The God Squad: I am in love with an atheist

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: I was raised Catholic, but now I am having a crisis of faith. I don't really know what I believe anymore. I recently started dating a wonderful man, who I believe is the answer to many years of prayer. But I'm struggling with the fact that God sent me an atheist.

He has made me think of things that have shaken my faith. How could Buddhism, and Islam, and Judaism, and Christianity all be true when they contradict each other? If they cannot all be true, and one of them can't be the 'right' one, then that must mean that they're all wrong.

I don't know who God is anymore if everything I've been taught about him is just a nice story. What if I'm wrong about God being out there too? Where do I look for God, and how do I decide what to believe about him?

The church teaches that it's better to believe without proof (Doubting Thomas), but I want to believe purposefully, not blindly. I don't want to lose my faith, but I don't want to have any doubts thinking that I'm possibly continuing to believe in a fairy story. I want to be sure. How do I get my faith back? Thanks for your help. I really appreciate it. – (From L)

A: Dear L, the great question about religion is not whether or not it is true. The great question is whether or not it is hopeful. Without the belief that we are made in the image of a good God there is no reason to treat people as sacred.

If we cannot treat people as sacred then there is no reason to believe that the good in us will win. If the good in us has no edge over the evil in us then there is no hope for civilization. Perhaps there is no God and perhaps there is no hope for the triumph of good over evil, but I cannot live with that kind of cynicism and despair. Religion may not be true, but it is necessary, and that necessary hopefulness counts as truth to me. A great theologian put it perfectly, “It is Hell to live without hope, and religion saves people from Hell.”

One aspect of the hope religion and only religion can provide is a hope that extends beyond the grave. Our belief that we are not merely material beings but ensouled beings gives us hope that after our bodies die our souls live on with God and are reunited with the souls of those we have loved in life. That post-mortem existence of our souls also provides hope that the scales of justice that are unbalanced in this world will be perfectly balanced in the world to come. Righteousness will be rewarded in Heaven and evil will be punished in Hell. Believing this helps us to endure injustice here while being patient for the ultimate judgment there.


I am not really sympathetic to those who believe that religion produces sick, twisted and cruel human beings. In my life and in my various neighborhoods, almost every soup kitchen and homeless shelter was run by religious people. When I make a list of the great and good people who have lived among us – people like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi – they all were deeply religious. Conversely, when I make up my list of the world’s great evil doers – people like Hitler, Stalin and Mao – they were all atheists. I would never make the argument that atheists cannot be good people just because they are atheists, but I certainly would not make and cannot tolerate the argument that people who are religious are evil just because they are religious. Sadly, the prejudice against people of faith seems to be the last acceptable prejudice in our culture.

As far as the differences in the beliefs of the world’s great faiths, those differences are not as great as you might imagine. Every faith has some notion of human sanctity. Every faith has some version of the Golden Rule of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. There are many different love songs, but they are all about love. There are many different foods but they all nourish us in different ways. There are many different religions but they are all about hope. If your atheist partner cannot understand the importance of the spiritual dimension of life in sustaining hope, it may be time to find a more spiritually compatible partner.

There are many paths up the same mountain. Keep looking up and you will find your way back to a God who has always been waiting for you.

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)

©2024 The God Squad. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.





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