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When Atheist Lovers Collide

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"Anyone who believes in that shit is an idiot. Feeble minded and stupid."

 

Man, that is pretty harsh an assessment of those who believe in religion, isn't it? It's even harder to hear when you don't share the same attitude towards theists. Worse? What if that was your lover talking to you? These type of atheist attitudes can be difficult in a relationship with a friend, family member, or lover. I've found myself in this type of scenario, and in public no less, and it completely jived against everything I felt towards the religious. It's a broad encompassing judgement. As I have matured over the years, I have tried really hard to put the huge paintbrush of stereotyping away, and limit it to some extent when using it. The problem is that both of us grew into our atheism, and how we practiced our non belief.

 

So what do you do when your partner is content to be almost Hitchen's like in demeanor towards religious believers, and those who won't outright condemn belief?

 

 

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I varied between completely disassociating from his displays, including not following his FB feed any longer, to trying to point out that it wasn't a fair analysis to relegate religious practitioners to complete dumb ass status simply for their beliefs. There wasn't a happy medium to be found though. I really was not comfortable with his level of vitriolic condemnations of the faithful. He didn't appreciate my own diplomatic thoughts on needing to tone it down.

 

We were clashing in our disbelief.

 

It changed my view of him. It changed my valuing of his opinions in my own atheism and thoughts on humanity in general. I didn't trust him with my own opinions and thoughts on the subject any longer, and quite literally declared it to be an almost off limits subject. It can be said he probably felt the same on some level. At some point, he definitely thought I couldn't stand his views on religion and thought little of him for being so arrogant. I know he was aware of the various groups and blogs I would post to, and he certainly felt like an outsider before too long since I would rather discuss with complete strangers than the man I shared my bed with.

 

Of course, we also quit playing chess and Monopoly because of conflicts over how it should be played. He was also big on conspiracy theories, and I was always debunking his claims with Snopes and other sources. There were definitely other conflicts going on, but this was a pretty big one. It's like a Baptist being married to a Methodist. Their belief styles can be vastly different in practice which can cause some stress. Sometimes to the point that you have a difficult time even accepting that person in your life anymore.

 

I know that back in 2008, Barna had conducted a research on marriages with atheists and religious, and had concluded atheist marriages last longer. They also concluded in a 2003 study that the irreligious get a tad bit more stressed out than the religious do. Essentially, this study (https://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/119-views-on-quality-of-life-are-most-influenced-by-money-and-faith#.VO-tWSxO1pM) pointed out a few findings about how atheists and religious folk look at stress, and what things stress them out. Atheism has a large number of built in stress factors, the top reasons being public distrust of who we are, public scrutiny of our lack of belief, and religious fear mongering about how horrible we are, along with the more common stress of simply hiding our faithlessness in order to preserve our community we are dependent upon.

 

 

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Everyone deals with such stressors differently, including how to react and treat such horrible response to our unbelief. Coping mechanisms include fight or flight, pacifying and instigating, along with hiding or being open about our lack of faith. What do you do when you are in a relationship with someone like myself who is openly godless? What if you are not open about it? Do I have to censor my own relationship with you in the public eye in order to preserve your sanity from insane evangelical relatives that would put you on a published prayer chain in six different counties around you if they found out?

 

This is what unequally yoked atheists deal with. One might be an anti theist by nature, while his girlfriend might be more humanistic. How will this affect children being raised in the relationship is a huge clash factor. One parent might feel it is essential that the child stand up against indoctrination in the classroom, and the other parent might completely take the attitude of wait and see. These are serious relationship issues any atheist couple can and probably will face at some point if they are with someone who is a polar opposite in atheistic practices. Unlike religious doctrine, there isn't a set of rules to follow. There isn't a right or wrong way to be an atheist, but like other social behaviors we look for in a potential mate, one should carefully consider the situation when dating a fellow atheist.

 

Take myself for example. I'm openly atheist. I'm politically active. I have a blog spilling a lot of personal experience and information for all to see and judge. There have been a few blogs I've posted that have made a partner flinch due to the raw and uncut nature of the entries. An incredulous level of disbelief that I would put something so intimate in the public eye seemed to just flow out of this person in response. I'm not with this person anymore, and have made a point to make it very clear with others I might date that this is who I am, and I share it all.

 

I'm taking my time finding the right people to be around me. I love my godlessness, and thoroughly enjoy my humanistic tendencies. This is something I hope to find with others, especially someone I share my most intimate of life experiences with. I also want to make sure that I can handle how others display their own disbelief. Hopefully I find someone who is either just as enthusiastic as I am, or at the very least doesn't see a big deal about it and lets me continue doing what makes me happy: writing, sharing, and being active in furthering understanding of non belief. I've come to accept that this desire is a deal breaker for me, and while that might seem like an extreme attitude, it's who I am.

 

 

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I figure the sooner I warn someone about that particular trait, the better chance we have to find a happy medium....or not. Still, I know that this particular discussion might be a "well no shit, Sherlock" type of entry, but I do find a bit of arrogance about atheist based relationships. It's a given that atheists dating the religious usually leads to very stressful relationships. We also know that religiously based relationships have their own set of stripes to bear, inflicted by the doctrine they choose to follow. Yet, it is hardly discussed what type of relationship woes atheists run into. Most assume it is your typical run of the mill problems like bills, kids, family, etc.

 

Rarely do many blogs, forums, or atheist foundations speak on mismatched practices of disbelief, and I hope this changes. Evaluating the healthiness of godless relationships is very important as we see the trend of long term relationships without marriage continue to rise, along with how many identify as irreligious. There are plenty of pressures added on a couple's shoulders simply because they don't believe or ascribe to any kind of idol worship, and it's important that they have support out in a world so biased towards sanctified unions.

 

 

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Yep, relationships are hard no matter what.  They take a lot of hard work and more than a bit of luck.  By luck I mean you have to vet all the potential mates and figure out which ones are lying a bit and which ones are hiding a nightmare.  Sorry to hear you met a jerk who made antitheism into such a big deal.

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This is helpful and insightful. I have a difficult time keeping my private life private, despite being an introvert. Fortunately, I'm learning what to hold back, but I enjoy being open with others. I'm an introvert as a coping mechanism for the abuse of trust I've suffered. That having been said, I still share more than most about myself.

 

I'm a recent de-con, and I went through the anger and resentment toward the Church at having wasted my time. I was anti-theist for a while--a stage I'm thankful is over. My anti-theism clashed with my Libertarian values; do what you will, so long as you do not infringe upon the rights of others. I would not want to date or be involved with someone who was vehemently anti-theist. Likewise, I could not be with someone who finds an excuse for every little thing the Church (or Islam, or Judaism, or what have you) does in the world.

 

I've never heard a lot about atheist relationships. Of course, I am only recently a heathen, so one could say I have avoided such things. I would have thought I would at least come across it by accident. No dice. It's just not something I've heard about. As someone who will do most of their dating and romantic involvement as an atheist, I am thankful for your insights. The world of dating terrified me before my conversion to reality, and I find I'm still adrift now.

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It is a struggle for balance in any relationship. Some folks, it's a simple thing as general views about politics or simply being a neat freak that can make things difficult, and I'm finding it's attitudes towards religious topics that is determining who I share a bed with.

 

I agree, Penguin, it is soooo hard to keep a private life private. As a general rule, i don't share much with coworkers or neighbors, but I learned pretty quickly that I needed a network of people I could be myself around. Uninhibited and not censored. That's water I love to swim in, but it took awhile. Maybe over the last five or six years I really started letting the shell fall off a bit, and I'm glad I did so. De converting is a huge process and when you add dating on top of it, or a committed relationship? Whoa, puppy, watch out.

 

I think atheism, while it's been around for so long, is just starting to lose a bit of a taboo status in everyday living. In politics and community leadership it is still frowned on pretty severely though, and I think that's why there aren't the studies or support out there dealing with those of irreligious backgrounds who are needing relationship help. Hopefully, groups like Barna will continue doing their studies. Any little glimpse into our social culture is appreciated in my book.

 

Atheist relationships are a real thing, and we need insight too!

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I tell you, Mymistake, anti theism is a tough act to chew, but not all of them are so outspoken and what I personally take as assholish in nature. I just can't relate to that level of vitriol. I mean, I think Hitchens had some terrific points in his writings regarding social structure and how religion takes advantage. At the same time though, his bedside manner was atrocious. It was his way of doing things though,and his right to be that way, I just think if I didn't know how he was going into the relationship, there would be no way in hell I would last more than six months around a personality like that.

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While i agree that a pre relationship quiz on what the other believes and also letting the other know what you're into so that there won't be any potential problems, i also believe that in order for it to work, there has to be some compromise on both parts. There does have to be a level of tolerance. Obviously, this is, at times hard to do, and we know how much heads love to butt. For me, love would have to override a persons beliefs. If you find you're talking more about each others beliefs than you are talking about how much you love, adore, and respect the other person for simply who they are, then it won't work. Love must be the deciding factor, and not whether the person is a more staunch atheist than the other. Do you fight for your relationship or do you fight for your beliefs? Either way, the other person is worth the compromise or they aren't. -CC

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That is very, very true. I think difference in atheistic styles is just one more pressure on a relationship, not necessarily a deciding factor, though, it can be a deal breaker if there a lot of other issues as well.

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Thank you very much for writing this. I relate to a lot of it, in fact I was surprised by how much I relate, and I have little tears in my eyes now. 

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