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Old 13th November 2010, 10:10 PM   #1
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Christian marrying former Christian/new atheist

As a committed Christian whose fiancee just decided she is now an atheist I could really use some counsel on this...

I'm a 40 year-old Christian teacher, the son of a minister. I only became a Christian myself (i.e., actually became a disciple, not a Sunday attendant) in my late 20s. Because I teach in the arts I spend most of my day around those who do not practice a faith themselves. (A generalization, I know, but one that I have found to be true.) This bothers me not a whit. I actually take great joy in being able to be an "out" Christian to friends and colleagues who later approach me with questions. As well, I am very comfortable with a wide range of cultural fare and religious expression. I see many films with challenging scenari, enjoy plays with salty language, and find contemporary art considered by some to be scandalous to be interesting and beautiful.

Last year I very happily became engaged to a 30 year-old teacher, one who self-identified as Christian, was raised as such, and even joined my church (Lutheran). I knew she was less... energetic about her faith than I in mine; it would be fair to say she considered herself a cultural Christian rather than practiced actively as part of a faith community. I knew this, but felt hopeful proposing to her for four reasons: 1) I love her and she's my best friend; 2) I see God in her life, spirit, and work; 3) If she never increased her level of engagement it would have been tolerable; and finally and perhaps stupidly, 4) I hoped that, through my own worship and activity, she might grow her own faith.

In retrospect, I suppose, yes, I committed the grievous error of hoping my future spouse would change to be a better match for me--foolish, yes, but also hopeful in the way I understand Christians to be in helping our friends to more fully let God be part of our their lives. After a few months, she stopped taking Communion at services, but kept praying and attending. Then she was increasingly busy or tired on Sunday mornings, leaving me attending by myself. Two weeks ago she told me that after a great deal of reflection (but no prayer, study, or talking with others) she has decided God does not exist. She is not belligerently insistent about her new belief as are some atheists (and, let's be honest, people of all faiths), but religion is a part of her life that she now sees as permanently closed. When pressed, she says she thinks that people are only "talking to themselves" when praying. She's not mean or vituperative about it; she just doesn't think there's anything out there. Doesn't bother her that I do, but she neither anticipates nor desires any more connection with religion.

She has agreed that I may raise children as Christians and would help with the simple mechanics of this (e.g., helping them memorize something for Bible study). She is, however, now concerned that she will feel like a stranger in her own house--a handful of people praying before meals and talking about God, and her. Meanwhile, I am now worried about feeling terribly lonely in the most important part of my life, not having a partner in our family's seeking of a path with God. And I worry that no amount of work on my part with the children may counterbalance the example and presence of someone living a life that suggests that Daddy is just talking to an invisible fellow somebody made up (albeit passively and silently).

We're to marry in August of 2011, meaning I feel pressed to decide soon whether or not to go ahead with this. I love her deeply and am frankly stunned at the prospect of not having a life with her.

Thoughts? Experiences? This is a good and loving woman in whom God is present. She just can't seem to feel Him.
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Old 14th November 2010, 12:34 AM   #2
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 5,794
Re: Christian marrying former Christian/new atheist

Hi and welcome
As a person who was married to a non believer for 25 years, and now a believer for 5 years, I would VERY strongly advise you not to go ahead with the marriage. You are right in that you wont be able to share this vital part of your life with your own wife, and any children will see that you arent at one about your faith.

I have three very close friends who have non believing husbands(they all became believers after they married) and they all struggle so much with the indifference and sometimes hostility, and the more they go on with God, the worse it gets. Theres a spiritual battle going on in their own homes, and that isnt good. They long for their husbands to become believers.

Apart from this, and much more importantly, God does clearly tell us not to be uneaqually yoked with an unbeliver, with very good reason. Paul says 'what has light to do with darkness', and how can two walk together who are not in agreement', and He is right.

When you marry you become one, the Bible says, and how can you be one if you dont share the most important thing in your life?

I suppose your options are that you could either call off the engagement, and delay the wedding, and see what happens (ie if she comes to God again). You could end it now, not easy at all, and many other people have had to wrestle with this and to choose between God and their partners, rr you could marry her anyway against Gods instructions and other peoples warnings, and hope that one day she may come back to God. Ask yourself deep down what you think God wants you to do.
I am sure this is very painful for you. A horrible decision. Could you also talk to your pastor about this and ask Him to pray with you for clear guidance as to the next step?

Last edited by chosen; 14th November 2010 at 12:26 PM.
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Old 18th November 2010, 12:52 PM   #3
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 6,409
Re: Christian marrying former Christian/new atheist

You say that God's presence is with her but that she does not believe in Him anymore? Isn't that a contradiction?

Anyhow she does seems sincere in her unbelief and maybe her faith was all work and religion but no Christ. I had that in a convent and in the end I hated religion. Fortunately that was not the end of the story.

It is very sad but you said you did have a check about marrying her. It is true that we ought to marry those who share our faith and obviously this is a big struggle for you. She is even having doubts herself from what you describe. You will clearly be going in different directions or at least there is a part of your spiritual direction that she would not be able to share in.

Obviously you really need to seek God on this in light of the scripture not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers.
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