A reader writes: “My question is handling prospective relationships across different faiths, and faith vs. no faith. Personally, I prefer to date other atheists. I have a very painful past with religion. However, I get a lot of flack for making organized religion a deal-breaker. Here are my reasons for that:
“1. I am a militant, hardline atheist. I don’t make any apologies about the fact that I did a lot of research over the course of three years into the Abrahamic faiths, and I learned a lot that most believers either don’t know or choose to ignore.
“2. I have PTSD when it comes to churches. I literally cannot go into one without taking a Xanax and hoping it doesn’t wear off and I don’t have a panic attack.
“3. When someone is heavily faithful, it permeates every aspect of their lives, and, by default, the lives of those close to them. I don’t see how this could be avoided.
“4. I want to understand my partner on a deep level in every way possible. Dating a faithful partner would mean that there is a deep part of her, and something she holds very dear, that I cannot understand, and, in some ways, don’t even have a whole lot of respect for.
“5. I view religion as a huge reason for the oppression of LGBT+ people in America and around the world, and I really can’t see it being anything short of masochistic to participate in a system of beliefs that, essentially, finds my mode of living and the very core of what I am to be some kind of offensive abomination.
“Now, do you see these reasons as valid for making religion a deal-breaker when searching for a mate? If not, why not?
“Also, I have been accused of being discriminatory, but I put it into the category with all other deal-breakers. For instance, I don’t want children, and don’t date women who have or want children. Nobody seems to have a problem with that. Why is it a problem to make religion a deal-breaker, but not kids? I’d love your perspective, as well as that of your readers, on this issue!”
First of all, it is my opinion that anything a person considers to be a relationship deal-breaker is valid for that person. No one should have a relationship, or even a date, with a person in order to avoid accusations of prejudice or discrimination, and no one should have to justify why he or she is not interested.
This is why I have no problem with a person who says that he or she does not want to date trans people. I don’t consider this to be transphobic. Now, this person might be transphobic, but not simply by virtue of not wanting to date us. Everyone has a right to his or her personal preferences.
If a person doesn’t want to date me – for any reason – then I would prefer that the person not waste my time. If I’m looking for a date, I’m happy to weed out, right up front, the ones who aren’t going to work out.
So as far as your reasons for not dating a religious person – or any other person, for that matter – being valid, I would say that they are. You know what you want and what you don’t want, and you have a right to go searching for the person who will work for you. You also have an obligation (in my opinion) not to lead someone on when you know that something about that person is a deal-breaker.
By the same token, a person has a right to go searching for someone within his or her faith, or someone of faith, period. I don’t think anyone would question a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim dating service, and I don’t think anyone would question people specifying a religious preference for their dates. So there shouldn’t be a reason why people would question your desire for an atheist date or partner – but I think there is a reason.
Atheists are not thought of very highly in the United States, and no doubt in some other parts of the world, as well. A 2006 University of Minnesota study found that “Americans (note: U.S. Americans) rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in ‘sharing their vision of American society.’ Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.”
However, a June 2012 Gallup poll revealed that 54 percent of those polled would vote for an atheist president if he or she was their party’s nominee. This is up substantially from 1958, when only 18 percent polled said that they would, but it’s still only a little more than half of U.S. citizens. In addition, a poll that I read about but can’t find now (maybe readers can link to it if they find it) said that U.S. parents would rather have their child marry a convicted felon than an atheist.
Not only are we not particularly popular in the United States – we are also a definite minority. According to a recent Gallup poll, about 5 percent of U.S. citizens say they are atheists. This is up from 1 percent in 2005, but still a very small percentage.
So if you live in the United States, I suspect these two factors – our non-popularity and our very small numbers – are the primary reasons for the accusations of discrimination that you receive when you say that you will only date atheists.
I doubt very much that a member of a large religious group, such as a Christian, a Jew, or a Muslim, would be accused of discrimination if that person said that he or she would not date an atheist. Most people in the U.S. would understand that, because most people in the U.S. are religious. I think unpopular minority groups are an easy target for all manner of criticism, whether it makes much sense or not.
Again, although I know that many people don’t agree with me, I don’t think that anyone should date a person who possesses deal-breaker characteristics, whatever those are. What’s the point? I don’t see it as discrimination so much as common sense.
It’s true that there is a possibility that your mind could be opened by dating such a person, but there’s a stronger possibility that you and the other person will be miserable. People aren’t social experiments. We should not be dating people to prove something to ourselves or to anyone else. We should date them because we find them attractive, share their interests, enjoy their company, or for other positive reasons.
That’s my perspective. Now I hope we will hear from readers on theirs. Readers, you’re on.
(Ask Matts are backing up a little, but they will all be answered. Thanks, writers, for your patience!)