This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Atheists in church: the course of true love may now run smooth

Atheists in church: the course of true love may now run smooth - Comments

StephenH's Avatar Comment 1 by StephenH

This reminds me of this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL5l49joTcQ

Stuart Robinson being interviewed about storm chasing

The question is posed about incuring the wrath of God

"The trick, is to not piss off the wife"

1 minute 30 seconds into the video

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 20:46:20 UTC | #929949

paulmcuk's Avatar Comment 2 by paulmcuk

While I would feel uncomfortable (and like a hypocrite) standing there with the vicar did his (or her) thing, your friend has a point. He wants to get married and this both achieves that aim and pleases his prospective in-laws. It's as legal as any other way and if he's prepared to put up with the discomfort, fair enough.

Besides, my dim recollection of the last time I attended one didn't seem overly burdoned with god beyond a couple of lines (We are gathered here today in the sight of god..." and "Those whom god has joined together let no man etc..."). I could certainly see myself tuning those bits out and just focussing on the legal bits in order to please my intended.

There are lots of traditions in life that have no real meaning but we adhere to them out of nostaligia or because the weight of tradition gives them meaning. A church marriage, and the words used, are a tradition in that vein. Whether you believe them or not is more or less irrelevant.

Here's a question: Would you expect you friend to refuse to go to a religious funeral? Ok, not quite the same because it wouldn't be his funeral, but I think most of us are happy to go through the motions of a religious funeral if invited to one. We just tune out the god bits.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 21:04:29 UTC | #929954

Layla's Avatar Comment 3 by Layla

Why doesn't it trouble you that you don't believe in the pagan rationale behind all the pre-Christian traditions we still practice like putting mistletoe and holly in our houses?

Do you feel like putting candles on a birthday cake even though you don't believe in the power of blowing out candles and making wishes makes you a hypocrite in any way?

In my opinion it's enough to just do these things because they're traditional and traditional rituals give events a sense of significance and because we enjoy them.

Do we have to understand and accept every rationale behind every ritual we partake in?

I suppose my point is, if we can happily partake in pagan rituals without it troubling us at all and we can take part in other kinds of superstitious or magical rituals without really believing in them for one moment why can't we have a church wedding for purely the same reasons?

Personally I think it's a shame that in modern times those of us who just question the old religious dogmas and don't believe in it anymore are relegated to some utilitarian building like a registry office or a hotel to conduct our lives' important rituals when here are these impressive and beautiful old buildings, at the centre of every single village and town, which were built to be used for exactly this kind of a purpose and intended to serve the whole community just being used exclusively by an ever dwindling minority of the population.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 23:17:36 UTC | #929987

6thsense's Avatar Comment 4 by 6thsense

Let's be honest, at present church ceremonies have the edge, beautiful old churches and wonderful old hymns honed through years of tradition. But the tide is turning, its time for the growing secular movement to provide alternatives if we are ever to move on from our religious past.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 23:18:15 UTC | #929988

mmurray's Avatar Comment 5 by mmurray

You could ask him if he is going to get his children baptised? After all there is no god so it doesn't matter. Will he send them to a religious school? There is no god so it doesn't matter and mother in law says it is a good school.

Maybe this list of places to get married in Oxford might help.

Michael

PS: You can tell him my marriage ceremony was not crap.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 23:19:37 UTC | #929989

mmurray's Avatar Comment 6 by mmurray

Comment 4 by 6thsense :

Let's be honest, at present church ceremonies have the edge, beautiful old churches and wonderful old hymns honed through years of tradition. But the tide is turning, its time for the growing secular movement to provide alternatives if we are ever to move on from our religious past.

It depends on where you live and what is legal in your country and most of all how much money you are willing to spend. Marriage is a pretty big business.

Michael

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 23:25:54 UTC | #929990

mmurray's Avatar Comment 7 by mmurray

Comment 3 by Layla :

I suppose my point is, if we can happily partake in pagan rituals without it troubling us at all and we can take part in other kinds of superstitious or magical rituals without really believing in them for one moment why can't we have a church wedding for purely the same reasons?

Because maybe marriage is more important than hanging a lucky horseshoe over the door ?

Personally I think it's a shame that in modern times those of us who just question the old religious dogmas and don't believe in it anymore are relegated to some utilitarian building like a registry office or a hotel to conduct our lives' important rituals when here are these impressive and beautiful old buildings, at the centre of every single village and town, which were built to be used for exactly this kind of a purpose and intended to serve the whole community just being used exclusively by an ever dwindling minority of the population.

Have a look at the list of buildings registered for marriages in Oxfordshire. The Randolph would be good. Or the Ashmolean Museum ? Oxford is stuffed full of wonderful old buildings many of which are registered for marriages. I would have thought it was one of the places in the UK you would have least trouble finding a lovely building.

Michael

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 23:29:12 UTC | #929994

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 8 by the great teapot

It must be the church's main source of income these days. No wonder they like to perpetuate the myth that they invented and own the concept and therefore can say who can marry whom.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 06:46:39 UTC | #930088

Sjoerd Westenborg's Avatar Comment 9 by Sjoerd Westenborg

This has, as your friend said, nothing to do with god. since he doesn't exist. But by having the wedding in a church, your friend does indirectly condone the view the church has on marriage. And supports the deluded financially.

But he weighed the pro's and cons and decided in this case, it would be best to please the mother-in-law. In this, I don't disagree.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 11:34:01 UTC | #930138

Layla's Avatar Comment 10 by Layla

Comment 7 by mmurray :

Because maybe marriage is more important than hanging a lucky horseshoe over the door ?

Yeah, but so what? Most of what we do at weddings is just tradition. How many people examine all the reasons and symbolism behind all of those traditions and refuse to take part in ones that they don't subscribe to? I admire people who want to create their own new ways of doing things that they feel more truly reflect themselves but I don't think that there's anything wrong with following tradition either if that's what you want.

Have a look at the list of buildings registered for marriages in Oxfordshire. The Randolph would be good. Or the Ashmolean Museum ? Oxford is stuffed full of wonderful old buildings many of which are registered for marriages. I would have thought it was one of the places in the UK you would have least trouble finding a lovely building.

Michael

Those buildings may be old and beautifully built but they were built for a different kind of purpose and it definitely shows in the way the building looks. I think the design of churches creates a better aesthetic and atmosphere for a wedding.

Also, what are churches used for? Even though I don't believe in God or Christianity, I can still appreciate that churches are spaces used only for either important events in people's lives or for gathering together to talk about the important things in life like morality.

What are museums used for? What are hotels used for? It's just not the same.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 12:51:42 UTC | #930152

mmurray's Avatar Comment 11 by mmurray

Comment 10 by Layla :

Those buildings may be old and beautifully built but they were built for a different kind of purpose and it definitely shows in the way the building looks.

Yes I guess they lack the Roman torture implements on the wall that every good marriage needs. Is the crucifix some warning about marriage ?

Also, what are churches used for? Even though I don't believe in God or Christianity, I can still appreciate that churches are spaces used only for either important events in people's lives or for gathering together to talk about the important things in life like morality.

Perhaps it is a difference in upbringing as I was raised Catholic. We went to Church not to talk about morality but to be hectored and berated about morality and lectured on a very weird idea of human sexuality. It takes awhile to recover from all that. Not sure I have really. The last thing I would want to do is to have that madness associated with any of my relationships particularly not my marriage.

What are museums used for? What are hotels used for? It's just not the same.

Which for me is a plus !

I also think there is a certain amount of politics involved in all this. While the RCC still has observer status at the UN and advises the world on how to prevent AIDS and the CoE still has a stranglehold on people's education choices then we still have a fight on our hands. Until we win that fight every time we go in the door of a Church we are lending them support, maybe just implicit support if we just sit in a pew or maybe financial if we are paying for a wedding. I'm happy to use Churches for secular purposes but only after the battle has been won.

I'm just not much of a cultural Christian I guess.

Michael

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 13:09:36 UTC | #930154

mmurray's Avatar Comment 12 by mmurray

Comment 9 by Sjoerd Westenborg :

But he weighed the pro's and cons and decided in this case, it would be best to please the mother-in-law. In this, I don't disagree.

Is the topic mother in laws ? An old classic

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuFy3iCZ3x8

Michael

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 13:15:55 UTC | #930155

Functional Atheist's Avatar Comment 13 by Functional Atheist

While the practice is fading, it is worth mentioning that the family of the bride traditionally pays a disproportionate share, up to 100%, of the cost of the wedding. That practice tends to increase the importance of the opinion of the bridegroom's mother-in-law-to-be.

Practicality occasionally trumps principle. If the old bag is picking up most of the bill, and if the brouhaha of a traditional wedding pleases the bride, an atheist groom might be showing good sense to marry in a church or chapel.

A wedding is just one day, while a marriage often lasts for decades. Far more important to have a happy marriage, where secular values are given proper respect, than to fight an epic battle over the petty particulars of the wedding day.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 17:27:17 UTC | #930193

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 14 by QuestioningKat

Your friend is a poser. Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz when the lion jumps out and growls trying to scare everybody? Toto, a tiny dog, finally revealed the lion as cowardly. That's your friend. He puts on a good show, but his future mother-in-law has revealed otherwise. Just wait until kids come into the picture...

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 20:10:00 UTC | #930232

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 15 by Mr DArcy

Mark, stick to your Miele oven, and let your friend worry about what a fool he is making of himself!

All this crap about beautiful old buildings! If enough booze is provided the guests will enjoy the occasion wherever! Even Christians! I was married in a modern concrete building, no mumbo jumbo, just the legal stuff, and I thoroughly enjoyed the day, as did even the Christian parents of the bride.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 20:29:55 UTC | #930238

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 16 by xmaseveeve

There should be a new law to ensure that secular, or 'humanist' ceremonies must be allowed (at least in beautiful, older) places of worship. Our ancestors built them too and they belong just as much to the 'unfaithful'! No church should profit from the ceremonies. It should be our right to share our heritage without having to pretend to believe in something which doesn't exist. We are not the Church of England!

I agree with Layla. For years, I went to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, in the little Glasgow University chapel. It wasn't 'holy', just lovely, with glowing candlelit stained glass, and amazing carvings draped in fresh holly, and all resonating with beautiful poetry and music. It was the gold standard of Christmas, I must say! It wouldn't have been the same in the Hunterian Museum, or even in Bute Hall (which is stunning). These buildings were designed for spirituality, and atheists have that too.

I stopped going when I was late one Christmas Eve and popped into Church St. church instead. It was almost empty (late eighties). After an over-long, self-important pause, 'You are all sinners, going to Hell!' was how the minister started... He was raging. A few drunks were cheering him, which made him worse! He screamed 'Amen!' after everything he shouted. Merry fecking Christmas, ya rats! My (also atheist) boyfriend was aching with tearful laughter! I've never been since, which is a bit of a shame.

The miniser's name was Rev. Jolly!! and was apparently the inspiration for Ricky Fulton's comic masterpiece, Rev. I.M.Jolly.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 20:54:59 UTC | #930244

Matrix7's Avatar Comment 17 by Matrix7

You and your friend need to chill out a bit on this.

For a start your friend is correct in that there is no god, so he can hardly be struck down by divine intervention. So you are correct to say you can't fault the logic.

Your friend may not have much of a choice about where to get married. It's normally something the bride and her family will have most influence over, so if they're church going believers, your friend will get married in a church. As an atheist he can take comfort from knowing that it's one legally recognised form of marriage, even if he doesn't believe the hocus pocus that goes with it.

You can relax knowing our friend simply treats it as a legally recognised form of marriage, and you can enjoy the ceremony, and presumably the reception and party afterwards. Don't make a scene, otherwise it'll be you fearing the wrath of the mother-in-law.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 21:08:55 UTC | #930248

BenS's Avatar Comment 18 by BenS

Comment 5 by mmurray :

You could ask him if he is going to get his children baptised? After all there is no god so it doesn't matter. Will he send them to a religious school? There is no god so it doesn't matter and mother in law says it is a good school.

These aren't really the same. These are making decisions on the behalf of someone else whose interests you're supposedly looking out for. Having a child baptised and selecting their school affects the child - going along with a ceremony that only applies to you and your partner does not.

The general thrust of the point is valid, though - if he's going along with a Christian ceremony for the marriage is there an assumption that any children will be brought up Christian? From the description of the guy, I'd say not - I'd imagine he's made it pretty clear that isn't the case. So, therefore, if he's only going along with it for the day to make his partner's parents happy then I can't see the harm.

I see it as little different from going along with playing peekaboo to make a child happy. Putting a towel on my head doesn't make me disappear and going through a ceremony in a Christian building doesn't make me a Christian.

It's not something I'd do, but I can see his viewpoint.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 21:12:51 UTC | #930249

Woodworm's Avatar Comment 19 by Woodworm

Before we got married, my husband he said he'd be happy to do the deed in a church because (and I forget the exact words) he didn't really care what he said - they were just words. I was quite shocked by this and so I explained to him that, at our wedding, I really, really wanted him to mean every single word - as I would.

That's what gets me about atheists marrying in church (or synagogue or mosque or with the help of druids or whatever) as I wonder just what they think they are doing. Is marriage really so trivial to them that they'd be happy to have someone at the ceremony drone on about how what they were doing was all to do with a god they do not believe in? The most important promise you make to your new spouse is a lie from the start? Odd way to start a marriage, I think.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 21:40:02 UTC | #930256

Sketchy's Avatar Comment 20 by Sketchy

Atheists having religious weddings is undignified. A promise before god is a poor joke when there’s no god. He’s turning something that should be a meaningful and memorable ceremony into a farce, a room full of people listening respectfully as a grown man drones on about his invisible friend. In the weddings I’ve been to, Yahweh was anything but peripheral. He has no time for their silliness in his daily life, but this day of all days he’s going to sit there and not call them out on their bullshit? I agree with Woodworm, try to take marriage a little more seriously.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 23:56:30 UTC | #930283

Sketchy's Avatar Comment 21 by Sketchy

Comment 2 Paulmcuk

Here's a question: Would you expect you friend to refuse to go to a religious funeral? Ok, not quite the same because it wouldn't be his funeral, but I think most of us are happy to go through the motions of a religious funeral if invited to one. We just tune out the god bits.

I was in a funeral for an atheist, and sat quietly listening to the priest telling us how accepting Jesus is the way to get eternal life. A bit late for the guy in the coffin. I don’t want to hear this hateful shit anymore, and I don’t think it’s okay to tune it out either. Words matter.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 00:20:59 UTC | #930285

road_runner321's Avatar Comment 22 by road_runner321

An atheist will naturally see any religious ritual as, if not purposeless, then meaningless, so, if a potential spouse is a sincere believer in the importance of a religious wedding as the beginning and foundation of a happy and "sacred" future, it might not be a small issue for the two to address. This fellow seems to be of the mind that the utterance of meaningless phrases is a small price to pay if it will get him the person he loves. To the woman it may not be a price, but an honor and privilege, which, if the man does not believe in the spiritual aspect of the vows, might be cheapened in her eyes by his indifference. Or perhaps not indifference -- if he were a believer he would be able to be sincere in his religious vows -- but his inability, without compromising his honor, to really mean them in the way she may wish him to.

The act of marriage is of course very important to both parties, but beyond the pledge of love and trust between two people, I personally see no way in which referring such matters to the divine can further strengthen or sanctify them. But then I have no belief, so it would seem a meaningless gesture to me. But does the bride really understand what she is asking of her future husband? And has she made her peace with his capability to pledge himself in the only sincere way he can? Does she know the limits beyond which his sincerity, his integrity, his reason, cannot allow him to reach?

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 00:24:15 UTC | #930286

6thsense's Avatar Comment 23 by 6thsense

Atheists having religious weddings is undignified. A promise before god is a poor joke when there’s no god. He’s turning something that should be a meaningful and memorable ceremony into a farce, a room full of people listening respectfully as a grown man drones on about his invisible friend. In the weddings I’ve been to, Yahweh was anything but peripheral. He has no time for their silliness in his daily life, but this day of all days he’s going to sit there and not call them out on their bullshit? I agree with Woodworm, try to take marriage a little more seriously.

Perhaps, but what's indignity compared with a life spent with a chosen partner. Why let a small matter of religion get in the way?

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 00:55:16 UTC | #930292

hitchens_jnr's Avatar Comment 24 by hitchens_jnr

Given that so many people have abandoned Christianity in this country, they surely can't need all the churches that they inherited from former times when everybody was expected to attend? Surely it must be expensive for the failing Church of England to maintain all those historic properties, so they should cut their losses and hand over all their surplus pretty churches to some secular organisation to do weddings and funerals in - perhaps once the more offensive religious imagery has been covered over with something of real beauty, like the illustrations from the big hardback version of The Ancestor's Tale?

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 01:18:09 UTC | #930296

canadian_right's Avatar Comment 25 by canadian_right

Much like many atheists see celebrating Christmas as a nice family event, a church wedding is also a nice family event. I don't see the harm in pleasing the in-laws. I trust that the vows will be a more modern version lacking all that medieval "obey" stuff.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 01:39:22 UTC | #930301

Sketchy's Avatar Comment 26 by Sketchy

Comment 23 by 6thsense

Perhaps, but what's indignity compared with a life spent with a chosen partner. Why let a small matter of religion get in the way?

Is she likely to leave him for being consistent in his principles? If so, she’s not a very good choice.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 02:10:33 UTC | #930307

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Comment 27 by Mark Ribbands

Comment 2 by paulmcuk
… Here's a question: Would you expect your friend to refuse to go to a religious funeral? …

No, of course he’d go. I suspect all here would.

Comment 5 by mmurray
You could ask him if he is going to get his children baptised? …

ps: You can tell him my marriage ceremony was not crap.

I suspect children are unlikely. Baptism even more so.

Please tell us about your Non-crap® ceremony, Michael. I’m interested for personal reasons.

Comment 15 by Mr DArcy
Mark, stick to your Miele oven, and let your friend worry about what a fool he is making of himself!

But my God-bothering oven is currently 6,000 miles away, and minding other peoples’ business is always preferable to minding my own :)

Comment 20 by Sketchy
Atheists having religious weddings is undignified. A promise before god is a poor joke when there’s no god.

Thanks for that Sketchy, I picked your quote as a shining example from the many thoughtful responses.

But whilst this is an interesting situation to discuss hypothetically, I refuse to take this individual case too seriously, and certainly would not presume to judge.

Primarily of course, because it’s none of my bloody business. And in life, I believe one should not forget the importance of not being earnest.

I’ve known this bloke most of my life. This is the only man who, despite others desperately wanting to, once actually succeeded in shooting me. Ostensibly by accident. Such creates a bond between men :)

The fact that a man is ignoring the beliefs and practices of a lifetime, exhibiting deep hypocrisy, and lying through his teeth, is neither here nor there: these useful talents are being deployed in pursuit of a rather gorgeous and intelligent female of the species. As any gentleman knows, different standards apply in this particular magisterium.

So I can do nothing but support his stance.

But of course, my friend’s decision provides a fine opportunity to take the mickey, almost certainly for years to come. This is a cross he will have to bear.

All I asked was can anyone accept the challenge to fault his logic. Because I can’t.

And it appears the combined mental talents of this outstanding group can’t either!

Come on now: I’ll post a nice bottle of Champagne to the first person who can produce a single succinct refutation of my friend’s position which he concedes as at least partially valid.

Then you may toast your own intellect and wit, at my expense.

Game on?

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 08:51:30 UTC | #930337

mcstu's Avatar Comment 28 by mcstu

Hi Mark Ribbands

Re "All I asked was can anyone accept the challenge to fault his logic. Because I can’t."

I like a challenge so hear goes.

There is no god. Therefore he cannot strike me down.

Cannot fault that.

And if it makes her church-going parents happy then what care I?

Possibly wrong. As you yourself said, you will take the piss out of him about this for years to come, he might enjoy the banter, but it could make him unhappy or regretful of going against his principles for this single but important day. Regret could lead to bitterness and resentment, which would in turn harm the marriage.

So he should care.

Also sounds like it is for the mother-in-law not the wife, but is he sure she will not want a marriage that starts in Christian terms to continue as such. She might take the moving emotional experience of a wedding combined with its Christian connection as a reason to become more actively Christian. (I haven't seen this specific case but I have seen people become born again christians after experiencing what they considered a special event in their lives.)

So again he should care.

It might be a risk worth taking, as maybe the alternative would cause greater problems, but his logic that he does not need to care is wrong. I view this as a fault in his logic.

(Note in my personal opinion he probably is doing the right thing if he wants to remain on good terms with the mother in law, and not doing so would likely create greater strain on a marriage than engaging in bizarre ceremony for an hour. But to have correct logic he should have said he cares more about keeping his wife to be and in laws happy that the consequences of selling out my principles for an hour rather than implying there is nothing for him to care about.)

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 14:17:51 UTC | #930374

pauldebruyne's Avatar Comment 29 by pauldebruyne

Actually, I am in a similar situation.

2 years ago, when our first grandson, Jack, was born, my son (the father) chose to baptize him because of peer pressure. During the ceremony, in church, I kept aside and played photographer. This way I could avoid to have to participate in the ceremony.

Last week our second grandson, William, was born. This time I am godparent. I don’t know yet if he will be baptized or not. Next week I plan to discuss my problem of being active in that ceremony with my son.

My thinking right now goes as follows: If William is to be baptized, and I need to be there, first of all I will express clearly to all people involved that I don’t believe in God, nor in all the crap that will be told in that ceremony. I will tell them that I am there because I want to be a good godfather of William. At least as a godfather I can better protect him from all religious crap that goes around in this world.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 14:56:05 UTC | #930376

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 30 by Schrodinger's Cat

I've always felt that a marriage ceremony should reflect the nature of marriage itself. Thus, everyone should be married while bungee jumping naked from an aircraft flying upside down at 40,000 feet, and with the mother in law as the reserve parachute and the landing spot a 10 inch wide circle in a shark infested swamp.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 18:09:02 UTC | #930390