Catholic and Atheist on a Date December 16, 2007

Catholic and Atheist on a Date

The date was set up by the New York Post.


The guy, Dan, is an atheist.

The girl, Kristen, is a Catholic.

This should end well.

Let’s see what happens.

Here’s Kristen:

As we were talking, Dan asked about the cross around my neck. I knew wearing a cross on a first date was going to raise an eyebrow, but I quickly explained I’m not a religious freak and it was gift from my mother. He said it was a beautiful cross, which made me wonder if he was religious at all. Turns out, he’s an atheist.

What did Dan have to say?

After being seated, I noticed she had a cross around her neck and mentioned it. She already seemed really nervous about the blind-date situation, but when she started defending herself and insisting that she wasn’t really religious, it seemed like she wasn’t being all that genuine. I mean, if you’re wearing a cross, there must be something to it.

It’s probably not going to work out. He only gave her “2 hearts” to her giving him 3 (out of 5 possible hearts).

Interesting question, though: If you’re going to wear a cross, shouldn’t you be proud of it and be able to say so, instead of first admitting you’re “not a religious freak”?

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

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  • Nah, I can see her point of view–she’s fond of it because it’s a gift, is that so hard to accept?

    I feel bad for the more liberal believers who keep having to explain away the zealots, evangelizers, and fundamentalists. The fact that she had to act a little defensive shows just how much the extremists have become the public face of religion.

  • In Japan many young women wear crosses. It’s a fashion thing. I’d bet my left big toe not 10% even know who Jesus is. (Not that their ignorant, what percentage of Americans could give you a good description of Buddha? Er… not that young Japanese could either…)

  • athenebelle

    I do wear a croos that I tend to be a bit proud of. It’s not your standard cross it looks like this (minus the circle and writing around it) though. (if you want so see what I’m talking about here’s what I mean- crown,cross and orb). When asked about it I explain that it’s a symbol of my understanding of christianity. The orb being the circle of community, the cross the symbol of Jesus and the crown being the crown of glory in all people.

    Sometimes I think I need to rethink what I say (as occasionally I feel a tad bit preachy) but what can you say when you have a different looking cross than the typical?

  • Jeff

    In all likelihood, I’d only date someone seriously if the person were compatible with me on basic things. Someone who believes in the equivalent of the Tooth Fairy, or who is even merely “agnostic” about it, I would not consider compatible.
    I have my standards.

  • Kate

    It seems like EVERY time, it’s the girl who’s religious while the guy is an atheist.

    Proud that I can break the mold with my interfaith relationship – I’m the atheist. 😉

  • I am an atheist and I wear a star of David wtih a tiny cross in the middle of it. It was my grandmother’s. Why shouldn’t I wear it even if I don’t believe in God? I think it’s dumb to assume someone is very religious just beacuse they wear a cross.

  • Pam M

    I agree with writerdd. If the family bible were passed down through generations to me and I chose to display it in my home because of the family tradition I would not care what impression it made. I am atheist and as long as I did not use that object to pretend I was not I see no harm in having jewlery or anything else in my possession. My only concern with someone else would be what did the cross mean to them personally. Since I am not a mind reader I would have to ask and decide for myself if the answer was an honest one. I would have to hope I was able to judge the response. I think that when atheists make a big deal out of issues like this we give the religious another bat to beat us over the head with.

  • Viggo The Carpathian

    My wife wears a cross, has every day for over 10 years. She is not what you would call religious… a friend in college brought it to her from Scotland. She loves the cross but puts no religious meaning to it.

    Jeff said, “Someone who believes in the equivalent of the Tooth Fairy, or who is even merely “agnostic” about it, I would not consider compatible.
    I have my standards.”

    What is wrong with agnostic? I am agnostic. It only means that I don’t know and know that I don’t know. I find that declaring myself an atheist would require as much faith as declaring myself a theist. I just don’t know. I do not have any rational reason to believe in a god, but I am open to the possibility if the evidence changes. I don’t expect the evidence to change and I am not sure I am capable of worship of anything or anyone but…

  • This post reminds me of a graphic I once saw that said “If Jesus were hung instead of crucified would you wear a noose around your neck?”

  • Viggo, I would say I’m an agnostic and an atheist at the same time. It all depends what kind of god we are talking about. Heck if someone says their god is literally “love” or “the universe” I would even be a theist since those things sure do exist!

    I still think it’s a little weird to wear something that’s an execution device. (I’m sure everyone has heard the line by Lenny Bruce saying if Jesus was killed in the 20th century everyone would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks.) I know some Christian sects don’t use the cross.

    There were also plenty of pre-Christian crosses that would make nice jewelry. How about the ankh? Or even the Earth symbol:

  • Don Pope

    Well, my wife and I are living proof that a marriage between an atheist and a Christian can work. Of course, she’s not a religious freak, but she does go to church. I wish she didn’t, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

  • athenebelle

    I agree Don, I’m also one of those (although I’m the religious half of the equation).

  • Kate

    Don Pope and Athenebelle – would you mind if Hemant gave you my e-mail address?? Erik and I have been searching for FOREVER to find a interfaith (non-faith and faith) marriage that works so that we can ask them questions. 🙂 We’re just approaching two years in our Christian/atheist relationship – it works, but we could still use some advice from wise elders! 🙂


  • valhar2000

    I don’t think I could have a relationship with a theist; I would find her god-belief too annoying to take fro extended periods.

    Other things that I could not tolerate would be belief ion the super-natural, an anti-scientific attitude and political ideas more to the right than my own.

    I’m nto saying that I could nto befriend someone like that, but not a relationship, that’s for sure.

  • athenebelle

    Kate, I wouldn’t mind it but to be honestly we’re only into our second year ourselves. 🙂 It would be good to know of others though (although you wouldn’t be the first one that I know, there’s a student pastor that I befriended who’s wife was not all that religious and he had been married for some time).

  • globalizati

    Why is it that the atheist is always a hairy guy, and the Catholic girls are always so cute? Alas…

  • pansies4me


    My husband and I will be married for 9 years in February. I’m the atheist, and he’s the believer in…something. He doesn’t have a belief in an afterlife and he abhors religious dogma. He used to attend an Episcopal church when we started dating, but he said it was because the ritual gave him comfort. He has no interest in church now. If he were devout, I don’t know that we’d be together. (I dated a born-again once, and it just wasn’t working! ) We have a soon-to-be 7 year-old son who knows about the Christian god concept, but in the context that it is what many people in this country believe in. He knows I don’t believe in any gods, and he knows his dad has some kind of god concept. He told me the other day that, “I see no evidence for some invisible being, and I don’t think I’ll have any reason to when I grow up.” Maybe he’s inherited my “no god gene”! If he changes his mind later I’ll love him just the same – that’s his personal choice as far as we are concerned.


  • Sobex

    I’m not agreeing with the “I like the way it looks but I don’t believe in it” argument. I wouldn’t wear a gold-plated miniature electric chair on a chain around my neck no matter who bought it. To me, a cross is a symbol of torture, I don’t care what materials it is made out of, and I refuse to wear one.

    However, if someone made a cross with a circle-slash through it (like the circle-slash used in No Smoking signs), THAT I would wear.

  • Jason

    My wife is very devout Catholic, I am a recent atheist (from Catholicism). It’s definitely put some strain on our marriage (four kids, been married 8 years). But a split-beliefs situation like this is manageable – you just really need to be open to communication. Sometimes our discussions turn into debates of each others’ beliefs, and that usually goes no where. Honestly, it may help if people in a similar relationship situation discuss such heavy topics naked – it does help keep the edge off.

    My wife struggles sometimes that I just think her “dumb” for believing in God, where that isn’t the case at all. Much of this comes from her thinking I’m going to turn into an “angry atheist” that is just against Christians. Frankly I don’t care what other’s believe, as long as they’re respectful of others. I don’t even mind our children being raised Catholic and going to Catholic school. The morals at the foundation of most religions are good ones to live by – the problems arise when you use your beliefs to oppress/hurt others. So raising children that can also recognize those situations that conflict with the root beliefs of their religion is key. For example, pretty much the root of all belief systems (even atheism) is “Do Unto Others as You Would Have Done to Yourself.” So constantly reminding yourself of that is key in figuring out how to deal with your church teachings. Should I scream at those gay people and tell them they’re going to hell? Nope – because if as a Christian you TRULY believe that God is the ultimate judge, it’s not your job to condemn. Treat them how you would want to be treated – as another member of society deserving of respect.

  • The cross is historically worn as a kind of talisman against the expectation of premarital sex. And that is a right of refusal that I respect just as I respect the right to engage in it.

  • I never wear a cross. I don’t like to advertise that I’m a Christian, although if asked, I most definitely tell them. And besides, crucifixion was the worst form of death sentence at that time. To me, it’s like walking around with an electric chair charm on your neck. Sorry to those who like wearing a cross. I don’t mean to offend you. I think some of them are very beautiful. It’s just not something that I like to wear.

    And about interfaith relationships, I think it’s like anything else, such as inter-racial relationships. You make it what it is. If you love and respect each other despite the differences, as well as because of the differences, then it can work. Personally, though, even though I’m a Christian… I would be able to love an open-minded atheist much more so than a close-minded anything else. Thank God my husband is an open-minded Christian, although he is much more conservative than I am.

  • Linda: I bet if you did wear an electric chair around your neck, you’d have all the Goth guys pursuing you….

  • athenebelle

    valhar2000 said:

    I don’t think I could have a relationship with a theist; I would find her god-belief too annoying to take fro extended periods.

    Other things that I could not tolerate would be belief in the super-natural, an anti-scientific attitude and political ideas more to the right than my own.

    How many religious people have you known? I know of few Christians who are anti-scientific (in fact none of them that I know personally) and only a few who are to the right of me. I can understand finding their belief in a higher power to be uncomfortable for a long time but if a person like me is in a real relationship with an atheist (which I am BTW) their daily life looks much like any other persons with the sole exception being maybe them disappearing for a few hours on Sunday morning and maybe an hour or so during the week for choir or other church activity which may or may not include volunteer opportunities.

  • SadsoSad

    Boy… reading all these postings has really saddened me. My 19 year old Daughter is dating an atheist, and I was looking for some advice and stumbled on this page. To me the cross is a symbol of the lengths God was willing to go to secure our futures. It is about what he did FOR US, not what we did TO HIM. We should never forget. I am very concerned about my daughter, because I do not want to see her faith diminished while she struggles to show someone else the way. So few of the “Christians” who posted an answer here seem to have the courage to stick to their convictions. “You will deny me three times,” comes to mind.

  • Siamang


    You’re sad that people exist in the world with different beliefs from you? Big deal. The world’s a big, diverse place. Get over it.

    I am very concerned about my daughter, because I do not want to see her faith diminished while she struggles to show someone else the way.

    If her faith can’t stand up to a little scrutiny, is it really worth anything to begin with?

  • SadsoSad,

    I don’t think her faith will be dimished if she believes in it. it may be a bit tough for her at first, but I know from personal experience that it can also be a rewarding experience. Do not be upset with her choice to be involved with someone who doesn’t believe the same as she does. If you get to know him you might realize that he isn’t all that bad to begin with.

    My faith in christ has not be altered in any major way other than reminding myself of the fact that he was on a that cross for ALL, not just for those that believe.

  • kristin

    so glad to find this! Jason—your comment stuck. I am catholic, husband was and is now agnostic I would say. I think we can make it, it’s just so tough. We don’t have kids yet but would like to; we just aren’t sure of how to make all that work. It doesn’t help my family is very strong catholic…we’re not sure how to tell them. i feel they would be accepting but he feels they would judge him forever. any comments are appreciated.

  • Regis

    The Catholic tradition speaks of “the scandal of the Cross.” And most Catholics wear not simply the cross but the crucifix (depicting the dying Jesus), thus venerating not only the instrument of torture but also the grisly act itself.

    This discussion is a great example of how Christianity and atheism (and even other religions) differ. There is certainly a natural morality that can be apprehended by people of any or no faith (the negative expression of the Golden Rule encapsulates it pretty well, “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you”).

    But only Christianity reverses the paradigms of the World — cf. the Beatitudes of Jesus (“Blessed are the poor …” etc.). Or believes that the infinite, all-powerful, all-good, deity not only humbled himself to take the nature of a man, but also offer himself up in his innocence to suffer humiliation, suffering and death at the hands of the guilty, in order to save them.

    These beliefs make no sense at all from the perspective of the affairs of humankind. Paradoxically, though, they are precisely why Christianity is compelling enough to be worthy of belief, even in the midst of a world rife with violence, oppression and misery.

    It is great to see atheists and Christians together reflecting on the meaning of the Cross …

  • Shawn

    I’ve gotten a cross as a gift from my mom, but as an atheist, I’ve resigned it to a place on my shelf. If I were religious, I may wear it, and I’d speak my mind about my religion if the topic were to arise.

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