I recently wrote about how religion is often used to exclude people of other faiths and non-faiths from their romantic relationships, and how this is an example of modern-day religious extremism. But I have much, much more to say about the love issue–something I’ve observed and experienced several times. I’m sure many other atheists (etc.) have gone through similar experiences. Before you read this entry, please take a moment to watch the following television show clip:
Unfortunately, this is a rather typical reaction when two lovers realize that one is religious and the other is not. It is an almost universal reaction when a religious family realizes their daughter or son is dating an atheist.
I don’t allow religious differences to determine who I will or will not date or fall in love with. About 10 years ago I dated a Christian girl (Pentecostal) for two years. We had a relatively perfect relationship, but it ended suddenly when the idea of marriage developed in her head. How could she marry an atheist? How could she allow the father of her children to teach them to question god’s existence?
I think I learned more about her in our breakup than I did for the entire two years we were together. But this isn’t the only time I’ve felt the sting of rejection for merely not believing in god.
The video above is especially interesting because it depicts a black American family. For reasons unknown to me, I hit it off better with black girls than I do white girls. I have livelier debates with people who are not my skin color (I’m a “white” man, whatever the hell that means). This naturally leads me to develop romantic interest in non-white women, usually black women. When my lack of god belief is revealed, any reciprocated romance is quickly rescinded.
The African American community in the US has incredibly strong bonds, held together largely by religious belief and practice; religious beliefs which are, in turn, held together by song, dance, and food. White guys like me are not excluded from such festivities. Indeed, I’ve spent many nights checking out local gospel bands because the music is fantastic! (You don’t need god to enjoy god’s music). I am treated with great respect by the black community, even when they learn that I don’t believe in god. But to date one of their daughters would condemn me exile. Such is the strength of religious beliefs. It trumps everything else, even to the detriment of romance.
Interestingly, this was not the case when I lived in Beirut. Perhaps it’s because Lebanon has a strong secular movement, I dated a Shia Muslim woman and, even though I was an open atheist, never felt shunned by her family.
From my personal experience, in the United States it appears that Christians are more likely to exclude atheists from potential romantic partners, but atheists do not exclude believers. This is merely an observation, and I am not presenting this as fact. But could it be true that religious people, particularly Christians (and to a larger extent black Christians) are more likely than atheists or non-believers to exclude someone based on their religious beliefs?
Call me old fashioned, but I always thought that love was the effect of a biological process, not a socially religious construction.