Atheist dating, in a superstitious world

This past Sunday was one of the best days I’ve had, I celebrated the fellowship of new friends, shared deep thoughts on food, life and the future of a wonderful atheist community I am privileged to be part of. Over an above that, I had a first date that same evening with an interesting woman I had met on a dating site. This was my first date since my last break up almost 10 months ago (depending who you ask).

I was as excited as a little kid buying his first toy.

I was late for the date by ten minutes, but late… I had called earlier and she sounded alright about it. As I walked into the mall and arrived just outside the restaurant, I called her to tell her I had arrived. I had seen her picture on the dating site, I thought she was pretty, but as she came up to me she was beautiful and elegant. I made a very conscience reminder not to stare or ogle. She smiled at me and I felt less anxious about my late arrival. We started chatting immediately, as if we had known each other far longer than a week.

A waiter saw us coming, he smiled and rushed over to welcome us in. We took a table at the back. Her energy and vibrance was instant, we were off talking about our day and how rushed it was. She mentioned she went to church, and when I asked, she responded by saying she was Roman Catholic. I wasn’t phased, I can respect someone’s belief, and she knew I was an Atheist – She must have considered it before coming out on a date with me.

The conversation moved quickly into telling stories about our past. Her passion for art and culture expressed with hand gestures as she spoke with her whole body. I could see the soldiers drudging passed her on her morning run up the mountains around Seoul, and hear the city sounds drift up against its steep cliff like edge – imagining the shamans of old had used that place for that acoustic reason. I could feel the texture of the rust blackened walls of an old factory converted into an art studio, and smell the mix of metallic dust,  paint and wood and stone being used in new artworks. I felt her ecstasy watching a young, South Korea woman sing and dance to a hard rock rhythm, rebelling against the stodgy South Korean culture. And wanted to dance with her in the little bar-dance club, hidden between two little shops on a back street, with just an open door and a single sign above it showing that it existed.

I was taken by her expressive nature.

I relished every moment. Felt connected as we both leaned into the table and whispered the rest of a tale, and then laughed out loud. We had crossed over the intellectual attraction phase synonymous with online dating and entered the physical, the real world stuff. The date was going well!

We spoke on for a bit about travelling more and where else we’d like to go. She said she was considering taking a job in the UK, so she could tour Europe and explore the art scene there. It sounded like that would happen soon – I was a little disappointed. My previous relationship turned ‘long distance’, and that was an utter crash-and-burn experience I didn’t want to repeat.

This is the first challenge, but it’s quite a normal dating challenge, and I think anyone could sympathise/empathise; Atheist or not.

I mentioned a trip to Holland, where I had the opportunity to work in buildings along the canals. I told her about the time I had visited a ship monitoring station built on the bank of a canal. The building extended four levels below the bank’s surface and as I walked down the stairs to the first sub-level where we were working, there was a glow coming from further down the stairwell which seemed too bright. Water had filled the other three sub-level floors up to half a flight of stairs below the first.

“It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!” I said.

She cringed, “I couldn’t look at that! I don’t want to see spirits!”

I know my facial muscles pulled into a ‘What the heck!?!’ expression.

In the moment it took her to uncringe, I was taken back to being 7 and sitting in an empty church pew on my own at a service for the dead. Seeing the spirit of a girl my age. I felt pity for her; still being trapped in a place for those unsaved, uncleansed souls. I felt a vague sense of relief that this was the right time for her to appear, because the “priest” was about to – through me – give her salvation. And then… the sleepless nights I had as a teenager around the same time each year, looking out from my bed as I saw a stairway leading up from the passage outside my room, watching as droves of ghosts moved up towards their salvation… To the utter, debilitating fear and anxiety at 19 as I felt the dark, evil souls trying to possess me – because I did not heed my parents’ warning about researching the occult and being clairvoyant.

I have grown out of that!

I now know that I have an over active imagination, that I am intuitive to people’s emotions because I have a keen talent for observation… I have tamed my imagination by focusing on creating fictional narratives and writing them out for others to read and enjoy, and by doing work in design, where imagination drives logical processes. I’ve honed my observation and skilled myself in conversation, so that I can achieve more in business and connect at a more personal level with others. By embracing my rational mind, I have overcome the indoctrination of my childhood – I’m better for it.

I hid my expression before she might see it, deciding not to say anything. The logic is simple : -

  1. I’m with this beautiful, intriguing woman having more fun than I’ve had in months.
  2. I really want to hear more of her stories.
  3. I can recover from being more hesitant and aloof.
  4. An assault on her superstitions of demons and spirits would end this date and all potential others. DEAD!!

This is the second challenge, and one I believe is more specific to non-believers, sceptics and atheists. Here was someone who I just started liking (ALOT) and had accepted as being intelligent and rational, and I felt that moving forward could only happen after a real discussion around these beliefs.

The date went on…

We laughed.

We shared.

I was still interested… But now I was hesitant to commit any further. I walked her to her car, opened her door and we spoke a few extra minutes as she stood at the back door. Even though I was certain her lingering there was an invite to end this evening on a super high with a delicate, affectionate and deliberate kiss – I fought the wonderful hormones coursing through me, I couldn’t offer that kind of promise.

I hugged her… she seemed surprised, but not thrilled.

She climbed in, we spoke a couple more minutes…and then she was off.

I’m getting older, I don’t have the time or inclination to string someone along just for company. I know what I want and will put in the effort to find and keep that. I can respect, even accept someone I’m interested in’s belief in a religion… but I fear that any discussions on someone’s rooted superstitions which could bring so strong an emotional response, to not only them but me, would turn any promising love interest, into a casualty of my own determination to never return to that dark life. I refuse to expose my own children to such a twisted reality, that they become afraid of their own imaginations, or are made to believe it is normal to be afraid of the mythical, unseen, always present dangers of the unreal supernatural.

What are your experiences?

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Comment by Diane on July 16, 2014 at 7:23am

I have recently begun dating again.  I joined a reputable online site.  When I put in all my information, saying it was important that my matches not be religious, have a certain level of education, similar interests, be geographically close etc, it limited the choices a lot.  When I changed that one criterion of "religion" to "matters somewhat" vs "matters a lot", there were potential matches galore, mostly "Christian".  I figured I would ask a potential date at some point what their response of "Christian" mean to them.  I find I don't care if a guy is a theist, at least to talk to him.  I have only talked to one guy so far though.  He is, I believe, a Catholic millionaire.  This should be interesting.  I certainly did not say I was looking for one of those.  Mainly, he seems like a decent guy.

It is not so much that a guy's Christian beliefs might bother me, although they certainly could.  My main issue is that I think Christians will not want to be with an atheist.  I am not evangelical in my atheism, but I am not wishy-washy about it either.  I certainly would not be interested in dating some evangelical Christian - that would not go well at all. But somebody could be a Christian and be right in every other way, I suppose.  What if someone who is "Christian" really doesn't believe much, but put that down as a default?  Also, it seems to be within the realm of possibility that someone could be Christian, respectful of my atheism, and non-crazy.  It could happen. I figured I would not exclude the religious guys, and conduct an experiment of sorts. 

Ultimately, any guy I would get along with would come to know how adamant I am about the separation of church and state, for instance, and how that spills over into righteous indignation when people trample all over it.  It is important to me, and I would not stifle that for any guy.  I can't. 

That may put a lot of guys off, and so be it.  I am who I am.  ( Aack, aack, aack - where's me spinach?).

Comment by _Robert_ on July 16, 2014 at 7:53am

I carry vestiges of Catholicism. It's part of me. It manifests itself in my style. My Victorian home sits in a woods and the trees along the driveway are studded with gargoyles. I have stained glass arched windows installed in the living room. Its a bit gothic/steampunk with real fish fossils for kitchen tile. More like the Addams family mansion than a typical suburban ranch.

I would bring a date over, immediately the superstitious would become uneasy. I told them they could check the freezer for heads. They did not find it funny. My house had become a test.

One beautiful lady I met online walked in my house to watch a movie after dinner and immediately said "wow...this place is so cool". We had not discussed belief yet. I thought, yeah this is good. On a subsequent date, one of my Christian friends started in with some Bible stuff, and she says "please, I really do not care to hear about all that tonight, thank you. He looked horrified, but I was smiling ear to ear...we make a great team.

Comment by Davis Goodman on July 16, 2014 at 8:37pm

Rock and roll RobertPiano!!!!

Comment by Diane on July 19, 2014 at 7:16am

I agree, Davis.  I want a date like that!  The one meeting I've had so far was awkward and strange.  Maybe I should get some gargoyles. I do have a statue of Pan in the front yard, but that hasn't mattered yet.  (It matters to me - I love that statue.) 

Comment by EMil Wentzel on July 19, 2014 at 7:30am

You guys are awesome!

Robert, I would dig your house. I often wonder if I should put my 666 logo back on my phone. I used to have it as an operator logo way back. It did stir up some interesting conversations with religious folk.

Diane, I am with you on not attacking someone's beliefs, as long as they don't impose them on me.

Gallup, thanks for reminding me that the world is a beeg place :) I have hope that I will meet the right person, with the right temperament.


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