Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A god-less union

Right, yes, I was gone again. I'd like to say I was wandering the halls of an enchanted castle, leaping from era to era and worlds to worlds, but no, I was working and dealing with other things, which are now going to get a rant here.

Well, since my last update which was about weddings in New York, something funny happened, I got engaged! No big declarations of undying love on top of a world monument with airplanes, helicopters or dinosaurs, but just a nice simple decision to get married.

However, that's when things got complicated. Apparently there are family members in ones life who have been planning your wedding since the day you were born. It's true. Thankfully, these people are not my parents, so I am a bit free there. What I am dealing with, however, is the slew of opinions, advice and expectations from others.

I am not much of a quiet person, but I am rather reserved about my relationship and romantic sensibilities. I prefer quiet, mostly unspoken declarations of love and commitment, so a big wedding is actually really uncomfortable to me. Don't get me wrong, I would put on a great show, but it would cease to be about the two of us and more about some fantasy I had at 16 when the man I was marrying was faceless and fictional. In other words, the two of us want to get married, not have a wedding. And this really makes people angry.

In addition to being crazy in love and opinionated, I got a little angry. Here is some back-story. I am an atheist, but I was not always one. My parents, though atheists as well, thought that they should at least take my brother and myself to church and Sunday school, both to appease family members, but mostly to prevent a rebellious "born-again" moment when we were frustrated with our later teenage lives (a common thing that happened to a lot of my friends in high school or college... churches know how to recruit!). Our parents said that once we went through confirmation at the age of 14, we would be free to make our own choice. Actually, it was a good age for that. I don't remember many years of resenting my parents for taking me to church, but I also remember having the time to think about it myself (a budding scientific mind and all that). So, I turn 14, leave the church (not a big deal, it was a small ELCA Lutheran Church) which promptly pisses off my cousin and her husband, some 30-ish born-again Christians. Since then, I never really saw, nor heard from them... until now.

With the (excited) announcement of my engagement, essentially going viral within the family circles, came lots of congratulations and wedding expectations (good and bad). The aforementioned god-fearing cousin emailed me with a link to their online(?) church and said that I should seriously consider it because faith has helped her through her marriage.

I have a few things to say on this:

1. I don't really mind people who believe in a deity, as long as they formed that belief themselves and it is a peaceful one (does there really need to be so much hate?). I do think organised religion is a pox on the world and will be our eventual doom, but that's for another day!

2. I appreciate the seemingly thoughtful message that she genuinely is giving me advice for this new step in my life... however....

3. This is how I reacted: "REALLY?!?!?! You DARE to stay out of my life, only to come in and tell me how to run it?! I think I developed into a damn awesome human being, without the influence of you or your god, so why would I need you now?!?" ... maybe a bit of an over-reaction, but part of me still thinks this is a valid reaction.

Here's my main point: 
How/Why/When did it become socially acceptable to do this? To recommend a Christian church and a completely unique and different lifestyle to essentially a stranger for the so-called improvement of her life? It would never ever occur to me to tell a friend, family member or stranger something like this (I cannot think of an analogy, that's how much the idea abhors me)

My future husband was there when I read that email and I had a massive freak-out. He handed me a beer, told me it wasn't that big of a deal and just write back "We don't need your stinkin god. We have sex, drugs and rock and roll to get through our hard times" ... I think he's good for me.

Also, and this is just a side-thought and I am not trying to generalise or anything (yes, I know, nothing good can follow that...), but out of all the advice, stories and tips I have been given in the last month, it is the super-religious people who have warned me that "love/marriage is the hardest thing you'll ever have to do" or something along those lines. Seriously? Jeebus Cracker, it's the effing easiest thing in the world! Yes, we have our ups and downs but so does life, and actually having someone there who is understanding and loyal makes life EASIER! If it's the hardest thing, then guess what, you're doing it wrong!

You can look forward to more anti-traditional wedding rants in the months to come! Aren't you lucky?


  1. I realize that this might be off topic, but congrats on the coming marriage. I'd give advice, but it sounds like you have plenty. So just have a great wedding!

  2. For what it's worth, you're not alone in this experience. Hang in there, and it helps to believe that those who feel thd need to offer their opinions are doing so from a positive place, even if the overture is unwelcome. As a rationalist/deist myself who married an atheist, both of us had religious family members who had certain expectations for how a wedding was *supposed* to be. Ours certainly did not conform - instead of a church and priest, we were married in a place that meant something to us - the oldest library in Chicago - by an esteemed journalism professor who was also a friend of ours, and our ceremony had no supermatural references in it at all. In the end, it's your event and experience, which is all that ultimately matters. Our squeaky family members got in line when they saw that our ceremony and our depth of commitment was as serious as whatever their preconceptions might have been, and the whole event was very *us*. If they're worth their beans, the'll realize that that's what really matters. Two cents, and best of luck!
    Cheers, Ben