For many in modern American, religion and theism are central features not just in their lives as individuals, but also in their relationships with other people — and this is especially true with their most intimate relationships, such as marriage. It's common for people to regard their religion as a binding force in their marriage, something without which marriage wouldn't be possible. Just because marriage is a religious rite for some, though, doesn't mean it is necessary to all marriages.
Why Would Atheists Even Get Married?:
There is a common perception that marriage is a fundamentally religious institution — that it is based upon religious values and exists to serve religious ends. Thus, if a person is not religious, then it might seem natural for that person to avoid entering into marriage - and that would include many atheists as well. The truth, however, is that marriage isn’t inherently religious and that atheists have just as many reasons to marry as do religious theists.
Are There Non-Religious Wedding Options For Atheists?:
Yes! There are quite a few options available for people who are uninterested or unwilling to have any of the traditional religious wedding ceremonies. Some are both nonreligious and without any real ceremony. Some include ceremony and ritual, but without religious elements. Finally, there are options which are religious in name, but not really in act. The popularity of non-traditional, non-religious ceremonies seems to have been growing in recent years.
Mixed Marriages Between Atheists & Theists:
This question is asked equally by both atheists and theists. Marriage is one of the most intimate and serious relationships a person can have in their lives; it is thus understandable that people wonder if the gap between atheism and theism will create further differences which prevent individuals from making a marriage work. If both partners make the efforts, however, such a marriage is not only possible, but very fulfilling.
Are Atheists More Compatible?:
It is reasonable to wonder whether an atheist and a theist would be as compatible as two people of the same position — two atheists or two theists. After all, even if an atheist and a theist can make a marriage work, it may not be worth all of the extra effort required if an easier and more productive marriage can be formed elsewhere. There may be something to this, but it really depends upon the character of those involved. Sometimes, an atheist and theist may be better together.
Growing Godless in Marriage:
Everyone grows as they go through life. Indeed, they should grow and develop — intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally. Part of that growth must entail reconsidering past beliefs and calling into question past assumptions. Perhaps they won't be discarded, but they should at least be brought into the light for close examination. Thus, it’s possible for someone to abandon a religion which their spouse holds on to. What can be done?
My Spouse Has Gotten More Religious Since We Got Married:
For some, the result of the process of intellectual and personal growth may be a deepening of past religious faith or the adoption of a new religion entirely. If that person's partner is not religious at all or is merely superficially religious, conflicts and difficulties can readily appear in the marriage. This is a possible problem any time people grow apart, not just in the context of religion, but the absolutism of religion can make these problems worse.
Telling In-Laws About Atheism:
So, you've decided that you cannot rationally or reasonably continue with the religion which you used to follow and to which your spouse's family continues to belong. Your in-laws, however, are believers — perhaps even devout believers — and you don't know how they will react to your atheism. So, now what? What do you do? There aren’t any easy choices here and almost anything you do will lead to at least some conflict. Perhaps you should just keep quiet?
Religious In-Laws vs. Your Atheism:
Unfortunately, not every family is very accepting of people rejecting their religion. Rejecting belief in a god altogether can be even more problematic. Sometimes, they will even denigrate those who reject their religion and their beliefs, and you will find yourself in a very uncomfortable position. An important consideration here is whether they know you are an atheist or not — the answer to this will have a significant impact upon how you choose to proceed.
Godless Marriages vs. Religious Marriages:
The fundamental importance of religion to many people's marriages can make it exceedingly difficult for them to understand how or why religion and gods might be entirely absent from other marriages, but the prejudice in favor of marriage having to be religious in orientation has proven to be harmful in the United States. Religious beliefs about the nature of marriage and the roles allowed for men and women have oppressed women, warped marital relationships, and restricted people's ability to find happiness within marriage itself.
In the past, for example, women have been treated as little more than property and were denied any real property rights within the marriage. Divorce was illegal, preventing women who were abused and mistreated from any opportunity at creating a life on their own. All of this was done in the name of religion. Self-righteous defenders of traditional "morality" continue to inveigh against divorce as a threat to marriage, not recognizing that some relationships probably deserve to end rather than endure no matter what.
The various limitations and prejudices which religion has caused to be smuggled into civil marriage have even caused many to reject the value of marriage outright. This fact effectively demonstrates that the real threat to marriage, if any exists, lies with its erstwhile "defenders" and not with those who seek alternatives to traditional roles and relationships — including gay couples who seek to be married.
Many people find strength, comfort, and inspiration in their gods and their religion, and this may indeed help them in their marriages. There is quite a lot to be said on behalf of godlessmarriages, however, because the absence of gods and religion also means an absence of the heavy weight of traditions, assumptions, and prejudices which can do so much harm and cause so much grief for all those involved.