The Ethical Dilemma: I’ll Miss You When You’re in Hell

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Till Death (and Hell) Do Us Part: My boyfriend and I have been in a relationship for about four years. He’s always struggled with his sexuality for religious reasons, but we have moved past that now.

Our current problem is that he, a Christian, has just told me, an agnostic, that he will miss me when I’m in hell. He said it very casually in a completely friendly conversation about religion, so I almost thought he was joking. I told him that was kind of offensive and asked him if he meant that, and he said, “Well yeah, kind of, that’s part of being a Christian.”

How do I even respond to this? He says he loves me anyway even though his god does not? What am I even supposed to do with this information? We’re so deep in our relationship, we’re planning a future, but I don’t know how I can spend my life and raise a family with someone who believes I’m going to spend eternity in hell.

An Agnostic in Hell

Dear Agnostic,

Those of us who are not religious have a very difficult time figuring out when our religious friends mean what they say, and what that means, and what that says. But unless those quirks and inconsistencies and fantasies get in the way of actual functioning—such as knock-down-drag-out battles over how to raise kids or what you can wear or eat or say or think—I think you should just love your boyfriend dogma and all, if your feelings for him can handle that. Everyone has traits you don’t love, whether they’re religious, political, manners, tastes, etc. Lasting relationships require embracing the whole person, including the parts we don’t even like, and maybe even hate.

As you note, your boyfriend has been struggling a long time with his religion and what it says about him due to his sexuality, and he’s making progress working through it. But if I’m understanding what you’re saying (i.e., that you are a gay couple, based on your letter), he too is hell-bound according to his faith, so you will both be in the same place eternally infernally. Just because he’s coming to accept his sexuality doesn’t mean his god is OK with it (although there are plenty of religious groups who now say their god welcomes LGBTQ people and doesn’t condemn them to the fiery furnace). He may derive comfort from the idea that he will be “saved” because he believes in his god, but is sorry you won’t since you don’t.

Maybe what he said was just a random remnant of the indoctrination he’s trying to spin so he can live with himself and you. These conflicts don’t go away overnight, and in many cases, they don’t ever go all the way away. But after four years of being happy together, this one exchange hardly seems a compelling reason to doubt your bond. Unless you have other reasons you’re not mentioning—and you need to be very honest with yourself about that—focus on enjoying each other’s company in this life and don’t give a second thought to what he envisions in the next one.