All the necessary information is in there. The question is not about her parents and their philosophy, it is about the young woman and what she should do. My opinion follows the question.
Without further ado, have at it.
How do I tell my mother that being asked to marry another Jewish person as an atheist is against what I believe?
I grew up centerist Orthodox. I’m an atheist who is culturally Jewish in that I read the Forward, some orthodox blogs, and that is it. I don’t care if my (nonexistant) kids know that about me, and I don’t care if in my (nonexistant) marriage that we celebrate Hannukah or passover or christmas. My brother is dating a non-Jewish girl, and my parents are threatening that if he marries her, they will take out a restraining order if he tries to talk them after the marriage. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here realizing that it might be a bad idea to marry another affiliated with a synagogue type Jewish person, because I don’t want that for my kids. It is more important to me that they be free thinking, particularly about moral issues, than have a rabbi/school system tell them what to believe. I’m currently single, I’d like to meet another atheist, preferably one who is driven by moral questions (since I am). How do I tell my parents, particularly my mother, that asking me to marry an affiliated Jewish person is probably a bad idea.
Technically speaking, despite growing up orthodox, it would be an intermarriage, and likely to fail because I wouldn’t share values.
Since I too am a reader of this blog I am have taken the liberty of offering my opinion:
Although we oftentimes resent it, other people’s feelings about us should play a role in our decisions. I know that sounds very old fashioned and repressive, but I think it is truer than progressives like to think.
Parents are not just biological sperm and egg donors. They are not just responsible for raising us and nurturing us through the trials of childhood and our teenage years. Parents and children are connected in a deeper way in that they have had the most influence over our lives and their presence or absence can have a far ranging impact on our adult years as well.
Therefore, I think step one is to determine if you can be happy and at the same time satisfy their needs. I don’t mean that one should sacrifice one’s happiness for the sake of a parent’s specific request. But if one knows what their parents want and it can conform with one’s own needs, I think that should be the preferable choice.
Allowing the feelings of a third party influence our decision making is not be default allowing them to control us. It can be very empowering to accommodate the feelings of others. Especially when the stakes are so high. We are talking about parents here. Not Hebrew School teachers.
I know that it may feel “fake” or that it would seem wrong for a young adult to narrow one’s marriage prospects to a smaller pool because of one’s parents’ request. But I think that making the conscious choice not to burn that bridge and at the same time not settle in one’s search for a marriage partner is the best of both worlds.
That being said, if one would feel that their parents ruined their marriage prospects and bear resentment towards them for forcing them to marry against their own wishes, I don’t think it is worth considering the wishes of the parents. Only if one can be happy with the choice is it a fair choice.
Further, there are a lot of Jewish atheists. Many of them are culturally Jewish or they simply identify with some Jewish ideals and causes despite not being religious or believers in God. Jewish and religious are not necessarily corollaries. I think a Jewish atheist can marry another Jewish atheist and it would not feel like an intermarriage, it would feel very comfortable. In fact, marrying a non-Jewish atheist will probably strain the marriage more than marrying a Jewish non-atheist would. This is simply because of the cultural osmosis that all people who were brought up Jewish experience.
Finally, you ask How do I tell my mother that being asked to marry another Jewish person as an atheist is against what I believe?
The answer to that is that although it may be against your “beliefs”, it may not go against your “interests” and those are equally if not more important than living by one’s convictions. It’s not faking to make a concession on beliefs for the same of interests. It’s prudent.
In the end, I think there are enough options to keep your parents and you happy and I would recommend exhausting those options first so long as you are able to conquer any of your own natural resentment.