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advice from ms lip: i’m religious and he’s not

Dear Ms Lip,
I’m a Christian and my boyfriend is an atheist and we get into fights about it. Not all the time and I know he doesn’t want to upset me, but he does because he says he thinks religion is stupid. I love him and he loves me too but he can’t keep opinions to himself and doesn’t understand my faith is really important to me. I don’t want to break up with him but I wish I could talk to him about it, even if he doesn’t believe in the same things, but he won’t just support me and I feel like I should be able to talk to my boyfriend of all people about my religion. I don’t know what to do.

Dear Confused Christian,
Your boyfriend sounds like a member of the new breed of atheist bigots. Mocking or belittling someone for their beliefs is never okay, but unfortunately it has become a trend. It’s been championed somewhat in mainstream culture, most notably by Richard Dawkins, and people have this idea that it’s okay to rip into Christians. Further, the media presents a very caricatured view of religious people and many unfortunately believe these inaccurate stereotypes. Sadly, it’s pretty much become in vogue to criticise Christians.

At the end of the day, your beliefs are a part of who you are and they are something that you hold dear. Your boyfriend is allowed to laugh at quirks like a tendency to knock over coffee cups or the fact that you still listen to Hanson. But he needs to realise that your faith is not a cute affectation, and he’s belittling it. No way is he allowed to mock your religion.

Sit him down and force him to talk with you about it. It’s very possible that your belief scares him and makes him uncomfortable, especially if he’s never had much exposure to religion or religious people before. Tell him that you don’t expect him to have faith, and you don’t wish for him to “come around” to your beliefs. And if you do, then you probably need to think about whether he’s the right person for you after all, as it doesn’t sound like he’s likely to convert anytime soon. You both have the right to be with people who have the same beliefs as you do if you so choose, but it’s better to find someone who has those beliefs in the first place, rather than try to change someone.

It doesn’t sound like he has a very educated opinion, so give him some literature on faith (NOT the Bible to start with, baby steps!) and tell him how important it is to you that he show more understanding and consideration towards your beliefs. Be open to his questions, and try to communicate openly but respectfully. Because that’s what this is really about: right now, he is not being respectful of your beliefs. If this doesn’t change after you’ve spoken to him and clearly explained that his behaviour is upsetting you, then he’s probably not such a great boyfriend.

Got something you want to get off your chest or do you need some advice? Ms Lip is here to answer anything and everything – nothing is too big or too small, and if she doesn’t know, she’ll find someone who does. Email mslip@lipmag.com

One thought on “advice from ms lip: i’m religious and he’s not

  1. How can you say that ‘It doesn’t sound like he has a very educated opinion’?
    There is plenty of evidence to support atheism. And plenty of reasons to not be so hot on religion. You don’t have to be uneducated about religion to not believe in it or not like it.
    I don’t think it is ok to say someone is stupid for having faith – judging people on their religion is not fair, but she said that he says ‘he thinks religion is stupid’ not that she is stupid for believing.
    She doesn’t say that he mocks her or laughs at her.

    Why should he have to keep his opinion about religion to himself while she doesn’t have to?
    If she wants him to support her beliefs and talk about religion, he needs to be able to say what he thinks, too.

    If he is ok with going out with a girl who believes in something else, and she says that she knows he doesn’t want to upset her, and she is ok with going out with someone who doesn’t share her beliefs, the only problem seems to be the communication about it.

    She should just tell him why it is upsetting her. Explain why her faith is important and why he should choose different words.

    If he truly doesn’t want to upset her, having her tell him this should be enough. You don’t need to ‘re-educate’ him or give him books trying to make him think differently. It should be enough to know how it makes you feel. Because a reasonable loving person in a couple wouldn’t keep doing something that they know hurts the other person.

    If after you tell him why it is important and why it is upsetting and he still does it, then you have a problem – but if just explaining your position and letting him explain his in a calm and rational way (not in an argument) might fix it – good!

    A difference of opinion doesn’t have to be the end of a relationship – but it does if one person wants to change the other.

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