
He says: "I do not believe that there is any sort of a higher power. I've made several attempts to go back and have faith, and it just doesn't work. It's not an open question for me anymore."
She says: "I would really like it if he could feel God's love the way I do. And it's one of those very few places where I feel like I can say, 'I hear you, I understand what you're saying, I love you and I think that there may be more to it."
However, despite their opposite religious views, they share some perhaps more important values. She's an oncology nurse and he teaches fourth grade, and they deeply respect each other for their contributions to society. They share the same strong desire to care for our nation's vulnerable, and with that, a core of compassion that proves very powerful in navigating the not always small stuff.
"They listen and they talk and they try and understand one another. A number of them mentioned humor," said Erika Seamon, who teaches religion at Georgetown University and studies interfaith relationships. "You could probably take that list of advice that they would give and use it for any situation, whether it's religion or just raising children or getting along in the world."
So, yeah, it can work, as long as both partners respect their religious differences, as well as respecting each other as human beings. Of course, other things like supportive family and friends and shared interests are very helpful, and probably necessary for many, but that's true of any relationship. And even then, sometimes two people who love each other just can't overcome certain things — like the couple who wrote the breakup song because he wanted kids and she didn't. Every person's relationship with religion is so personal, it's impossible to make a hard and fast rule about whether a love affair has long term capabilities. But then, that's just relationships, isn't it?