Weddings Without Religion

Sometimes taking a stand is not really worth the conflict and rancor it could create.


If you are an atheist and were getting married, would you let someone – a family member, friend, spouse-to-be – inject religious speech or traditions into your ceremony? I sometimes revisit this question with myself. A religious ceremony was injected into my wedding ceremony at the last minute. And I frequently remember on it with dissatisfaction.

I certainly never wanted a religious ceremony when I got married. I wasn’t even sure I was an atheist back then. (Though I have always been highly skeptical of religion.) But, I certainly was not getting married by some religious cleric or in a church. Frankly, I was ready to enlist the local Justice of the Peace to marry us. One of my husband’s long time friends received some sort of credentials via the internet, so we had him perform the ceremony. I wrote the entire ceremony. He never once broke script.

There was music, poetry, wine, rings and the traditional vow making (sans religious references). But my “adopted” mom took me aside before the wedding and asked if we would let her say “The Lord’s Prayer” “for the troops.” How could I say no to that? I relented. She led everyone (except me) in the prayer, then read the Pablo Neruda poem I gave her. I was annoyed. But it didn’t really hurt me any. Except, it always comes up in my mind as something I disliked. A gray mark on my beautifully blue day.

I’m sure most atheists experience daily the annoyance of people who assume you want or just don’t care whether you want to participate in religious practices. In my opinion, some people are downright rude about it. For instance, if they know you are an atheist, they’ll post religious passages or prayers on your Facebook page. I’ve even had theists try to tell me that my own Facebook page was neither “the time nor place” for atheist talk. (The audacity!)

Pointless reminiscing aside, sometimes taking a stand is not really worth the conflict and rancor it could create. Flexibility defines those who live to a ripe old age. A philosophy of compromise can certainly relieve unhealthy tensions. But maybe other times, getting your way may actually be worth the fight.

Author: NuclearGrrl

Nuclear engineer, afro queen, black mamba, feminist, clinic escort, beer aficionado and all around spectacular human being.

5 thoughts on “Weddings Without Religion”

  1. I sympathize with your feelings about your wedding, but even more with your final sentiment about flexibility and compromise. I think that tolerance is more important than ever in today’s globalized world and that true spirituality is basically the same thing, whatever form it takes. For me, the Lord’s Prayer can be interpreted in a way that makes perfect sense, even for an atheist (a category I do not wish to be placed in, but in which strict religionists might place me). Here is my “translation.” It might help you to accept the deeper meaning of the prayer that was “inserted” into your wedding ceremony:

    Our Source that is Infinite
    Presence be Thy Name
    May the Force of our need for Justice
    be affirmed in the face of challenges placed before us,
    in Consciousness as well as in the Collective Unconsious.
    Help me to feel responsible for the Other
    and help the Other to forgive me when I do not fulfill that Obligation.
    May we all resist the temptation of skepticism
    and embrace Eternal Hope.
    For Absence is also a Presence and
    Consciousness an awareness of the Absolute Mystery of pre-original Unity.

    1. That is a very interesting transformation.

      I don’t really think in that way about life or the universe. So it’s hard for me to relate to that interpretation as well. I am purely atheist. I don’t believe in a “Collective Unconscious.” I don’t believe in a “Source.” I believe life on Earth occurred purely by chance – countless worlds exist that could harbor life if they too encountered the right conditions. I think maybe one day when we humans use almost all of our brains, we may develop a collective conscience. But it’s very hard for me to relate to your prayer too.

  2. I just can’t accept that something has come of nothing. Where did consciousness come from? To me it makes more sense that there was a consciousness before there was anything else — rather than the other way round. I became interested in the Collective Unconscious after reading Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity — what Freud called the “uncanny” (Das Unheimliche). Chance and coincidence took on a whole new meaning!

    1. I think the idea of a universe as complex and chaotic as ours being created by a “conscious” being is a rather simplistic explanation for astrological phenomena. It leads to questions like, well how did it think of x. And for me, that theory just doesn’t hold water as we discover more and more about matter and life. It is interesting for me (as it is for many atheists I’m sure) to learn about various theories. So I’ll have to read about it!

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