Tell Us: Can Love Conquer Wildly Different Religious Beliefs?

Illustration for article titled Tell Us: Can Love Conquer Wildly Different Religious Beliefs?

A reader recently wrote us with a love dilemma. She's agnostic, he's "heavily Christian" — can their relationship work? You tell us.


Our agnostic reader — we'll call her "Aggie" — recently started dating someone she's known for a while. She describes her concerns about the relationship thus [edited slightly for length, anonymity]:

He's very heavily Christian, and I refuse to believe that one religion is correct over another, but still believe in something higher. He thinks it's wrong to get drunk - not to drink, but be drunk - and I enjoy a night of debauchery every once on a while. He's now a born-again virgin. I lost my virginity at age 17 and kept on truckin' (but I don't think he knows this, despite our friendship). Now. This is a guy who I can actually envision a non-sucky future with, if we can work through things. But do you think it's possible? Or is it even worth it to try?

So my basic question: can religion-integrated relationships work when the differences are so massive?

Like Aggie, I'm not religious, but unlike her, I've never dated a Christian. Luckily, though, two of my friends are agnostic and Jewish, respectively — and married. I talked to my friend Marisa (the godless one), and she had some advice for making "religion-integrated" (inter-religious?) interfaith relationships works. First, she said, both parties need certain qualities: "being flexible, being giving, being comfortable being close to someone with a different world view." Then, there are some practical questions Aggie should ask herself:

1. Holidays: Does he want you to go to services, and are you okay with that? Does he want you to participate in traditions (prayer, singing, etc) and are you okay with that?

2 Day-to-day: Does he want to say grace before dinner? Does he want you to go door to door with him looking for converts? Does he want to keep a cross on the wall?

3 Long-term: Do you want kids? Does he want them to have a Christian education? Would they be considered Christian, or would they be considered "deciding"?

Marisa added that a successful relationship across religions "requires a lot LOT LOT of conversations about how you envision your life together and whether you can both be happy with this arrangement. And you both need to agree to compromise — you can't just have one person cave to the other one." Her views may help Aggie out — but you can too. Vote below, and leave your thoughts in the comments.


Image via sagasan/



I personally think there's no absolute answer - it really, really depends on the people. Everyone has their stuff that you can put up with, that you can learn to give-and-take with, that you can learn to change, and that you just cannot live with. For everyone, it's different. The key to a good relationship is finding someone who can give-and-take the same things you can, and learn to change or put up with the stuff you can't change, and vice-versa for you.

Unfortunately, the only way I've ever had to figuring this out is by trying it. You'll learn soon enough. If he casts dirty looks when she goes on a drunken night out with friends, if she secretly resents the cross on the wall, or listening to him talk about Christian God... problems will soon bubble up.

I guess my only specific comment to this relationship would be that while I don't mean to generalize to all Christians, a great many of them have evangelizing as a basic tenant of their religion. Being that he's a 'born-again virgin' (instead of perhaps the less religion-infused wording 'have decided to wait now until marriage'), it makes me think he might fall into one of those groups that likes to evangelize. If so, that might be a wedge in their relationship, either if he's trying to convert her, or if it bothers her to watch him pester friends/family/strangers into hearing about finding Jesus.