How To Handle Religious Differences In A Relationship

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How To Make Your Interfaith Relationship Work Despite Your Religious Differences
Contributor
Love, Self

When I was little, I wore my Sunday dresses to a Sunday school at a tiny church in a small town in southern California. I was raised to believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, that the big bang theory was absolute hogwash and that anything but abstinence before marriage was a cardinal sin.

I knew those things before I knew how to spell my own last name. 

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As a young Christian, I heard stories about people who weren’t in the religion, and I was completely devastated when I found out that my best friend wasn’t. 

At 5 years old, I was considering dumping my best friend based purely on the fact that she didn’t believe in God.

If you don’t think religion can put a strain on relationships, the proof is in the pudding. 

Just so we are on the same page here, I decided I didn’t want to call myself a Christian anymore in my junior year of high school. I’d been questioning my faith for some time, and then some personal stuff hit me hard. I called it quits and focused on the things I felt I needed to.

By the time I finally felt like my head was above water, I realized that my views had really changed. 

It’s been about 6 years since I stepped back from religion. I don’t call myself a Christian or an atheist. I think I fall somewhere off the spectrum. To be honest, I’m just not too worried about it. My moral compass is guided by myself — my own sense of right and wrong.

I’ve no longer a virgin and I drank while underage. I still think I’m a good person. I give money to those who need it, support my friends and family and try to turn the other cheek. My main goal in life is to live in a way I won’t regret. My views may not be centered around religion, but I firmly believe in my core values and I'll fight hard to protect them.

At the end of my life, if there is a God to confront, I hope I will be able to stand by proudly as I look back, regardless of my religion.

RELATED: How Religion Tore My Family Apart

My point in saying all of this is that I have a respect for religion and an understanding of atheism, and I feel that I am a strong advocate for the middle ground. 

I’ve watched a lot of family, friends and family friends struggle with religion in their lives, especially when it comes to their relationships. It’s hard, having different views, especially when something so fundamental feels like it is in such opposition. 

One constant point of contention is that someone who is religious can’t stand the thought of the other person being "left behind." They want to save the other person from Hell, or whatever impending doom is a part of their religion.

Saving someone can be a beautiful thing, and the intention here is pure, but, ultimately, I don’t think you can will someone into the afterlife or drag them to heaven with you.

And the simple fact is that, even if they go along with it to make you happy, they may not truly believe in the religion, which would negate the purpose. If they feel forced into it, they may never really be comfortable in a church. And ultimately, it will most likely negatively affect your relationship, because they feel the need to hide from you.

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Another is the disbelief of an Atheist. To an outsider, religion can seem fake and hard to understand, or even dumb. An atheist may feel like they need to open the eyes of their partner to "the truth", using science and fact as their proof. This results in a believer feeling lost and even disrespected or insulted.

It’s hard knowing that your partner doesn’t understand something that, to you, feels vital and real and important

The other situation that can happen occurs when two people who are religious who follow different religions. This is tough, too, because your churches may frown upon the relationship and disapprove of the union. Some churches may not even allow marriage unless one person chooses to convert. 

Navigating these treacherous waters can feel terrifying. You want to prove your point, show your S.O. the truth, whatever you believe that to be, and it’s hard when these views don’t add up.

But being in a relationship with someone who believes differently that you is very possible, as long as you respect one another. 

I would say this to anyone who has opposing views, but especially in a relationship — the best thing that you can do is to respect boundaries and the other person's set of beliefs. Don’t bring it up in arguments, don’t fight them and don’t debate the finer points of religion and science.

If you are going to talk about it, be honest and respect the fact that you come from different religious backgrounds. Be open to discussing why it matters to your partner. Use it as an opportunity to understand each other. In the end, we face the afterlife alone. So shaming someone into believing what you do, or making them feel guilty for how they chose to live, and die, is a waste of breath. Instead, learn about how your partner sees the world. Support them in doing so, because it's a part of who they are. 

Remind yourself that your partner is a different person than you. Holding the same ideologies isn't a requirement.

The most important thing to remember is that your S.O. is who they are as a person because of those beliefs, and, while their beliefs impact who they are, it doesn’t change the qualities that you love about them.

Religion and atheism aren’t the only thing that shapes who you are by any means. Ultimately, your relationship is about the two of you and the love that you share. Making it about anything else is what will bring you down in the end. 

I’ve seen a lot of judgmental Christians, gay Christians, racist Christians, amazing Christians, Mormons who love sex or have affairs, Muslims who would do anything to stop violence, righteous atheists and so many more. I know a huge variety of people with different faiths, different levels of involvement in their faith and different relationships with religion as a whole. 

My point in saying this is that there’s no way to prove that one religion or belief is better or more right than another. So keep an open mind and be respectful first. It's the only way your relationship will survive.

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Beth El Fattal is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture and relationships topics.