There are people who have sex with sheep and donkeys, so just because you’re an atheist, it doesn’t mean you can’t get laid. A few observations (and music) from two well-worn, avuncular, hirsute, older atheists who have happily married believers1.
A friend and I were having a coffee with a couple of 20-somethings who are atheists, and they were talking about the problem of finding other atheists to date. We found this amusing on a number of levels, especially in a world where Tinder exists, so we came up with some unsolicited advice for our younger friends who find dating a daunting task.
1. If they know you’re an atheist, and they’re still willing to sleep with you (which is a polite way of saying copulate), then it’s ok. Sex is always good, as long as you don’t catch an STD or end up pregnant. Even bad sex is better than most TV shows, and personally I’d prefer it to any sports game (I only watch sumo). Unless you’re more interested in post-coital conversations on metaphysical didactics, just enjoy the sex2, and don’t worry about their religious convictions.
2. Most people will tell you if religion is a problem, so don’t expect in advance that this is true for everyone. I dated a Jewish girl in college, who was upfront with me that she’d be marrying a Jewish guy (otherwise no more trust fund money), with a Taiwanese girl who would do everything but vaginal sex as that was for the eventual Chinese husband, an evangelical Christian who seemed to think that a nice blow job was a means to converting heathens, and a Roman Catholic girl who was always banging on about raising the kids as Catholic.… But it was all good times, and you knew upfront that this will not be your lifelong romance, so enjoy it while it lasts… and who knows? They might end up hating themselves for loving you3.
3. In virtually every country atheists are a minority, so if you self-select to only date atheists, you are swimming in the shallow end of the pool, so to speak. There is no reason to limit yourself, unless you risk being turned into the religious police if you live in a place where atheism is a crime. Variety is the spice of life4, and no one wants to go to an ice cream shop where there is only one flavor5.
4. If you live in a rigid community, as exist in many majority Muslim countries, or in many smaller communities in larger States (try getting away from evangelical Baptists in Texas, or from Mormons in Utah, or lunatics in Washington D.C., or Catholics in Dublin, or wankers in London…), your problem is not the dating pool, it’s with the entire community. So, either you need to consider leaving6, resign yourself to being asexual, or get a sex doll. Don’t agonize about it, do something.
5. Living with a believer is not hard. I mean how often do you really talk about religion? If they were willing to date/marry a non-believer, then they can’t be too extreme (although, beware #7 below). Having spent 30+ years married or in live-in relationships, I can tell you that most people just do not talk about their personal philosophy, the meaning of life, the quest for the eternal, or understanding of the immutable, as often as they talk about the quality of the toilet paper, what they are going to have for dinner, whose turn it is to take out the garbage or clean the closet, and what to do about the kid’s grades at school. Flatulence and cat hair on the furniture are probably more frequent topics of conversation than the ineffability of the divine7. Religion and attendance at religious festivals is a matter of routine and custom, not enlightenment and conversation. “Allah smiled upon you today? That’s nice, can you please pass me the rice, and don’t forget to take the cat to the vet tomorrow for his shots.”
6. Kids are a problem, if one side wants them indoctrinated, and the other side doesn’t. This is the only area where future conflicts are likely to arise, and it’s hard to protect the children from stress and grief at that point8. So, talk about it before you get serious (which means moving furniture into a common abode, if you can walk out with just a couple of suitcases, it was not serious). But again, this is something you can identify upfront, so it’s not a reason to eschew dating all believers ab initio.
7. Beware the overtly religious ones who are seeking out an atheist, as they feel it’s their duty to convert you – unless you’re really into mind games. I remember one Mormon girl in college9 who got very upset when her boyfriend refused to convert after she’d slept with him (again, a polite way of referencing coitus). She had understood that this was the nature of the bargain, “you get sex, and I get a Mormon husband” – she subsequently transferred to another school. When someone is expecting a conversion, and it doesn’t work out after a few months or years, the situation can get explosive and hostile. No one wants to wake up in the middle of the night and find that they are about to be circumcised involuntarily….
8. NEVER enter a relationship thinking you can change someone, and that includes their religious beliefs. I know this is a common perspective in many cultures, that women think they can “change” a man or that a man thinks he can “train” a wife (good luck with that one, Ahmad). Both are equally fruitless. Although I have a friend who claims that she “changed” her husband, while the husband confirms that he now dresses in clothes she likes and wears cologne she likes, but it’s just because she buys the clothes and cologne, and he can’t be bothered. If there is something you really don’t like, then it’s not going to change, no matter how great the sex is. Learn to identify scrubs10 early.
9. Remember, atheism is still a “bad thing” in many communities and for many people. It has more negative stereotypes that almost any social stigma. We have gay marriage in America, but the Boy Scouts can still exclude atheists and you are free to discriminate against them, as they are not a protected class. So, believers who date atheists may do so as a means of “coming out of the closet” or of experimenting with a new idea. It’s like the date who shyly asks you if you’ve ever tried bondage/spanking/jello-tub-orgies etc., just because they’re curious.… Frankly, if they ask you, unless you’re dressed like a sex god (or a sweet transvestite11), it’s because they’ve been screwing (a polite way of saying fucking) this way for ages. Experimentation: It’s sort of like dating a ladyboy, to see if you’re bi-sexual. You won’t know until you try… and only the good die young12.
10. Don’t assume your family was an example of the way all religious people behave. Many “new” atheists I’ve spoken too (often over skype, when they reach out to me to talk about something I’ve blogged about), came from conservative religious households, and they fear that all religious people are going to exhibit the same degree of intolerance, bigotry, ignorance, (choose your favorite adjective), that they saw in their own family. This is particularly true when physical abuse was present as well, and often justified in the name of the religion. Well, not all believers beat their wives and kids. And not all of them reject science over some fairy stories written down in the days when dung was considered a succulent repast, and camels were considered high-tech. Most believers are pretty wonderful human beings, just like you, so come through the door, take off your clothes, and turn on the red light13.
1 Yes, we are old enough to remember the Monkees on TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WU93NiF12qs
2 I have so many good memories with this song… fire away! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRbXMWYMNno
3 Joan Jett is as close as music gets to actually being sex. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPkTGm4RtVM
4 One for the guys, and although the Beach Boys sang it better, Roth does a better video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GMoLENWsSk
5 Women have always appreciated a wide selection, as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqFLXayD6e8
6 Hopefully, it’s not as bad a war zone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJVpihgwE18
7 Nothing you can say that the Beatles haven’t already said: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAzaOZfgf0M
8 Hard to come up with a song for this one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-0E2oFhPwQ
9 And considering my age, it’s inevitable that this song always comes to mind when I remember this story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C11MzbEcHlw
11 One of the best movies ever, as long as you’re mildly stoned and with friends who all want to sing along too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQRjhZyXJFg
12 Wonderful song, and I was dating a Catholic when it was popular. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMdOsk3fVAE
13 One of my favorite songs ever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP2t9LBeAwo