Natasha Scripture — who, despite her name, isn’t very religious — wonders whether her boyfriend’s faith ought to be a dealbreaker for her:
When I first told my friends I was dating an actual Christian, they were all uppity about it: “Well, you have to respect someone’s religious views.” But when I mentioned he was abstaining from bedroom business for devout reasons, all of a sudden he was a total weirdo in their eyes (I’m patting myself on the back right now for being so open-minded). At first, it was a refreshing — almost romantic! — change from the norm, which usually involves the guy trying to seal that deal as soon as possible. But slowly, a feeling of insecurity started creeping over me…
Here’s a sliver of the type of conversation we’ve had more than once:
“Jesus used to say…” (boyfriend says)
“Please don’t quote Jesus. You know it makes me uncomfortable.” (me, all squirmy)
“I wish you would open your mind a bit more. You would be such a powerful Christian woman…” (him, being sincere)
“You’ll never convert me! I wish you would read Dawkins!” (me, in near tears)
“Jesus’s love for me is real.” (him, unwavering)
“I wish you would read Hitchens!” (me, in near tears)
“Jesus sacrificed for us. All of us.” (him, unwavering)
“You love him more than me.” (me, in tears)
“I do. I can’t help it.” (him, pious)
But nonetheless, here I am, wondering, should I just be a little less picky and let this one slide? Or is religion going to be a deal-breaker for me? The older I get, the fewer deal-breakers I want to have, because it’s not like it gets any easier.
It’s not that a relationship between a religious and non-religious can’t work. But when the other person’s god becomes a higher priority than you — when anything becomes a higher priority than you — things are bound to come to a halt before long.
I didn’t always feel that way. I used to believe it was possible to date a theist as long as we shared the same values. But as I’m getting older, the way my significant other views the world rates higher and higher on the Priority List. I almost feel dirty saying it because it seems like I’m bordering on intolerance, but while I can get along just fine with religious friends and colleagues, I would probably lose some respect for the person I’m in a relationship with if she told me she was going to church, or praying during difficult times, or reading the Bible as a source for inspiration. For some reason, that same thought doesn’t apply to the other people in my life — if they’re religious, I don’t necessary lose respect for them. It just doesn’t faze me at all. But if that mutual respect isn’t there in a relationship, can you really build from there? I don’t know if I could (though I know plenty of couples who make it work).
If you are dating someone religious and it’s very serious, how do you make it work?
Incidentally, Jesse Galef once wrote about a slightly different question on this site: “Could you date someone who could date someone who is religious?”
(Thanks to Joseph for the link!)