Poll Analysis: Would You Marry Someone of Another Religion?

Here is an analysis of the poll question ‘Would You Marry Someone of Another Religion?’ As of today, the results are:

39% : Hmmm, I don’t think so!
30%: Of course, why not?
15% : Does it really matter?
10% : I’m not sure…
04% : Already! And regretting it.
02% : Already! And loving it.

It’s interesting to know the traditions that the readers of moonpointer.com think of the question. Here is an article that reflects upon inter-religious acceptance between spouses. (It was originally written for http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thedailyenlightenment-realisation/message/193 about four years ago.) Do share your thoughts on it!

Can You Believe What I Believe, If You Believe You Love Me?

When unguarded, the fervour of mere faith
can end true understanding.

-Stonepeace

A friend, who is a newbie to Buddhism, lamented that his fiancee is pressurising him to convert to her faith, or they had better not get married. She had realised he was becoming more and more engaged in Buddhism, and got “worried”. Isn’t this sad? Just as she saw her faith important to her, she could not see how his mattered to him. What’s more confounding is her closed-mindedness to Buddhism, while insisting her faith is the only right one. How could she force him to convert, while totally disrespecting his faith? When one uses one’s love as stakes to threaten, is it really love? True love is unconditional – it accepts people as they are, not as who we want them to be. The key to “religious tolerance” is understanding. “Tolerance” is not the most appropriate word. With true understanding, there is no need to “tolerate” – we make peace with each other, live and let live. Shouldn’t this practice of “religious tolerance” begin with those we are closest to, since we love them the most?

One’s faith is often one’s most precious “possession”. So precious is it that one would naturally wish to share it – especially with loved ones. Remembering how this applies not only to ourselves, but to those we love too, there is no point force-feeding our faiths to each another. We can imagine the exasperation in being unable to lead loved ones to “salvation”, but we have to remember that as much as want to “save”, others might not want to be “saved” in our way. In fact, their idea of “salvation” might be entirely different. If we truly love the ones we do, we should keep our minds open, and take the time to understand why they embrace their faiths so strongly.

The incident made me reflect… Will I give up Buddhism to make way for love? If I am a newbie lacking in understanding the importance of taking and keeping refuge in the Triple Gem (the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), I might relinquish Buddhism. Not being a newbie anymore, I will choose my spiritual relationship with the Triple Gem above any worldly relationship. It’s as crystal clear as why we should choose the discovered path to Nirvana instead of taking a detour. Then again, can I be compassionate enough to pretend to forgo my faith, while using skilful means to win my partner to Buddhism in good time? Devious? Well, it depends on your motivation – is it solely out of true love to benefit, or just to win another convert?

An ideal relationship nurtures spiritual growth. If not, it might nurture “samsaric” growth instead. Maintaining a harmonious love relationship with someone of another faith, though tricky, is possible. Sadly, some inter-religious marriages work well when one or both parties are not staunch spiritual practitioners. Sometimes, one party is so dominating that the other always gives in, suffering in silence. Thus are the chances of friction due to differences low in these two instances. Probably the biggest test of “religious tolerance” is when a couple has kids. Will each try their best to win the kids to their “side”? Will the kids experience religious harmony or conflict at home? Just as it is best for the kids to experience harmony, it is best that the adults start nurturing the harmony between themselves now – whether they plan for children or not. Harmony will ensue when we focus on the common virtues which make religions respectable; not their differences. On hindsight, it might be a blessing in disguise that my friend faced his dilemma early – before marriage. After all, before considering nuptial commitment, it’s always good to consider possible problems of religious commitment. May they and all other inter-religious couples be well and happy!