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Are any Objectivists here in love with a religious person?

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Hi, I was just curious if any Objectivists here are in a relationship with or married to a religious person? If so, how do you make it work? Is this morally possible under Objectivism?

My fiance considers herself Christian. When we first started dating almost two years ago I knew she was technically a Christian, but I also knew she wasn't raised religious and didn't attend any churches regularly. She couldn't even really define what sect she was, if any. I figured that she just didn't think about it much. I talked to her right away about me being an atheist and Objectivist, and she seemed somewhat interested in the ideas. I urged her to really think about her faith and explore the possibility that gods do not really exist, and I even gave her some books to read on the subject.

As our relationship grew the issue of religion kind of melted into the background, and I came under the impression that she was just agnostic as she never really broached the subject of religion again. We went through a lot together as we fell in love. She moved from Ohio to live with me in NY, and I proposed while she was living here. But after 10 months and an abortion (I don't mean to gloss over that, but I don't want to go into it here as I don't think it's the main issue), she decided she really didn't want to live in NY and moved back to Ohio. I am now planning to move to Ohio to live with her. Yesterday we ended up having a long conversation about religion, and she says that she has reached a greater understanding of her faith, and she does believe in God and Jesus, though she doesn't identify with any one sect or church.

We are still in love and I still want to spend my life with her. Other than the religious difference, she makes me happier than anything else or anyone else, and I figure that long term happiness is the goal of Objectivism, after all. I'm just concerned that her faith will keep coming between us.

Edited by Ragnar69

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Consider my age (26) and my limited experience concerning relationships (around 2 years) before you read my advice.

Some of your own personal relationship standards can never be compromised. Everyone has standards that are less important and more important, and only each individual can decide if he can live without any single standard, or if the standard is very important and the lack of it will always leave a void. That is the basic relationship rule.

Sometimes, it is not immediately obvious whether you can live without something you thought you needed, or not. Then, only more time will make it clearer for you. If you learn that the standard (/value) wasn't all that important to you after all, you keep the relationship for all of the other great values you gain besides. If you learn that the standard (or standards) can not be dropped, you must end the relationship, since, by definition, the relationship will never meet your own personal needs. Possibly you or the other person may change down the line in ways to make a new relationship with the same person, with some new standards, work.

In your case, with the issue of metaphysical views (/other views "covered" in religion), perhaps, even with her "born again" attitude now, actual in-practice beliefs will not differ so much between the both of you, especially if you are truly in love, and your relationship will continue to flourish. "Love" means that there are loads of things that you actually do love about the other person. However, if her religious views mean that huge standards/values will be lacking, from your point of view, and the lack is a big deal to you, you may need to end the relationship if the other person shows no signs of changing. You will always, or at least for a very long time (as it takes time for you to change, if ever, as well), feel that lack.

But only you can make these value-judgements for yourself. Sometimes it is a tough call, and you will need to lay low and keep a watchful, cool eye for a while, as you enjoy the other aspects of your relationship.

Edited by JASKN

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I go to a religious school, so I end up being attracted to religious girls all the time. There was one that I was in love with, but nothing really happened between us. I was particularly attracted to the fact that she was driven and somewhat prideful in her endeavors. She was one of those Christians that is rational in every area of her life except in areas where God would overlap. She was more of a moderate liberal, but I thought I could ignore that and instead focus on the aspects of her which were outstanding. She considered herself a freethinker, which greatly upset me because of the irony behind that statement, but at the same time it attracted me because at least there might have been some sort part of her that wanted to get away from the fuzzy and confusing explanations that make up Christianity.

I find women like this to be the worst kind to be attracted to. Especially if they still have that "untouchable God area" of their life, which will exist no matter what. You think you are getting something good, but since you differ on a core issue, you still feel some sort of isolation in relation to them. They are similar enough for one to have strong feelings for, but the hopes end up being too high to be met. I think that the cores of each party's worldview have to be similar in order to gain the most happiness out of a relationship. Don't get me wrong, relationships which consist of two different cores can still exist and be rewarding, but I don't think they can be as rewarding as one where the cores are the same. I don't think any emotional attraction can last long enough to disguise the women for who she really is, especially for someone who holds reality so highly as an Objectivist. Somewhere down the road the religious side of her life might show its ugly head.

Edited by Focus

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I think you should be focusing on whatever seems to give rise to unresolvable contradictions. For example, if she were to demand that you be baptized and attend Church twice a week, that could (should) be a problem for you. If she understands your beliefs and insists that you show no evidence of your Objectivist underpinnings, that would be a major problem. To turn issues the other direction, if you believe that people who believe in god are completely worthless, evil, irrational morons then you will have a hard time suppressing that belief and thus suppressing the belief that your wife is a completely worthless, evil, irrational moron and you are likewise a completely worthless, evil, irrational moron for having married such a woman.

Likewise, suppose your fiance had somewhat leftist / altruist sociopolitical leanings -- would you find that so repulsive that you'd have to mock her as a goddamn commie? If she favors a blue color scheme and you favor red, is that an intractable problem? Ultimately, the question can be reduced to this: if she is not exactly the same as you, to what extent is that difference important to her and to you?

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She moved from Ohio to live with me in NY, and I proposed while she was living here. But after 10 months and an abortion (I don't mean to gloss over that, but I don't want to go into it here as I don't think it's the main issue), she decided she really didn't want to live in NY and moved back to Ohio. I am now planning to move to Ohio to live with her. Yesterday we ended up having a long conversation about religion, and she says that she has reached a greater understanding of her faith, and she does believe in God and Jesus, though she doesn't identify with any one sect or church.

She's breaking up with you.

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Hi, I was just curious if any Objectivists here are in a relationship with or married to a religious person? If so, how do you make it work? Is this morally possible under Objectivism?

-----------

One very important area of life you need to discuss is the issue of children and how to raise them. If you both want children, you'd better know now, before you have them, what standards are you going to use, what beliefs are you going to teach them, how are you going to handle disagreements, etc.

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I've been married to a Christian for 17 years now and vie been an Objectivist for 21 years. I've got four children. So yes, it can work quite well. I think it mostly depends on what kind of a religious person she is. I couldn't imagine being married to a zealot or a fundamentalist. Sense of life is really important also.

Bill

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My wife is not "religious" - but she is... a spiritualist. She believes that there is something "more" out there. She knows I think there's no basis for her belief - I know she thinks there's none for mine. Neither of us finds it important that the other share these beliefs, and neither of us imposes our beliefs on the other - although I'm the more outspoken of the two when it comes to the topic.

That works for us - and in every other aspect of our lives, we are in as much harmony as a married couple can hope for. :)

But - and this is critical - we figured this out about ourselves *EARLY ON*. There are a few major areas about which you MUST have a mutual understanding and agreement with your partner if you want to have a successful marriage. If you get married without this agreement, you had better get one. Those areas include religious belief, money management, children, and where you're going to live.

If you and your girlfriend/fiance do not have a serious heart to heart about your religious differences and reach a mutual understanding and agreement about them, you will find them coming up in the future to bite you in the ass.

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Those areas include religious belief, money management, children, and where you're going to live.

Seconded! House chores, too.

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Thanks all for the great replies. I was already pretty secure in our relationship, but it puts my mind more at ease to know other people have similar situations.

bbrown - wow, 17 years and 4 kids! How do you raise the kids? Are they baptized?

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One very important area of life you need to discuss is the issue of children and how to raise them. If you both want children, you'd better know now, before you have them, what standards are you going to use, what beliefs are you going to teach them, how are you going to handle disagreements, etc.

We have talked about that. We propose to just tell them what we each believe and let them make their own decisions. She does want to get them baptized, though. She herself isn't even baptized, so I'm not really sure why she wants the kids baptized.

My inclination is to just go along with it if she really ends up wanting to do that, as the act itself is fairly harmless to the baby.

Edited by Ragnar69

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I have a non-validated set of 4 questions to know whether a religious person is in fact a religious person, or only a believer.

People can tell you they believe in God or elves, or that they will win lotto, or that the USA soccer team will win in the next World Cup, but things start to matter when this translates into actual behaviour.

If any of the following questions is answered by a YES, then the person is not just a "believer", but a true religious person.

Question 1. Do you await for God's input before taking a decision? (The question is not about whether you pray for guidance, but on whether you really expect an answer)

Question 2. When you are in the process of making a decision, do you take into consideration whether God will be offended or pleased?

Question 3. When you are in the process of making a decision, do you take into consideration whether you will be rewarded or punished in an afterlife?

Question 4. Do you make any efforts to persuade other people to do any of the three things above?

Ayn Rand was not concerned or worried about believers, as long as they were individualists and rational about the daily aspects of their lives.

In other words, one thing is to believe in God. Another is to live as if God really existed.

My wife calls herself a believer, but she hates religions in all forms. She just has not paid enough attention to the reasoning behind the arguments for God.

But she would answer "No" to all these four questions.

Edited by Hotu Matua

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I just found out from her that she wants to get the kids baptized because it's what my family would want, also. I could respect that. I come from half Catholic and half Greek Orthodox. Baptisms in my family do always seem to be joyous occasions, even if I don't agree with the underlying reasons for it.

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Yes, you can see child baptism in this context as a joyful ritual to welcome the child into the family.

I suppose that some of these rituals will become just cultural traditions, in the same way that the names "Monday" or "Sunday", or expressions like "God Bless you!" or holidays like Christmas (The term "holiday" itself refers to holiness) derive from religious contexts.

Edited by Hotu Matua

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Yes, you can see child baptism in this context as a joyful ritual to welcome the child into the family.

Having been to a few baptisms myself, I would certainly be hesitant to call any single aspect of them a "joyful ritual." More like "frightening."

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Hello all...I'm the "believer" Ragnar69 is engaged to. I was a little nervous when he told me he'd posted on here. :worry:

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised at how this question was received. All the sound, insightful responses to our relationship differences are greatly appreciated. It's been very interesting and thought-provoking, and I'm sure we'll have a deep conversation later on this issue, and the issues raised by other responses.

When I read what Ragnar wrote about baptism, it seemed a little nutty seeing how it was written on the screen- even to me. So I wanted to elaborate:

To be honest, the idea of baptizing my children is in conflict with my feeling on what baptism truly means. Baptism is a public and symbolic ritual to reflect the choice to follow Christ and being anointed by the Holy Spirit. No child can make that choice with any amount of thought or certainty, and shouldn't be forced to. In everything else in their lives, I don't intend to interject anything religious into my young family without them coming to either myself or their father with curiosity. This is the general attitude in my family.

But in the family I'm marrying into, baptism is just as important and as joyful an occasion as holidays and birthdays, and I'd hate to break a family tradition or deny my family this milestone. In lieu of a baptism, I'm in favor of a "christening" or "naming" ceremony. It would still formally welcome the child into the family and allow for a chance for the family to gather and celebrate the birth.

I'm prepared to make secular "swap-outs" like this in our life together to accommodate his beliefs, and my love of traditions and family. For example, we'd discussed for our wedding having it performed by a humanist officiant and having a non-religious ceremony. I think Ragnar and I both can celebrate our lives together and love in all things, as well as our individual selves and beliefs.

Again, thank you for all the helpful responses and advice. :)

Edited by Alyxandria

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I have a non-validated set of 4 questions to know whether a religious person is in fact a religious person, or only a believer.

I wrote to Ragnar about this piece in particular. When I thought about it, and answered the questions for myself, I came up with this overall summary of my beliefs:

I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ as best I can. Charity, brotherly love, the importance of the family and children, to name a few. I hate to put scripture on here, but ... "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27 NIV). I know that following Christ's teachings bring a joy and peace to my life today - I don't do it in hopes of an a eternal pay out in the after life, or for fear of being punished by God. I've never felt "punished" by anything but my own poor choices. When I follow Jesus's teachings or - pardon me, please - ask myself "WWJD?", the results of my actions make me happy and cause happiness to me in the future. The inverse is also true - when I don't do these things, things in my life usually go downhill. I do like to think when I pray and meditate that my internal voice, my conscience, is something divine and gifted to me and that I need to discipline my actions and my understanding of my self and conscience to be truly at peace. My conversations with Jesus is at the same time a conversation with myself if I do this.

Maybe my spirituality is best expressed as a love of Christ the teacher, and my actions and resulting happiness my own salvation?

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I have known intelligent Christians whose behaviours and choices are dominated by rationality, and not by irrational fears or expectations.

But this is something only you can assess regarding your own behavours and choices.

As an example, let's take any behaviour: say, coffee drinking. Some Christians (e.g. Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons)do not drink coffee .

If a Christian refuses to drink coffee beacause this is something that she does not want for HER life (either because she doesn't like the flavor, or doesn't tolerate the effects of caffeine, or because his cardiac condition can get worse, etc.) then it is rational and ethically proper. She is taking HER life as the standard of value.

But suppose that a Christian refuses to drink coffee becasue her leader, or a holy book, says so. If she does if because she doesn't want Jesus to feel offended, or she doens't want to miss salvation from an eternal separation from Jesus, hell or whatever, then this behaviour is irrational and unethical.

Sometimes, however, a Christian may rationalize a behaviour, before accepting that the only basis for that behaviour is the belief in the supernatural (gods, angels, hell, paradise, resurrection, etc.)

For example: Jehovah Witnesses stress the risk of hepatitis C or VIH infection, or the availability of plasma expansors, to support their refusal of blood transfusions. But, in the bottomline, they will refuse it even in life-threatening situations when there are no expansors at hand (e.g. in developing countries or small towns) and the blood is negative for any known virus. Why? Becasue in the bottomline, their behaviour is based not in reason, but on faith.

This is acting as a sacrificial animal. A Jehovah witness is willing to give up a higher value (his life) to a lesser value (a belief in a "holy" book)

Let's take a much less dramatic but much more frequent example: masturbation.

Masturbation has no reason to cause you any psychological problem. There is no reason for masturbation to affect your future sex life. Indeed, some studies have demostated that women who masturbate are more likely to achieve satisfactory orgasms during their marriage.

However, some Christians try to preach against masturbation on "rational" grounds, when there are no rational grounds at all. They claim that giving up masturbation will make you happier, stronger, more in control of yourself. They don't preach, though, to give up one hour of our sleeptime, or your favourite dessert. The real grounds are the belief in the supernatural.

So, going back to questions number 2 and 3 of my questionnaire. Do you do what you do out of rational self-interest or out of fear of offending God or missing salvation from eternal death?

Look at Paul's words: " I no longer live but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

When you make a choice, it is you making it? is it you making it for your own sake and by your own standards that are, in turn, derived from the real world?

Edited by Hotu Matua

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I wrote to Ragnar about this piece in particular. When I thought about it, and answered the questions for myself, I came up with this overall summary of my beliefs:

It is not often the second party joins in on such threads as these on this forum!

To me, your description of following the Teachings of Christ and your idea of prayer sound an awful lot like the Objectivist equivalent of following principles to help you decide your actions in life, and using introspection to see how it's going.

The difference is where you get your principles and to what you attribute your internal thoughts. An Objectivist would say your thoughts are contained in your brain, which is part of your body, which is part of reality; you say it comes from God. An Objectivist would derive principles to guide his actions from his own life itself. He would observe himself and other living things in real life to try and figure out what works and what doesn't, and then form principles to follow based on the information he gathers. However, you get your principles from God and the Bible. They may share a resemblance to actual, life-derived principles, but they remain unchecked in reality. They are not proven with observation and thought, at least not entirely. They are accepted on faith, without thought to prove a total connection to real life.

Since you are following Christianity to live a better life on Earth, why don't you just go the final step and validate (or invalidate) all Christian principles, as you pit them against reality with your own thinking? It makes sense that cutting out the "middle man" of Christianity and just shooting straight for reality would give you better results to follow for your own life that exists in reality.

Edited by JASKN

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bbrown - wow, 17 years and 4 kids! How do you raise the kids? Are they baptized?

They are not baptized and my wife doesn't go to church. They're all 6 and under so it's not like religion comes up a whole lot. They know that my wife believes and that I don't. We intend to raise them that way--where they come to their own conclusions.

Bill

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I think you are under-valuing the issue.

Religion is not irrelevant to life, because philosophy is not irrelevant to life. Someone who finds they must believe in God is, afterall, choosing blind faith over reason. If you think that won't ever be important in your life, you can't much credit the importance of an integrated code of values, right?

I'm not talking about things we claim to believe or endorse, I'm talking about living. Especially the hard parts of life. I'd ask (and have done so!) my lover why he believed in God, given there was no evidence. It doesn't take much discussion to lay out the major arguments that make a belief in God irrational--the problem of evil, etc.

What I've heard back is that when it comes to such things, he just goes with his upbringing and family beliefs, which means peer pressure. These guys were smart people, devoted to reason, disgusted with other's irrationality--up to a point. When the contradiction between their active values and their religious belief is openly acknowledged, at that point where they say they just "do," the fundamental difference becomes almost palpable--a silence that creates a distance between us--there is nothing to say, nothing to be done. It is unworkable. It isn't reason if it pertains only up to a point. It will be feelings or Biblical sayings or altruism, or fear of God's wrath that takes over at that point. Reason that gives way to anything else, from the beginning, or only at a certain point, is not any kind of discipline at all. If you value reason, truth, facts, science, etc., at all, you value them all the way.

What do you say when your kid asks why Mom believes in God but you don't? If there's no reason to believe in God, why does Mom believe? How can Mom and Dad disagree about something that is so important? Is there a heaven or not? If you get mealy-mouthed on such issues, to avoid the contradiction between your beliefs, the child may suffer, may well be turned off deep thinking, becomes insecure due the rift in his parents' beliefs, not knowing how far it extends, whom to believe, who or what to trust whenever you two disagree...

There's a reason that discussions about religion become heated. The differences matter. So I recommend you two have that conversation asap, and the atheist tries to determine how far the anti-intellectualism, atruism, supernatural tendencies, and failure to rely on reason goes in the believer. It really is a simple issue--do you accept reason or not.

If you take yourselves seriously, you need to work this out before making a commitment. I wish you the very best of luck, but I fear the worst.

-- Mindy

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She's breaking up with you.

I am glad that after having just found this thread and reading over it (which is full of good advice) that this comment was ignored, as it should have been. Comments like these should not be made lightly, and there is no way you had even close to enough information on their relationship to create a conclusion such as that. You need to think before you post sir. I hope that you are not this careless in advice-giving situations with personal friends of yours.

Edited by CapitalistSwine

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I am glad that after having just found this thread and reading over it (which is full of good advice) that this comment was ignored, as it should have been. Comments like these should not be made lightly, and there is no way you had even close to enough information on their relationship to create a conclusion such as that. You need to think before you post sir. I hope that you are not this careless in advice-giving situations with personal friends of yours.

I agree, the comment didn't appear thought-out.

Yet, I know the history of Mr. Delaney on this forum, and I know he does think things out. Oftentimes, he expresses those thoughts in a snarky or sarcastic way, which may have been the case here. Personally, I don't see the value in snarky/sarcastic unless it is to make one's self feel better in retaliation to an impossible personality. In the context of a value-value forum (especially with tone ambiguity through text), the value of snarky diminishes further.

I am fairly certain that if Kevin had presented the rationale behind his comment it would have at least proven some good food for thought. Perhaps he wanted the OP to think about the relationship from a "finalized" viewpoint and then comment with that mindset. Perhaps, in his experience, all of the variables that the OP provided inevitably lead to a breakup. Or, something else.

Elaboration really would have been better.

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I won't comment further, out of respect for those involved. Suffice it to say, my statement was not made lightly, and is not intended as sarcasm or snark.

There are giant red flags that this man needs to take cognizance of. None of them have anything to do with religion.

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