I met a girl two years ago, and we started to date…. Now that we have plans to get married, she says that each of us should go to the church of our own religion and practice what we learn, respecting the beliefs of the other…. She feels like I don’t respect her beliefs and [beliefs, but rather] that I attack them, and she doesn’t want to hear or have more discussions about religion. She says she wants to have a marriage that is neutral with regard to religion…. This proposal doesn’t give me peace; however, I love her, and don’t know if I should stay with her.

Dear Friend,

You are very wise to recognize that this conflict is extremely significant in your relationship. Every couple should have conversations about their future relationship with God, where they will go to church, and how and what they will teach their children. It is unfortunate that you already made plans to get married before realizing how serious this difference between you is.

Dating should be a time of discovering the priorities of the other person, how that person treats others, what he or she believes about God, how he or she spends money, and whether he or she has character and integrity. Before deciding to get married, it is vitally important to be in agreement in all of these areas of life.

Your girlfriend wants your marriage to be neutral with regard to religion. That desire sounds reasonable to many people.

In order to be neutral about God, she would have to deny that the Bible is true. Or perhaps it would be acceptable to her to take pages of the Bible and mix them in with the pages of the holy books from other religions. Or she might be in favor of completely disregarding the holy books of all religions, including the Bible. Many people would agree with that idea. They don’t like the idea of having a guidebook for how to live.

Some religions, however, teach that killing those who have different beliefs is an honorable thing to do. They even believe that God rewards those who commit terrorist acts or blow themselves up. To be neutral about religion, your girlfriend would have to accept that those beliefs are just as valid as all other beliefs about God. However, if she believes that some religions are wrong and others are right, then she is not neutral.

Those who believe in the God of the Bible have differences in the way they interpret and teach the Scriptures. That’s why there are so many different kinds of churches that believe in God and the Bible. We believe that God sent his Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins and to offer us forgiveness in His name. Those who accept God’s forgiveness and live according to His teachings will go to heaven when they die.(1)

However, some reject the need to ask God for forgiveness of sins. They believe that Christ will take all good people to heaven. Another common belief is that only those who do good works and acts of penance can earn their way into heaven. And some others believe that God only cares about whether or not we follow a certain set of rules and traditions.

What we believe makes a difference in how we live. It informs what we value, how we spend our time, and how we spend our money. The fact that you and your girlfriend do not have the same beliefs about God means that you will not have the same priorities, the same values, or the same goals in life.

If you choose to continue in this relationship, you should expect a lifetime of conflict. And you should expect that the conflict would intensify if you and your future wife were to have children. Is that the kind of life that you want?

We wish you the best,

1 Jn 3:16; 14:2-3; Ro 3:23; 6:23; 1Jn 1:9