An Atheist’s Wedding Blessing

Sure, it was an interesting assignment; but who’d have guessed that Guri and Nipun’s request that I offer a blessing from the “atheist perspective” at their interfaith wedding would generate so much curiosity. Since I’m often asked for a copy of the text, I’ll reprint it here.

Those of you not able to attend the brilliantly conceived, beautifully executed ceremony (the inimitable Reverend Heng Sure, presiding) will have missed out on the dramatic delivery of my remarks, complete with tearful choke-up at the very conclusion. What can I say: I like these guys!

Guri and Nipun’s Wedding
An Atheist’s Benediction
1 July 2004

It is both wonderful and fitting that the marriage of Guri and Nipun would be celebrated in a multi-faith ceremony.

How beautiful that, in a world too often dominated by divisiveness and pernicious tribalism, this ceremony stands as a manifestation of inclusiveness and community! It expresses not merely a tolerance of difference, but an eager, active embrace of diversity.

But it is also particularly appropriate since, as many of you know, Nipun takes special glee in referring to himself as an “omni-theist”.

Still, it is remarkable that I would be asked to offer this blessing, since I represent the only faith tradition to fall outside the broad ambit of omni-theism. I represent the atheists.

Speaking for atheists is a tricky proposition. It is not exactly in our nature to gather in a place of worship, compare notes, and see that we are all reading from the same page of the same book. We don’t even have a book!

That is my caveat. My theme, like that of this ceremony, is: inclusiveness, interconnectedness.

******

What makes Guri and Nipun not simply our loved ones, but also our role models? Above all, it is the way they act first on instincts of inclusiveness.

Whether dealing with their closest friends or with strangers on the street, they always seem to understand our common humanity. They are as selfless as two modern, non-monastic people can be, both in the sense of their instincts for generosity and in their faith that all living beings share an interconnectedness that is more essential than our unique and treasured identities.

There is every reason to believe that this marriage will only strengthen those qualities we so admire in them. By pledging their futures to each other, by undertaking a shared life, their love can only grow: in depth, in complexity, in certainty, in surrender.

And when love grows, compassion and empathy will flourish.

As exemplary as their young lives have been, look for even greater things from them as their love develops.

******

We glorify the Latin lovers and take our word “romance” directly from the Roman culture. But if love found artistry with the Romans, it found its truest philosophers in their Greek predecessors.

Plato — that great proto-atheist — suggested in that in finding our life partner, we discover our missing half and become whole. It is a lovely metaphor, and each of us who has been lucky enough to find such a partner understands that there is considerable truth in it.

Still, I can’t resist the notion that Plato got the math wrong. Love isn’t the mechanism whereby incomplete beings become whole; love is the way in which complete beings melt into the greater universe.

We celebrate the Eskimos for having so many words for “snow”. Well, the ancient Greeks were the Eskimos of love. They coined three distinct words for this concept:

Philos: intellectual appeal

Eros: romantic attraction

Agape: devotional affection

One reason we find so much to be joyous about as Nipun and Guri conjoin their lives is that their love is already rich and mature in all three of these elements. It contains:

the curiosity and exploration of philos

the tenderness and passion of eros

and above all a serene, natural, confident devotional quality:

a devotion to each other,

a devotion to family,

a devotion to friends,

a devotion to the community in which they live,

and a devotion to the greater world in which they
move with such connectedness and grace.

******

It is a unique and special thing to see two of my very favorite people pledge their lives to each other.

It is therefore a tremendous honor for me to stand here and deliver this blessing on behalf of all of you and on behalf of all who love them.

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5 Responses to “An Atheist’s Wedding Blessing”


  1. 1 Jef 25 February 2007 at 8:31 am

    I liked this very much. I am inspired to get married again, as our minister injected religion with out discussing it with us. Beautiful verse. Well done!

  2. 2 mbjesq 25 February 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks.

    The best wedding I’ve ever been to was that of my friends Tom and Jill, who held it in an astonishingly beautiful garden on a sunlit day. As the guests strolled the gardens, sipping champagne, a woman no one seemed to know called everyone to a clearing. It turns out, she was a judge. “Jill, do you take Tom for your husband?” “Yes.” “Tom, do you take Jill for your wife.” “Yes.” “By the power vested in me by the State of California, I pronounce you married. Lunch will be served shortly.”

    • 3 Kanchan 25 August 2012 at 7:56 am

      :) ours is going to be similar. Peter’s friend will ask us, the question, pronounce us man and wife and we will eat dinner with family :)

  3. 4 Wedding limo hire 11 July 2009 at 12:34 pm

    It looks like you really enjoyed your wedding.

  4. 5 Smile 31 August 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Thank you for posting this. It helps us imagine the wonderful wedding of Nipun and Guri, which we have missed. Your blessings are so apt and true, your love and gratitude is shone through them.
    As you said, I believe this too, that they are meant to bring love and kindness to the world and this marriage plays a positive role in living thus.


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