Atheist Dating Stories October 7, 2007

Atheist Dating Stories

The Happy New Atheist shares this story:

Here’s an email I received after one date with a nice Catholic woman. We had a great first date, went wine tasting and then to dinner. She said she would love to go out again.

So I asked a few days later, and here is the response:

I did have a great time with you on Friday. However, your atheist proclamation really threw me. I just can’t invest any time in someone that doesn’t believe in God and doesn’t think he has a hand in our life journey. Too bad, it would have been fun eating and cooking Indian food with you. I respect your position and wish you all the best.

I know of a number of relationships between atheists and religious people that have worked (some of those people comment on this site).

But for those of you who’ve been in these situations, where your beliefs were a liability, any stories you’d like to share?

[tags]atheist, atheism. dating[/tags]

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  • Kate


    Hemant, I know you’re talking about me! 😉

    Goodness, I could write a BOOK on this topic. (and plan to, with Erik, after we get married in a few years, actually). Let’s just say that Erik said those words to me, almost verbatim, after a few weeks of casual dating. Actually, I thought the same thing. I was sure I could never have a deep connection to anyone who didn’t share my (non) beliefs, either. So, we meant to stop dating but somehow…uh…well, now it’s 20 months later and we’re hopelessly in love. Not without some fairly intense, heated, angry arguments and debates!! It’s been a crash course in respect, conflict, and COMMUNICATION.

    As for my advice to the Happy New Atheist…let her go. You can’t force it. It takes a special kind of person (theist and non) to make an interfaith relationship work. Now, I’m not saying both or one has to be wishy-washy in their beliefs. Hardly. But they do have to share the common ground of intellect, critical thought, and a desire to learn how to communicate. It’s rare, but it’s wonderful. I’ve become infinitely more tolerant and understanding of other people (Erik has, too) and it adds a little spice to things. Not to see there haven’t been, aren’t, and won’t be bumps in the road but man…


  • Bo

    My advice to Happy Atheist is based on personal experience – wish the Nice Catholic Woman well, and then move on.

    Don’t think you can try to be “just friends” and eventually show her that atheists are tolerable people, in whom time is worth being invested, and then switch to something more. If you’re going to try to be her friend, be in it for the friendship, not for what you think it might lead.

    Best of luck!

  • t34mod85

    Same happened to me… She just couldn’t handle me being an Atheist! Heh, too bad for her… She didn’t even wanted to be friends anymore ! Ha!

  • Mriana

    Actually… I was the other way around. I had a hard time with someone who believed in reincarnation. He asked me what I thought about the afterlife and when I honestly said, “This is it as far as we know for sure and we make this place heaven or hell or both.” He said I was hitting him hard right where his beliefs were and was overly dramatic about it. 🙄 Of course I must note, the finally straw was when he expected and demanded of me after two dates, to put him ahead of my family. The combination of the two just did not fly with me. So, I dumped him, because I knew right then and there, that his “religious beliefs” were not going to help our relationship work.

    However, Hemant, I wouldn’t feel so bad because there are plenty of women out there and you may find one that is agreeable with you. Heck, if I wasn’t old enough to be your mother, I’d be hitting on you. 😉 I think you are a fine young man and these young women don’t know what they are probably missing out on when they dump you like that. I would even bet that your mother is proud of you. Give it time, Hemant, I’m sure you will find a woman who loves you for who you are inside.

  • athenebelle

    But they do have to share the common ground of intellect, critical thought, and a desire to learn how to communicate. It’s rare, but it’s wonderful. I’ve become infinitely more tolerant and understanding of other people (Erik has, too) and it adds a little spice to things. Not to see there haven’t been, aren’t, and won’t be bumps in the road but man…

    Kate, you nailed it for myself as well. I initially broke off our relationship because I didn’t think he would be able to support me in my decision to devote a portion of my emotional (to me spiritual) energy towards liturgical dance. It took some real soul-searching and another relationship with someone else who was an atheist (and not one that I think would have been good for me in the long-term) to see what a good thing I had. I continued to keep in occasional contact online (more “hey how are you doing? I’m doing good.” sort of thing) when he mentioned a music concert that I liked and was willing to go as friends. Well it turned into something serious but I’m extremely happy about it. When we got back together we sat down and had a serious dialoguel conversation and then had a serious conversation again when there was a possibility that we would consider getting married.

    So far (a year plus in) our relationship has sustained my travels for church purposes quite well and I understand him more everyday (not everything of course, there has to be some mystery after all 😉 ).

  • My wife and I almost went through the same thing as Happy Atheist. When we first started dating, the issue of religion came up, and she was fairly Christian and said something about wanting us to go to the “same place” in the afterlife. At that point, I wasn’t sure what I was, but was seriously considering breaking up with her if this became a further problem.

    Luckily, it didn’t, and we now have two wonderful daughters together! Her religious leanings have kinda of cooled, and I had finally realized that I’m atheist, but we still have discussions about things like baptisms and going to church. The inportant thing is to always keep the lines of communication opened, and realizing that your beliefs (or lack thereof) can take a backseat to making your life with someone work if you are both willing to compromise.

  • Mriana

    Yes, I agree with you, Joe, but do you really think the guy I was dating (if you can call two dates, dating) was going to chill if he was like that within the first two dates? Religiously or demandingly? I’d say those are red flags.

  • Jason

    My wife and I were both raised by very Catholic families. I deconverted in college. When we met and went out we hit it off immediately. I knew better than to let it go too far so after the first date I told her I didn’t think I believed in god. She was concerned but we had a strong connection so we continued to date and fell in love. We have been married two years and now I call myself an atheist. She was upset to hear it at first (having harbored a desire to see me return to the church). However, we are making it work and I am encouraging her to attend a UU church with me. She is what I would call a very liberal christian. Many of her values are the same as mine with the exception that she believes in a triune god. She has become disenchanted with the Catholic church and some of it’s nonsense so I think going to a UU church is something that we could actually share. She could have a place to pray and get her spiritual fix and I have no issues with the principles espoused by UU. It would also give us a sense of community that we could share. So I’m actually trying to use this to strengthen our relationship further. She is open to the idea and I’m hoping that it becomes a good fit for us.

    As for Happy Atheist’s situation I would say not to pursue it with this person. I agree with others that it takes a certain kind of connection and person to make this kind of relationship work and since the she has already said it won’t work it sounds like she’s unwilling.

  • Oh, I definitely agree, Mriana. My situation was different because Meg never asked me to put her above my family, especially after only two dates. If she had, I probably would have made the same decision you did and would be married to to that hottie from Firefly right now.

  • Karen

    would be married to to that hottie from Firefly right now.

    LOL! Which hottie is that – Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite or Summer Glau? (Gina Torres is already taken) 😉

  • athenebelle

    The UU is a cousin to my current church! 😀 Sadly the particular churches (in my denomination) of this kind in the area are a tad more conservative than the one that I grew up in. My husband’s mentioned the same thing but I can’t bear to leave the denomination that I grew up in (and the UU group here isn’t all that large or old).

    Sometimes people joke that the UCC stands for Unitarians Considering Christ.

  • I never got dating. Pursuing love through dating is a thoroughly alien phenomenon! For me, a relationship was always something that grows out of an intense friendship. With my perhaps slower approach to finding love I don’t think this would be much of a problem, because at the point where you start recognising a serious interest and attraction for one another you would already know what the other person’s beliefs are and have come to terms with it.

    For these reasons I doubt I’ll ever end up in a relationship with someone who believes in anything supernatural. I just don’t think it would be possible for me to develop a romantic interest in someone who harbors beliefs that I consider, uh, how to say this gently … ill-considered? But for those who are in “inter-faith” relationships, I can only say congratulations on making it work!

  • Soop

    Yep – been there before. I had a flirtation going with a devoutly Catholic guy for the longest time before he finally asked if we should be taking it step further. I knew of his religious leanings though and told him straight up that I was an atheist – would this be a problem for him? He said “no”, but a few months later, after we had the inevitable discussion about our actual beliefs, he realized that it wasn’t going to work. When I asked him why the sudden change of mind, he said “I guess I never really understood what an atheist really believed”.

    Was a shame because we really did like each other. Religious beliefs were *the* deal breaker for him. At least I educated him on atheism and I hope that he’s more enlightened for it. There were a lot of times during our dicussion where he had no answer for something and said “I guess I never thought of it that way.”

    Funny thing was, he had to interrupt the “breakup process” because he was late for Mass. So I sat there in my apartment waiting for him to return so that we could continue to figure out where we were at. When he got back, he said that he had “prayed for me” and that maybe if I had agreed to go to Mass with him, he would have reconsidered. I had sooo many things I wanted to say to that but at that point, I was emotionally exhausted and just let it slide.

  • Lucky escape!


  • Soop

    Agreed! 🙂
    I just celebrated my one year anniversary with my agnostic husband and it couldn’t be any better.

    Sample conversation from a couple days ago when his favorite football team was losing:
    Him: This seat is unlucky. I’m switching to a luckier chair. [gets up and moves to another chair]
    Me: [incredulous] Ummm… ok… would you like me to read you your horoscope while you’re at it?
    Him: Yeah, and let’s go to church tomorrow too!

  • Lisa

    I was raised as an atheist and for me dating someone who believed in God was never a problem. I didn’t mind arguing my point of view because essentially I was attacking what my date believed, not the other way around. Religious discussions were actually enjoyable for me (though probably not for the guys I was dating).

    In my 20’s, when I came to believe in God and was baptized as a Catholic, I realized that I would not want to date someone for whom spirituality was also not important. Not that an atheist could not respect my theism, but I didn’t want the rest of my life to be a string of pointless arguments that would change neither of our views. How would we raise our kids? What we would do about church? I also did not want to feel as if what I believed deeply and participated in (without any proof for it being factually true) was being attacked and belittled as archaic, irrational, and oppressive.

    My husband is Catholic and our shared beliefs have strengthened our marriage and also challenged us to grow together (and for those of you who think the Catholic Church is too “conservative” and its services too “boring,” we are both very liberal Catholics who delight in the incredible social justice tradition of the Church (Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton are two incredible authors that I would recommend). You may also be interested in reading more about how ritual plays into the human experience. Repeating words, motions, and rituals as part of the Catholic (or any other religious) service is meant to bring the community into deeper meditation on God. A ritual releases us from our physical constraints (we don’t have to worry about what to say or where to go) and allows us to enter into the spiritual experience of God in our midst. A secular example is a birthday party. A cake is made, candles are lit, a song is sung, the candles are blown out. Onlookers sing and enter into the joy of the occasion without having to aimlessly wonder what the hell is going on. We use ritual all the time to make our lives feel settled, ordered, and calm, yet people feel “controlled” when ritual is used in a religious context).

    In any case, my main point is, if you are looking for certain qualities in mate, whatever they may be (money, good looks, sense of humor, spiritual connection), then I don’t think people are wrong for not wanting to waste their time with someone with whom they cannot foresee a long term relationship.

  • valhar2000

    If that happened to me I’d be relieved!

    Frankly, I just can’t see myself having anything but a rather superficial relationship with someone who buys into the supernatural. Those ideas seem silly to me, and I am not able to avoid thinking of people who hold them as silly as well. Indeed, I realize that they can be very smart and well educated and good scientists and yadda yadda yadda, but that’s the way I feel.

    So, yeah, I’ll hang out with woos, and I will show respect for them if the majority of their actions warrant it, but I can’t really get close to them.

  • PrimateInRepose

    The funniest part about the letter is the end.

    Too bad, it would have been fun eating and cooking Indian food with you.

    Trying to lure him in as though it was just a fad he was going through.

  • Mriana

    Hemant cooks Indian food?

    I say that, because I’m wondering if Hemant told her he cooks and eats Indian food or if she is drawing on a stereotype just because he is Indian? I read that and thought, “Gee, is she stereotyping?” You never can assume anything when it comes to people.

  • I feel like I must point out that this dating story is mine, not Hemant’s. I was the one who went on the date and received the email. Hemant just posted it here.

    And I should tell everyone that it all worked out fine; I told her that was fair enough and wished her well.

    Some of my more cynical friends have sarcastically suggested I simply say I’m “struggling” with this right now, so as to gather a bit of sympathy, and perhaps some sexual congress… but of course I am made of stronger moral stuff than that. Yes I am, no doubt… 🙂

  • PrimateInRepose

    Some of my more cynical friends have sarcastically suggested I simply say I’m “struggling” with this right now, so as to gather a bit of sympathy, and perhaps some sexual congress… but of course I am made of stronger moral stuff than that. Yes I am, no doubt…

    I think she made it clear that she’s interested if you are negotiable. She is playing her own game of dirty pool…I’m just saying.

  • Polly

    I was a true believer when I got married as was my wife. She’s still a true believer and I am now an atheist. It helps that she doesn’t hold the dumb stereotypes that many believers have about atheists (like my mother).

    So far, no problem at all. It actually makes long drives pass much quicker since it’s an easy conversation starter. I lay out all the reasons I can’t believe and she lays out her reasons why she can’t NOT believe and next thing you know, we’re there.

    However, if you’re a fundie and not yet married, why should you marry someone you believe will end up in Hell? I never understood interfaith marriages where the people take their faith seriously. How can you get close to someone that your god has most-likely condemned for all eternity?

  • I have had the great pleasure, mostly through mere happenstance to have dated very few x-ians. Of course sticking solely to atheists would be rather unrealistic, at least in some of the more conservative areas. I have dated a number of Buddhists and Wiccans, and, truth be told, I would ally myself with the Buddhists, Taoists, Wiccans and those of similar philosophies with secular foundations and an openness and accepting nature. Dating people of such belief systems has never presented a problem. The more New Age types (even among the Wiccans) make me nervous, and I tend to avoid them (and not only in the dating sphere).

    I have dated a few atheists as well, and of course there were no problems there (well, no problems related to atheism). I have even dated some who believed in some vague “greater power” but were not certain how to classify it. I can handle just about anyone if they are open-minded, accepting, and magnanimous when it comes to others.

    Could I date an x-ian? Possibly, though I think it would likely be terribly short term. I actually can not think of a good reason to do so. Even if there were some chemistry, I doubt it could be sustained for an extended period (though other posts here lead me to believe it is possible for some). The “not wanting to be with someone who is not in it for the long term” (i.e. in the after life) is, of course, rubbish, but people will willingly believe what they wish, and it might be better for both parties if x-ians simply stuck to their own and vice versa. Of course a strong atheist influence could not but benefit the children of such a relationship, but what can you do?

    The thought of dating a fundamentalist of any faith instills in me nothing more inspiring than an urge to vomit into the nearest garbage receptacle. I’d rather remain celibate (which would probably be very close to the same thing).

  • Kate

    So far, no problem at all. It actually makes long drives pass much quicker since it’s an easy conversation starter. I lay out all the reasons I can’t believe and she lays out her reasons why she can’t NOT believe and next thing you know, we’re there.

    BRILLIANT, Polly!!! I shared that with Erik and he laughed. It’s true, we’ve certainly filled many a car ride with our “debate”…though luckily now we’re strong enough to laugh it off at the end and still hold hands.

    Thanks for giving us hope that marriage is a real possibility. 🙂

  • Polly


    Glad that could be encouraging! 🙂 The religious difference that sprang up really doesn’t change anything in the here and now (which is great), only my wife’s vision of our “eternal” future…apart 🙁

  • HappyNat

    (and the UU group here isn’t all that large or old).

    Wouldn’t what they believe or how the services are conducted be more important than the size and age of the group?

  • Mriana

    You would think it would, Nat.

  • athenebelle

    Nat and Mriana, the group here is only about five to eight individuals, which to me never seemed like a “congregation” (I grew up in a church wich had an average attendance of 100). In addition it is not officially not a member of the UU yet even though it follows a lot of it’s tenets. It doesn’t have enough people for it to do projects that would attract me (service projects and the service setting) at this point in time. Were that it was more coherent (and there hadn’t been a UCC church in the area) then I would have considered attending it. It only formed about a year after I moved down here.

    In any case a lot of the stuff that is done by the UU in terms of issues is also along the same lines of some UCC churches (and the national body)

  • HappyNat


    That makes perfect sense. It just confused me the way you stated it in your comment. My “congregation” just increased to a total of 3, with my daughter joining us in the living room for “services” (aka NFL football) on Sundays.

  • Atheistyouth

    hi, i am kinda having inter-faith dating issue of a sort. I have a female friend and we have been friends a while and i think we are both kind of interested in one another, but the issue of faith actually came up very quickly when we met about 2 years ago. she is a catholic like most people where i live. We had gotten into a debate about religion i don’t recall the exact circumstances, but i’d wager a bet it started with some sarcastic comment i made. I think one of the reasons i haven’t asked her out is because of our differences in faith. Me being an athiest and her a catholic.

    well any advice you have for this situation would be apreciated.

  • Culturefemme

    Hi All:

    I have enjoyed and recieved insight from your conversations. Thank you all! I am struggling with this topic as I am developing a new relationship (1 month) with a Catholic. As most of you have mentioned this difference worries me as I head into a new relationship. I have mentioned my non-belief (no comment or discussion from him at that point) and he has talked about his background and religious preferences. However, we have not had any dialogue as to how our personal beliefs will effect our relationship. It is hard for me to understand how a relationship can work if each other’s world views are so different… can long term companionship and deeper relationships happen if there are such profound differences in ideaology? Can mutal respect and acceptance for individality make such a relationship work and be successful? I am afraid these differences will bring up fundamental differences in daily life and child rearing so I am hesitant to put them off for much longer. I do sunderstand that the other part of getting to know someone (beyond ideology)may help in understanding and accepting individual beliefs, but I don’t see how it will shed light on relationship decision-making. I guess “conversations and open dialogues” on such matters will be a must. Does anyone have comments/advice?

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