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February 2004

Feburary 10

My fiancé and I are getting married next year, and we need to know how to deal with the ceremony. Our parents are not really religious but how do we hire someone to marry us with out using the religious terms? We both insist on not having the words under god or any of that religious talk at our ceremony. Do you know someone or could you point us in the right direction? I've searched the Internet and I really can't find anything regarding our dilemma, so please help in any way you can. We would greatly appreciate it. We live in eastern Ohio and we are getting married in March 2005. Thanks so much for your support to all atheists.


Dear Lovebirds:

First of all, congratulations! It's so exciting to be getting married!  It's also very expensive, so start saving now. I wish you nothing but happiness together, as well as the strength and devotion to deal with any hard times ahead. There will be days while planning the wedding that you want nothing more than to strangle each other (or the future in-laws), but don't let it get you down. It will pass.

Okay, on to your actual question. As you may have read on the site, I married a Christian, so the difficulties in finding just the right person to do the ceremony are familiar to me. What we ended up doing was finding a Church of Christ minister who was willing to do a secular ceremony. What I mean by that is that we had the standard wedding ceremony and simply left off the mentions of god(s), prayers, hyms or heaven. That way it still sounded very traditional, but didn't have me enduring anything I didn't believe in. My husband prayed with the minister before the ceremony, so he was happy.

The main thing, no matter who you get to do the ceremony, is to make sure that they're willing to let you tailor it. Unless you manage to find someone who specializes in secular ceremonies (unlikely), you'll need to make a few alterations. Contact a few Unitarian ministers, if you can find some in your area.  You will probably find them remarkably open to suggestions, as they are probably used to having various freethinkers in their churches. The Ohio-Meadville District of the UUA will probably be a good place to start.

If all else fails, have a good friend get ordained by one of those places online (make sure it's a legal ordination in your state) and have them perform the ceremony. If you want little fuss and muss, you can always do a civil ceremony, performed by a justice of the peace. Hopefully, somewhere amongst these options, you will find someone who will suit your dream wedding. Good luck, and have a wonderful honeymoon!

February 21

I am 18 years old and for all of my life that I can remember I have always doubted the existence of a god or any supernatural powers. Only recently have I had to make the distinction of my self to the people around me that I am an atheist, before that i just kind of dismissed what they were trying to tell me.

About a year and a half ago I met this wonderful girl that I talked to for a few months then started dating and now have a great relationship with. She seems so perfect for me; she's funny, smart and beautiful. We've been through so much together: the death of her mother, her fathers drinking problems, she even revealed to me a while ago that she tried to commit suicide the day before I met her. I would do anything to keep this woman in my life, I can't imagine her not being there, making me laugh with some small thing she does. However about 5 months ago she started going to a Baptist church, at first I was very reluctant, but didn't say anything. I wanted her to be happy, to support her in everything she did, I was even there for her Baptism.

But lately I've been terrified that we aren't going to be able to be together. The last couple of days she's been talking to one of her very old friends, that she didn't really know all that well, on the phone. She says that she's talking to him because she doesn't know anyone else to talk about religion with and that has trying to become a preacher so she can talk to him. However a few nights ago she told me that one of the things that they were talking about was me, she said something that he said which made me so angry. "If I really loved her then I would want to grow with her in Christ." So we talked for a while and it seemed like we almost got through it. But the next night he called again, and I was there. They started talking and she mentioned that i was right next to her when the conversation came to me. He asked to talk to me and started spewing that same shit. I started causing him out, told him that he doesn't even know me, he barely even knows her, how does he has the nerve to question the love i have for my girlfriend?

I hung up on him and started talking again with her. I explained to her that i didn't want her talking to him, and that if any of my friends told me to break up with her i would do the same. Why would you want to converse with someone that is just trying to ruin a strong relationship that you have built. After another couple of arguments about how it seemed like i was just trying to control her, it seems like she realizes my side of it, and she told me that she would stop talking to him.

I guess my question is: is this kind of thing going to continue to happen, are there just going to be more people like this? And if so how do you deal with it? I'm sure you've been in a situation where your husband was told that he shouldn't be with you, after all that is what they have been taught. What is it, Corinthians I think, that says that they shouldn't yoke with nonbelievers or have their beliefs be compromised? Please help me; I don't want to lose her. Every time I see her and think about not having that anymore i just get hysterical.


Dear Worried:

The very first piece of advice I have for you is probably the most important. Stay calm. Getting upset, yelling, becoming hysterical and making demands of your girlfriend is not going to help. She gets defensive, you get defensive, everybody's defensive and nobody's actually talking anymore. So stay calm no matter what.

The second thing is that there are always going to be people who think your relationship is your business.  It may be because they genuinely care about your girlfriend, or it may be that they're just that kind of nosy person. Either way, you'll have to learn to take it in stride.

The question here is not whether your girlfriend's friend has any right to register an opinion, nor is it whether or not the Bible says somewhere that the two of you should not be together. The real question is: how does your girlfriend feel about your relationship? That's the only question here. If she feels that you two can have a strong, loving relationship despite religious differences (which, as I can attest, is possible) then you're fine. If she doesn't, then it's over.

I will say that I think you may have reacted in a very unhelpful fashion. Cursing at the guy and demanding that she not speak to him any longer isn't right. She's an adult (I presume), and can make her own decisions about her friends. You have no right to tell her who she can and can't see. You can say, however, that you wish she would tell him (for instance) that she won't discuss your relationship with him any longer.

If your girlfriend really wants to grow in her faith and feels she needs Baptist friends in order to do that, you should support her. It's her life and her decision, and you should support things that make her happy. It's your decision to make as to whether you can live with that. It's not hard. You just let her know that you don't wish to participate in that part of her life, and if she's okay with that you should be fine. But don't tell her what she can and can't do.

As I said, ultimately it's a decision that the two of you need to make about what you can live with. Can she live with a relationship with a nonbeliever? Can you live with a relationship with a believer? What anyone else does or doesn't say shouldn't enter into it. They can't make the decision for you or for her, so they aren't part of the equation. When it comes to these other people, just chalk it up to ignorance on that particular subject and let it go. It's not a personal slam on you, it's just their general attitude. You don't have to lend it any credence.


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