August 29, 2008

Atheist Dating: The Issue of Respect

In my prior post about atheist dating, I framed the obstacles encountered by atheists mostly as originating with the potential partners (e.g., "Eek, an atheist!"). But like many of those who commented, I've had some positive relationships with open-minded Christians. Religious believers can indeed make excellent romantic partners. Now I'd like to look at an obstacle which originates with us. Sometimes we atheists have a difficult time respecting someone who believes false things.

When I have been in relationships with Christian women who I liked in just about every way, I will admit that it has sometimes been difficult for me to get past their religious beliefs. I find myself thinking (and in some unfortunate cases, actually saying), "You seem so smart - how can you really believe that?" But this really isn't their problem; it is mine. If I can't overcome it, I am the one who may lose out.

Can you respect someone who holds religious beliefs to the point where you are willing to let go of any efforts to change the person's mind? I realize that we can respect people without respecting their beliefs, but I have sometimes found this rather challenging in the context of an intimate relationship.

For you atheists who are in long-term intimate relationships with believers, how have you dealt with this? Is religion off limits to discussion, or have you worked out some sort of agreement to disagree?

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