Atheism, Dating, and an Evangelical Christian who tried to convert me

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For the past two years as an atheist, I have realized that dating was quite a difficult affair, but even before being an atheist, I noted that it’s quite difficult to have meaningful relationships with those who don’t value learning, knowledge, and intellectual pursuits. Since I have become an atheist, I have learned so much and am quite a different person than I was when I was a theist. Now, for example, I listen to a large number of science podcasts, know logical fallacies like the back of my hand and notice them everywhere, question so many claims that I would have been content with in the past or otherwise would not have noticed, etc.

Unfortunately, many in my cohort (and not all, of course) in the local ‘dating scene’ are very much different than me and it’s tough because I refuse to compromise and believe that I need a similar intellectual connection with a significant other in order to have a relationship. I don’t think it is possible for me to have a relationship with a religious person who was very, very, very much different from me who may perhaps deny evolution, believe in a young universe, endorse a global flood, believe that atheists can’t be moral, and believe that I am going to Hell among other things.

Contrary to what many might think, I am quite open and more than happy to date a religious individual as long as the person accepts who I am and is okay with the fact that I am one of the most (if not the most) prominent/active atheists in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Closed-minded fundamentalists, though, are simply not permissible.

It is an obvious fact of life that all sorts of people, even if they share very similar worldviews, will disagree on some issues. Many of my close friends, for example, share wildly different positions from mine ranging from endorsing libertarianism and supporting Ron Paul to believing that all abortions are murder or otherwise being almost completely opposed to abortion. I also have many theistic friends, of course. It is also the case that many theists comment on and view my news feed on Facebook. Blah, blah, blah. We can be friends and disagree about issues and said disagreement need not be construed as disrespect.

Anyway, I’m active on a certain dating site. I am not hiding anything on my profile about me being an atheist. I mention, among other things:

I’m a very scientifically-minded and logical person who is skeptical of all things paranormal and supernatural. I’m somewhat of a public figure in Luzerne County and some parts of Pennsylvania mainly because of my writing and my public stand for separation of church and state in December of 2009. I am the co-organizer of a local non-profit group of atheists, skeptics, humanists, etc. called the NEPA Freethought Society. We are a social, educational, activist, and philosophical group that provides a community for non-theists and is a community watchdog group for church/state violations.

(My page, various interviews/podcasts I participated in, the book I was featured in, my Facebook page, etc)
Religious people are OK, but fundamentalists aren’t. Atheists, agnostics, and Buddhists are preferred. You must be OK with the fact that I am a prominent and public atheist. I challenge and criticize religion on a daily basis. It’s also literally my job. :)

In my over 900 survey questions I answered on the website, I publicly answer various questions relating to religion, science, etc. that should easily identify me as a skeptic and atheist. There are clearly no secrets here.

Despite this, someone [I’m not going to say who], a few says ago, sent me a message with her cell phone number asking me to call so we can, the same day of the message, go for coffee or a local festival and said “Call me you seem AWESOME!” I was busy soon after I noticed this message because I was playing D&D with friends for my weekly game. I told her that I couldn’t talk and was busy, but she called and sent multiple texts while I was gaming.

After the session, I spoke with her on the phone for an extended period of time and talked about my general personality, announced that I was an atheist, talked about my local activism, my writing, etc. She told me that she was an open-minded person, likes that I question, said that she likes that I am a writer, thinks I am intelligent, and various other associated comments. She said she really wants to meet me (and sent me her phone number to do so), is really interested in me, is physically attracted, etc.

The only line mentioning anything relating to religion or any gods on her profile was “Christianity and not too serious about it,” so I thought that there would be no problems. Hours after contacting, I authored a blog post regarding vegetarianism in which a lengthy part of the discussion is quite critical of arguments for God. I mention the Euthyphro Dilemma and call divine command theory failure among other things. She said she enjoyed the post and also viewed some of my other writing. Great.

Soon after, out of nowhere, she said she “believes what she believes” and believes in God and prays. I told her that I am okay with that as long as she is okay that I am an active atheist and as long as she was not a close-minded fundamentalist. She said that religion was not a big deal for her and she “doesn’t live by the Bible.” Ok, great.

After about six days of frequent communication via text messages, phone calls, picture sending, Facebook messages, Facebook chatting, etc the real ‘fun’ began when she send the following text messages to me (cleaned up for punctuation, grammar, and capitalization):

So I do not want to hurt your feelings, but I need to be honest. It is not going to work between you and I. I really am not very into you. I am a super-Christian and it is just making me furious talking to you. […] I really hope you find the Lord one day. Take care and God bless you.

I had not thought you were this bad. I thought maybe I could help you. You are not going to Heaven. It is really sad. I feel so bad for you. Justin, I will continue to pray for you. I thought maybe I could spread the word to you. I guess not.

I responded asking what she means when she says I am “bad” and why I need “help” and noted that she’s really not concerned about me [or my soul?] like she says she is because she really made no effort to try to convert me [and she did not unless trying to be in a relationship with me under false pretenses is an attempt at conversion] and said “Then I suppose you are not concerned even though you say you feel sorry for me.” I also asked her why she would bother to do this, among other things.

After this, she sent me a text message saying that should word report me for “harassment by communications.”

I have joked for quite a while that there is a ‘theistic conspiracy’ in which theists are trying to find me via dating sites and convert me, but this is obviously no longer a joke…because it happened. What sort of rational person honestly thinks that this is morally permissible behavior (to lie about wanting to be in a relationship with someone in order to secretly convert) and better yet, who thinks that this attempt would actually work?

I could never imagine myself concealing my identity or otherwise listing “atheism, but not serious about it” on my page, removing all references of my activism, blog, etc and messaging theists on dating sites who I actually was not interested in in order to convert them. That never even crossed my mind before this post because it is so profoundly ridiculous. This girl, though, thought that making no mention of her religion or beliefs in her profile besides “Christianity, but not serious about it” and then later revealing she was a “super Christian” who wanted to convert me was permissible (I presume) and a good plan.

This plan, though, has obviously utterly failed and this girl revealed that she was either really dumb, naive, or both. The breadth of my work, simply including my writing or a Google search, should reveal that I’m not ‘lukewarm’ or otherwise easily persuaded to change my positions regarding religion and gods. I’m not hiding anything! Of course, as my page’s banner says, I’m willing to change any and all of my beliefs given good reasons, but this girl did not even try to change my beliefs (unless she thought that posing as a person who was really interested in me would make me change?).

If people want to convince me that I am wrong and their religious beliefs are correct and substantiated, posing as a Christian who isn’t serious about Christianity is not the way to go…and it’s actually a really terrible plan that won’t work. I’m open (and love) to have the discussions, but this girl offered no real reasons to persuade me although her Bible, in 1 Peter 3:15 tells her to do so if asked.

One of the really funny and perhaps ironic things concerning this situation is that I really thought about publishing this post and whether or not it would be permissible to do so because most, if not all, of this communication I had with this woman was private and I did not want readers of my page trying to somehow find this person and harass her (even if she totally deserves it, as some would think and have said). Two wrongs, though, don’t make a right. I don’t want people reinforcing her ridiculous beliefs that she may have about atheists and it would be quite unfair and unethical for me to direct a ‘personal army’ against her. Of course, though, I am the one concerned about ethics, not her. I was also thinking of not even posting this, but as long as I didn’t ‘out her’ or give [many] specifics, I find nothing wrong with this. This post can be very educational, entertaining, and show the folly of at least one theist.

Theists out there: just don’t do this. It is a waste of your time, a waste of my time, and it seems to be utterly crazy. I am more than willing to date a theist as long as said theist isn’t a fundamentalist and close-minded. I’m not going to take the attitude of “I can’t date a theist” because of this experience. I’m not, of course, painting all theists with the same brush here. Might, though, it be the case that this is an example of harmful religion? I’ll let you decide this. As always, feel free to comment but please, please, please don’t engage in vigilantism of any sorts if you know who this woman is. Thanks!

…and for the record, I think this is even more odd than a semi-professional (?) wrestler challenging me to a wrestling match in order for me to find and pray to the god I don’t believe in.

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