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abcde

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Hi there,

I have a problem of which I think I’m getting incapable of thinking rationally. So I hope that people of various faiths here can help me with an objective view.

This sounds like a classic problem but I don’t know what to do now. I have been going out with a very strict evangelical Christian for a year, let’s call him A. A is 27 and I’m 23. I don’t associate with any religion. I’m interested in religions as a matter of knowledge. I don’t think of religions as anything other than a product of human imagination and don’t think that any religion holds the absolute truth.

We love one another. We get on very well with almost everything, except that A needs me to become a Christian. I hold many moral values that identify with those of religious people regarding being kind, supportive, helpful to people, etc. I somehow have many Christian friends, even before meeting A. Actually my best friend for many years is a Christian. I used to go to church quite often with her, she’s now in another country. I now occasionally join A in going to church. For me, going to church or getting to know about Christianity is learning to know something new and to know something which is important to people who are important to me.

I can not possibly believe literally in the Bible, e.g. stuff in Genesis instead of evolution. I can not think that the earth is 6000 years old and deny the Big Bang. I’m an engineer btw, (and A is a scientist, I still can’t explain how he compromises his beliefs with this scientific education).

A few months ago we decided to split up, which was tremendously painful for both of us. But a few weeks after that decision, A had a very difficult time with a project at his work and contacted me. As I always feel a lot him, I promised that I would stand by him until that project was done. The project was completed yesterday.

We are now at the point of moving on to something serious or breaking up forever. The last two months even made us emotionally closer as we supported one another through a difficult time. We both find it distressing to think of breaking up. But A feels that he needs to obey his God by being with a Christian. I just can not do it because the belief conflicts with science, which is part of me.

We also have other problems, which are ultimately due to his religion. For example, a supposes that after the birth of a child, the wife should stay at home looking after the child while the husband continues working to support the family. His rational is that they are the roles that God assigns to men and women. I do treasure family but I’m career-oriented. And I’m somewhat a feminist. I can not possibly envision myself being a housewife. Work is part of me.

So the questions are: Can we have any future? Or being this clingy just makes us both unhappy?

Please help me to clear up my mind. Thank you very much.

Upset and confused
 

~ sidewinder ~

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My general belief is that it could go either way, either strong negative implications (especially if relatives are involved), or an amazing level of harmony that would be difficult to explain.

If this is a fairly new relationship, I would have a degree of doubt that it may not work, especially based on your own personal views.

I know of an extremely happy couple, in which the husband is Native American and the wife is Persian/Arabic/Russian. As I understand it, they discovered that they shared all the same childhood connections and spiritual experiences, which went beyond religion. This is only if you truly believe you are meant to be together. Don't laugh, but I am a strong believer in "signs" so to speak. It is hard to explain.
 

dayaa

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dear upset and confused

i think possibly compromise could be an answer here. if you both really feel that you want to stay together try discussing compromise solutions. if you can agree, wonderful.....if you can't then maybe it's better for both of you to find someone more suitable.
i think it may depend on exactly what A's religious beliefs are and how flexible he is prepared to be. if you wander around in the christian and comparative forums here you'll see that christian beliefs vary greatly. could you possibly accept christianity as respecting the life and teachings of jesus without accepting every full stop and comma? would this be sufficient for A? could you accept that future children are brought up in his church? will he allow you the freedom to discuss comparative religion freely and openly with your children? could you compromise on the work/family issues? maybe you could agree to stay home with the children until they start school....then work part-time till they reach a certain age....maybe working full-time again later as they grow up? it doesn't have to be all or nothing....compromise can work...as long as you are both willing to respect the compromises you agree to.

i hope this helps.
you might find it helpful to talk to path- of -one. she's got some wonderful ideas on personal interpretation of religion.
 

jaxree

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Giving relationship advice is pretty dodgy. The dynamic is so much more complicated than religion. But I would ask yourself a few questions:

1. If you stay with him, do you see the relationship heading toward marriage? If not, what do you want to get out of the relationship? Will whatever that is bring you and him happiness? If you do see it progressing toward marriage, remember that marrying him means you will join his family and he will join yours. Does that present any problems for either of you?

2. When my wife and I were dating, we didn't see eye-to-eye on everything, but within the first year, I had no reservations about being with her. How long have you been with A? And what do you think it will take for your reservations to go away? How significant a change in either of your beliefs or personalities will it take?

3. Compromise would be nice, but if he's not willing to compromise, do you think he can at least respect your beliefs? Or will he spend the next years trying to "save" you? If he is constantly trying to save you, will you find that endearing or annoying? And can you respect his beliefs? Or will you spend the next years thinking "how can anyone in the 21st century believe that crap?" If you can't respect his beliefs, do you think that will eat at the areas you do find endearing?

There are a lot of other areas you have to consider, like sexual, intellectual and moral compatibility. In the end you want to be with someone you can be content with and who gives you more happy days than stressful days. Either way you go, it will take courage. You need to have a secure sense of yourself and what you stand for. And you and he need to know what you're willing to compromise on and what you're not willing to compromise. Good luck.
 

Awaiting_the_fifth

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I've had a few similar problems myself, although possibly not at the same stakes as you, I have come to the conclusion that some Christians see an Atheist in the same way a Femme Fatale see's a sexy single man, a challenge that has to be attempted.

So my advice is this, talk to A and make him see that your Atheism is not simply a lack of faith or an indecision, but a belief in itself. Atheism is your religion just like Christianity is his religion. If you respect his religion he should respect yours!

As for kids, there's no reason not to teach them christianity until they are old enough to make up their own minds. This sort of thing is open for compromise if you love each other.

and incidentally
abcde said:
the wife should stay at home looking after the child while the husband continues working to support the family. His rational is that they are the roles that God assigns to men and women.
I hate to shatter your illusions but I dont think thats christianity, its just male chauvanism.
 

path_of_one

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Hello abcde and welcome to CR! This must be a very difficult situation, and of course not really knowing either of you, we can only make the vaguest of suggestions or relate our own experiences and hope that it helps.

First, I would put forth as encouragement that there are many couples that are of mixed religion- Christian and not. The problem with being "equally yoked" depends somewhat on your perspective. Most evangelicals interpret this passage to mean both people must be Christian. A lot of liberal Christians intepret it to mean that both people have to be on the "same page" in terms of how they want to raise their kids, handle finances and work, compromise on religious issues, etc. An interfaith marriage can take a lot of work, especially if kids are involved- will they go to church? Will a parent stay home (and which one)? How about religious holidays? Religious rights of passage- baptism, etc? If you stay with your boyfriend, I would encourage pre-marital counseling because the issues are numerous and complex, and counseling will help bring up and organize the issues, helping you both work through them and come to compromises.

Secondly, marriage is about compromise, even if both parties agree religiously. Furthermore, people change over time. When my husband and I married, we were both attempting to do the conservative/evangelical thing in Christianity even though it didn't "fit" either of us (me, because my views were very liberal, and he because he never thought much about it). Now he's an agnostic and finally seeking for himself what he believes (he had just taken his parents' religion without much consideration previously) and I'm happily in a nebulous Quakerish, liberal Christian, Druid category. What is holding it together is the willingness of each person to respect the other's personal journey through life, to be supportive even when they don't make sense, and to not be constantly trying to "convert" the other person. You can't make yourself be an evangelical Christian if you're not- trust me, I tried it. If you can't buy a 6-day creation or a literal virgin birth or that it's very possible Ghandi is in hell, that isn't going to change just because you pretend it does for your partner's sake. To me, it isn't healthy to pretend to be something spiritually that one isn't, and it impedes one's own spiritual growth. And though your partner may be evangelical for the rest of his life, it is possible he eventually will not be, which means you will have sacrificed a major part of your self-identity for a temporary problem. Marriage, in my opinion, must be built on respect for the other person- for the entirety of the other person. For the first five years or so of our marriage, I was (and still am) very liberal/radical and my husband was conservative. Whether or not I felt his views to be incorrect, he had the right as a human being to make his own decisions in his own time and to vote/act/believe accordingly. My job as a wife was to be myself and yet also respect his views, not trying to constantly convince him into my way of thinking. Discussion is fine, but conversion is not, at least for me. This will probably be a major issue between the two of you that you should thoroughly discuss and have some conclusions on before getting serious again. Most people cannot find their partner's constant attempts at conversion endearing, because it is disrespectful to their partner, assuming that they know what is best for their partner's spiritual journey. I would discuss with him if it would be sufficient that you are open to spiritual experience, and tolerant of his beliefs, and that he could pray for you (if you don't mind) but not back you into this corner of convert or don't get married. That just doesn't sound healthy to me- conversion is a serious matter and should be done only for one's relationship with God and not for one's relationship with a person.

Thirdly, Christianity is very diverse. Evangelical Christians are on one end of a very wide spectrum. On the other end are liberal Quakers, Celtic Christians, and all sorts of other folks. A lot of us do not believe the Bible is infallible or inerrant, many believe the accounts therein are symbolic/metaphoric and contain meaning but not accurate history. I'm an evolutionist and know quite a few others who are- and who are Christian. I can't see how forcing myself to believe in a six-day creation has much to do with following Christ's teachings. Quite a few Christians are also something else- they combine Christ's teachings and the wisdom of the Bible with the approaches of Zen, Taoism, Druidry, or even Wicca. There are many denominations that are liberal in their political views, have no specific gender roles, and are tolerant in their spiritual beliefs. Would he find it OK if you were one of these sorts of Christians- for example, Episcopalian or Quaker? Or is he completely unyielding and you must be evangelical, believe exactly as he does, and go to his church? If he is unable/unwilling to see the diversity in Christianity, and allow you to pick what denomination/church works for you as a compromise- quite frankly, I'd leave. Because that shows an absolute intolerance for you to have your own mind and soul, and your own freedom to decide what is best for it. If you are actually interested in Christianity as a religious framework, and are willing to become one, I'd search for what "kind" of Christianity fits you, not just go to his church because he wants you to.

Finally, the gender role thing. Though evangelicals would argue with me, this is a cultural thing, not a religious thing. God makes each soul unique, and each has their own purpose. He did not create all women from one mold, with the mind that they'd nurture some kids, clean house, and have dinner on the table. Nor did He create all men from one mold, with the mind that they'd go off to work and mow the lawn on weekends. Many, many denominations of Christianity are absolutely flexible about gender roles- dads can stay home and raise kids, women can become ministers/pastors, couples can choose the double-income-no-kids lifestyle. Now, the question of if someone will stay home when you have kids and who it will be is legitimate- you should discuss if day care is an option or not, and I know many career women who take a break simply because they want to be with their infant for themselves. But it is unfair for him to couch this as a religious issue and demand that you behave in certain ways, if you do not feel comfortable with it. If you are truly devoted to your career, and feel you make a difference- who is to say that your career is not precisely where God wants you to be? I would also be concerned about the expectations that often are related to this "traditional" gender role division (it wasn't traditional, by the way, it is a creation since about the Victorian era, and only in certain income classes): does he expect to be "head of the household"- does he expect final decision making power, or is the marriage a mutual partnership with compromise? Are you comfortable with his perceptions of gender roles, and do they fit yours? Are either of you willing to compromise on this? Will he expect other "traditional" jobs to be taken by you- cleaning, cooking? Who does he expect to handle the finances (budget, investments, etc.) and are you comfortable with that? While my own husband was raised in a conservative family, he had already ditched the "traditional" gender roles by the time he met me, so we had no issues there. He wants me to do whatever will make me happy in life, and I want the same for him. Personally, I think that's best, but that's just my opinion. If it makes me happy to stay home with kids, great. If it makes me happy to work, great. Ditto for him- compromise is key. You may have to switch off the responsibility of taking time off from career when you have kids, and many Christians do this. It may help you in this area to talk with some Jews and find out about what the traditional gender roles of the Bible really were- because Jewish women had a lot more rights and a larger area of influence than many fundamental Christians give them credit for. No doubt, since the writers of the gospel were also Jewish, they too had these roles in mind. I'd suggest starting with Proverbs 31: 10-31. While not the absolute picture of feminism, it does give a Biblical basis for a rather strong and independent woman- the "virtuous" woman here runs her own business, does her own trading, and buys her own land.

Bottom line, from what I've seen the biggest indicators of successful marriage are not thinking the same way (because people change, and there's also always stuff you just never think to discuss before the wedding). It's mutual respect and compromise. A desire for this other person to be happy and have the freedom to grow into their highest potential. A belief that this person is intelligent and knows what is best for their own life. It's being supportive, not being smothering. It's cheering them on, not coaching them. Any other way, and the relationship turns into a parent-child one, with one person leading the other, and very few adults of either gender can withstand the frustration of being treated like a child again. Lots of discussion before making any decision, and exploration of possibilities and compromises and beliefs, are important.

Peace to you as you consider your decision, and may you have comfort no matter what conclusions you reach,
Path
 

hammer

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I'm in a simillar situation myself. My Ex-partner, who I love dearly, decided to become an evangelical christian. In a period of 10 weeks she went from knowing nothing about religion to no sex before marriage. I realised that I couldn't live with this...despite loving her. I could accept her being a Christian, and certainly didn't want to impede her spiritual growth....but once it started encroaching on my belief system....well that's when I realised that I couldn't live with it.
I REALLY tried!!!! :(
But that's just me. You may be more open and able to approach this differently.
Good luck.
H.
 

abcde

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Thank you so much for your replies. It is really nice to hear the objective, non-judgemental views from strangers. My Christian friends say that they want me become a Christian, even not because of A; while my secular friends just tell me to dump him. I find the second advice very difficult to do and the first one almost impossible. So it is very helpful to see all of you analyse the situation objectively.

Deep down, I feel that things are not going to work, but it is just soooooooo hard to walk away. I have never met anyone with whom I could share so much laughter, sorrow, thought and time. We just get on very well in so many ways. Will we ever one day look back at today and regret making the decision to break up?

I feel that part of the reason that he holds so strongly the view of being with a Christian is due to his parents. His mother is a strict Christian while his father is not. They divorced five years ago after a 23 year marriage. Although he says that religion is what caused the divorce, I know that the divorce does make him believe less in a mixed faith marriage.

I sometimes tell A. that if he had happened to be Jew, Buddist, Othordox, Catholic or any other bizzare religion, I would have been similarly interested in his religion, because I wanted to know about something that was special to someone who was special to me. It just happens that he is a Protestant so I'm interested in the Protestant view. But there is nothing from inside me that singles out his very ways of intepreting the Bible from other ways.

A. is very evangelical and I don’t expect him to change any of his religious views at any point in his life. He sometimes says that although he’s very happy being with me, occasionally something in him triggers the unhappy feelings that he can’t share with me his deepest convictions of his relationship with God. That’s when I see that things never work out.

What makes things worse happened a few months ago. As we talked over and over this, we decided that he talked to his minister at church. The minister is hugely influential to him, and I thought that it would help to let A. discuss with an outsider who is old, experienced, and supposingly wise and kind. To my dismay, the minister bluntly told A. to leave me because it is sinful to be with a non-Christian. I was completely shocked, the minister didn’t even know me personally, I just had some brief chats with him when I was introduced to him at church. He didn’t even ask to talk to me to get to know me more.I find his act terribly indecent and prejudicial. I lost the respect towards all the stuff he preaches about being loving, caring and accepting. Is my reaction anyway over the top?

Once again, thanks for your time and help at this very difficult time.
Very upset
 

iBrian

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Hey, best of luck abcde - life has its lows, but also highs - and though things aren't great at the moment in your situation, life is an ever-opening map of experiences - you'll find yourself looking back on these days from better times, and understanding the journey here better. I'll shut up now before sounding too pretentious. :)
 

InLove

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Hi abcde--

I know some couples who have had great success in this life with interfaith marriages. I also know about walking away from that prospect--not because I did not love the person--I still love him very much.

I was once almost a part of his family, but then I wasn't. Yes, it was a matter of faith. I loved him, he loved me--even some individuals in our families could see a possibility. But I ultimately decided, for his sake and mine, that we should both live the way we believe--and I guess that meant not being together.

Since then, my life has been fruitful. I feel it was the right choice. In all the blessings of my life, I will tell you that to know him and his people, and to have them know me was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. God works the way He does--in His own time--not just in history, but for now, as well--

Best of Wishes--whatever you decide--

InPeace,
InLove
 

presser_kun

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I don't like sounding a negative note, but that's what I see as not having been represented here yet.

I was an evangelical for years -- decades. While what I say is not universal, it does describe the great majority of Christian fundamentalists.

Here's what your potential mate believes, if he's a Christian fundamentalist, and he sounds like one, based on what you've said:

1. Christianity has the only truth in the world. No one else does.

2. Christ commands us to be not unequally yoked. That means that he's honor-bound to pray for you, witness to you, work actively to get you to see the light -- to convert, to give your heart, soul, body, and mind to Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

3. Compromise is not possible. If he does compromise with you, it will be because he thinks he can win you for Jesus eventually. And he'll feel guilty about it -- about "lying" to you, telling you he'll compromise when he doesn't really believe it's right.

My advice is to talk with him calmly about these things. Ask him if the guy on this forum that said all these things is a nut-job or if there is any truth to what he said.

I agree with the others who have said that relationship advice is dangerous, even when the advice-giver knows both parties involved. When it's just electrons flowing from my screen to yours, well....

I wish you the best of luck. Take what I've said and balance it with the other comments here.

peace,

press
 

Twinlove

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congradulations go out to the minister...A should dump you. It would be the christian thing to do. Can you see that? Either you believe, practice, and does as he says, he can not love you fully. I hope that you can spiritually raise yourself to see that the minister had no options available to him. He sees you as a threat to part of his congregation. A wife is a powerful influence over a spouse. His job security, his income depends on his congregation to show up.

From what I can tell your beliefs are very similar to my own. I am very spiritual yet have no religion I can call my own. I would have to say that I am closest to the gnostic faith than anything. I try to acquire knowledge though from all. I am an individual, born and individual and think as an individual. Unfortunatly a worldly marrige put together by man ordained by man is full of compromises. The biggest fear that I have for you is that you look back 20 yrs. from now and wonder why you thought that you could be happy by compromising yourself, your beliefs, your childrens right to become an individual, just to please someone who said "if you will give up all that you believe in, I will love you forever." Do give birth to children and hope that they do not become individual thinkers? Do we stop loving them with all of our hearts the minute they become someone who we are not?

You wish for my advice, but I say to you, you already know. You have spent 23 years in this lifetime becoming the individual that you are. You have to understand that you can not make a mistake here. God already knows which path you are going to take and if he already knows, then it has already been chosen. It is all part of your journey that you are taking.
 

Cerealkiller

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Personally, I look at your situation and I say, you're 23 your relationships shouldn't be about compromising and difficulties yet. Go out, have fun, meet a million and a half guys, talk to them all, and most likely one of them will be even more super than the guy you are "with" right now, but won't require you to alter your beliefs one jot. Seriously, you are young, go have fun.
 

Saponification

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Awaiting_the_fifth said:
I've had a few similar problems myself, although possibly not at the same stakes as you, I have come to the conclusion that some Christians see an Atheist in the same way a Femme Fatale see's a sexy single man, a challenge that has to be attempted.

So my advice is this, talk to A and make him see that your Atheism is not simply a lack of faith or an indecision, but a belief in itself. Atheism is your religion just like Christianity is his religion. If you respect his religion he should respect yours!

As for kids, there's no reason not to teach them christianity until they are old enough to make up their own minds. This sort of thing is open for compromise if you love each other.

and incidentally
I hate to shatter your illusions but I dont think thats christianity, its just male chauvanism.
Wise words as always. Quoted for emphasis.
 

abcde

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Hello everyone,



Just want to drop a line to thank everyone and need another advice. I FINALLY left the evangelical 3 weeks and 2 days ago. I was completely miserable but some little part in me did feel relieved now that I didn’t have to tiptoe around our religious difference. I was burying myself in work to forget my broken heart, then out of nowhere, there came a guy! We got on very well and he shows a more than friendly interest in me. I quite like the guy but I had to tell him that I had just got out of a relationship and needed time for myself and was not ready for anything other than a friendship with him. He agreed that we would be friends for now.



It was funny that during the first few times we met, I unconsciously asked whether he was religious. I felt like physically taking a step back when he mentioned that he was baptised in the Lutheran church (What the hell is wrong with me?!!? Why do I keep getting involved with Christians??). But he doesn’t go to church, neither does his family. He does believe in Darwin. He doesn’t say grace before eating. Is there anything else I need to check out? I know it is silly as there are lots and lots of other aspects to consider in a person. But I just want to make sure that I’m not getting closer to another fundamentalist who will make me miserable a year down the road.



Thanks a lot for your support and thanks in advance for the advice.



A little less upset now :)
 

smkolins

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Sorry I couldn't join the thread sooner.

I would say the balance of how things would work out is on how well you fight. If you can fight well and not badly (too much or hurt too much doing it...) you might be able to make it work.

If you can't fight well, if you can't maintain a good level of respect, then it's probably not healthy. The disrespect would grow underneath or one or the other would just collapse and change and always have something of a fault line where they caved into the other point of view not because of an authentic pov but because of fear of loosing the other person.

But if one could maintain respect and fight well it could become a marvelous example of the virtues, interprited through whatever theology, as well as being a threat to the exclusiveness either pov might be prone to. Indeed out of it could come another pov which respects both and yet depends on neither, which both and others might find in another theology than properly of the former.

Also keep in mind that however hard marriage would be to maintain, children raise the bar on what you thought you had worked out, and how painful it would be if it didn't. Again, if it worked out the child/ren would have that much greater an example to follow.

But easy it wont be!
 

smkolins

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abcde said:
(What the hell is wrong with me?!!? Why do I keep getting involved with Christians??).

Well there are an awful lot of Christians, ya know. So far you've actually been running into rare Christians. Catholics account for half of all Christians by themselves and are about equal to all other non-Christian faith populations combined I think.

And aside from that issue, there are plenty of good Christians too.
 

Quahom1

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abcde said:
Hello everyone,



Just want to drop a line to thank everyone and need another advice. I FINALLY left the evangelical 3 weeks and 2 days ago. I was completely miserable but some little part in me did feel relieved now that I didn’t have to tiptoe around our religious difference. I was burying myself in work to forget my broken heart, then out of nowhere, there came a guy! We got on very well and he shows a more than friendly interest in me. I quite like the guy but I had to tell him that I had just got out of a relationship and needed time for myself and was not ready for anything other than a friendship with him. He agreed that we would be friends for now.



It was funny that during the first few times we met, I unconsciously asked whether he was religious. I felt like physically taking a step back when he mentioned that he was baptised in the Lutheran church (What the hell is wrong with me?!!? Why do I keep getting involved with Christians??). But he doesn’t go to church, neither does his family. He does believe in Darwin. He doesn’t say grace before eating. Is there anything else I need to check out? I know it is silly as there are lots and lots of other aspects to consider in a person. But I just want to make sure that I’m not getting closer to another fundamentalist who will make me miserable a year down the road.



Thanks a lot for your support and thanks in advance for the advice.



A little less upset now :)

Lutherans are not fundementalists. Neither are Catholics. No one makes anyone miserable. Nor can anyone make anyone else happy. That is an internal thing.

My mate is a totally different faith than I (totally different), but it works, because we chose to make it work. So nothing is impossible, difficult at times perhaps, but not impossible...

v/r

Q
 

kabir

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You've had a negative experience with a Christian man, but it's best to try to take each person as an individual and not as some sort of representative of their religion, political party, race, or gender... As you can tell by this message board, even people within the same religion can (and often do) see and approach things differently. It's best not to judge people by their labels (even if they're labelling themselves) They're behaviour is what's important.

jack
 
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