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Spiritual, not religious.

I’m thinking maybe one post to cover the weekend should do it. And since it’s the weekend, let’s make it a fun personal story. When I used to post more on bulletin boards, the embarassing introspective personal story was my bread and butter.

About 18 months ago, I was new to my neighborhood and wanted to get out and meet people. I put a personal ad up on Springstreet, which is a network that spans most alt weeklies as well as the Onion and Under “who I’m looking for,” I didn’t check off many of the presets like a specific weight or skin color, but I did specify I was looking for an atheist or agnostic. As an afterthought, I added “Buddhist” and “spiritual, not religious.” I have plenty of religious friends and family, many of whom are very normal and non-fundamentalist, but on the Internet I thought it was best to be safe. I also mentioned in my profile that I was into science and critical thinking.

I went out on a date with a man who was “spiritual, not religious.” This was a red flag, but I sincerely believe that one can be spiritual without believing in a particular sect’s dogma. In addition, he claimed to be a juggler (big red flag).

The date started out nicely. We went to a coffeeshop, where I bought us two cups of hot chocolate on my debit card, and he gave me a few dollars to cover his. We took them to the park where we walked around, talking. He eventually turned the conversation to his “spiritual, not religious” beliefs, which included a firm stance on the confirmed effectiveness of trancendental meditation and astral plane projection. I nicely pointed out that maybe there was no basis for a belief in those things, and that perhaps his personal experiences actually had more mundane causes. He chuckled at my ignorance. Then he reached in his pocket and pulled out a clear acrylic stage ball, which he started rolling across his hands and arms, David Bowie-style.* As if, as a former juggler myself, I hadn’t already seen this trick from about 10,000 wannabe ren fair boys who sorely misunderstand how to impress a girl. As if I couldn’t do that trick myself, better.

The date was effectively over when we were approached by a woman who was pretty clearly crack-addled. No, I’m not a doctor. I guess I just had a psychic premonition. The woman asked us if we had any money, and I kept walking while giving my standard “Nope, sorry.” But my date stopped, rifling through his pockets looking for cash. I stood and watched as he checked pocket after pocket in his pants, his coat, and finally opening up an empty wallet and looking apologetically at the woman. Then he turned his gaze upon me. He knew I had money. I had just taken his last few dollars less than an hour ago at the coffeeshop. “Do you have any cash, Rebecca?” I looked him square in the eye and repeated, “Nope. Sorry.”

It was a long, quiet walk back to the subway.

*Note: I’m referring to David Bowie’s role in Labyrinth, in which his character does a thing called “contact juggling.” It’s not really David Bowie’s hands doing the work, it’s Michael Moschen. I know. Don’t send me e-mails correcting me.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Hee-hee. There always one guy at every sci-fi convention walking around with one of those dang stage balls. He paces up and down the common area doing it over and over in hopes of impressing girls.

    Never seems to work. But he does it all through the convention, every year.

    Someone commented that its the slightly more pathetic version of strumming a guitar (badly) in the dormitory stairwell in hopes of… well you can figure that one out.

  2. Geez, if only guys (and girls) like that could be made to wear Spock ears, then we'd KNOW they were all weirdy and strange without having to wait the three hours.

  3. I've also battled with myself over checking the "spiritual, but not religious" box in the personals. In the end I always check it. Your anecdote has me second guessing that decision.

  4. Oh, you poor thing.

    Being "into" juggling is like being "into" downloading internet porn — no matter how much time you spend doing it, it should be kept private and out of first date conversations!

    I'm "spiritual but not religious," too… but "spiritual" like Carl Sagan, not Doug Henning!

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