Things That Have Gone Missing Because My Husband is an Atheist

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When Jason came out to me about being an atheist, I assumed that there would be a litany of shared interests that would be missing due to his lack of faith. Some are what you would expect, like attending church together regularly or having a singular vision for our children’s spiritual education. To be sure, there are times when I absolutely miss these moments.

But I have also discovered that because of his deconversion, there are other things that have gone missing, many that I didn’t expect.

  1. My assumptions about what atheists think about Christians. Obviously I don’t know all of the atheists in the world, but my interactions with the bulk of the atheists that I’ve met online and those I’ve met in person through Jason have pretty much shattered how I assumed that group felt about Christians. I thought that atheists believed that all Christians were stupid; most simply feel that Christians are wrong. I thought that atheists hated Christians; most don’t have any problem with Christians. I thought that atheists were angry; most are considerably more laid back than some of my evangelical friends. Over and over I’ve found that my assumptions keep being proved wrong and are slowly disappearing.
  2. My assumptions about how Christians would treat us. When Jason came out to me, I asked him not to talk about it because I was afraid of how the Christians in our lives would react. I knew that people were going to treat us (and more to the point, me) differently. What I found, however, was that when we finally told people, most embraced us with even more love. I almost never felt like someone’s project, and I’m certain that at least a few times when I did feel that way, it was more perception than reality. I know that plenty do not have such a positive experience, but I do believe that we need to be more generous with our assumptions about people in general.
  3. My assumptions about hell. Before I was close to someone who had no beliefs about an afterlife, I never really gave it much thought outside of “believers go to heaven, unbelievers go to hell.” In the past two and a half years, I have read considerably more about hell than I did in the previous 30-something years. I still haven’t completely settled on what I believe about the afterlife, but I no longer accept that things are as black and white as I’ve always been taught. I’m far more hopeful now, not just for me, but for everyone that I meet. Which leads me to the next thing that is missing…
  4. My assumptions about life now. Because my beliefs about the afterlife are in flux, this has affected how I view the here and now. When I was sure about who was in and who was out, my primary goal was simply to make sure that everyone ended up in the same place. Now that I’m less convinced of this, I am far more interested in knowing everyone’s story. When I can demonstrate that I care about the thoughts of someone I previously saw as being on “the outside” without an agenda, we are able to have a more honest dialogue.

Letting go of assumptions can be difficult. They can feel as comfortable as many of the more positive areas of our relationships and when there’s already a lot of upheaval, our instinct can be to cling to that which is familiar. But I’ve found as I loosened my grip on my assumptions, I haven’t really missed them as they’ve slipped away.


If you’ve had a relationship change, what kind of assumptions did you notice no longer applied? Even without a change, what assumptions do you need to release today?

What Are God’s Ways Like?

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Since the release of Rob Bell’s latest book, there has been a lot of talk about hell. Francis Chan is in on it. The Southern Baptist Convention is in on it. Some guy I don’t know is in on it.

Honestly, it’s not a topic I’ve spent a lot of time studying. I have no idea who is right in this case. I’m only on the very beginning of reading through some of these things. But even in my very brief study, I do have some questions that won’t go away. Not exactly questions about hell, but questions about hell speaks about the nature of God.

Whenever this discussion comes up it’s hard for me to understand how we talk about it without putting it in human terms. Most of us are appalled when we hear about stories of torture of any kind, particularly prolonged torture. It cuts at the very nature of us to think that someone is experiencing agony. Even if they are bad by every metric we have available, torture is almost universally met with disgust and loathing.

And yet when it comes to God, we seem to have no problem assuming that this is how he operates.

He condemns people that we work with, that we go to little league games with, who ring up our groceries, who may even attend our church to an eternal torture. And we are to believe that this is good and just. Despite nearly all of us agreeing that torture in this life is reprehensible, we are to believe that eternal torture is just.

And how do we know that it is just? We simply say that his ways are not like our ways (Isaiah 55:8).

Here is where it gets tricky for me. Why is it that when it comes to eternity, his ways are significantly shittier than our ways?

As a parent, I get that just does not always mean fun or happy. I get that we might not see the full picture. But I also know that my kids have a pretty good head on them and they know when a punishment is just and when it’s just me acting out in an angry, mean way. They may not always like justice, but they know what justice is.

I feel like part of being made in the image of God is that we have an ability to see that which is good. The Scripture tells us that even in our evil ways, we still know how to give our children good gifts. We have the capacity for creation, for generosity, for love. Folks frequently point to our inherent ability to know right from wrong as a proof of God. And yet we all too often simply abandon our gut instinct about the goodness or justice of Anne Frank sharing the same eternity of torture with Adolf Hitler.

Over at Rachel Held Evans’s blog last week, KatR commented, “I hope when I get to the end of my life I will find that God is not the a-hole that so many Christians insist that he is.”

I hope the same thing.


How do you reconcile the idea of justice with the idea of eternal torture for temporal wrong-doing? Do we have any way of understanding God’s ways?  

A Christ Centered Marriage

Being married, I pay pretty close attention to just about whatever I can find about marriage. Given that most of my friends are Christians and I myself am a Christian, much of what I read about marriage comes from a Christian perspective.

Honestly, I find this okay because really, most advice is pretty standard regardless of religious affiliation. One doesn’t have to be a Christian to know that honesty, trust, fidelity and love are important bedrocks to any successful marriage.

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But there’s one phrase that I have heard (or heard a variation of) in every piece of Christian marriage literature that I’ve read.

“Keep Christ at the center of your marriage.”

For years, I totally agreed with this and I would have said that it was true of my own marriage. We attended church together. We prayed together. We discussed spiritual things together. We played music in church together. Most decisions that we made were based on what we felt God was telling us to do.

Obviously that changed when Jason told me that he no longer shared my belief in God.

But lately I’ve been wondering if it was really God at the center of our marriage or religious ritual. And quite frankly, I wonder if God can be at the center of any Christian marriage or if it’s always the ritual.

To be clear, I think a shared belief is a very good thing. Not sharing a belief system has it’s difficulties and going into a marriage without it or it occurring later (regardless if one moves toward or away from God) can have moments of disappointment (sometimes profound disappointment) for both spouses. Common interests and goals are incredibly important to a successful marriage, and shared faith is something that is a beautiful bond.

I also want to be clear that I believe as Christians we should keep Christ at the center of our own lives. I find comfort and joy in my faith and my relationship with God is one that is dear to me.

I wonder if perhaps we need to be as wary of the advice to keep Christ at the center of our marriage as we are of cautioning parents against placing their children at the center of their marriage. I’ve seen marriages center around children and their activities and then when they’re gone, the couple finds that they’ve invested more in those rituals than in building a variety of common interests.

I never thought that faith was something that would change for us, but it did. And our marriage is not even a little bit unique in that. Advice like this can be hugely guilt-inducing on both members of the marriage if that happens. When we’re tasked with keeping Christ at the center, we become responsible not only for the working out of our own relationship with Christ, but also that of our spouse. And when you’ve already lost a common interest, that is a guilt one can live without.

I would much rather see a shift toward encouraging people to keep Christ at the center of their lives and keep things like love, respect, humor and trust at the center of their marriage. A focus on these things can help sustain a marriage even if there is the loss of another key commonality.


What do you think it means to have a Christ-centered marriage? When it comes to relationships, what ways can we know that it’s Christ-centered aside from rituals? And if you have no opinion on any of that, what do you like in the center of your donuts?