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22 September 2011, 2:00 pm 9 Comments

Not Your Average Prom Queen: Would God Come Between You and Love?

This post was submitted by Jean

We’ve all been taught (in anecdote or in practice) that discussing religion, politics and baseball is a fast way to ruin friendships, or at least offend polite company. But, if this is true, then what do we talk about on a first date?

Favored sports teams might be a suitable topic that inspires playful rivalry (especially if one of you doesn’t really care about sports), but, to some, the religious and political beliefs of your potential mate are defining characteristics in the calculations of your potential for success.

Light installation of Robert Stadler

Lets imagine:
As you share a drink and an appetizer with a person you met on OKCupid, the banter might be light and airy, the preferred age of cheddar matching, the eye-contact solid without being creepy. You might begin to feel something for the person sitting across from you, as they tell stories about the delights of being an accountant, or deliberate on the social scene during their undergraduate tenure at State School University. You both liked Lord of the Rings, but not as much as Harry Potter. You agree that Brad Pitt has become a real actor now, and that Mary-Louise Parker only gets more beautiful as she ages. Kite Runner was good, but Three Cups of Tea really loses its flavor once it came out that Greg Mortenson might be a liar.

It’s going really well.

After a couple drinks, your date informs you that they are having an awesome time, but can’t stay out too much later.

“My church is way up North, and I have to be there by 9.”

Or perhaps:

“I’d love to hang out a little longer, but I got tickets to a Glen Beck rally down-state, and my sister and I are leaving at 6 AM.”

Did this charming watcher of Weeds just mention a Churchal obligation? How can a person who enjoyed the magic of Harry Potter indulge in the pure evil of Glenn Beck?

Perhaps these comments don’t bother you at all. Maybe you are the kind of person who thinks that an individual’s political or religious views are just one tiny aspect of their whole being. You think, nothing they said was judgmental of my beliefs, just statements of theirs. Or are you the kind of person who sees differences in religion or politics defining factors in your relationships?

If you run in a liberal or conservative circle, perhaps you often meet people who have similar views to you, but what about online dating? I tend to think, on a lot of levels, that opposites attract , but are there certain ideological things that could keep you away from someone who otherwise you are really attracted to?

Would you date someone who was a passionate believer or supporter of a religious or political group that conflicted strongly with your own beliefs? Is this the type of information that should be divulged on the embryonic stages of a relationship?

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  • Liz J said:

    On our first date, when I told H I was a minister, it’s like all the air went out of the room. You could have heard a pin drop (except you couldn’t have; when all the air is out of the room it creates a vaccuum and you can’t hear anything in a vacuum. There’s no air to vibrate and therefore no sound.) She recovered nicely and graciously though. And obviously it worked out. I’ve dated people who were lightly-Christian, Jewish, agnostic and just indifferent, as well as “spiritual-but-not-religious” folk. It was important for ME to bring it up fairly early on because I knew that dating a minister was probably a deal-breaker for a lot of women. I still can’t decide which is scarier: coming out as queer in religious circles, or coming out as religious in queer circles.

  • Doctor Whom said:

    At least in my experience, whenever this topic comes up, someone conflates passionate belief in a religion’s teachings with “identity,” by which that person means mere cultural or ethnic identification with that religion. In the case of passionate belief, I can easily see how a difference can be a deal-breaker, since it’s a contradiction to consider such a belief as “just one tiny aspect of their whole being.” In the case of mere “identity” affiliation with a religion, breaking up over such an affiliation seems petty.

    Guys have broken up with me because of differences in religious beliefs (or lack thereof). It wasn’t much fun at the time, but I understood their reasons and bore them no ill will over it.

  • KJN said:

    I have an internalized ranking of ‘believers’ and their date-worthiness, with secular-humanists and agnostics at the very top, and evangelical Christians at the very bottom. This ranking includes Wiccans, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. I suppose having grown up fundamentalist Christian, and having worked very hard to escape that mindset and get past the scars that upbringing left on my psyche, I’m simply disinclined to spend time with Christians of any stripe (although most Quakers I’ve met seem pretty cool, if a little intense in their lefty-ism) but especially of the evangelical-fundamentalist variety. Life is short, and I’d rather be alone than date a Christian.

  • Steven P. said:

    As an observant Jew, my religious beliefs are always on the table (or – at the very least – on my head, since I wear a yarmulke). Although I’m now in a committed relationship, dating has been very difficult as potential mates tend to conflate my religious observance with negative experiences they had in their home community. And they tend not to wait around long enough for me to explain that my faith community affirms and supports LGBTQ individuals. In the end, it’s the person who is willing to ask questions – regardless of differences in belief or opinion – that is worth your time.

  • MT132021 said:

    I’ll be honest, if you can’t except someone for their religious difference then how can we tell them to except us for our sexual preference? It seems kind of petty to allow “religion” to overcome your love for someone. I guess it really all depends on what you believe love really is. In fact, instead of trying to give a lengthy speech about what you should think, how about you think for yourself? What is love? Look into the Latin and Greek words. Listen to preachers, monks etc. Go see for yourself!

  • KJN said:

    There is a big difference between accepting someone, and actively choosing to date someone. I expect human beings to learn to tolerate the existence of people of all sexual orientations. I do not expect all of them to want to date me. The fact is that how I see the world – how I view cosmology, teleology, etc. – is a very important part of my self-concept, and it would be very jarring to be in a day-to-day dating relationship with someone who had a radically different view of reality. I want to be tolerant of everyone who is tolerant. But I don’t want to date someone with whom I’d have radically differing opinions on reality.

  • Doctor Whom said:

    There is a big difference between accepting someone, and actively choosing to date someone.

    Exactly, and that’s a fact that many P.C. queers make a point of not acknowledging. If I may paraphrase C. S. Lewis, some religions, when taken on their own terms, can be infinitely important or infinitely unimportant, but not only somewhat important. As an atheist, I expect a true believer in such a religion to tolerate me, but I can undertand why he would not want to date me.

  • Siya said:

    Or how about this one:
    He says: “Church, you said?”
    You say: “That’s correct, I’m running the slide show tonight.”
    He shrugs. “I’ve always considered myself spiritual but not religious. Like I don’t believe the scriptures were inspired by God. They were written by man…”
    You say nothing. And it’s a pregnant silence.
    He looks over, eyes wide. “Whoa, sorry – you believe that, though, don’t you? I thought you were like, you know, one of those Christians that can think for themselves – I’ve been talking to you this whole time, and you seem to have your head screwed on right. You didn’t strike me as a fundie…”
    “I do think for myself,” you say with a chuckle. “Good grief, who else could do my thinking for me?”
    “Then how can you believe everything some old book teaches you without questioning any of it?”
    “The same way, when I was in high school, I could believe everything those very ancient mathematicians believed about the world of numbers and geometry. I asked questions, but I did so knowing that if what they were teaching was indeed legitimate mathematics, there was no use purpose in inventing a new math; I could only research further from what they’d discovered.” You pause, uncomfortable and maybe wishing you hadn’t mentioned church. You feel ashamed at that wish. But you dig your own grave deeper. “I investigated the bible on so many points, and found it true, that now my biggest priority isn’t critiquing the bible but conforming to the Image of Christ as closely as I can in this life, with God’s help…”
    “Look, I respect the deeply religious and soulful feelings [sic] that you have,” he concedes graciously, “But surely you must see that the Genesis creation narrative was just a metaphor…”
    “Surely you must see,” you jump, passionate, “That that interpretation is only true insofar as humans need a naturalistic explanation for how the universe and life began.”
    “Fair enough,” he says, back straightening. “But you can’t be so dumb as to believe that the universe is only 6000 years old. There’s so much evidence pointing to a much, much, much older history.”
    You smile, having decided to kick the chair out from beneath your own feet. “Somehow, those histories just don’t ring as true – or correspond to as much evidence – as the bible does for me.”

    End of date.