Whether you’re in favor of interfaith marriage or opposed to interfaith marriage, the Washington Post has got both good and bad news for you. First, the good (or bad) news: interfaith marriages are occurring at higher rates than ever! The bad (or good) news: they’re also failing at higher rates than ever!
The former shouldn’t be surprising — a huge fraction of young people don’t even remember what religion they’re supposed to be and simply say “spiritual but not religious,” which inadvertently tricks their mates-to-be into believing that they’ve found someone compatible. (“Why, I’m also spiritual but not religious! What are the odds?”)
The second shouldn’t be surprising either. Once they get married and are forced to affiliate with a church (or synagogue, or mosque, or Hindu temple, or Mormon temple, or Scientology Celebrity Center), they have to start grappling with the fact that they believe horrifically incompatible things:
When Joseph Reyes and Rebecca Shapiro got married in 2004, they had a Jewish wedding ceremony. He was Catholic but converted to Judaism after they married, and they agreed to raise any children in the Jewish faith. However, after their daughter Ela was born, Reyes began to worry about the fact that she had not been baptized. “If, God forbid, something happened to her, she wouldn’t be in heaven,” he told me.
Naturally, this led to divorce proceedings and a hilarious legal battle involving photographs of secret baptisms, judge’s orders prohibiting exposure to non-Judaic religions, and lawyers insisting that there aren’t any “sharp lines between Judaism and Christianity.”
Now, if I were the one writing the article, it probably would have occurred to me to ask, “why would someone who believes that the unbaptized don’t go to heaven be willing to convert to Judaism? Why would he agree to raise his daughter in a manner that (according to his worldview) ensured her damnation? What sort of devil’s hold did this Shapiro girl have on him?”
Because this is an interesting question. If my girlfriend believes that the world is coming to an end in 2012 and that we should be hunkering down in the backwoods of Montana with lots of guns and gold and groceries and learning to generate our own electricity and grind our own flour and live off-the-grid (don’t tell her I told you she thinks that!), then if I don’t want to move to Montana I shouldn’t marry her. This has nothing to do with religion, it’s pure common sense (but I repeat myself).
This tension between “religion doesn’t matter to me” and “religion is very important to me” is something you see in a lot of people, and I found myself wishing that the article had dug deeper into this topic, which is a lot more interesting than dating advice from Lee Strobel.
I should confess that in the past I actually have dated religious people, and that most conflicts (e.g. “can you stop leaving your E-meter on the kitchen table?”) were pretty simple to resolve. Nonetheless, there were never any kids (or Kid-E-meters) involved, and things typically went awry as soon as the girls realized that my references to “your imaginary friend” and “your stone-age beliefs” and “that moronic house of morons that you and all those other morons go to every Sunday” weren’t intended affectionately.