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Friday, January 09, 2009

So that's... inexplicable.

A blog I occasionally read by the name of Friendly Atheist* recently related a rather fascinating little tale. Specifically the author tells of a female friend of his who is making use of a dating website. In her profile she mentioned that she is an atheist and, believe it or not, earned the following response:

My God, what’s the world coming to when girls with angelic countenances like yours turn out to be atheists? Me, I still believe that there’s good and evil, and since those concepts are rendered meaningless in an atheistic framework, I’m not willing to make that tremendous leap of faith, especially into such a pessimistic world view. (Not to mention, it kind of ruins Christmas — and why would anyone choose to believe something that ruins Christmas? That just seems so needlessly cruel to oneself.)

Oh well — take care, best wishes in your life, and you’ve got great cheekbones.


Now, the thing is I don't really have a problem with the fact that this "Jack" is discriminating based on religious belief- not least because religion is something of an important issue between romantic partners. I have had my own experience with this from the opposite side, which I will now relate because I have nothing better to talk about.

When I was in college I once attended an event advertised as a "Lord, Liar or Lunatic" debate about Jesus. I went more or less because I figured that few, if any, atheists would be there (given how we dislike absurd false trichotomies) and somebody had to carry the torch. This "debate" turned out to be a sermon delivered by a local fundamentalist preacher and, since I went to college in the south, it was a work of absolute "genius." At the conclusion we had a chance to ask questions and mine was simple: how do we know that god is just? The answer was so incredibly stupid that I remember it verbatim: "When I look at the world I don't see very much justice. And if justice doesn't come from the world it must come from outside the world. And if it comes from outside the world it must come from god. Therefore, god is just. Next question?"

I'll give you a moment or two for your brains to stop seizing from the absurdity of that. Ready? Okay.

Now flash forward about a year. There happened to be a young lady on whom I had something of a crush. Noticing she was about near the student union one day I walked over to chat, only to discover that she was in the process of staffing a table for a campus ministry. Not such a big deal, I'm used to being in the religious minority and have long been realistic about that. In the process of chatting, however, she learned that I had attended the "Lord, Liar or Lunatic" event from the previous year and remarked: "Oh, wasn't he just incredible? He made such good arguments!"

And that was the moment I politely disagreed, excused myself, and got over my crush. It wasn't that I thought she was stupid, or unattractive, or even mean, it was just that our views on something that was obviously important to each of us (atheism for me, Christianity for her) were so very different that resolving them would be next to impossible.** So, I don't really have a philosophical problem with someone being hesitant to date someone of another faith if religion is important to them. It's really no different than not dating someone who doesn't want children if you're certain that you do.

What amazes me, however, is not that Jack decided not to date our nameless atheist, but that he felt compelled to e-mail her for the express purpose of telling her that he wouldn't be dating her and why. And you have to love the reasons why. Atheism as a pessimistic worldview? Not really. Good and evil meaningless? In a metaphysical sense, yes, but not in a human sense. And what to make of that Christmas remark? As though she would say, "My god, he's right! Sure the idea of an all-powerful, all-loving deity is virtually impossible to defend on any sort of a rational basis but I can't ruin Christmas!"

I know many faiths are supposed to proselytize, but when exactly did that get translated to mean, "Insult people who aren't bothering you"?

* For the occasional intolerant spazzes who drop by my blog: no, "friendly atheist" is not an oxymoron.

** Interestingly enough, the lovely woman who would eventually become my wife was, for a number of years in her youth, a born-again Christian. Fortunately for us both she recovered, but we sometimes joke that had we met a certain number of years earlier, we would not have gotten along quite so famously.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

But she's got great cheekbones.

I find it amusing that the commentator had trouble with the fact that a woman with "angelic countenances" could be atheists. Having beauty must mean you are "good" (or believe in God) by nature of that beauty. Huh.

Friday, January 09, 2009 11:11:00 AM  

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