An Atheist and a Christian: A Love Story… Update! July 22, 2009

An Atheist and a Christian: A Love Story… Update!

I wrote about Kate and Erik a while back — they’re the atheist and Christian couple who found a way to make their relationship work. Both comment on this site frequently.

There’s a bit of an update…

They’re engaged!


I take full credit, of course. (The first child better be named Hemant.)

Congratulations to them 🙂

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  • bob

    I have been in a serious relationship with a Christian lady for going on 5 years now. It can work…sort of. I just have to keep my mouth shut when she goes to church every Sunday and writes a check for 1/10th of her modest income…every Sunday…every freaking Sunday…but somehow, it works 🙂

  • Andy D

    I’m about to propose to my Christian girlfriend!

  • beckster

    Congratulations!! I love a good wedding, even the ones in churches 🙂

  • Congrats!

  • Kate

    HAHAHAHA…we’ll consider the name!!!

    But in all seriousness, Hemant and his book deserve a lot of credit. Erik and I read it early on in our relationship…it was the first book we read that we agreed on, and it paved the way for us reading a whole host of other religious/non-religious books together and sparked many wonderful discussions! It was the book that began to show us we could be compatible.

    Oh and it’ll be in a church – that building you see behind you is Duke Chapel! He proposed on the very top, as the 5pm carillon bells were being played. The bell-player even played “Ode to Joy”, just for us, as a bonus song. It was incredibly romantic and I couldn’t be happier.

    Let that be a lesson to the atheist women on here…don’t rule out a Christian guy! 😉 This one swept me off my feet! We still have our own (non)beliefs, but I couldn’t ask for anything more. I get to marry my best friend. 🙂


  • Sandra


    As for:

    (The first child better be named Hemant.)

    It could be worse, at least he isn’t asking for a snack 😉

  • trixr4kids

    Congratulations & best wishes to you both.

  • Congratulations. Mixed marriages can work. We are all “mixed” in all sorts of ways. That’s what makes life interesting.

  • Erik

    Thanks for telling our story, Hemant! I hope more people realize that love really can transcend religious differences. For me, that is a core part of my Christian faith: Jesus loved without regard to differences and I should, too. In the end, Kate and I have such a great deal of compatibility in all other areas that the religious differences are often overshadowed by everything we DO have in common.

    As for the name of our first child…does it have to be only a boys name? We could name a girl Hemant but I’m not sure you would like that…

  • Jen

    That’s really cute- (pokes the hornet’s nest)- and will you guys get married in a church, or on a godless beach?

  • Good luck, but it sure seems like tap dancing through a mine field – only a matter of time before boom!

  • beckster

    I thought I recognized the campus!! I’m in Raleigh 🙂

  • Congratulations! I wish you all the best, but take it from an atheist married to an ex-Christian/agnostic (who can’t be bothered to think about religion and associated philosophical issues) that it is easy to reconcile your disparate beliefs and live harmoniously, as my wife and I did for a decade, until you have children, when the real contentious religious issues come up.

    I’m going to engage in a little “over-sharing” here because this is a really important issue. Here are some examples from my own experience. My wife put our daughter into a Methodist day care, over my objections, because it was relatively high-quality for the cost. No big problem, it was otherwise a good school, but much to my chagrin my daughter began insisting at home that we thank the invisible Sky Daddy(tm) for the food we were about to eat. Irksome, but not horrible, right? Also, my wife objects to me telling our daughter that the real meaning of Christmas is Santa, generosity, and the Winter Solstice. My mother-in-law makes overt attempts to brainwash my children and I get no support from my wife in resisting it, just scorn for “taking it so seriously”. None of these are real “deal breakers” but I can tell you, they do add up.

    How about everyone in a “mixed” relationship write in their little “friction points” so that this young couple can get a preview and have a chance to discuss before they make the most important commitment of their lives?

    I really do wish you all the best luck in the world, which coming from an atheist is the strongest possible statement of goodwill, but I want you to know that you are facing a bigger challenge than you think you are right now and there will be times when your maturity and commitment will be under great strain. You can do it, but it will take great commitment, tolerance, selflessness, understanding and love… from both of you. Hell, what am I saying? Marriage takes that anyway!

    Again, best wishes!

  • Kate

    Haha, we’ve gotten many a preview over the past few years! 😉 Thank you all for the encouragement and best wishes. We look delighted in the picture but trust me, we’ve been together for a long time and have struggled our way through many serious conversations. This was not a light decision. We’ve read books, seen a wonderful counselor, discussed, discussed, and discussed. Like Richard said – we’re all mixed. And marrying for religious compatibility might not always be a sure thing…people change all the time, and the “match” you marry might change their views to be something different.


  • I’m married to a Christian and we are raising kids. For us there is kind of a “religious pendulum” that is free to swing back and forth. We started the marriage out not joining any church… just visiting one every now and then. My wife’s concession to me. Then when the kids got older (9 and 4) my wife wanted us to join a church so our kids could get some basic religious exposure. I said “sure”. My concession to her. It was an evangelical church populated mainly by fundies. It was an interesting experience. I personally got to learn a lot about the fundi mind-set. I did let our kids know that I didn’t believe the stuff they said even though I was going. Incidentally, my wife doesn’t believe in a literal interpretation of the bible and all the hell stuff. After 2 or 3 years I started to stay home Sunday mornings. Our kids wanted to stay home too and after a while, my wife got tired of forcing them to go and stopped going herself every Sunday. The pendulum is now kind-of back in the secular world. Will it swing back the other way in a different incarnation of religion? It probably will. That is how we successfully have a marriage with kids between a Christian and an atheist. My only advice is to follow the command “Put your marriage first” instead of “Put God first” or “Put your atheism first”.

  • Priscilla a.k.a. Kate’s mom

    Jeff, you make a lot of sense. I think the most important piece of advice is the last one. “Put your marriage first.” I have been married to a Catholic (albeit non-practicing)(Kate’s dad) for 27 years so I know that works!

  • grazatt

    All kinds of relationships can work or not work. It all depends on the people in them

  • Ramon Caballero

    @grazatt, Let me fix that for you:
    All kinds of relationships could work. It all depends on the will of the people in them.

    Married for 14 years with a Catholic, previous Catechist girl, who misses their church in Mexico, but knows that churches in USA are crazy. I almost convinced her that she is really a Deist, not really a catholic 🙂

    Oh, and guys: Congratulations on your engagement!, very happy for you!

  • Andrew

    My girlfriend is a conservative, pro-life christian woman. Voted McCain hates Obama. I am an liberal, pro-choice, atheist man. I voted for Obama, wouldn’t say I hate John McCain though.

    She’s very nonjudgemental and so we just click. Can’t explain it. But I imagine it’s more common than most people think.

  • Spurs Fan

    As another Atheist married to a Christian, I salute you guys and wish you the best! Sure challenges will come (as stated above, espcially with kids), but love and comittment can overcome all!

  • Kendall

    I’m also in a theist/atheist relationship which has had it’s bumps lately as we tried to figure out a way to make the differences work! Your story is truly inspirational and I’m so glad you shared it, it gives me hope!

    Congratulations and the best of luck to both of you! (even if you are Duke fans… Go heels!)

  • Kate

    Thank you!! Yes, we’re both Duke fans…and State fans…boo Heels! 😉

  • Bill

    C-aaaaaaaa-rrrrrooooo-llliiiiii-nnnnnaaa! Hate State!

    I’m an atheist married to a moderate (Episcopalian) Xian. Married in a church — to me, the commitment was the important thing, not the folderol attached to it, which included the religious service, the church, the flowers, etc.

    We’ve been married 5 years and have a three year old little girl. As a previous poster said, children provide the only real friction point over atheism — it’s not as if there is a god or goddess actually making a difference in people’s lives, so the only time to talk about it is when discussing what fairy tales to impart.

    I let her take the wee one to church, she let’s me tell her “Say hello to Mommy’s imaginary friend!” when they leave. I actually think that it is better for her to be exposed to a less-crazy religion at a young age. When she gets to be a teenager she will, of course, be flipped out in search of meaning and I view Episcopalian upbringing rather like cowpox: take the small hit and avoid the small pox.

    Other than the Duke and State stuff you seem like nice people, so good luck! (And in deference to my wife, go Davidson!)

  • Mike

    I grew up in an evangelical home and have been a fairly mainstream Christian for most of my life. About three years ago, I began to have serious doubts about my faith and have ultimately come to totally repudiate my believe in God. It really seemed like a one way path and once you cross the line from being a doubter to a real non-believer, it is all over. Even if you want to go back, you can’t.

    My oldest daughter is studying to be a youth pastor in an evangelical church. My wife now works for our church. She admits that she feels like she has to make up for my lack of religion by being the perfect Christian at all times. She believes that Satan is to blame for my thoughts and eventually God will take me back.

    I tried reading some books like Lee Stroebel to cure my condition, but they really just made me more secure in my belief. Every chapter ends with a simple declaration that if you just believe in God, everything makes sense. It is quite simple, “Believe requires belief.” And i’m afraid that once you step out of belief, you can never go back. The world of Christianity just makes no sense to one who has totally lost their belief. It is fundamentally different than just serious doubting.

    The only good thing is that my family is accepting of my evolutionary belief. They just think that God guides the process. I suppose that when a pitcher throws a curve ball that God guides it to home plate. I just believe that the ball would get their because of a combination of physics and the rules of gravity.

    I’m really not sure how this will all turn out.

  • Ashley

    I have been in a relationship with a christian man for about the last year. We did not quite live the Christian lifestyle, and now he has changed his mind. We were ready to move into together, and his faith caught up with him. He wants to marry a good christian woman, and have that relationship in his life. I am kind of stuck, im not quite sure how to continue. Should i try out the whole church thing? We were going to get married. I want to marry him, I love him, and I am not sure what to do. Is it possible his faith is that important? More important thatn me?

  • nicole.

    I am an atheist married to a christian and it works fine. He doesn’t go to church or talk about god though so it is pretty much like being married to an agnostic.

  • nicole.


    I believe that is your boyfriend won’t be with you just because you are not a good christian woman after a year of dating it is probably a sign of bigger problems. You could pretend to be a christian for him but I am guessing it will never be good enough anyways (he knows you don’t believe). If he can’t accept you as you are he isn’t the kind of guy you would want to marry because he will always be trying to change things about you.

  • Tiff

    I am a christian girl who was in a relationship with an atheist for over 2 years and a few months ago the relationship ended because I wasn’t able to deal with his lack of faith. However, we have been trying to work through our differences recently and I’m interested in any suggestions, books, websites, etc. that can help us come to some sort of compromise. I know that I still love him and don’t want to be without him but my religion is very important to me. This situation is apparently much more common than I thought. Any advice is welcome. Thanks!

  • Trouper1

    I am confused in what an athiest believes in when they get married. Are Athiests believers in fidelity in marriage ? When they feel like straying what holds them to fidelity?

  • Richard Wade

    Many atheists keep their agreements because they simply want to keep their agreements, or because they see the social and personal advantage of keeping agreements. Many keep their promises because they are naturally decent people. Many keep their fidelity because they care very much about the person to whom they are committed.

    I find it sad that you seem so puzzled by so simple and obvious a thing as human beings being good to each other because it is their nature to do so. Only the more immature and shallow people need to think there’s a policeman in the sky in order for them to maintain their good behavior.

    … And it’s spelled atheist.

  • michael

    i love this story and the overall message of acceptance that most posters have!

    I would like to know what the couples in this situation did in the early stages of their relationships about sex?

    i’ve just started dating a christian girl, who personally chooses not to have sex before marriage, rather than through some indoctrinated ideals of the church. however i’ve always felt that sex is an important part of a relationship, and not because i just want to get laid!

    we are having a fantastic time together, though still in the early stages of dating and i am totally confused as to how to continue.

    i don’t want to stay with her, just to feel frustrated and resentfu later down the linel, but i also don’t want her to change her views either! and to all those people who will say what about the stuff in the.middle, the jury is out on whether she would feel comfortable doing them and is not really the point of my dilemma, as i do want to continue to see her as our connection is amazing and views on everything else pretty much identical.

    all comments and advice would be extremely gratefully received, especially from people how have been there!


  • Richard Wade

    Hi michael,
    This thread is kind of stale, so you may not get many responses to your request for advice.

    It’s not clear from your comment how old you and your girlfriend are. That can make a big difference in the feelings, attitudes and ramifications surrounding a love relationship and a sexual relationship. Generally, the younger you two are, the less likely that you will be able to maintain a long-term relationship. It’s apparent that you really like her, and I don’t want to be simply discouraging, but to avoid or minimize heartache for either of you, you should be in this with your eyes wide open, and you should encourage her to be the same.

    You say that she is a Christian, but you assert that her decision to abstain from sex before marriage is personal rather than influenced by Christian doctrine. I think the influence is there whether you or she are aware of it, and it’s very important for the two of you to be frank and open with each other and within yourselves when it comes to your differences in beliefs.

    Religious conflict is probably the single most likely reason that the two of you will be unable to maintain your relationship, whether soon or later, whether you become sexual or not. Erik and Kate’s story is a very rare exception to the general rule, and the “jury will be out” for as long as they remain together. (This is essentially true for any couple; we daily choose to work at our relationships or daily choose to let them deteriorate.) But the point is that nothing divides people more readily than differences in religious ideas, and far more often than not, it sets up incompatibility that most couples cannot overcome or compensate for.

    In other words, sex is only the first of many conflicts that you’re going to face as a couple because of the differences in your beliefs.

    Talk, talk, talk with her about all your feelings and thoughts, and really make it safe and easy for her to do the same. In the midst of your happiness, resist the temptation for dreamy, wishful thinking, assuming that things will “just work out” on their own, or that the other person will change. If a relationship’s future is conditional on an important change in one of the members, it’s not likely to succeed. Being young the two of you will change in many ways, but those changes will mostly be through your natural development. If they’re required, expected or hoped for by the other person, that is a signpost for failure up ahead.

    I wish you both the best, whether or not this particular pairing continues. You can both benefit from each other’s honesty, frankness, respect, compassion, and caring.

  • Michael,

    There are lots of variations and degrees of “being Christian”. As Richard says, age plays a large role in sexual matters.
    If you are only 19 or 20, I would be a bit cautious about a mixed relationship.

    I would recommend determining if you two are compatible in the every-day mundane things about life. If she is “the one”, as far as sex, she might “come around” when she gets an engagement ring on her finger.

    Good luck.

  • Mira

    Lolololol! If it’s a girl, name her Hemanti. It’s the female form of the name!

    best of luck guys! I’m sure you’ve been married awhile now, but I wish you a happy married life just the same!

  • My boyfriend is a Christian and I’m an Atheist, I don’t mind his religion, but he has issues with my beliefs, why Am I willing to except his but he won’t except mine? I don’t believe religion any religion for the matter should be more important then anything, especially people, he told me that his love for god is stronger then his love for me, that broke my heart, he asked me, “how are we suppose to raise our children?” and I said “they will have the right to believe in what they want”, and he just wants to force shit on people, on our kids, I believe a christian/atheist relationship can work but both must be mature and understanding to to each others beliefs but my boyfriend can be very unreasonable and that’s tough….

  • etoile

    It seems that this comment-thread might be dead, but if Erik and Kate are still checking this site, I would like to know how both of them deal with the Christian belief in heaven and hell.  From Erik’s comments, it seems that he might not believe that Kate will go to hell, or at least is doubtful that she will, despite the fact that she is a non-believer.  However, his answers so far have been a bit ambiguous.  I (a non-believer) was in a relationship with someone I deeply, deeply loved and still do, but I could not get over the fact that the other person was worried that I would go to hell because I am non-Christian.   Knowing the person you love most in the world worries that you’re going to hell is one of the most hurtful things, I think, someone can live with, even if one doesn’t believe similarly.  How do Erik and Kate deal with this, and what exactly does Erik believe about the status of Kate’s soul?

  • Vick

    My husband of 6 years decided to become an atheist about 3 years ago and it has been very difficult. He is consumed with it. The rallies, books, cd’s, DVD’s, constant mockery of religion, etc. It seems most people here are mature and have found a way to be respectable about their differences. I think a marriage can work when you decide to love each other and learn how to avoid hurting your partner . We are now trying to come to some type of compromise on what to do/say to each other to stay married. I am a Liberal Christian and I am tolerant of everyone. All I can say is to make sure you can respect each other and agree with how much expeosure you want from the other’s belief or non-belief. These comments do make me feel hopeful.

  • Djaguilar

     it’s a stage. I went through it.  I know keep my thoughts. If others are ready to leave religion, they will do it on their own accord and not by outside pressure.

  • Kaylyn-Gaussoin

    Conrats on the engagement

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