This week’s question: Could you ever date/fall in love with/marry someone of religious faith?
Romantic relationships that cross religious boundaries are a very deep and complicated topic, and one that deserves more than one column. So this will be the first of three columns that will deal these cross-crossed lovers.
The initial question I am often asked is whether I would ever begin dating someone with religious belief. I most certainly would; in fact, most of the women I have dated have had some level of religious belief, and it has never been a source of conflict. A woman being moderately religious or “spiritual” is not a deal-breaker for me, because I understand both the cultural pervasiveness of religion and its ability to appeal to very smart, empathetic individuals.
There is so much misinformation or missing information in the public mind, especially among those from religious backgrounds, about science, religious belief, and morality that I can hardly begrudge a woman her upbringing. If her parents took her to church and pounded the godly truth into her head throughout her entire childhood, telling her that she is flawed and terrible and pathetic and needed saving, then I understand and wouldn’t hold that against her. How could I, when my biggest objection to religion is that it is so very good at manipulating the deepest, most firmly rooted aspects of the animal brain?
There is nothing more primal than the fear of death and the unknown, or the desire to have one’s curiosity satisfied by an authority figure with all the answers. Combine that with our evolutionary reverence for tradition and inclination to believe what we are told, and you have the strongest consistent institution in all of human history, organized religion. How could I possibly fault anyone for succumbing to it?
I’m often asked whether I feel the need to “convert” my friends, family or girlfriends. Of course I don’t; firstly, there are so many fish in the sea (on DP) that if someone being religious was such a big deal for me, I would just choose someone else that wasn’t religious to begin with. I would never try and “convert” someone (unless they begin the conversation), not just because most people don’t want to be converted, but because I don’t know how much time or effort someone is willing to put into thinking about religion, and I don’t want to have to force anyone to think about religion for one moment more than they have to.
However, this tolerant attitude only applies to those who haven’t spent much time thinking about religion on their own, and don’t really want to start. Also, if one’s religious belief comes along with racial, sexual or gender prejudice (ie, one is a Biblical literalist), then I am obviously not going to be interested in you to begin with. People who do not know enough or care enough, though, should be left alone. I absolutely respect one’s right to lead one’s life and hold down a real job without having to argue about religion with me.
I only become surprised or disappointed with individuals who HAVE been presented with enough information and HAVE given it enough thought such that they should have arrived at the correct conclusion but instead came to the wrong one. If I were dating a biology major who didn’t believe in evolution, or a geology major who thought the Earth was 6,000 years old, I could not respect that person’s intellect, and that’s no foundation for a real relationship.
People are all constantly disqualifying each other as potential romantic partners anyway, using criteria like friendliness or appearance (as gauged in a thirty second conversation) to decide in whom we are romantically interested. These aspects of a person are so often completely disconnected from one’s religious faith or lack thereof that one’s faith could easily pass unnoticed until two people are comfortable talking about what we consider somewhat taboo or intimate topics, like one’s religion or favorite character on “Friends” (Chandler, obviously).
Religious faith probably doesn’t come up until several dates or meetings in anyway, and at that point it is my experience that both people have likely decided that unless this person turns out to be a serial killer or still into Pokemon cards (note to the readership: the atheist does not discriminate against people who are still into Pokemon cards), nothing so petty as the existence of God will dissuade them from jumping each other’s bones.
Connor Oake is a fourth-year political science major.