Busted Halo

In repentance for her usual neglect of churchgoing, sometime-Catholic Amanda Farah gives up swearing for Lent and explores the season’s meaning & traditions. (And follow her penalty box total.)

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April 6th, 2011

My Husband the Agnostic


nomeat-flashEvery year during Lent I try really hard not to eat meat on Fridays, and every year I usually fail at least once.  Sometimes it’s intentional, like when I’m trying not to offend someone who’s cooked for me, and sometimes, despite a post-it note stuck to my computer clearly reading NO MEAT, I just forget what day it is.  Last week, I bought a lot of fish for dinner and prepared many pies and pastas — all very enjoyable.  However, I timed things badly, and we finished all of the fish before Friday.  A mild inconvenience.

So, in my kitchen last Friday, trying to figure out what dinner should be, my husband shared my lament at having finished off the fish we should have saved for later in the week.  After flipping through a few cookbooks, we found a recipe for a mushroom-based dish and he went out to buy the necessary fungi.

My husband isn’t Catholic.  He isn’t religious at all, actually, but he probably still falls under the category of agnostic.  He doesn’t need to give up meat on Fridays during Lent, but he does anyway.  If he’s the one cooking dinner that night, he makes sure to accommodate me.  He doesn’t give up swearing in solidarity with me, though he’s typically more mild-mannered than I am, so it wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice anyway.  At the same time, he doesn’t give me a hard time when my language gets ahead of me.

He’ll also come to church with my family and I on Easter Sunday, just as he does on Christmas.  He has even sat through two Easter Vigils with us — a test of wills even for the most pious Catholic.

I’ve been pretty honest about being mixed in my own religious faith, and I’m perfectly alright with my significant other not being religious as long as he doesn’t mind that I am.  If we have children, he’s all right with them being baptized and going to CCD.  It’s probably easier than if the two of us had very strong feelings about two different religions, but he doesn’t have to go along with things as readily as he does.

It does help that he was raised in a very tolerant, accepting family.  Some of his family members are very religious Protestants — his grandparents go to church weekly, and his uncle is a missionary.  His own parents have no such inclinations, but it is very telling that such different opinions can exist in the same family and yet everyone still gets along very well.

In this way I have my own Lenten inspiration at home.  Giving up swearing hasn’t made me as patient as he is, but it has made me think harder about what I’m going to say.  That’s a step closer to patience.  And it’s evidence to me of my security in my faith, that I can share my life with someone who doesn’t share my religious beliefs, and that neither of us feels the need to enforce their beliefs on the other.  In a way, it’s improved my relationship with God and Catholicism that I have made a choice to be a part of the religion after leaving my family’s influence.

Do you have any examples of Catholic/agnostic (or other interfaith) couples where faith isn’t an issue? Do you think in a relationship it’s simple enough to just accept each other as you are? What do you think helps interfaith couples manage their differences in beliefs?

As for my Lenten resolve:  I’ve done a little better this week with my resolve, only one slip up.  I didn’t manage to go to church again, though.  I think my solution is going to be to seek out a lunchtime mass this week, since I work from home.

Penalty Box Tally: $8.00
(Amanda has given swearing up for Lent and donates $0.50 every time she slips. Check out all of her posts here.)

The Author : Amanda Farah
Amanda Farah is a freelance writer and photographer living in Brooklyn. Amanda spends most of her time writing about music and pop culture for magazines and websites in the US and UK.
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  • Julie Hagan Bloch

    This is beautiful! It reminds me of a great quote:
    “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.” -Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect and author (1743-1826)
    If we respect the other person, we respect their choices. Great example, Ms. Farah!

  • Theo Verbeek

    Married a catholic, she distanced herself from her religion, I didn’t: the children mainly followed her but in an eclectic manner; she died; I remarried and still am married.My now wife has a vague overall protestant religious background with quite a touch of anti catholicism in her youth. We manage OK, she loves pricking my catholic balloon. Vive la liberte

  • Fr. Tom J. Anastasia

    When I do weddings for interfaith couples I am encouraged by the support of the non-Catholic easy going type that is there for one sacrament of unity “marriage” and then returns on occasion for what is ideally a sacrament of unity “eucharist” but is quite the challenge to family unity when the children start receiving their sacraments. I have seen heroic examples of people of faith that simply didn’t come to the table but were very involved and supportive in their own unique way.

  • JMS

    Amanda, this was a lovely post. I honestly could have written it myself! My non-religious (raised in a lukewarm Protestant family) is also pretty supportive of my Catholicism, which intensified after our first child was born. His support is priceless to me. While he may not be quite sure what we believe as Catholics, he is always quick to answer in an appropriate way when the kids take a religious question to him. Since it doesn’t come easy to him, I appreciate it that much more. He comes to church sporadically and participates about as much as the average Catholic, but has never expressed an interest in really exploring the faith! I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing.

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