A Question for Atheists

My attempts to get an exchange going in the comments haven’t been successful, but I’ll try again anyway.

Have you ever had a potential significant other reject you primarily because you were an atheist?

Yesterday, I posted a story about a man. His mother was very much trying to fix us up, with big hints about marriage and grandchildren. It was a long-distance situation and, following a couple of dates, he sent me regular emails. Some of them contained inspirational, spiritual messages. Eventually, I had to tell him that I was an atheist. He cooled dramatically at that point and within a few weeks communication had ceased. Now, he never told me that my atheism was a reason, perhaps he met someone else, but it was the only conflict we had had. Certainly, it didn’t help.

Another time, a man I met at a singles event phoned for a date. As it happens, Easter was that coming weekend and he asked what my family was doing. I said that I was an atheist and no one in my family was religious, so we were doing nothing. He hemmed and hawed and said that he couldn’t fix a specific date at that moment but he would call me back, which he didn’t. Remember, he had phoned me, so this was a major u-turn in the direction of the conversation.

I’m never really sure how much atheism has had an effect on my love life. On the one hand, received wisdom has it that male atheists are more numerous than females and several men have nearly jumped up and down in delight when I’ve said I was also an atheist. On the other hand, atheists are a minority and stereotypical gender roles make it seem to me that it’s easier for atheist men to date theist women than for atheist women to date theist men.

In any case, I’ve had great difficulty maintaining relationships with men who are not atheists even though I’ve tried on several occasions. Usually, things go smoothly for a few months and then the man starts pointing out miracles or times in his life when he feels that God has intervened. Eventually, we start arguing. Theoretically, I don’t care what religion a man is, but, since in the past things have not gone well, over time I’ve come to significantly prefer other atheists.

So, what about you?

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17 comments
  1. Interesting. It has honestly never been an issue for me. I tend to meet people through mutual friends, so that old adage about ‘birds of a feather’ is likely the reason. Even if someone I meet is religious, they also tend to be open to my atheism- and other perspectives and worldviews.

    • fojap said:

      I think the “birds of a feather” idea definitely does apply. My parents were married before they confessed to one another that neither believed in God, but I think they would have never married in the first place if one or the other had talked about religion a lot. Similarly, the man I eventually married, I met on a park bench. I don’t know when he told me he didn’t believe, but attitudes seep out even when you don’t talk about it directly. When I think about it, the one incident was odd because we had liked each other twenty years earlier and each of us had been married and divorced. If his mother hadn’t tried to fix us up, we probably wouldn’t have run into each other by accident. Singles events are contrived and don’t work especially well, which is why I stopped going to them.

      Unfortunately, I’ve gotten to an age where social circles have calcified and meeting new people who are single and available doesn’t happen very often anymore. A boyfriend once told me that had he known that the pool of available, smart, single women would dry up, he would have tried harder to meet a wife in college or graduate school. He said that when he was young and in college he was surrounded by hundreds of women, single, near his age, smart (he was at Harvard) and he just had the impression life would continue like that forever. Even in my twenties, social circles were still pretty fluid and most people were still single.

      When I first got divorced, I accidentally hit on married men several times and one of my friends said, “Look for a ring, will ya!” During the years I was married, it went from most men being single to most men being married and it took a few faux pas before I caught on.

  2. I agree that it does get more difficult as one gets older. I’m not sure if all the social media makes it better or worse, TBH.

    I truly hadn’t even thought about my beliefs (or lack thereof) being a hindrance to romantic involvement. Guess I live in my own little world.

    But since it’s a world in which people are accepting of the views of others- whether or not they are the same as their own- I’d rather be there than elsewhere.

    • fojap said:

      I never thought of it until I was in at least my thirties, possibly forties. In fact, at the time that the guy from California stopped writing to me, I was surprised because I really didn’t know what happened. Now, it may have had nothing to do with atheism. I just know that he didn’t really like the way I responded to the inspirational emails. Also, he was very actively looking for a wife and potential mother. I found that the most fraught dating was in my mid-thirties because men were very concerned if I was marriage and motherhood material. There was also a lot of pressure about money, but that guy was well off, so that wasn’t an issue for him. My lack of money was a big issue for men who needed a second income to start a family.

      Now that I’m past breeding age, things have actually started to relax on that front. However, for men who want to cohabit, the money can still be a problem. They do have a point, which is why I don’t seek a live-in relationship myself. Unfortunately, that’s what most men want and, for most men, living with me would bring down their standard of living.

      Dating in my twenties was so easy. You meet a guy. If you enjoy one another’s company, you do it again. Do it repeatedly, and at some unknown point he becomes a boyfriend. No elaborate questions like you’re on an interview. Of course, that’s probably how I wound up married to a man with vastly different goals in life.

  3. I can’t really add to conversation as far as dating is concerned.
    I’ve been married for 12 years. I’m Atheist, my husband is not.
    He was raised in a semi religious household and was indoctrinated into typical Christian beliefs at a young age. Due to our open conversations, I have completely confused what he once believed was truth. He doesn’t attend church or anything of that nature. Our relationship is not impacted by our separate beliefs.
    BUT I could see there being a problem if one day he woke up and decided he wanted to go to church or pushing those views on me.

  4. Never had a problem. Actually, in Australia being religious would be the problem, not the other way around.

    • fojap said:

      The last man with whom I was involved (can’t quite call him a boyfriend) was from Australia and the fact that I was an atheist was one of the reasons he wanted to get involved with me. I moved to another city after about three dates, so I have no idea what might have happened. I think he was dating women of any religious persuasion, but he picked up something I said as being a reference to Daniel Dennet and that, and the fact that he thought I was cute, piqued his interest. I think it’s just one factor that goes into people trying to find a partner who’s compatible. Besides being an atheist, I’m also something of a skeptic, so I find that people who engage too much in magical thinking of any stripe just aren’t compatible with me long-term.

      The guy from California was actually more of a New Age type. In fact, I think atheist might have been the only bad answer for him. His inspirational stuff was very abstract and bland, but it was magical thinking in my mind. Heck, for all I know he didn’t like the fact that I was close to his sister, or that I lived on the East Coast, or just about anything else.

      Here, I think any extreme presents a problem. I have one devout friend who has had a terrible time dating, far worse than any atheist I know, because her religiosity really turns men off. If I go by the experiences of people I know, being highly religious of an orthodox form is most difficult. Now, tell people you’re Episcopalian (Anglican) or Lutheran or Jewish, but you haven’t been to church or synagogue in a few years, you kind of believe in God, but the bible is metaphorical, and you’ll probably do very well. At least you’ll have the biggest pool of potential partners because anyone from me to my incredibly devout friend will date you.

    • fojap said:

      Oh, right, I said I didn’t like monogamy. That also attracted the Australian guy who wanted to try a polyamorous relationship. So many details.

  5. It’s odd, my first wife and I were a thing way before religion ever came up. I have always made an effort to make it clear I am not real keen on religion, but didn’t at the time rule out the possibility of some deistic god out there, I certainly never hinted that I may be a closet atheist. Living where I do that sort of thing can get you “the shunning” and while I generally don’t give a flying shit about those kind of people, I still have to go to the bank, the hardware store etc., and my kids are still in school. The first wife wasn’t real keen on religion either, having had an experience with some Pentecostals giving her the faith healing treatment when she broke her arm at a very young age. She was like “get me to the damn hospital” and those morons were all laying hands on her to heal the arm. I have heard of stupid crap like that, but never directly from the source.

    The second wife, I still maintained at the time we got together, the lack of real interest in religion, but conceded at the time, it would be nice if there was some sort of cosmic entity that in some fashion looked out for the little people, but I definately no longer hold onto that wistful delusion. I fully realize now that it a foolish thing to cling to while at the same time detesting all of the observable side effects of religion. The wife is a deist. So she still sorta kinda maintains that hope/belief, but she does not subscribe to any certain religion in general, and finds them all equally ridiculous in many ways. So we co-exist together well enough, with religion never being an issue.

    All of that said, I think it best you find out early on the kind of guy you may consider a relationship with. Knowing sooner rather than later that a guy is a Pentecostal fundamentalist from hell is a good thing. I am pretty sure I could not survive a relationship with someone that was constantly jabbering about jebus. No matter how good the sex might be, that kind of thing will turn into an irreconcilable difference pretty damn quick.

    So, get religion off the table as soon as possible in my opinion, all of the other stuff that comes up later that can cause trouble with relationships is tough enough without adding religious baggage to the deal.

    I found that the path to atheism was a long ordeal, with many different conclusions accepted and discarded along the way. I’m not real sure when I became a full blown atheist, I think it was around the time I was reading up at talk origins the 27 Evidences for Evolution. (I think that’s the title, I’m not gonna look it up) Anyway the more I learned, the more of those layers of self deciet fell away. The best evidence for science is well…the evidence. Once you realize how much of that evidence is in abundance, those old notions that never made much sense in the first place become quite easy to toss out. You can without a doubt, call me an atheist.

  6. Women I date have FAR more issues with my cannibalism than my atheism. To me, the two are synonymous, so partaking in the eating of Christian infants is not an option for me. Thus, I’m still looking for Ms. Right who’ll accept me for all I am.

    • fojap said:

      Hmm. Ms. Right, not Miss Right. It sounds like you don’t much care whether she’s married or not. About the level of morality I’d expect from a baby eating atheist!

      • Oh yes, Ms. Right. The right Ms. will have a rich husband she can get t give her money we can use to buy and eat Christian babies. We evil, disgusting atheists have no morals at all. After all, we don’t see evidence that Jesus is our lord and savior. We’re THAT evil!

  7. Monicle said:

    I’m not an atheist but I’m not into any religion. A lot of people still can’t separate the concept of a God from religion and that’s why I don’t blame them for being atheist. At least they’ve given it some thought! I find it easier talking to atheist friend than a very religious one about my views; they are much more open minded.
    But if I was going to have a serious, intimate relationship with someone, it would be hard to not share those basic beliefs. Like being a vegetarian trying to live with a meat eater; no way. I don’t mind if people eat meat but they’re not using my kitchen. (No one should eat babies….. that includes lamb and veal.)
    It depends if you just want a friend to talk to or someone to ‘share your life’ with and how important spirituality is to them. You shouldn’t take it personally that they don’t like you.

  8. I’ve not had any rejection but I’m sure as hell I would these days if I was looking. Atheist, vegetarian, unemployed, feminist, environmentalist etc etc. Who would want me? More to the point, I would not want someone who was religious. Oh, very much no.

  9. vastlycurious.com said:

    Vetting process?

  10. My husband is agnostic so it’s not been a problem. But if I was single again I might relish a religious boyfriend that I could have have big debates with! I have to say though that my skeptical approach to life has cost me a friend recently 😦

  11. I don’t think I’ve ever been rejected for being an atheist, per se. But I have been rejected for being an overbearing atheist who say’s things like “only a fool would believe in a god”, that sort of thing, you know, stuff that would probably get me thrown in jail or stoned in some places of the world. It seems that most people are cool with atheists as long as we behave like normal people, the ones I tend to encounter in any case.

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