Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Relationships with religious people

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

My girlfriend, and the woman I plan to marry, is a Catholic (although, pretty much in name only). She's what I've seen other people on here refer to as an "apatheist." She believes in God, but isn't particularly devout and she just doesn't give it a lot of thought. She's one of those people who just doesn't put a lot of thought into politics or philosophy. Every now and then she says stuff about politics that kinda makes me mad, but I just remind myself that she doesn't really think it through and I dismiss it. What are your views on having relationships with people who do not share your philosophy?

DISCLAIMER: Any posts telling me that I should end the relationship will be ignored. I love her (and, no, it is not an undeserved love) and I will not be ending the relationship so long as she remains faithful to me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 113
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I'm in the exact same boat. My fiance is also a Catholic and meets your description to a T. I love her for her passion about ideas even if we have differing ideas. We will frequently have long discussions about politics and I've had her come over to our side frequently. So, she is willing to accept logic more now than when we started dating a few years ago. She knew I was an atheist since our second date, she's not "happy" with it but she understands and respects our difference of opinion.

This is something I consider a victory. She is slowly coming over to logic from emotion so there is progress. Now the real hurdle was her parents.... they are the devout-ish sort of Catholics. They got to know me and really came to like me because of my unabashed honesty and outspoken nature. Plus they know I meet their definition of a good person. Sure we have VERY different views on religion but it is a topic we avoid for the most part. We have enough in common like politics and football and leveraged our relationship on that.

A good example of a common ground we struck was my admiration for the Pope's fighting communism and the rise of the rise of Marxist thought inside the church in the 80's. Sure, he wanted to put a religious oligarchy in place but fighting the Jesus as Marx idea was really hard since it was so prevelant in Central and South America. That and his stance on the very definition on life and his obvious adherence to Catholicism. Still, I admire his anti-Communist fight.

I seriously doubt I could have an intimate relationship with someone that was seriously religious considering it is such a radical departure from mine. It just can't see reconciling the difference.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My girlfriend, and the woman I plan to marry, is a Catholic (although, pretty much in name only).  She's what I've seen other people on here refer to as an "apatheist."  She believes in God, but isn't particularly devout and she just doesn't give it a lot of thought.  She's one of those people who just doesn't put a lot of thought into politics or philosophy.  Every now and then she says stuff about politics that kinda makes me mad, but I just remind myself that she doesn't really think it through and I dismiss it.  What are your views on having relationships with people who do not share your philosophy?

DISCLAIMER: Any posts telling me that I should end the relationship will be ignored.  I love her (and, no, it is not an undeserved love) and I will not be ending the relationship so long as she remains faithful to me.

I understand your situation, I live in a place full of religious people(catholics), and I think i have a better chance of finding BigFoot driving a bus on the street than I do of finding a semi-rational person. :thumbsup:

gah, what to do?

Maybe I can settle for an attractive agnostic ...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

End the relationship NOW!

:thumbsup:

I'm just kidding, but what are you asking here really? Is it okay to have a relationship with someone you disagree with? You seem to already know the answer, and you told us you'd ignore any suggestions to the contrary.

So what do you need us for? A stamp of approval?

I'm not asking for advice or approval. I'm asking for your thoughts. If you wish to voice your approval or lack thereof, feel free, but it will not affect my future one way or the other.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not asking for advice or approval.  I'm asking for your thoughts.  If you wish to voice your approval or lack thereof, feel free, but it will not affect my future one way or the other.

My advice is to learn Objectivism to the degree that you could teach it. (which means a LOT of study for you) Then, since your girlfriend obviously has positive values that you love, use those as your wedge to attract her to Objectivism. Then teach her the whole philosophy.

But don't start this until you fully understand it. But until then: NO LIES. When she says something bad politically or whatever, DON'T AGREE WITH HER. Be gentle, but don't sanction bad ideas or you might push her in a worse direction that she might not come back from.

Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh, I tell her when I disagree, but we usually don't talk about it for long. I might be able, eventually, to make her support the idea that she isn't responsible to anyone but herself and that her own happiness takes precedence, but I really don't see myself getting much further. I don't mean to make her sound stupid, because she really isn't, but all the stuff about metaphysics and epistemology would be over her head because she just isn't interested in philosophy. It hasn't been difficult for me to learn and accept the tenets of Objectivism, because I've always been interested in philosophy. If someone isn't interested in something, it's hard to teach them about it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  If someone isn't interested in something, it's hard to teach them about it.

I wouldn't try to teach her per se. My fiance and I will discuss something like the morality of buying Nike's made by kids. I just rationally explained my position and after a while she snapped to it. She mentioned the other day having someone at school complain that she was wearing an Indian blouse "that was probably made by kids". She did a really good job of defending the position well. I was proud of her.

That is also like Wal Mart. Her kneejerk reaction is to dislike them but she's come around a good bit and understand they aren't the bad guys the media makes them out to be. She's not a fan of Sam Walton but expalining my position rationally helped influence her.

My natural way of teaching something is by using the Socratic method so it helps her step through ideas easier. I make sure to never lecture her or give the impression I'm lecturing her. It would be counterproductive to do so. It's the same way I talk to my family who consists of neoconservatives. I don't find dealing with neocon's much different from dealing with a religious person or a liberal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My girlfriend, and the woman I plan to marry, is a Catholic (although, pretty much in name only).  She's what I've seen other people on here refer to as an "apatheist."  She believes in God, but isn't particularly devout and she just doesn't give it a lot of thought.  [...] What are your views on having relationships with people who do not share your philosophy?

Implicit in your statements here, and in later posts, is the assumption that her views will either remain the same or get better (through your influence).

My immediate thought is this: At age 60 I know of some people who, as mortality becomes more evident to them, become increasingly more religious, not less, as time passes.

If that happens to your wife-to-be, what will become of your life?

Another thought: If you choose to have children, what will you tell them about God, Christian ethics, faith, superstition and other churchly matters?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She's not the philosophical type.  The reason I don't think I'll convince her is because she doesn't like conversations like that.

You clearly DO "like conversations like that", you have them all the time in this forum. And you must like them, or you wouldn't come back.

Wouldn't you really like to have a girlfriend/spouse who likes that as well? You would have even more in common, and your love would be stronger.

And knowing the answer to that, how can you settle for something less? Won't you regret it later?

Happily married,

TomL

Edited by TomL
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I understand your situation, I live in a place full of religious people(catholics), and I think i have  a better chance of  finding  BigFoot driving a bus on the street than  I do of finding a semi-rational person. :D  

gah, what to do?

Maybe I can settle for an attractive agnostic ...

Who cares about where you live... ever hear of the Internet?

Broaden the scope of your search. If you are limiting yourself needlessly you are missing out on opportunities that might exist.

I found my wife on IRC and she lived 1,000 miles away. Didn't stop anything.

Incidentally, I had a written list of about 50 things I was looking for in a woman, separated into two main categories; "Deal breakers" and "Preferences", basically. The more I refined the list, the more I moved things from "Preferences" to "Deal breakers" such that at the end most of it was deal breakers. But I found the whole list anyway, all in one person.

You have to start with first indentifying yourself and your own values, then write those down and look for someone with the same values. And I don't just mean philosophic values, but concretes as well. If you like motorcycles and its a considerable part of your life, you better find a woman who likes it also. (That was one of my 50ish things... just an example).

Edited by TomL
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My girlfriend, and the woman I plan to marry, is a Catholic (although, pretty much in name only).  She's what I've seen other people on here refer to as an "apatheist."  She believes in God, but isn't particularly devout and she just doesn't give it a lot of thought.

That describes almost all of Xians today, especially in the U.S. If it were otherwise, we'd still be in the dark ages or under the boot of a crusade. What I mean is: you're rationalizing.

She's one of those people who just doesn't put a lot of thought into politics or philosophy.  Every now and then she says stuff about politics that kinda makes me mad, but I just remind myself that she doesn't really think it through and I dismiss it. 

I love her (and, no, it is not an undeserved love) and I will not be ending the relationship so long as she remains faithful to me.

I'd like to hear what the actual basis of this 'love' is. I don't think you know the meaning of the word. You cannot have different philosophies and truly be in love. Love is the emotional response of a man to his own virtues in the character of another... and by your own admission, her intellectual character is not yours. And then you "dismiss", i.e. evade it.

If your highest value is your own life, you need to figure out what your happiness requires, and then go get it. It also means you should not ignore things you know to be contradictory to your happiness.

Edited by TomL
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I won't tell them anything about it.  If my wife wants to, that's her decision, but I will insist that she do it in a manner that is not brainwashing and I'll put in my 2 cents as well.

[bold added for emphasis.]

You won't talk about the subjects -- but you will talk about the subjects. As you have stated your position, it is contradictory.

Besides, do you really mean that you will have no comment to your own children about the most important issues in life? This raises another question worth thinking about: What is your actual philosophy -- that is, what philosophy would lead someone to even consider not advocating his highest values to his own children?

Edited by BurgessLau
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Teaching or instruction is also not appropriate in a romantic relationship. If you love your significant other, you love who they ARE, not who they COULD BE. A potentiality is not an actuality and cannot be treated as such. If you are engaging in a romantic relationship on the basis that you are going to "teach" or "convert" the other person, RUN SCREAMING AND DON'T LOOK BACK.

It can be appropriate to have a relationship with someone that holds mixed premises if you are basing that relationship on the person's "sense of life" or personality. However, in those cases you will PERFORCE experience quite a bit of frustration and unhappiness as your beloved attempts to act on his/her explicitly held premises.

The question to ask, then, is "Do the benefits I gain (i.e. my love for this person) completely outweigh and override the frustrations and unhappiness I necessarily experience when they don't live up completely to their implicitly held ideals?" And "Does my love for this person outweigh the love I could hold for anyone else, including someone that DOES live up completely to their implicitly held ideals?"

If the answer to either of those questions is no, you need to continue looking, or at least not commit yourself to a permanent relationship, and do so EXPLICITLY. Otherwise, you are giving up on pursuing your own happiness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I feel like JMeganSnow basically answered all the above posts for me. The answer to both questions is yes. I have known this girl for 5 years and she's been my best friend the whole time. We've both been in love with each other for a while, but we never pursued a relationship for certain reasons which I will not go into here. We've both helped each other through some tough times, including my suicide attempts and the death of her mother. While she may not be philosophically perfect, I cannot imagine spending my life with anyone but her.

Someone asked what my philosophy is. I am not an Objectivist, although most of my philosophical positions, particularly those of ethics and politics, fall in line with Objectivism.

Edited by Moose
Link to comment
Share on other sites

[i wrote this post yesterday, but didn't have a chance to proofread it until this morning. Jennifer Snow, in the meantime, has stolen much of my thunder (as usual), but here it is anyway . . .]

My advice is to learn Objectivism to the degree that you could teach it. (which means a LOT of study for you) Then, since your girlfriend obviously has positive values that you love, use those as your wedge to attract her to Objectivism. Then teach her the whole philosophy.

I can't imagine worse advice — or a worse attitude toward romantic love — than this.

Someday, should my heart turn cold and my bank account run dry, I'll write a book titled How to Change Him or Her: Transforming Your Significant Other Into the Person You Really Want Them to Be — in Five Easy Steps. It'll sell ten million copies.

But until then, I have to tell the simpler and much less popular truth: To love a person means to accept them exactly as they are.

In other words: You can't "change" your romantic partner. And you must never, ever try.

And yes, guys, this even includes times when you're right and she's wrong.

And yes, it's true even when you cloak what you're doing under such language as "teaching" or guiding or helping — or sweetly, innocently nudging her in the right direction.

If it's not "accepting," then forget it; it has no place in romantic love.

In fact, I would even say that if you can't actively respect and admire your partner for her choices and decisions, then at the very least you don't have a full, mature romantic relationship. And without that crucial element of acceptance, I guarantee you never will.

You can't love a person with reservations. You can't love selected parts of a person, nor can you love a potential person. You can only love the entire person, as he or she is right now. Not to accept your partner in this way means that you don't view your partner fully as an equal. He or she is deficient in something; he or she isn't "good enough" — yet — and you, naturally, are the savior with the solution.

To whatever extent you're "fixing" your partner, you're not relating to him or her as an equal. You're treating your partner like a child. At best, this breeds resentment. At worst, should your partner go along with it, you've got the makings of a dependency problem. Either way, you both lose.

It's a very bitter pill to swallow for a lot of people, and people fight it in every way imaginable: Romantic love is between equals. And to be "equals" in this context means to be able relate to one another as equals. Not as teacher to student, or as parent to child, but as two complete, mature, independent adults.

The #1 objection to this, and the hallmark of the person who doesn't "get it" is: "But . . . what if he/she really needs to be fixed?" To which I would say: OK, fine. Fix, teach, convert, rescue, change away — only make sure you're doing so with the other party's full knowledge and enthusiastic consent, and withdraw from further romantic involvement until your mission is complete.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[i wrote this post yesterday, but didn't have a chance to proofread it until this morning. Jennifer Snow, in the meantime, has stolen much of my thunder (as usual), but here it is anyway . . .]

I can't imagine worse advice — or a worse attitude toward romantic love — than this.

I agree completely...

But until then, I have to tell the simpler and much less popular truth: To love a person means to accept them exactly as they are.

I agree with this also, but it does not mean that you should select a partner who has some faults which you consider to be morally significant. You cannot and should not accept a partner who seeks to gain values in life which you hold as a disvalue, even if there are higher values upon which you (on the surface) agree.

In the context of value-judgements, I agree with love between "equals" -- you must have the same morality across the board. Anything of no moral consequence is optional, e.g. differing favorite colors, which has no moral significance, is of no consequence in selecting a partner. But if you discover that you are in fact unequal in the context of value-judgements, you should discontinue.

To accept a partner who is at odds with even some of your lesser moral values is to succumb to a form of moral relativism where certain values are considered to be "inconsequential", but that term flies in the very face of the definition of 'value'. If it is of moral value, then its consequence has already been asserted. If it isn't of consequence, then you can't really hold it as a value.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[...] To love a person means to accept them exactly as they are.

In other words: You can't "change" your romantic partner. And you must never, ever try. [...]

Thank you for the insights -- and the clear formulation of them.

My main question is about application. Does the same principle apply to friendships as well, ranging from casual, "brief encounters" to life-time, intense friendships? Even further, doesn't the principle apply to everyone we know?

A secondary question is: You have expressed the principle quoted above in negative terms. What name -- word or phrase -- would you give to the positive version of that admonition?

My most concise suggestion would be: Independence. Objectivists usually think of the virtue of independence (the theme of The Fountainhead) as being independent from other people in the sense of not being controlled by them, but the virtue also includes not controlling (or "saving") others as well. Ayn Rand's novels show the two sides very well.

Edited by BurgessLau
Link to comment
Share on other sites

wasn't it Aristotle who wrote that the men who make the best friends are the ones who don't treat other people as means to an end, but as ends in and of themselves. In other words men who accept others as they are and not as he thinks they should be.

In other words, it's more or less like what Kevin Delaney said.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...