Is A Difference in Religious Beliefs An Automatic Deal-Breaker?

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How important is religion and religious practice when it comes to dating? I have to say it’s not very high on my list of priorities. When I was younger, I thought for sure that a man had to be church-going and God-fearing for me to even consider him as an option. What I quickly learned was that those who claimed to be fine, upstanding BFFs with Jesus rarely acted like they gave a damn about their fellow man... or about me. If the guys who were supposedly Christians were just as jerky as everyone else, why limit myself?

 

Church of Notre Dame

Image: Khalid Albaih via Flickr

Over time, my preference went from “must be ‘saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost!’” to “must believe in a higher power” to the current preference, “must not criticize or look down on me for whatever I believe/don’t believe.” While I don’t see myself ever being with someone who doesn’t believe in any supreme being, it’s not completely out of the picture as long as it’s understood that religion has been a part of my life since birth and will likely continue to be, even though the manifestation of my beliefs continue to evolve.

This point of view doesn’t mesh well with my family, however. We live in the Bible Belt and are a part of a predominantly African-American denomination (Church Of God In Christ), which has some pretty rigid guidelines for dating. “Be not unequally yoked” was drilled into my head from childhood, and always in the matter of salvation. If I’m a good, saved, Christian girl then my only option, supposedly, is a good, saved, Christian boy. Except… I’m in love with a great, “unsaved,” (likely) pragmatic agnostic man. (I say likely because religion is a topic that rarely comes up, save for in historical discussions.) And that is a problem. Or it will be, once it actually comes up with my parents.

I’ve already had one brief, uncomfortable conversation with my mom about my guy and his church attendance. She asked where he went to church and my response was, “Oh, umm, I’m not sure.” Of course I knew good and well that he doesn’t go to church, but I wasn’t in the mood to go there with her over lunch. She proceeded to ask if I’d invited him to our church (nope), why I hadn’t (a litany of reasons that, again, I didn’t want to discuss), and why that wasn’t one of the first things we discussed. To the last question I simply shrugged and redirected the conversation to the fact that my sandwich was missing something, but the honest answer is that I don’t care.

I don’t care how often he goes to church, if he ever goes. I don’t care if he prays or reads the Bible. I don’t care if he follows another religion. I’ve found out that doing all of those things does not make you a better person. True, I know great people who are devout Christians, Muslims, and Hindus, and I know jerks that fall into the same categories. Same is true for those who don’t follow any organized religion. Instead of what he rituals he follows, my focuse is on what kind of person he is, how he treats me, and what kind of life we can build together.

We are understanding and respectful of each other’s beliefs—and lack thereof—and we are able to have intelligent, impartial discussions about how religion affects us and the world. Neither of us thinks that Christianity or any other religion is perfect. Instead we strive to live our lives to the best of our ability, according to our moral compasses. And since our values line up more than they differ, perhaps we aren’t so unequally yoked after all.

 

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