Sep 22 2011

Is religion a dating deal breaker?

People have all sorts of deal breakers when it comes to the people they date, and they tend to be highly subjective. Some people have no interests in nerds (an idea which has caused more than one internet kerfuffle), while I consider nerdiness a requirement. I don’t give a damn what type of music you listen to, but that can be important to someone who loves the music scene. Some people find complementary political ideas are necessary, and others thing lively debate spices up a relationship.

Bigotry is my number one deal breaker. Homophobic? Going to crack jokes about me getting in the kitchen? Think random racist comments are funny? Yeah, not attractive in any way.

My number two deal breaker? Religion.

When I’ve said that before, some people say it’s hypocritical – that discriminating against a potential romantic interest based on religion is itself a form of bigotry. But no one would consider discriminating against meat eaters or Republicans a type of bigotry. And really, religion is no different, despite the way many people in society want to treat it. It’s an idea and philosophy, and one that makes me want to bash my head in. It doesn’t exactly put me in the mood.

And I know from experience. My dating record has gone something like:

Apathetic Agnostic
Wiccan (who later turned atheist, I think because of me)
Hard core Rush Limbaugh loving Lutheran (more on that anomaly in a bit)

And if I had to put money on it, the next boyfriend will probably be an atheist too. Why? Because I’m done with dating religious people. My relationship with the Lutheran, while lasting 9 months, was one of my most stressful and unhappy relationships precisely because of the religion issue. Like most high school relationships, we only superficially got along – we were both nerds with similar tastes in movies. But I knew he didn’t agree with my religious views – that it made him feel guilty and even embarrassed for dating me – and in return it made me feel like crap. And when religion came up, we’d get in the stupidest, most unproductive fights.

And that was back when I considered myself agnostic! Now that I’m a full fledged atheist activist, I don’t know how it could work. Even if they loved the debate and their kink was being constantly told how wrong they are…no thanks. I deal enough with debunking religious ridiculousness as is – I don’t want to spend my relaxing time doing that too.

I’ve had people quip that I’m narrowing my dating pool. What if Mr. Perfect happened to be religious? I would never know if I didn’t try!

Well, I don’t believe in Mr. Perfect, so scratch that argument. And if you want to know why, ask Tim Minchin:

How about you? I know not all of you are as rabid atheists as I am. Is religion a deal breaker?


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  1. 1

    Mostly dated the nonreligious; my last relationship was with a woman who started out vaguely Christian (though not a churchgoer) and who gradually came around to agnostic and then athiest. That was a ten-year relationship that wound up being Till Death Us Do Part.

    I think nonreligious is an absolute must for me; the only requirements I’d put ahead of that are nonsmoker and nonbigot, and I could see being flexible only on the religious if I thought they’re possibly on the fence about it. Why push it? They’d be happier with shared folie a dieu anyway.

  2. 2

    As for Mr/Ms Perfect, I like a recent clip of Dan Savage I saw: that NOBODY is “the one,” but there are lots of people you can round up to one…

  3. 3
    Ace of Sevens

    Clearly, you’ve never date someone who can crack a good kitchen joke.

  4. 4

    I don’t have to date atheists. But I don’t see how I could date an actual religious person. My girlfriend is nonreligius but mostly deist. Puts no stock in dogmas or holy books but thinks “something is out there.” Minor enough disagreement that it isn’t an issue. But yeah… a girl who went to church or quoted the Bible or God forbid tried to get me to pray with her… nuh uh.

  5. 5

    Couldn’t ever data another religious person. Maybe some wishy washy deist or something. But extremely religious? I can’t respect someone like that, and you need respect before you can have trust or love.

    Maybe that makes me an asshole? I dunno.

  6. 6

    Heh, well myself, I am “religious,” though a lot of other pagans veer as far away from the word “religion” as possible. But as for my dating partner? I don’t really care, so long as they don’t try to shove what they believe down my throat. Regardless of if they don’t believe in any god, if they believe in a hateful Christian god, or if they are Bhuddist, I am perfectly content with my religion and don’t shove it down the throats of others, and I would hope they don’t either.
    I don’t care what religion they are or aren’t, as long as we keep religion to ourselves. It isn’t a complete impossibility, and there are to many other factors for me to stress about it.

    Now certainly I wouldn’t want to date someone who felt guilty about dating me, but then again I doubt there are many Christians out there that I would land in my date-ability field in the first place…

  7. 7

    The only religious girl I ever dated ended up being fired and indicted (don’t know what happened afterward) for stealing from her place of employment after I broke it off with her. She was not deeply religious, but her belief in the woo annoyed me nonetheless.

    My wife and I are both capital-A Athiests and are “spiritually” of one mind (completely unsuperstitious). We only disagree about everything else!

  8. 8

    short answer, yes. my husband was agnostic when we met (he’s pretty much full-blown atheist now), and i’d been an atheist for several years. it’s one thing you can suss out right away – i found that was my no. 1 – mostly because to me, being uber-religious narrows down one’s world view to such a point, that other prejudices just have to be there…i dunno. worked for me. i’ve been happily married for almost 15 years.

  9. 9

    I am complete on board with your #1 & #2 deal breakers. I said to my soon-to-be husband a few months into dating that if he even converted to religion, that would be it (he is agnostic/atheist leaning). I can have a relationship with someone who is religious (ie. family, friends), but I could not choose a life partner that is religious. Also, I may possibly have children one day and refuse to raise them with religion in their lives. Ugh.

  10. 10

    Deal breakers for me (back in the days before I met my wife) were religiosity (I could handle liberal non-observant believers, but that was about it), vegetarians, and teetotalers (one recovering alcoholic was enough).

  11. 11
    Hilary Mark Nelson

    I go even farther than Jen – I don’t want to date a non-skeptic. If you’re an atheist simply because you’re rebelling against the religion you were brought up in, but you haven’t reasoned your way to a non-supernatural world view, we’re not going to get along.

  12. 12
    Chris Busby

    For me, religion is typically a dealbreaker. There are a few exceptions. For example I am somewhat interested in someone who proclaims to be Mormon, but are very liberal and follow no Mormon traditions from what I’ve seen and are even often times repulsed by Mormon practices. That being said, I can’t say it would end up being one of my best relationships.

    All in all, I’ve never dated someone who wasn’t an agnostic or an atheist though.

  13. 13

    Seeing as I plan on dying a ‘lonely virgin bastard’ (direct quote from highschool friends), religion has absolutely no bearing on it.

    However, should the person come along that could change my mind, religion has soured my opinion of marriage to the point that it will never happen between me and anyone else.

  14. 14

    Thank goodness my girlfriend of now over 7 years didn’t consider it a deal breaker at first, since I started out as a lukewarm “liberal” catholic. She didn’t pressure me and now I’m a “rabid” atheist of my own accord. :-)

  15. 15
    Michael H

    My wife is Christian and even goes to church most weekends while I’m a pretty hardcore atheist. It’s been an issue a few times but honestly, I’m a lot more outspoken about my non-religion than she has ever been about her religion. It’s a topic that I have to tip toe around with her because I can be pretty scathing in my criticism about religion in general and I’ve hurt her feelings in the past. This is the 2nd marriage for both of us and we have no plans to have kids together (I’ve had a vasectomy) so it’s something that I can grin and bear because I care a lot about the person behind those beliefs.

    Having said that, I don’t think it’s something I’d care to repeat if I’m ever back on the market again.

  16. 16

    I woke up to reality at 38!! Thanks to my daughter and the internet I finally learned! So, my atheist boyfriend and I broke up about 2 mos ago and I’m really pondering that question! I’m 43 now & boyfriends prior to him… I really didn’t consider religion as a factor.(most people aren’t religious but they believe, just in case. ugh…) Now I’m extremely passionate about the problems with religion. I’m attracted to someone and afraid he’s gonna turn out to be catholic and that will be a deal breaker! I feel I should give people a chance and hope to educate blah de blah nobody ever listens to me so.. and besides, Love Stinks anyway. fuckit

  17. 17

    Like with everything, there’s an endurance threshold. If we keep our beliefs to ourselves, everything fine. The moment she starts preaching at me or asking me to go to church with her we have a problem.

    I don’t have a problem if she likes heavy metal. I have a problem if she makes me go to metal concerts regularly and make me listen all her albums and won’t stop talking about this or that metal group.

  18. 18

    At another point in my life I would have said religion was a dealbreaker too. Even a non-skeptic might have been enough to scotch the deal. But I can’t say that now. My longest girlfriend believed in astrology, tarot, and even some crapola like feng shui. Better yet — not only did she believe in psychics, she herself had worked as a professional psychic for much of her 20s.

    Bizarrely enough, it wasn’t really a problem with the relationship. We both instinctively respected each other’s beliefs; specifically, we each understood that the other’s position was a strongly-held one, and we never made any attempt to change the other person’s beliefs. Yes, it did affect my ability to respect her intellectually at first, but really in other respects she was a normal and intelligent person, and so I eventually learned not to be so quick to generalize.

    People are large and complex beings. No single aspect truly defines them all.

    (And yes, she did embarrass me once or twice with credulous statements made in front of friends/co-workers, but then I’m sure I embarrassed her a couple of time with the holes in the elbows of some of my sweaters.)

  19. 19

    I’ve come to that conclusion as well. My last girlfriend was a catholic. While I actually suppressed my beliefs around here, only reacting when she talked about religious things, I made her feel like she couldn’t be herself (never mind that I was suppressing a significant identity of my own). The problem is that religious beliefs play such a large role in many people’s lives that sooner or later it comes to head.

    There’s also the problem that religious people think they should be able to spout about religious crap, but we aren’t allowed to say anything back.

    I wish I knew more female atheists

  20. 20
    Daniel Schealler

    As always: It depends.

    My partner of three years is Muslim, and we’re committed long-term. And also very happy together.

    But y’see – ‘Muslim’ is like ‘Christian’ or ‘Religious’. They’re vague enough terms that the can encompass anything.

    My partner self-identified as Muslim, so I respect her label and use it accordingly.

    But by my understanding of these labels mean she barely qualifies as a deist, let alone a theist, and let alone a Muslim.

    But if things were different? In the past I have turned down… Actually, no. ‘Turned down’ is the wrong word. Hmm…

    You know that thing where two people get together who’re into each other, and they spend a little bit of time together and give of mutual ‘I’m interested’ flirtation signals without actually saying anything overt? The mating-dance thing that leads up to the first date request or in the case of people who are more daring/better looking than me, the first sexual proposition?

    That thing. I’ve been in that zone of a potential relationships a couple of times with a girl I quite liked who turned out to be very religious (once Christian, once Muslim) only to make the decision not to jump in on grounds of religion being a… I want to say ‘barrier to entry (har har)’ but that implies its a sex thing, which it isn’t. It’s a barrier to just getting along peaceably and having a long-term potential to a relationship.

    Then again, I’m neither promiscuous nor a serial monogamist. I have no problems with either position, it’ just that I like my relationships to be long-term… Mainly because I find the start of relationships agonizing and nerve wracking. I want to get past that into the mellow and laid back long-term-couple zone so I can actually start enjoying the relationship.

    It’s never about just one thing.

    But yes – I think religion can be a component in a deal breaker… But it depends on what ‘religion’ is being used to mean in that context.

  21. 21

    I’m atheist, though not as rabid as I was ~10 years ago.

    My wife is religious: raised Southern Baptist… now lukewarm sort of maybe Methodist, hasn’t been to church (other than when we visit her family) since 2003.

    It hasn’t been a problem and has actually probably been good for me, in that it probably helped quench my overly rabid atheist fire and taught me to see beyond the binary question of “do you agree with me, metaphysically speaking?”

    We’ve had a lot of frank conversations about how to raise our daughter, and things are going well. Neither of us shy away from talking about her beliefs or my lack of belief. We are both passionately in favor of things like the separation of church and state, the ridiculous nature of people who wear their metaphysics on their sleeves, and the importance of good science (she’s a researcher and college professor) in education.

    In sum, neither her religion nor my atheism are deal breakers for each other because we’re not shit heads about it to each other and because we both believe that people who make the question of metaphysics their only driving force are missing out on so much else.

  22. 22

    Yes. I’m an atheist, and I only date reality-based individuals. And I’ve been extremely happy with the results. :-)

  23. 23

    I know so many atheists who are in a relationship with religious people. Those atheists always seem to be men, and they always seem to be unhappy. Just my personal anecdotal evidence.

    I know my last relationship with a “spiritual” person (sorta Wiccan) left me with a determination not to date religious people ever again. Since then, I’ve been dating ever more rational people. My current partner just has a slight affinity for the Naturalistic fallacy, though she’s not interested in either the skeptical or atheist communities (she’s more apatheistic in many ways.)

  24. 24
    Robin Raianiemi

    My future husband is quite religious. Catholic, actually.

    And we love each other, despite our differences. We can put this aside and focus on what really matters; our love for each other, in the here and now.

    Do we argue about religion? You bet!

    Are we going to change each other’s minds. No way.

    But for us, there are more important issues, more pressing concerns. Like what we’re going to have for dinner, or which movie we’re going out to see this weekend.

    So, for us, obviously, religion (or lack thereof) is no boundary to love. And let’s face it, the potential pool of fish in the sea is greatly reduced if we only include people who think and feel exactly like us in every way.

    So yes, I’ll fall in love with a Catholic.

    Now, it’d be a different story if a potential mate was, say, a Republican…

  25. 25

    Have you discussed children, and how they will be raised? This seems to be the biggest hassle between atheist/believer marriages, especially with Catholics.

    Of course, if you’re not planning children (and I don’t want to assume that you are), that’s not going to cause future friction.

  26. 26
    Evil Mani Mani

    Religion is absolutely a dealbreaker for me. At this point I consider religiosity to be an indicator of intense credulousness and incuriousness, both of which are totally untenable.

  27. 27
    Sophie Lagacé

    Bigotry and smoking are/were deal-breakers for me (I’ve been with the same wonderful man for 17 years, married 15, so this is rather theoretical at this point). Religion, as several people have pointed out above, encompasses a multitude of sins (hee) so the answer is “It depends.”

    Converts from any faith to any other faith were deal-breakers when I was on the dating scene, because in my experience they have a deep need to convert others to in order to justify their choices. In fact, I don’t even have serious friendships with converts because sooner or later, they always ruin it with proselytizing.

    Moderate, liberal religion was not an obstacle, though to be honest I have so many disagreements with the basic tenets of some faiths (e.g., Islam, Mormonism), that a romantic match would have been very unlikely, but I did have some friends among their moderate ranks.

    In fact, I was nominally a liberal catholic when my husband and I first met (he was already an atheist), and these days I gravitate toward pantheism in the vein of Harold Morowitz (i.e., functionally defined as atheist under Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ definitions.)

  28. 28

    I was going to reply to the article, but after your response, mine would be redundant.

  29. 29

    I could probably deal with someone who said they were “spiritual” like believing in some high power as long as they weren’t too attached to it. I could definitely never date anyone who is an every Sunday church goer. It would irritate me to no end and I couldn’t raise children that way.

  30. 30

    this strikes me as a little on the simple minded side…

    I’ve met atheists who live thoughtless, unexamined lives and I’ve met believers who are, aside from their compartmentalized “woo woo” beliefs, are incredibly intelligent, critical thinkers

  31. 31
    Evil Mani Mani

    perhaps. but as Jen said via Tim Minchin, above, even if I’m missing out on one good match, it’s not like that’s the only one.

  32. 32

    It depends upon the religion. Despite being an atheist, I’m still Jewish. I like the holidays and some of the traditions. Also, I’ve been told by a Rabbi that being a Jew has nothing to do with any god. Really, it’s just another social club. The trick is finding a synagogue that isn’t too misogynistic.

    So I could date a Jew without issue, with some exceptions. I don’t think I’d want to date a Chabadnik, for example.

    I won’t date a Christian. Anyone who believes that I’ll be damned for not believing a certain way is right out.

    I don’t know about other religions.

  33. 33

    I completely agree with you, Jen. A friend and I clearly had some chemistry going on, but I saw that if we pushed through with a ‘ship, we’d just have problems in the long run with our difference of beliefs: she’s abstinent, and I’m sexually liberal, and she’s religious, and I’m not.

    I worry that it might continue to be a problem for me when I get older though–especially because I live in a predominantly Catholic country.

  34. 34

    I never thought it would be an issue… then I dated a devout Catholic cheater who, when she was uncovered, said she would “pray for our relationship”. Yyyyyyyyeah. Since when was religion an excuse to do fuck all about your self-control?

    Not doing _that_ again.

  35. 35

    Dating? No. It would however keep me from letting the relationship get serious. Casual sex and friendship are just fine but I have no desire to deal with all the religious baggage.

  36. 36

    Didn’t used to think too much of it, although I had always a preference for people who were smart (subjectively, I think), and hence by default steered towards agnostic at worst.

    Then I met my wife, but religion wasn’t such a big topic to begin with. However, we married, had kids, and we’re drifting in two opposite directions; she into church-life, me into profound atheism. Yeah, we rarely talk religion. And yeah, there’s many parts of my life which is outright uncomfortable, however we do think of the kids the most and just stay clear of the subject (unless it gets a bit too far; my father-in-law is a fundie creationist, and *all* my extended family are deeply religious)

    My wife is a smart one, though, and don’t fall into too many of the religious traps, and on a good day I’d say she’s a Christian agnostic (when pressed), but she still professes all the usual canards. As long as my kids grow up with a skeptic mindset I’m hoping it will turn out alright. Well, at least the kids will. :)

  37. 37

    It has been for me for awhile. I’ve since added NOT TOTALLY INSANE to my list of prereqs, for any sort of relationship.

  38. 38

    I think being a nonsmoker takes slight precidence over the religion question but the religion question is essential enough for me to be a dealbreaker. I’m devout enough in my faith (Christianity) that I would want a partner who is of the same mind as I am. I have friends with mixed marriages (atheist/Catholic), (Christian/Hindu), and (Catholic/Jewish) and I’m glad they can make it work. It’s too big a deal for me though.

    As far as friendship, I’m friends with pretty much anyone who can/will put up with me and isn’t completely psychotic. (Restraining orders are a pain to obtain.)

  39. 39
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    If they are willing to discuss the topic of religion, and to do so without assuming that their religion is both correct and the paragon of morality and correctivity, then I see no problem.

    The only problem is that I’ve yet to run into a religious person who actually does both of these — usually it’s the latter followed by the former, or just the former, and either case is bad in any relationship because if our religious affiliations are going to conflict then that needs to be worked out like anything else, not avoid the subject entirely.

  40. 40

    Unificationism is a dealbreaker for me while I consider other religions to just be massive turnoffs. :P

  41. 41

    My girlfriend has more of a problem that I don’t believe in a soul than that I don’t believe in god.

  42. 42
    Silent Bob

    … no one would consider discriminating against meat eaters or Republicans a type of bigotry.

    Um… I would.

    In what way is that not bigotry?

    If the potential partner was a PETA activist or political activist, it might be different. But I think for most people food choices and political leanings are rather peripheral to what makes for a good relationship. Surely such things as personality, sense of humor, hobbies and interests, sexual compatibility, etc. are much more important.

    Frankly, if someone discounted me because of my diet or voting history I would consider that little different to writing me off because of my skin color.

    Anyone else feel the same way, or is it just me?

  43. 43
    Daniel Fincke

    Is religion a dating deal breaker? Richard Wade of the Friendly Atheist wisely says Yes.

  44. 44

    For me, it’s not so much what a person believes now as the way they think. If someone’s hardcore religious they’re not likely to be too open to reasoned argument, I guess, but there’s a big difference between someone who is open-minded and can be shown the truth and someone who happens to be atheist but isn’t at all intellectually rigorous and still believes in astrology and so on.

    The main reason for this is because it’s the standard I think they should hold me to as well – I’m very ignorant about a lot of things, and probably hold a lot of mistaken views about others. But I’d hope that I’d be reasonable and intelligent enough to be able to listen to and understand the arguments that someone presented. It’s unreasonable to expect someone who knows everything you know, or who will always agree with you – all you can really expect is intellectual integrity.

    This really only applies to a serious relationship, one in which I could see a long future and a high probability of children. I’m still in my early 20s so I have no problem dating someone who doesn’t fit such strict criteria as sort of a medium-term fling right now.

  45. 45
    A Gould

    I think it can be a problem, but not necessarily.

    My wife is Lutheran, I’m agressively agnostic (which I define as “I don’t think it matters, since any higher power is obviously either ignoring us or so subtle that we can’t tell”). Mutual respect (and a bit of covering around the less-understanding relatives on both sides) goes a long way. Best example I can give is our daughter. When baptism time came around, we each picked a godparent. She picked her sister (who’s very gung-ho religion). I picked a close friend who’s a die-hard athiest. We figure, they’re both trustworthy, and our daughter will be exposed to all views and can make up her own mind.

    Agreed on the bad jokes, although when my wife was pregnant, making supper after kicking off her sandals, certain jokes just spring to the mind…

  46. 46

    I don’t necessarily like the idea of religion being a deal-breaker, but I think it is realistically. I don’t care much about identity, but I have problems with dogma and faith–they’re both kinda incompatible with my tendency toward contrarianism. Arguing and philosophical discussion are big parts of my relationships–someone who routinely appealed to faith or received dogma as a source of information about the world/how to live would never work out.

  47. 47
    J D

    I honestly think “religion” is too broad a label to hang a dealbreaker on, myself. I’m a mostly-agnostic practicing Buddhist (which, ironically, I got into in relatively sane way–my psychiatrist recommended meditation as part of a panoply of behavioral therapy, and it seemed to work well), my wife is a devout Jew. Nonetheless, religion isn’t a big enough issue on the day-to-day to get in the way of our lives–we don’t really discuss it except in a context of scheduling activities.

    I think there are potentially positive aspects of religious practice (ritual, community, etc.) that don’t have anything to do with the negative aspects of some religious folk (bigotry, outlandish woo, etc.); thus, I don’t think even if I go over to complete atheism that I will mind terribly the kind of believer who believes in a mostly-Deist God who doesn’t interfere.

    I would have a problem with a belief structure that insisted I was wrong or damned for not believing, but there are a plethora of structures that don’t have that bug.

  48. 48
    Bruce Gorton

    For me – yes. It isn’t a friendship deal breaker, but I wouldn’t be willing to form a long term commitment across the religious divide.

    The main reason is that even though I like arguing if potential partner X and I had children I would much rather not raise them religious. I also find a lot of the fuzzy-happy sort of Christianity to be downright immoral.

    EG: Requiring people to forgive, turn the other cheek, the idea that one shouldn’t complain in an abusive working relationship, don’t worry about the future etc…

    These are “moral” prescriptions designed to strip power from the weak and responsibility from the strong.

    I am one of those rare atheists who thinks Jesus was an evil moron who only really comes across as a good guy because every stupid thing he does or says is greeted with high compliments.

    His are not morals I would want to raise a child with. And I kind of feel the same way about other religions.

  49. 49
    Luke Edwards

    I just had a date recently at which the end she asked me: “Are you an Aquarius.” The deal had been broke at that point.

  50. 50
    Jenn K

    I am an atheist blogger and my significant other believes in a supernatural deity. He is not particularly religious (he doesn’t believe in a particular organized dogma), but he believes in a god-ish kind of being and an afterlife. We immediately came out with our opposing beliefs when we first started dating five years ago…and it really works for us. He supports my desire to have my atheist voice heard and I support his desire to have a quiet, personal belief in the supernatural. We debate passionately and respectfully with each other about religious beliefs and non-beliefs. I always thought religion would be a deal-breaker for me (especially since I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and wanted to stay away from religious fanatics), but it’s no longer the case. Then again, he isn’t uber-religious…and that’s probably why we work together.

  51. 51

    Any kind of serious theistic religion is a dealbreaker for any kind of romantic involvement for me. It’s not 100% a rational decision–I’m sure there are a handful of religious people out there who are such a good fit otherwise that it would be totally worth it–but the idea of dealing with religion at a personal level on a regular basis just is too much of a turn off to deal with, frankly.

    A more hard-and-fast, no apologies dealbreaker is them having any problem with me being a pretty serious atheist. I rant about religion, I have strong opinions about it… and those are major parts of who I am. If I had to hold that in to maintain peace, it would be incredibly frustrating. And you don’t have to be religious to have a problem with my strong atheism–my ex was at most vaguely spiritual, and he “didn’t get why I had to make such a big deal about religion all the time”. It drove me NUTS.

  52. 52
    John-Henry Beck

    Religion would be a deal-breaker for me. I seriously doubt I could maintain a long-term relationship with a woman who wasn’t a skeptic, really. I might be wrong, but I don’t think I could respect a non-skeptical woman enough to maintain such a relationship.

    There are other things I couldn’t tolerate. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t put up with smoking either, for example.

  53. 53

    Total deal breaker for me. I just ended my account at Match.com because they kept sending me “matches” who were “spiritual but not religious”, which is just a way of saying “I believe in nonsense but not the kind of nonsense you think.”

  54. 54
    Reverse Polarity

    I’d classify it as a deal-breaker on a sliding scale.

    (1) An atheist, of course, gets major bonus points. Move this person to the front of the line.

    (2) An agnostic is worth considering. My current partner of 20+ years is agnostic. He’s never been quite willing to let go of it completely, but he has no strong religious views and is totally okay with my atheism, and acknowledges that my view may be correct. That’s close enough for me.

    (3) A lazy, waffling, or skeptical religionist is maybe worth considering, particularly if they are relatively young. This category of religionist is what I consider a potential future atheist, and therefore potential dating material. Most people are brought up with some sort of religious belief, and it can take some time and some convincing to get them over to the atheist camp.

    (4) Anyone with strong religious beliefs, however, is totally a deal-breaker. If they sincerely believe in a sky-grandpa, then there is no way to talk logically about the subject. This is too great of an incompatibility to set aside or try to ignore. I don’t get my jollies arguing with people over something that there is no middle ground. I don’t see how I could possibly maintain a long term intimate relationship with anyone with strong religious beliefs. Next!

  55. 55

    do you have the link? I can’t find it and I would like to see it.

  56. 56
    Jimmy Boy

    Glad it wasn’t a deal breaker for my missus: I was very devout when we met – and then slowly evolved to hard core atheism…

    It does happen: sincerity is sincerity after all.

  57. 57

    How are discounting someone based on diet or voting history the is the same as discounting based on skin color? If I don’t want to date someone who is on a junk food diet because that would result in me eating the same unhealthy food, and also tells me that they are not taking care of themselves and or a vegetarian because it is very impractical for me, does that make me a bigot? I don’t think so! With that logic picking your partner has nothing to do with practicality and and accordingly if you don’t date long distance then you are a bigot too because you are discriminating.
    The same with voting history, that tells a lot about people’s believes, point of views and ways of lives and I think it’s one of the most, if not the most, important factor in a good relationship.

  58. 58
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Frankly, if someone discounted me because of my diet or voting history I would consider that little different to writing me off because of my skin color.

    Anyone else feel the same way, or is it just me?

    Skin color is something that just happened to you. Voting patterns and (non-health-based) diet restrictions are choices that reflect either the values a person professes or a person’s failure to adhere to the values they profess. Slight difference.

  59. 59
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Jen: Is number 3 “chelicerae?”

  60. 60

    In an ideal world my partner would be a skeptic and a full fledged Atheist… But being gay and all, it already reduced my dating pool to next to nothing, and I’d like to think that I have a dating pool that actually exists somewhere! Hence, I think I’d be happy with an agnostic or someone who just carries a and believes in a deity but is not seriously practicing any religion. Having said that, not believing in evolution is an absolute deal breaker because at the end of the day I need ro respect that person and I cannot respect someone who dismisses all this scientific evidence and opts for some fairy tale. I don’t understand how some people say they love the person that exist behind those believes because to me what you believe makes you and you cannot separate the two.

  61. 61

    I would date a religious person so long as they didn’t take it at all seriously and were only culurally apathetically religiou. And I bet it would still grate on me.

  62. 62
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    As for me…I guess I can imagine situations where it wouldn’t be, but most of the time I’d really prefer to avoid being in a relationship with anyone who’s emotionally invested in an empirically, logically, or morally defective worldview. That includes religious people, bigots, Republicans, Big-L Libertarians, etc.

    And I now refuse to even pretend to have a friendship with anyone who is happy to babble on about their theological or New-Agey views as if those were empirical facts in evidence, but compares me unfavorably to Fred Phelps for pointing out that, um, they aren’t. Or answering the question “what other explanation could there be?” Or pointing out that human memories are, um, kinda demonstrated to be fallible and influenced by expectations. Or…


  63. 63

    When I met my long-term boyfriend 7 years ago I was still catholic and believed in god. Since he attended a catholic school (just like I did) and he was a baptized catholic I just assumed he was a believer as well. So it came as kind of a shock to me when I found out about two years later (the religion/believe issue had never came up between us explicitely before, I mean we were 17 and had more important things to do) that he called himself an agnostic. I even had to google the term because I didn’t know what it meant. Still, I never considered breaking up with him because of that.
    On the contrary, it contributed to starting my thinking process. Over the following years I became a convinced and happy atheist and a skeptic. I shared my thoughts with my boyfriend but he wasn’t (and still isn’t) that interested in the religion topic. For him the situation is settled, although now he calls himself atheist, too. He still hasn’t formally left the church, like I did. Of course, I wish he would. But it’s still no reason for me to even consider breaking up.
    Today, if I had to start dating again, I would probably consider religion a deal breaker, just as well as being a non-skeptic in general. Because today, being a skeptic is a huge and important part of my identity and I want to be able to talk to my partner about things that are important to me.

  64. 64

    I think that now religious views would be a deal breaker. My ex-wife was nominally Catholic, although she was about as lapsed as possible.

    Right now I’m giving the whole dating thing a miss and trying out being single. For me it’s working well enough, although it’s not all roses.

    BTW, I love that Tim Minchin song. First time I heard it I realised that it pretty much summed up how I felt about relationships and ‘soul mates’. Always nice to find out you’re not the only one.

  65. 65
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    Probably would be, but not of my own concern. It might be hard to find a religious person who is also willing to date a transgender.

    If I did, it wouldn’t immediately be a deal-breaker. Only by their other actions would I consider religion to be a deal-breaker. If they were religious, but not of the sort to condemn others, then that would be okay. If they judged anyone else for imagined slights and sins and flaws, then I’d have a pretty big problem with them.

  66. 66
    John Morales

    Robin, FWIW: my wife is a church-going Catholic, I’m an atheist.

    This was the case when we first shacked-up (she was 17, I was 19) and is still the case now.

    We married (church ceremony) eight years later.

    No children (by choice).

    Well over 30 years later, we’re still in love, still best friends and still married.

    OK, this is anecdotal — but it shows it can work.

  67. 67

    Religion is not what I’d specify as a deal breaker. Rationality is what I’d specify as a deal breaker! I’d no more date someone that believed in god than I would someone who believes in Odin/santa/invisible pink unicorns.

  68. 68

    Most religions would probably be a dealbreaker for me, yes. Skepticism too, although that’s slightly less.

    For a long term relationship (I’m not currently aiming for anything else), there’s just way too many mines down that path. Sermons and stuff like that make my head explode, and even if we kept our religious events in a lead-lined case, so many life decisions can turn on something like that. Like raising the kids.

    It prevents the “all sharing” part I consider to be vital to a relationship. Could such a relationship work out? Yes. Would I want to bet this much irretrievable time on it, no.

    For me, religion/skepticism ties for me with geekiness right at the top.

  69. 69

    Yep, religion is a deal-breaker for me, and so is a bunch of key political things – I just can’t be a property of anyone who fights against me in public while claims to love me in personal life. That’s just hypocritical. If we already disagree and thus want to see each other dead, that’s no romantic opportunity.

  70. 70
    T.X. Watson

    I think I probably couldn’t date a Platonist, which rules out most religious believers. I could see myself possibly dating a small subset of Buddhists or Hindus, because I’ve seen manifestations of those traditions that really do boil down to different ways of saying the same thing: “We don’t, and can’t, know anything with 100% certainty, but that doesn’t make our experiences meaningless.”

    I guess what I mean is, some of the abstract, academic theology we’re so often accused of ignoring doesn’t really bother me, and while I wouldn’t promote it myself, I can imagine it being little enough strain on a relationship that I wouldn’t rule someone out on that basis.

    But any sort of belief in the deep-down essential thingness of stuff is a fairly vivid red flag for me.

  71. 71
    Fernando (from Brazil)

    (Sorry ’bout my english skills) I agree with U Jen. I’m atheist and recently I started a love affair with the daughter of an evangelical church pastor. Of course it did not last two months, but was not my fault, ’cause I’m very tolerant, but she was ashamed to go out with me. I’m a lawyer, financially stable, well known in my town. Now she’s with a boy from her church that had already been arrested for theft and drug trafficking, and they go out.

  72. 72
    Robin Raianiemi

    For us, the question of children is irrelevant. Even if we wanted them (which we don’t), we’re a bit long in the tooth to consider adoption. Having our own children is impossible, since I’m a male-to-female transsexual.

    One of the things that has definitely improved both of our lives is the fact that our friends are about evenly divided on the believer/unbeliever side of the equation. Stereotypes that both sides had about the other seems, at least in our circle of friends, to be dashed away.

  73. 73
    Shplane, Spess Alium


    It’s kind of hard to have a real relationship with someone you think is a moron.

  74. 74

    For me it’d not be a major deal breaker unless they were the preachy type, anyone else would be a fun deprogramming challenge. I may never get a second date but it could be an intellectually stimulating first one. The chances are that people who aren’t intellectually curious won’t seem attractive to me in the first place though.

    That said I’ve never been on any kind of date or indeed done anything remotely intimate with another human being (in fact the closest I’ve ever come to sex was the time I was kicked in the bollocks by a cow) so my relationship level is still stuck on 0xp.

  75. 75
    Gus Snarp

    My first instinctual answer was:

    Yes, religion would be a deal breaker if I was still dating. When I was young and in flux it didn’t matter much, but as I matured and my relationships matured, it became very important. When I first started dating my wife I made sure it came up in conversation early so I knew where she stood. I still remember the day, we were outside the Dairy Queen at the beach…

    Then I realize that that’s not actually quite how it happened. I do remember bringing up religion somewhat intentionally outside the Dairy Queen at the beach early in our relationship, but I don’t think it was meant as a litmus test. I was greatly pleased to find she was not religious, it encouraged me to pursue the relationship, and I cannot imagine having a relationship like this with a religious person. I certainly can’t imagine raising my kids with someone who was not just as horrified as I was by the religious book in the suggested summer reading list at his public school. She’s a bit more of the “agnostic” mold than I, and perhaps a bit more susceptible to woo (but only a very little and only until she gets the full scoop), so we’re different, but just when I think I’m becoming more crotchet in my atheism and we’re probably on different wavelengths on it, she’ll say something that really slams religion in a way that reassures me completely. And I like that a lot.

    We’re also different politically. She thinks it was idiotic to vote for Nader in 2000. I voted for Nader in 2000. She thinks Obama is doing the best he can. I think he’s made colossal blunders and is a great disappointment. It’s fine to have different opinions on many subjects. But the difference between her agnosticism and my atheism, or my being slightly to the left of her politically is one thing, I can’t imagine a lifetime relationship or raising kids with someone who was a church going believer, or a libertarian, or who voted for W.

    And I like that Dan Savage sentiment at the top about “rounding to one”. I’m quite convinced that what most people call love is a very temporary hormonal reaction that one should not found a relationship on and that it’s foolish to get into a long term relationship with someone based solely on that when you just don’t feel compatible otherwise. My wife and I love each other, and we say it often. But she likes to remind me that her grandmother always told her it’s more important to like someone. And we really like each other. That’s my way of saying I don’t think you’re missing out on anyone by setting a deal breaker on character and behavioral traits that are just grossly incompatible with you in areas you find very important. So if I was dating I would go with Jen’s deal breakers and add smoking. Smoking is a deal breaker for sure.

  76. 76
    Gus Snarp

    That’s a great quote. Also, threaded comments? Does PZ have this too? I thought it was some kind of abomination?

  77. 77

    I share the sentiment many here have expressed already: when I was younger it wasn’t that much of an issue (though I stopped believing in a god at age 14 and my long-term high school boyfriend eventually became an atheist, partly through my influence), but today it would be an absolute dealbreaker. My current boyfriend’s family is religious (as is mine) and that alone will probably cause issues in the long run, but the main reason I love him and we’ve worked for years is because we’re intellectual equals, something I don’t see happening with a non-sceptic.

    As for the “the one” argument, I think Coke Talk said it best: “At moments like these, I want to drive up to Forest Lawn, find Walt Disney’s grave, dig up whatever part of him wasn’t cryogenically frozen, and bitch-slap him for infecting generations of American women with something I like to call “Prince Charming disease.””

    (from this post: http://www.dearcoketalk.com/post/3312122666/on-prince-charming-disease)

  78. 78

    Religion would be a deal breaker for me, but I’m so glad my fiance is atheist as well. It’s just one less thing to argue about.

  79. 79

    Certain types of religion are deal breakers, others I can live with. I have many friends who self-describe themselves as Christian, but their behavior is almost indistinguishable from a secular humanist’s behavior. When they ask themselves the question, “Is X moral?” they answer it the same way I would: by looking at the available evidence and weighing pros and cons. Sometimes they go back and try to add a little post hoc Biblical rationalization, but usually they do not bother. Their personal definition for God/Jesus is something vague and incomprehensible, like “God is a force of love in the universe.” Their God is so vague and incomprehensible that it has no appreciable effect on their behavior. Scrape off the God-gilding and you’ll find a humanist underneath.

    I could date the kind of religious person that religious fundamentalists hate, and for the same reason that fundamentalists hate them: That kind of religious belief can easily turn into agnosticism or atheism. It certainly did for me.

    If a person tries to answer the question, “Is X moral?” by going straight to a holy book or priest, that is an instant deal breaker. If a person holds a religious belief despite all evidence saying that belief is false (eg Creationism) that is an instant deal breaker.

  80. 80

    Being a rather repellent guy with, well, nothing going for him in the dating department, I kind of feel weird even having any deal breakers. I feel like I ought to be grateful for anybody I can get.
    That said, heavy religiosity is one of mine. Having dated an older woman who -among many other problems- wanted me to go to church with her, cited the bible in arguments, and would ask me after sex how I could not believe in god after experiencing something like that, I know I’d rather be single and happy than getting some and annoyed.
    Bigotry and egregious ignorance are my only other deal breakers.

  81. 81
    Gregory in Seattle

    I have a number of criteria: must be a non-smoker, drink little if at all, have compatible social and political views, be able to talk about more than the band-of-the-day and the latest celebrity scandal. Religion comes pretty low on that list, but I would be unlikely to go out with anyone who had strong religious tendencies. I have no problem expressing why I’m an atheist, and the effect I can have on True Believers is not pretty.

  82. 82

    It’s surprisingly not a deal breaker in my book. My godparents had a rough time of it, a Hindu who married a Catholic (hence the reason why a Hindu kid has a godmother…) and neither made the other convert. And to me they were the most loving people on earth. It’s part of the reason I have a solid background in Christianity and Hinduism. And also kind of the reason why I was a choir boy despite being Hindu at the time. (Yeah… it was very confusing to people. But to their credit no one tried to convert me)

    It depends on the people involved, for many people the colour of my skin has been a deal breaker. The belief that I am a muslim has also been a point of contention (What the hell! TAMIL! We are the other kind of suicide bomber! We were doing it before it was cool! And we are snappier dressers and dance better than islamic terrorists!)

    It’s irritating when something you cannot change comes up as a fault. It’s fine for women, men will always try and hit on you but for a guy after the first few times it does get highly depressing. You do feel that there is something inherently wrong with you. If religion is an issue for you make it clear on day one, and make it clear that it specifically is.

    But remember it works both ways, people have refused to date me on the basis of my lack of faith and indeed on other deal breakers (I have been balding since I was 17 and I am not white… You would be surprised with how many people have issues with race and the lack of hair on your head still.)

  83. 83

    That’s definitely important to me. My husband I are both atheist. In the past, I’ve dated people who were religious before, and although they were nice most of the time, I just can’t get past the time that if we ever get married and have kides, I don’t want my kids to get brainwashed by religion, and that was one of my biggest issue

  84. 84
    P Smith

    For me, it all boils down to this:

    Why waste time with someone who doesn’t respect you, never mind your views? Why date someone who sees you as in need of “correction” and “inferior”?

    Getting involved with a rabidly religious type is no different than getting involved with someone who beats you: abuse is abuse, whether it’s physical, mental or emotional. What person would knowingly get involved with a violent abuser? Getting involved with a theist is often no different.

    I thought dating was bad at home in Canada, with the difficulty in meeting atheist women, but living overseas turned out to be worse. I didn’t know before I went to South Korea that half of them are christians, and the christians will date foreigners, but the buddhists, animists, agnostics and others tend to be a little xenophobic and rarely do.

    Korean christians are either catholics or baptists, and all are hardcore nutbags. They believe the “10/40 window” crap, and those were the idiots who got themselves killed in Afghanistan and Indonesia by proselytizing to muslims.

    Taiwan hasn’t been much better. Most here are daoists and the few who are christians or other things do it for convenience, not belief (e.g. they want a church wedding) so religion is never an annoyance except for the fireworks at Chinese New Year. But Taiwanese women are boring, it’s all about “doing what’s expected of them” rather than fulfilling their own ambitions, and that includes the husband’s “role” and what their society would expect of me. I want someone who is her own person with her own ideas.

    I’ve dated Filipinas here and in the Philippines because they’re lively, fun and have lots to talk about, but forget long term – they all expect men to become catholic. There’s a better chance of me regrowing my hair than that happening.


  85. 85

    It depends, my S.O. is nominally christian in that she is a good person but doesn’t believe most of the teachings. She is pro gay rights, has gay friends, pro choice, we are on the same page on many moral and human rights issues. If she were even slightly more christian it would not work out. It’s been almost two years now so it seems to be going well.

    The important thing is we are both too old to have children. if there were any chance we’d have children I would have stayed broken up. That’s not fair to kids to have two people who are in direct opposition, I’ve seen marriages end over religion or different religions when it was too important to the parents.

    The only time it annoys me is when she thanks god for a meal I just made :) But she thanks me as well. But it’s like anything, you won’t have full agreement on issues, but as long as you are close enough.

    There are stupid arguments we’ve gotten into. Arguing over politics and things we have no control over is so idiotic, and I’ve learned a great deal of humility and I’ve learned to express and even think of my beliefs as truly “beliefs” even if I know of studies supporting them (I’m talking politics and economics here) since there are other studies supporting other ideas, and in the end we’ll move slightly one way or slightly the other, and the world isn’t going to end sooner if the wrong person is elected for 4 or 8 years.

  86. 86

    My mother often brings this up, what if your wife is religious what are you going to do. and my answer always is the same. then she wouldn’t be my wife

  87. 87

    This is where I was headed. While we can adapt and ignore certain things in a partner, raising children can be come a major issue. My ex-wife was/is a Catholic, I’m a raving Atheist. We are able to ignore the religious issue for quite a while, mostly by me keeping my mouth shut. When the kids were old enough to go to catechism, I refused to encourage them to go, and not only that, when they asked questions about religion at home, I answered in way not hers. There were many other reasons why she is my ex, but religion was certainly a factor.

    In the end, I have 3 adult skeptical atheist offspring.

  88. 88

    Religion used to not be a deal breaker for me but now that I am in my first serious relationship I will never again date a religious person. Previous girlfriends have always looked at me like I was weird for not being a christian and I always got the vibe from them that they thought something about me was off.

  89. 89

    I have a choice about who I date. I don’t want to spend all my time disagreeing with them or even arguing about how I choose to spend my Sundays. I’d prefer an atheist. That said I could probably get along well with a Deist. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t even date someone who followed a horoscope, bought homoeopathic “remedies”, went to a chiropractor or believed in “spirits” and I doubt if they could stand me tutting and rolling my eyes at them.

    Anyway it’s a moot point for me as I’ve been with the same lovely atheist lady for the past 19 years. She just thinks that religion is funny though, whereas I think it’s horrible.

  90. 90
    Georgia Sam

    Is religion a dating deal-breaker? Not necessarily, but serious, devout, practicing religion would be a deal-breaker for me if I were single. With people who are nominally or vaguely religious but tolerant of other philosophies, it would depend on how they felt about my atheism. One attempt to “save” me & I would be outta there.

    My wife is Jewish, & she was totally non-practicing when we married. Later she joined a Reform congregation & had a Bat Mitzvah ceremony. It has not come between us because religion is not the center of her life, & she has never made any attempt to convert me, change my views, or make me pretend to be anything I’m not, nor have I done so to her.

  91. 91

    I am married. He is agnostic. I’ve gone from ‘there may be something there’ to Atheist (just the last year or so).

    We’ve been married 23 years. If something happened to him, I
    don’t think I’d want to marry again. But, if for some reason I
    decided to try to date etc. I would say religious people would
    be knocked off the list immediately. Of course, so would smokers,
    excessive drinkers, bigots and guys with no visible means of support. I’d say with that list, I was down to 1 – 3% of the population anyway.


  92. 92

    “that discriminating against a potential romantic interest based on religion is itself a form of bigotry.”

    Well for me the reason I have chosen to restrict myself to a diet of the irreligious is to remove myself from their bigotry. I am tired of feeling guilty for dating someone because they don’t like part of who I am. 2 of 4 significant relationships in my life ended because of different religious views, both of those 2 made me compromise part of myself for the relationship. I can compromise on a hell of a lot but compromising who I am just leads to bad ends. So yes, when it comes to friends if they can ignore/live with my choices and I can ignore or live with theirs then no prob. But I need my significant other to accept my choices; and past history has taught me that pious individuals are incapable of that.

    It is not bigotry to choose to discriminate against bigots

  93. 93

    My wife is a liberal Methodist who is mainly interested in church as a place to sing in the choir and hang out with friends. She doesn’t attempt to “save” me and I have Sunday mornings to myself. It works for us.

  94. 94
    Rob Monkey

    Interesting topic, I’m firmly on the “won’t date the religious” side, mostly because that’s one of my favorite things to make fun of, and I want to share that with someone else ;)

    Incidentally, I’m sorry but I don’t think rejecting someone based on religion, drinking, politics, or hell, even race is bigotry. I’ll go ahead and say that I’m not physically attracted to some races. I hope nobody thinks that’s bigotry, but it definitely will affect who I date. If I’m not attracted to you, then why would I date you? There’s no reason to label someone’s personal taste in the physical attributes of another person as bigotry, nor is it unreasonable to expect someone to want to have similar opinions about important subjects with the person they’re seeing.

    As far as being bigoted about religion goes, well if you believe in magical creatures, you’re going to have to do a little work to convince me you’re an otherwise intelligent person. It doesn’t preclude you from being my friend or from me considering you’re intelligent, but it sure as hell doesn’t help.

  95. 95

    Bigotry, religion, children. I want nothing to do with all three of those things. I don’t see how not wanting to date religious people is bigotry, at all.

  96. 96

    I doubt I could bring myself to date a Christian or Muslim woman, if nothing else, because I have immense trouble wrapping my brain around any self-respecting woman belonging to such blatantly patriarchal, misogynist religions. Self-respect and a healthy, vigorous sense of self-worth are absolutely imperative in the women that I’m attracted to.

  97. 97

    Living in Mexico, most of my S.O. have been at least Catholic by name. I even guess that I would be a very lonely person if I dated only people on this side of the agnostic spectrum!

    Usually I don’t ask about religion, but as expected, I tend to gravitate toward women that don’t have a very deep spiritual or religious vein in them.

    They might claim to be catholic, they might even finch a little at my atheism, but in the end, we just move to other things.

    Cheers from the hippo

  98. 98
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Is religion a dating deal breaker?

    Yes. If they are “devout”. I could deal with the “I’m spiritual” guys, assuming they are cool with my atheism.

    But, on the other hand, I’ve been tricked by men like that before who, once they decide to get serious, suddenly say “we have to have a church wedding” and “our kids (who agreed to kids?!) must be baptized.

  99. 99
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    “that discriminating against a potential romantic interest based on religion is itself a form of bigotry.”

    I disagree. Not wanting to date someone religious is effectively saying “we are not compatible”.

    That isn’t to say that bigotry against the religious doesn’t exist, of course. But simply not wanting to date them, because you know/think/worry it will likely cause relationship-killing problems, isn’t part of it.

    I’m fascinated by atheist/theist relationships that work. But I always wonder how much that topic is avoided, or how much hiding one’s true self is involved to make it work. But, that’s totally *my* issue.

  100. 100
    Romeo Echo

    Absolutely it’s a deal-breaker. There are lots of deal-breakers, but this one is number one for me. It’s the ultimate litmus test. I would just as soon date an adult who still believed in Santa Claus.

    I’m pretty skeptical too, so close behind this are other dealbreakers too, such as woo-ish beliefs like astrology, homeopathy, etc.

  101. 101

    I wasn’t so much addressing your relationship choices, as those are clearly yours to make.

    I was more pointing out that blanket stereotyping such as “religious = untenably incurious” is overly simplistic.

  102. 102

    Deal breaker: 1. communism, fascism, nazism and any other exteme (left or rigth) political idea.
    2. Religious ortodoxy of any kind.

    Why. My mother had to leave her country thanks to nazism first, and then communism. My current country is just a piece of junk thanks to one idiot that mixes socialism (another deal breaker if taken to extremes) with communism and narcisism.
    I live in a catholic country, where very few follow the catholic dogmas at the letter and religious fanaticism is rare. So, find a girl with catholic background is common but find one with catholic dogmas ingrained in her is rare and easily detected (and consequently avoided). My wife of 25 years is of this kind. I won’t exagerate my atheism in front of her and she will keep the catholic incantations to a minimum.

  103. 103
    Robin Raianiemi

    Virtually anything can be worked through, given enough patience (and love).

  104. 104

    I’m dating someone who is loosely religious. Before I was an atheist, I was loosely religious as well, but I was pretty nondiscriminatory in what religious preference I dated. I dated a Jew, a lapsed Lutheran (like me), and a life-long atheist. Now I’m dating someone who is part of one of those very liberal branches of a Christianity, and I’m find with this because he doesn’t try and get me to go to church. We both acknowledge that we are (him) and were (with me) religious to please our families. I’m not religious, and he’s okay with it. We’re both scientists, and that attitude typically comes with the territory.

    A comment on Dan Savage: you need to look at his deal-breaker video. You should have no more than 5 real deal breakers, and if your list is longer than that, you’re being picky or must have genitals made of gold or something. My deal breakers are thus: 1) does not treat me like an equal 2) makes demands of me that would compromise who I am 3) he is too dependent (clingy) 4) would raise their children in religion (for that person I decide I want to have mini-mes with)
    Price of Admission video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ObrFwjesno

  105. 105

    Definitely a dealbreaker. Although I adore and respect religious friends and family, I wouldn’t ever date a religious person, or a spiritual person. I couldn’t date a Republican, a homophobe or a racist either. It would make me feel anxious and constrained in what I could talk about. I want to date someone I respect intellectually and with whom I can discuss anything freely. I would rather put up with undesirable personality traits, and find them much less unnerving than religious leanings.

  106. 106

    When my wife of 43 years and I were married in 1968, a lot of the items under discussion currently were far in the future. We were both Peace Corps volunteers and that screened a lot of compatability issues from the get go.

    I had given up on religion at 16, she was Catholic. So church wedding, kids raised in catholic schools. But none of it took. All three turned out unchurched in any way. Science, rationality and indifference won out.

    She is basically disgusted with the church hierarchy. Won’t even talk about it. She does her own thing spiritually for the social and ritual with which she is familiar. We get along quite well. So its not impossible.

    But given the atmosphere today, I would probably add non-religious as a screen for a serious long-term relationship.

  107. 107

    Personally, religious belief isn’t an ipso facto deal breaker. The only things that are automatic relationship deal breakers for me are abusive behaviors, self destructive behaviors, criminal behaviors, bigotry, and incompatible sexuality.

    Regarding “incompatible sexuality”, I’ll refrain from specifics except to say that “compatibility” includes both her approach to sexual ethics and her practical sexual preferences. Sorry if that’s too much information.

  108. 108
    Town Bicycle

    I’m pretty indifferent, partly because I’m a slut, partly because I’m really mellow and easygoing, but mostly because I date people who treat me the way I treat them. Most of my religious friends tends to be unconventional/apathetic/respectful, so we’re able to get along. They do their religious thing, I do my nonreligious thing, we’re free to talk about it if it’s on our minds, and we’re free to shut up about it–and to shut each other up about it–if it’s not. If you can’t play well with us, you’ll be shown the door.

    There’s also a deeper principle at work here. If we’re not going to adopt a principle of supremacy, of trying to make you like me, then we’re going to have to flesh out a principle of diversity, a way that I can live comfortably with you, and you can live comfortably with me, so we can be different together. Moreover, my friends and I all more or less aware that in order to make that work in the large scale, we have to make it work on the small scale. It means minding the relationships, dialing down invective, and being supports to each other whenever we can, despite our disagreements.

    Anyone I date, religious or nonreligious, has to be able to play nice with us, to sign on to this diversity thing we got going. If they can, things work pretty smoothly, largely because we want things to work smoothly. Respect, humility, and goodwill counts, and counts enormously; Intent matters as much as content.

  109. 109
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Regarding “incompatible sexuality”, I’ll refrain from specifics except to say that “compatibility” includes both her approach to sexual ethics and her practical sexual preferences. Sorry if that’s too much information.

    That’s barely any at all. O.o

  110. 110

    Sure, I could. In fact, my long term partner is reasonably religious, in a genericky Christian sense (he was raised Seventh Day Adventist).
    Though I’m a militant agnostic*, not an atheist, so that may have somewhat to do with it.
    But then, (one of) my particular kink (s) is telling my beloved they are wrong. I can’t be in a relationship without it.

    Our kiddo has a Godmother, whose spiritual contributions have included a copy of “The Little Prince”, and a fairy Goddless Father, who is supposed to see to kiddo’s rational/scientific development, but who has thus far been quite lazy in his contributions.

    *(= “I don’t have the data to decide and YOU DON’T EITHER”)

  111. 111

    @ comment 95 –
    “That’s barely any at all. O.o”

    So now you’ve seen why I’m not a writer, and why I tend not to comment on the internet.

    I offer the following for what it’s worth:

    1. By “her approach to sexual ethics”, I mean her ability to arrive at scientifically sound conclusions when thinking about sexual issues, as well as her ability to refrain from “accidentally” deleting the stash of pornography I keep on a spare external hard drive in my closet.

    2. By “her practical sexual preferences”, I mean “I hate it when supposedly liberal women look at me like I’m a pervert for wanting to try anal”.

    Now, hopefully that wasn’t too much information.

  112. 112
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Oh. Well that’s not really asking that much. >.>

  113. 113
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    It depends on a few things.

    Which religion are we talking, here? How devoted to the faith is this person? Is this person going to try to convert me? And, most importantly, is this person going to be abusive, and will s/he use their religion as an excuse?

  114. 114

    Religion in and of itself wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me. A lot of things I’ve seen associated with religion would be, though: anti-science attitudes, attempts to convert me, authoritarian argument styles, homophobia, misogyny, et cetera.

    Of course, I’m a lesbian, vegetarian, atheist and socialist, so most of the people I’d never date conveniently self-select out of my dating pool by the time we’ve talked for five minutes. Win!

  115. 115

    OKCupid, the dating site, did an analysis of questions that users answered that were public and those that were private to look for correlations in their answers. There are questions that are rather awkward to ask up front, but they posited that their might be other less awkward questions that would effectively give the same answer.

    They discovered, for example, that the question “Do you like the taste of beer?” tends to get the same answer as “Would you consider having sex on the first date?” The question “Do you consider proper spelling and grammar to be important?” proxies for “Are you more relatively secular and unconcerned with religion?” It’s an interesting article and an interesting site, even if you aren’t looking for a romantic partner.

    For more:


    P.S. If their blog is an indication, you’ll probably find a high nerd factor on their site.

  116. 116
    Silent Bob

    Just me, then. :-)

    No, of course I wasn’t suggesting that practical considerations are unimportant, nor that they amount to bigotry. As I understand it, bigotry is automatically devaluing a person based upon what they are, not where they are.

    Forgive me a couple of anecdotes:

    I am a life-long meat eater who has had at least three vegetarian girlfriends, the last having been my monogamous partner for 14 years. Admittedly, I have long since lured her to the dark side ;-) , but for at least the first couple of years (most of that time living together) carnivore and vegetarian found no barrier to peaceful coexistence.

    I have a niece who met her significant other, literally on the other side of the continent, while traveling there on business. She moved across country to be with him, and today they are married with a child.

  117. 117

    I put “Jew” down on as my race on the census form. I suppose you can convert to Judaism in a way that you can’t convert to being East Asian, but there is genetic component to Judaism that has been honored historically. When the anti-semites get their knives out, they don’t care how many gods you do or don’t believe in. That’s not what it’s about.

    I’m not a big fan of Judaism as a religion, but it has a number of fun holidays, some pretty good food, concern for social justice and a philosophical tradition of arguing about things. Since I’m at risk for the bad stuff however I believe or don’t believe, I might as well get some of the good stuff.

  118. 118
    Silent Bob

    Yes, of course you are right. That was a poor off-the-cuff analogy. Skin color was simply the first thing that popped into my mind when thinking of bigotry. What I was getting at was more along the lines of “writing me off because my favorite color is blue”.

    Or, perhaps more topically, “writing me off because I like ‘Magic: The Gathering’”. :-)

    P.S. Did you know there is a “reply” button? ;-)

  119. 119

    Not directly, but it can lead to a lot of beliefs which are deal-breakers. I have friends who are Christian, or into psychics, or various other religions, and I get along well with them for the most part. But religions potentially bring along their own baggage, including bigotry, prudishness, authoritarianism, and conservatism.

  120. 120
    Marcus Ranum

    How can you respect someone who’s got such dumbass beliefs? And I can’t be in a relationship with someone I don’t respect.

  121. 121

    Libertarianism is a deal-breaker. I tried one before, and he was so painfully naive that I could not handle it. I hadn’t had much exposure to Libertarianism before, and I think if I had, I might not have dated him at all. He was perfectly nice, just sort of the poster boy for clueless white dudes.

    My number one criterion is feminism. Any partner I have has to be coming from a foundation of feminism, or it simply won’t work.

    I’ve never dated a Christian. The Libertarian was involved in some kind of woo. When I asked why he believed in it, he basically said that he thought it was pretty and he liked meeting people at the conventions. It wasn’t a dealbreaker as such, but I thought it was pretty weird.

  122. 122

    Though I’m a militant agnostic*, not an atheist, so that may have somewhat to do with it….*(= “I don’t have the data to decide and YOU DON’T EITHER”)

    Agnosticism is about knowledge. Atheism is about belief. I don’t know if there are gods and I don’t believe that there are gods. I am an agnostic atheist. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

  123. 123

    When I was Christian, I was only interested in women with compatible religious views — which did narrow the field a lot. However, since I really believed that crap, it was important to me.

    As an atheist, I’d be the same (although I’m not in the dating game anymore, except with my wife).

    Luckily my wife and I made the journey out of religion together. I don’t think our marriage would have survived if one of us had remained religious.

  124. 124

    Tim Minchin ‘forgot’ to add, if he didn’t have her, he might also just go on with his life and be alone thereafter.

    Without being specific, I’ve had casual encounters with women, so I won’t be dying a virgin.

    However, I think there is not much of any chance for finding anyone anymore. Too many years have passed and statistically, any chance reduces with time. But at least I’ve never had to go through a divorce or having children to support.

    Religion would be just one of many deal-breakers at this point in time.

  125. 125

    Oddly, religion was a deal breaker for me even when I was religious myself (well, I was close to deism at that point, and he was an evangelical, and I broke up with him when it dawned on me just how fucking crazy he was).

    Fortunately my husband and I began dating when we were both strongly disaffected with Catholicism (which we’d been brought up in), and took our journey through deism, agnosticism, and into atheism together.

    I think it’s just too central a thing in most peoples’ lives to be able to set aside when forming a pair bond.

  126. 126

    Religion is probably my number one deal breaker. I have never been in the kind of situation where I meet someone through friends or school or work or whatever and start dating them. It has always been (and will probably always be) an online process for me. If I see that someone has brought up religion in their profile, even if I was interested before, I will no longer contact them. If somebody contacts me and religion is brought up in their profile I try to as kindly as possibly reject them. On one occasion a fellow sent me a decent message initially, I told him I wasn’t really interested but thank you for the message and good luck, and the next message turned into chatspeak (my 2nd dealbreaker) demanding why I wasn’t interested. I told him that it was the religion thing. He insisted that he would not push it on me and all he wanted was a chance. The way I see it is: if religion is such an important aspect of your life that you feel the need to share it on your dating profile, then it’s probably so important to you that you should be looking for someone within that religion. Hell, that’s one of the main benefits of religion from where I’m standing. It’s like a built-in dating pool, all you have to do is show up to church and you don’t even need an ice-breaker, just start talking to someone… about religion. No brainer.

  127. 127

    Non-religious is my #1 requirement.

    My first serious girlfriend was a little religious, but her parents were religious fruitcakes… i.e. “there is a guide for bringing up a child – its called the bible” – thats when i exited the relationship… well about 15 minutes after that comment.

    Ever since then, its been the first thing i bring up on any date ive ever been on (closely followed by if they like dogs – the next dealbreaker if they dont) and ive never had an issue. Maybe because Australia has less religious nutters (although we still have too many) – maybe because im so up-front about my views that religious folk think they might get a disease if they come near me…. who knows….. but im definately of the opinion that “non-religious” is a very fair requirement…. as logical people and religious people are always going to have drastically differening views – on everything!

    Small smaple size discliamer – i only had 6 or 7 girlfriends before meeting my wife…. who, by the way, is also a tim minchin loving athiest. We differ on how much harm religion causes in society and if religious people are simply mis-guided or fundamentally evil…. so its not as if we agree on everything – but we can discuss it logically…. and you cant do that with religous people.

  128. 128

    Anyone who isn’t Tim Minchin. Sorry, I’m sure there are a lot of great people out there who aren’t Tim Minchin, but they’re just not for me. My husband (also named Tim to avoid awkwardness during sex) is just a stand in until Sarah Minchin starts taking my threats seriously.

  129. 129

    Is religion a dating deal breaker?


  130. 130
    Amanda M.

    Definitely not as ‘rabid’ of an atheist (in fact I still generally identify as Jewish, despite being a full-fledged atheist) but religion has always been a deal-breaker for me. It’s right up there with smoking. My boyfriend of 3-1/2 years is extremely agnostic and it’s one of the points of our relationship that works best.

    We can focus on other intellectual discussions because we’re not constantly bickering over religion. Also, when religion happens to rear its ugly head (as it tends to do in this country) and cause some sort of drama in one or both of our personal lives, we have the support of each other – and someone to nerdrage with. Which is definitely a must.

  131. 131

    TeAnna, you make me wish there was a ‘like’ button on FTB. That was brilliant.

  132. 132
    T.X. Watson

    Seconded. I nearly showed my mom that comment, before I realized it’d mean another argument about the blogs I read.

  133. 133

    Yes, I think religion would be a deal breaker. I also don’t believe in the concept of “mr right”, and even if I did, why would I have to settle for less than I want to obtain him?

    Also, I’ve never heard of Tim Minchen before and I find him incredibly charming!

  134. 134

    Evangelical atheists are just as annoying as their religious counterparts. Seriously, if there’s one thing we need less of in the world, its any form of discrimination. You’re so self-righteous and it must feel so good, but you’re damning yourself as much as you are other people.

  135. 135

    We’re talking about choosing a partner here. IMHO, anything is fair game and I fail to see why anyone can judge the stringency or lack of stringency of anyone else.

    This is one of the few things in life that are really solely about you. Equal opportunities do not apply here.

  136. 136

    Oh, and saying that being anti-religious isn’t bigotry just because it serves the purpose of your argument (which is tantamount to just saying because you say so….) Isn’t convincing. It’s just dumb.

  137. 137

    Seriously, if there’s one thing we need less of in the world, its any form of discrimination. – merkin

    Er, no. We need less unfair discrimination, which I guess is what you actually meant. But are you seriously claiming that individuals are not absolutely entitled to make up their own minds on who not to date, on any grounds they please? Who died and made you God?

  138. 138

    Married to an atheist. It’s awesome. Recommended.

  139. 139

    I just don’t understand what the point of listing your deal-breakers and using them to indulge yourselves in a contest of who’s more important because you all share the same one. I find it to be a bit ridiculous. But, since you are all in agreement, and I am the only one calling your bullshit, I see that I should be attacked. Thank you.

  140. 140
    Andrew Hall

    I once dated a girl who was knee deep into the culty Forum (that’s EST), and it was a very difficult relationship, to say the least.

  141. 141

    “But no one would consider discriminating against meat eaters or Republicans a type of bigotry.”

    I’ve wondering for a while about this. Obviously, “bigotry” is the wrong word, but what else do you call unreasoning hatred of a group of people over, say, a political stance?

    I know a professional columnist who displays every symptom of bigotry towards “liberals”. He calls liberals as a whole violent, racist, un-American, hate-filled, mentally ill, whatever. From long experience, I can say that this human turd is NOT using shorthand for purposes of moving the debate along, but rather, speaking of anyone and everyone who does not share his opinions. He once claimed that “Liberalism” is responsible for RAPE.

    What’s a word for that kind of twisted prejudice, if not bigotry?

  142. 142
    Daniel Schealler


  143. 143
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Since when is an open thread on a blog a “contest of who’s more important because you all share the same one”?

  144. 144

    This is “the one”


    And this one is similar and germane to the discussion.

  145. 145

    I’m currently in a relationship with another atheist who I met through skepticism (yay!) and we’re at the planning to move in together stage so this is a hypothetical question for me. Could I see myself in a long term relationship with someone who was very religious? No. Could I see myself with someone who believes in God but religion doesn’t play a big part in their life? Sure.

    I don’t think saying I won’t date someone who’s very religious is bigotry. I also won’t date people who smoke or oppose gay rights or thinks Michale Bay makes great movies. It’s not wrong to want to date people who share your values.

  146. 146
    Amanda Marcotte

    Must, must, must be an atheist. It’s never even come up, honestly. I’m quite literally only attracted to tough-minded men who are willing to think things through. Someone saying, “I’m not an atheist, I’m an agnostic,” or saying, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual”? Instant boner-killer. Grow a spine, is all I would think.

  147. 147

    I think basing a relationship on respect makes you a smart person, not an asshole.

  148. 148
    Jacob Schmidt

    No, it’s not a deal breaker, at least not for me (for the record, I’ve been an atheist my entire life). But, I see it as a potential stress inducing issue, and that is something of a deal breaker. That’s not to say I won’t date a theist, but I have to know whether or not it’ll cause any real fights down the road (occasional arguments are fine with me).

  149. 149

    So is any one who isn’t bisexual a bigot? After all they’re discriminating against half the human race!

  150. 150
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Not a deal breaker necessarily. It would depend on the religion and how fervent the person is. I think I’d have much more difficulty being in a relationship with someone who was into alternative medicine. You want to spend your Saturdays at a Pagan drum circle or meditating at a Buddhist temple? You attend Mass on Christmas and Easter or celebrate Passover with your family but behave as a humanist the rest of the time? Fine. I might even join you. But you want to do detox cleanses, believe that homeopathic remedies are effective, restrict your diet in irrational ways, or take some dried roots because some guy says it’ll help with your chi or your chakras? So long.

    Other dealbreakers: AA or NA attendees, people who have right wing political views, smokers, people who spend the vast majority of their free time playing video games, watching sports, or working out/playing sports*, anti-feminists (including anyone who doesn’t support abortion rights).

    I also don’t think I’d last long with anyone who was largely passive aggressive rather than confrontational.

    *If being an athlete or sportscaster is your job, you get a pass on this one. You hear me, single NHL players current and former?

    [meta] Any other single people reading through responses, judging the dating potential of the other commenters?[/meta]

  151. 151
    One Brow

    I’ve been married to a Baptist for 22 years, and been an atheist for about 12 of them. It’s an issue, but usually not the biggest issue we have. I would not specifically rule out dating other religious women, should the time ever come, but it would detract from my interest.

  152. 152

    I’d probably not fare too well with dating people who are on the more conservative end of the religious spectrum, considering my predilection for non-monogamy and burlesque dancing probably wouldn’t go over too well and those are part of who I am…

  153. 153
    Jerrald Hayes

    "…My relationship with the Lutheran [a Hard core Rush Limbaugh loving Lutheran], while lasting 9 months, was one of my most stressful and unhappy relationships precisely because of the religion issue."

    While I am on the other side of the fence sex wise than you if I ever found myself on a date with a Hard core Rush Limbaugh loving woman I would find some way to end the date ASAP, fake getting a phone call on my cell, you know something like my house got hit by a falling piece of space debris and I need to run home and see if there was any damage. Something like that. A religious Lutheran I think I could stomach but a Rush Limbaugh fan would drive me to distraction. My head might explode.
    And as long as we have Tim Michen here I am reminded that another deal breaker would probably be someone like the character Storm in Minchen’s great beat poem Storm.

  154. 154
    Daniel Schealler

    If you’re not a fan of Rush Limbaugh, you might want to look up Bill Hick’s little piece of delightfully dark poetry on him.

    And also: Not for the faint hearted, nor the easily shocked.

    Be warned: Not safe for work if your speakers are on.


    Whenever someone tells me how shocked – shocked – at how offensive [insert prominent Gnu here] is, I always want to send them that link in the hope that their heads might actually explode.

  155. 155

    Yup, dealbreaker, unless the person is waay apathetic about their religion.

  156. 156

    That’s just your racket, why are you making Landmark™ wrong?(this line must be said with quivering lower lip and eyes tearing-up)

  157. 157

    Like you, it hasn’t been a deal breaker in the past, but it is one now. I feel like I am walking on eggs around religious people. I don’t like to offend people in my social circles, unless they clearly deserve it. I never know what may offend a religious person. In fact, the real deal breaker for me is to be easy to offend. If you take things seriously and personally all the time, I think that makes you a very difficult person to live with.

  158. 158

    I recently ended my relationship with my partner of 5 years over this. I really tried to make it work because we shared so many interests and viewpoints, but her religious beliefs (and her superstitious beliefs in general) in contrast to my own beliefs, which eventually grew to outright atheism during our relationship, eventually came to a head. Wedding plans were actually where it all really started falling apart (for obvious ceremonial reasons).

    While I still love her very much, I realized now how crazy we were to try and make that work (and also how much I still wished we had). I was feeling like quite a lonely fool till I read this article and realized I wasn’t necessarily petty for ending the relationship for the reasons I did (although it felt like it at the time). Also, seeing that my fellow atheists are dealing with the same thing is a boon as well. Thanks Jen/commenters!

  159. 159

    I’m an atheist, although not as outspoken about it as you are. I have friends of all types, but I could never date a non-atheist. Agnostic, perhaps. Religious, nope.

    My current partner is much less tolerant of religiousness than I am. I was raised in a hardcore Independent Fundamental Baptist family, so I have “the other side of the story” where he is just straight-up flabbergasted about most of what religious people stand for.

    I like to practice compassion towards everyone, but a personal romantic relationship is a much more specific relationship. No one can dictate who we are attracted to; if I like short boys, which I do, that doesn’t make me an asshole or bigoted against talls. I just have a preference. It also doesn’t mean I disrespect talls. Or girls. Or birds.

    It’s way ok not to date religious people. A+ on knowing what you need and prefer.

  160. 160
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    I find skepticism to be quite attractive… but atheism itself is not a requirement (although it’d be nice if she was). I could deal with Deism.

    But religious is out of the question. I will not date someone who actually follows dogma (even the most boring, banal, and harmless dogma).

  161. 161

    I hate to comment in a dying comments section, but since my stupid joke is going to sit there until the internet dies I want to be clear that my comment was indeed intended only as a joke. I was not seriously suggesting that a liberal person is obligated to enjoy or perform that particular sexual activity.

    Back to lurking for me.

  162. 162

    The last religious person I really dated was a Mormon girl. We were in high school. It was a ~disaster~. She basically swung between hating me for being a girl and hating herself for liking a girl. My parents were ready to let her move in were she ever kicked out, but in the end we broke up (she couldn’t deal with the guilt and shame, I couldn’t deal with secrecy or the fact that she was embarrassed of me) and remained closeted her entire life. She ended up killing herself in college.

    Obviously it varies by person and religion (practicing Mormon = huge red flag), but dating a religious gay is like sleeping in bed with a land mine.

    That said, as I get older I meet fewer and fewer religious gaymos, although there are more and more gay-accepting ministries marching in Pride every year.

  163. 163

    Sadly, I have yet to meet anyone single and non-religious that is within 20 years of my own age. So all my relationships have been with religious women, and they all eventually break down in a muddle because we are unable – long term – to respect each other. They’re good while they last and we always end up being friends, but it will never work out.

    So it’s a dealbreaker in that I know it will break the deal. But I can’t rule these women out or I’d never have another date again. *shrug*

  164. 164
    find great lesbian relationships

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    Believe me – religious people don’t want to date you either. It’s a win-win.

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    So you respect someone who “sorta” believes in something they have no idea about, rather than a person who is convinced in something they believe in and practice it steadfastly?

    It is people in the former i have no respect for. Just following along like a heard because they couldn’t be bothered to think.

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