Religion, Spirituality and Marriage

I was baptized Christian into the Eastern Orthodox church as a teenager. As I have grown older, my beliefs have evolved. While I still respect and adhere to some of its teachings, I no longer consider myself in communion with the Orthodox church.

My current set of beliefs doesn’t fit into any single, hard-coded religious or philosophical category. However, my worldview draws generally from three schools of thought: antitheism, Spinozism and secular humanism. With regard to my own belief in a deity, Albert Einstein describes it masterfully:

It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems. – Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel, Banesh Hoffmann (1947)

With regard to my antitheist leanings, it’s all Hitch, all the time:

I am not even an atheist so much as an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful. – God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007)

However, the humanist within me trumps all.  The American Humanist Association gave the following succinct and trenchant definition of humanist ideology:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Therefore I tend not to focus less on what I believe and more on how I behave. I try to follow the most generally agreed upon commandments of the world’s great religious and secular traditions: love and be kind to one another, don’t lie, kill or steal, provide succor to those in crisis, and be compassionate, to name a few.

If two people were to take these broad directives and apply them to their marriage as a purely secular institution, how could it possibly fail? Wherever the bride and groom might fall in the spectrum of spirituality – atheists, practicing and pious members of an established religious tradition or somewhere in between – I attempt to appeal to these sensibilities in each ceremony, while respecting their own beliefs.

The corollary is this: if the bride or groom find that they fundamentally disagree with something that the person performing their wedding ceremony has said during that ceremony… that couple has chosen the wrong person to marry them. It is therefore imperative that the bride and groom understand the spiritual stance of the person they wish to bring them together in matrimony.

(I also believe that God transcends gender.)