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Inter-faith marriages

quotes, overview, definitions

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Inter-faith marriages are also called:

mixed, mixed-faith, interchurch, interfaith, intrafaith, bicultural, or interreligious marriages.

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Quotes about inter-faith marriages and families:

bullet "A [born-again conservative Christian] believer marrying or intending to marry an unbeliever is clearly going against the expressed commandment of God." J.J. Lim
bullet "...unity within diversity adds a richness and beauty to marriage and to life." Rev. Tom Chulak, Unitarian-Universalist minister.
bullet "More and more interfaith couples are opting to forge their own paths in the spiritual realm by combining aspects of both religions rather than relying on the strict guidelines promoted by either organized religion. And while many religious leaders turn their backs on such decisions, who are they to put limits on God?" Jill Critchley, a Christian engaged to a Jew.
bullet "I have two religions, but Mommie and Daddy have one [each]. Mommie has Jesus and daddy has JewIsh."  Claire, aged about 4, from the movie "Mixed Blessings."
bullet The arrival of a baby forces parents to confront their religious legacies, to reconsider decisions made long ago and to revisit the spiritual dilemmas of their own youth." Gabrielle Glaser.


An interfaith marriage is a union in which the two spouses follow different religious traditions. This can take many forms. For example, the partners may be:


A member of a specific religion and a follower of an non-theistic ethical system (e.g. Judaism and Humanism).


From two religions that are totally different - as in one Western and one Eastern faith (e.g. Christianity and Taoism).


From two religions that have some points of similarity - as in two Abrahamic religions. These are religions "of the Book" which share Abraham as a Patriarch. (e.g. Christianity and Islam).


From different major divisions within the same religion (e.g. Roman Catholicism and Protestantism).


From different wings within the same religion (e.g. one Evangelical and one liberal or mainline Christian)


From different traditions within the same wing of the same religion (e.g. two conservative denominations: Assemblies of God and Southern Baptist.)

According to the National Association of InterChurch and Interfaith Families:

"It is a fact that approximately half of all Roman Catholics, for example, marry someone who is not a Roman Catholic. This means that, if not within our immediate family among our close friends, we will all know couples in this situation."

All marriages and other lifetime partnerships are mixed relationships!

  • Most involve persons of two genders: one man and one woman.
  • Sometimes the two spouses are of different religions, nationalities, races, ethnic groups, economic levels, etc.

The more significant differences in background that a couple has, the greater are the challenges that need to be resolved before and during marriage. Sometimes their efforts to reach a consensus can draw the couple closer together. With other couples, their differences will drive them apart and contribute to separation and divorce.

Problems that arise in intrafaith marriages are not necessarily less severe than among interfaith marriages.


A liberal Christian and a conservative Christian couple will generally find that they differ on almost all religious matters,


A  liberal Jew and liberal Christian will see eye-to-eye on many religious beliefs.


Since religious beliefs and practices tend to be influenced both by theology and culture, there can easily be significant conflicts even between two spouses who come from the same wing of the same religion -- e.g. two different fundamentalist or other evangelical Christian faith groups.

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Some definitions:

bullet Marriages between persons of different religions are called: interfaith, inter-faith, mixed, mixed-faith, or interreligious marriages. We will use the term "interfaith" in this series of essays.

bullet Marriages between persons who follow different traditions within the same religion: interchurch, twochurch, interchristian, cross-community, interdenominational, intrafaith or ecumenical marriage. We will use the term "intrafaith."

We will use the term "marriage" inclusively throughout this series of essays to refer to all permanent, committed, cohabiting relationships, whether they involve a man and woman, two women, two men, or other, and whether they are the result of religious marriages, civil marriages, union ceremonies, or committed "common law" or "living together" relationships.

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Home page > Religious info. > Basic info.  > Marriage > Inter-faith > here

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Copyright 1999 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1999-MAR-16
Last update: 2011-JAN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson
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