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What I learned from dating an atheist

Atheism dice God

Frank H H | Shutterstock

Cerith Gardiner - published on 01/05/23

Taking a leap of faith with someone who has no faith proved enlightening in the strangest of ways.

Finding yourself on the dating scene in your late 40s is a little nightmarish, to say the least. I thought being alone for a few years while raising teens single-handedly was hard. But trying to find a suitable partner to love is actually far more challenging.

I’ve always thought of myself as a very open person and I like to see where God will take me. So when I met someone online that seemed to tick a lot of boxes — in terms of where he was in life, shared interests, and being from the same country as me (which has proved more important to me as I get older) — I thought it was worth a try.

There was one major hiccup though…the man is an atheist.

Now, I thought that wouldn’t be such a problem; and I didn’t want to judge him entirely on his lack of faith. After all, we never know exactly what is going on in people’s headsand hearts.

So I met up with Damien* for a first date. He was very chatty and spoke with love about his children — big bonus points there! And when I spoke of my work as a writer for a Catholic web site, he seemed pretty impressed, although he did admit that he didn’t believe in God.

As I often do when people have strong convictions that are not my own, I let it pass. He had his reasons, which I respected, and I am firm enough in my own faith that I thought he’d respect my own choices.

I was wrong.

On our second date, I was met with questions about why I believe in “a make-believe character who lives in the clouds.” It’s a comment I’m very used to hearing, and I spoke of the joy and comfort being a Catholic has brought me over the years. I also spoke of the privilege of learning and writing about some of the Church’s holiest men and women, who are a constant source of inspiration to me.

As I continued to discuss something that was important to me, I felt a sort of disdain from my date. Almost a sense that he felt superior. That annoyed me. After all, it’s so easy to be opinionated about something you know nothing about — and I’m pretty sure his religious education was minimal.

Yet, being the slightly idiotic person that I am, I thought I’d try to get to know him a little better. We had a few meals where he teased me a little for my “fairy-like beliefs,” which actually made me feel sorry for him. Whereas I get such pleasure from living with hope and faith, his life seemed ruled by money and cynicism.

Well, as you might imagine, Damien was losing all appeal. In fact, it only took one particular incident to make me completely abandon any notion of dating him again.

I was particularly unwell with a chest infection and needed antibiotics. When I told Damien this he replied with: “Surely you don’t need antibiotics, you have your god.”

It was like having a bucket of ice poured all over me. Disappointing Damien (as he is called now) had to go. I sent him a message saying, in a nutshell, that I felt ridiculed and disrespected for my religious convictions, that I was sorry he had such disdain for my choices, and I wished him the best for the future.

His reply was to wish me well and for me to see the “evil in religion.”

Now, you might be wondering what on earth was I doing dating an atheist in the first place. There could never be any common ground.

It’s true; I was, and still am, a bit of a banana, and I’m a tad naive. I suppose I was curious, maybe a little lonely, and also just open to the possibilities.

Truthfully, the whole experience did nothing but reinforce my beliefs, and make me feel so very grateful for them. I saw someone, who, although he felt intellectually and morally superior, was empty of hope, and had no excitement for the mysteries of life and the eternal life that awaits us.

Would I date an atheist again? That would be a big “no.”

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Catholic LifestyledatingFaith
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