Creative Differences

This week I was going to vent my annoyance about the recycling campaign currently going on at my job, but then yesterday I came across this article subtitled I used to think creationists were monsters, until I married one, and I couldn’t resist.

The article is about a girl who was raised Roman Catholic, left the church at age 16, and converted to liberal quakerism. I can respect that – she questioned the religion in which she was raised, conducted research, and chose something that suited her own personal beliefs.

Then she met Rob. Rob told her that his parents were fundamentalist Christians, but kept mum about his own beliefs. Evidently she didn’t ask (which I find odd for someone so serious about their own spirituality) because his belief in creationism (God created the world in seven literal days creationism, evolution is a bunch of BS creationism) came out over a conversation about noses.

Well, after they dated for a year it was time for her to meet his parents. She was nervous that they wouldn’t be able to accept her and/or that she wouldn’t like them. A dinner, some engaging conversation, and a few rounds of dominoes later she was able to “forget that they all believed that the entire universe was created in only seven days.” Her image of creationists as unintelligent people who lived in either the midwest or the bible belt and did nothing but stand on soapboxes and pass judgement on non-believers was shattered. These were really nice people and she liked them. In the end she concluded that, before she met Rob’s parents, she had been the one passing judgment on creationists instead of the other way around.

The truth is that people (even people we don’t understand or agree with) aren’t as one dimensional as they seem before we get to know them, or worse, like them. I’m sure there are lots and lots of loving, kind, and likable creationists. That’s why it’s important to separate passing judgment on people from passing judgments on beliefs.

But while I think tolerance and acceptance is great among friends, co-workers, and even family, I couldn’t help but ask myself…could I marry a creationist? I really don’t think I could. This is someone I’d have to do more than make small talk over dinner and dominoes with. While I don’t expect someone to have the exact same beliefs as I do (a little variation makes for lively conversation), I don’t want my marriage to have the tone of a Shermer/Gish debate.

When choosing a partner, how important is it that you share similar spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof)?

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  1. Yeah…I don't know that I could date/marry a creationist. In fact, I'm pretty sure I couldn't. I'd have a hard time even dating someone religious.

    For starters, I wouldn't want to deal with that if/when it came time to have kids. I don't want to raise my children (if I ever have any) in any faith…and that would certainly be a needless source of conflict if my wife were religious and afraid that her children and husband were going to burn in hellfire for eternity. Nope…don't need THAT pressure.

    (Not to mention that I wouldn't want my kids to think that seven-day-creationism has any validity at all)

    Secondly, anyone I'd date/wed and I would need to have a lot in common. This isn't to say that religious folk don't have the same interests I have, but I think the conflict in mindsets would be very hard to overcome. I feel the need to probe, to ask questions, to sometimes (gently!) mock beliefs, preferences, and tastes, and I expect the same in return. I don't typically see that ability in creationists. Usually it just ends with a sullen 'I believe what I want so shut up.'

    Then there's always the fact that they believe something that is plainly, absurdly untrue, but it's not as if they've just not thought to question it: they actively REFUSE to do so. That part would be quite tough to get past.

  2. I can answer that question easily. I wouldn't marry/date a creationist. I waited a _Long_ time before I got married (at 45) because I wanted someone at home that I knew would support me.

    I get enough crap at work and in the rest of my life for my political, skeptical, and scientific attitudes. I don't need it at home.

  3. I don't think I could date or marry a creationist, although I think I wouldn't have any problems dating/marrying a religious person who doesn't reject science because it clashes with their world view.

    Religion seems to be one of the few beliefs that tends to change rapidly and thoroughly in a person. Everything else takes more time to change, but religious belief can change almost overnight. So while I might not agree with someone's adherence to the bible, there's a good chance that half a decade later, they'll be a wiccan, and another couple of years later, a buddist, and after that, who knows …

    So as far as differences go, religion is one of the lesser problems. I think different political views might give a lot more headaches and arguments.

    But a person must display at least some level of intelligence, and that means a willingness to accept the truth, even if it clashes with what they believe. If they can't do that with litteral biblical creationism (an easy one compared to some other woo beliefs), they won't be able to do that with anything else. And that means they will probably never be a skeptic and their gullibility will become a constant source of annoyance to me. Not what you need to keep a relationship going.

  4. No, I couldn't marry/date a creationist. I'm picky enough about much less important things when it comes to dating. I do date people who are religious, as long as they're primarily culturally religious or otherwise very liberal in their religious beliefs. Any kind of rigid religious beliefs is a deal-breaker for me, though.

  5. Any kind of rigid belief is enough to be a serious turn off for me. Although only rigid religious belief would be a deal breaker.

    But over the years I fear I've had to lower my standards a bit, so maybe that's why :(

  6. I'm sure they're very tolerant, after all, it's not them going to hell. Let's see how tolerant they are when it comes to baptising the kids. That's the test of any inter-faith marriage…

  7. I could date a creationist, but I would never marry one. I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt that maybe they really haven’t thought about their beliefs. However if they are serious about it, then the relationship probably wouldn’t last long. I have dated creationist’s before, but that was high school and I was religious myself. I haven’t really been in the dating scene since I started caring about this stuff.

  8. JackPT/Expatria – that's a really interesting point about the issues associated with raising kids. I think I'd like to read a follow up article from Ms. Quaker when her kids are about five years old.


  9. I don't think a creationist would be willing to date me. I mean, if you meet me it's pretty obvious that I'm a personal eccentric wandering his way through the twentysomething culture of pluralistic beauty. I wear Sinfest shirts to the grocery store, and when I had a car in Alabama, I stuck a Darwin Fish on the back. Anyone of rigid sociopolitical mores would conclude, correctly, that I listen to the Devil's Music.

  10. My wife is a believer (Roman Catholic), and we just recently set off to baptize our 8 YO kid… Only to be rejected because he's too old. Wasn't Jeebuz himself baptsized at 30? I'm all for it anytime *they* want.

    We get along pretty well, and her beliefs stay out of bed (relational causation?). The kids, they'll have a chance to change their mind… If they ever want to.

  11. I don't think I could marry/date a creationist. I grew up (and still live in) the Bible belt, so I've been friends with plenty of creationists, and it works well enough as long as everyone observes a certain level of politeness such as not mocking or trying to convert the other person, but I wouldn't want to have to be that careful around someone I was even just dating, much less planning to share the rest of my life with.

  12. Personally, I can't afford to have too stringent standards on who I date, so I'm hesitant to rule out people on any one thing. However, a belief like this is quite a big thing. Chances are I'd end up getting into an argument with her the first time it comes up, and this would determine how the relationship progresses. If she's the type who enjoys debating about this sort of thing, and I like her for enough other reasons, I might just stick in in the hopes I could (de)convert her.

    Unfortunately, I don't think there are many people like that. Chances are, my problem would be just like Blake's, and I'd turn them off (though it would take longer, as I'm not the type to bother with ornamentation of any type on my car or searching out heretical shirts). This has actually happened to me a couple times in the past, in the pre-dating phase. One girl absolutely refused to date an atheist, and I somehow made the other feel guilty about her beliefs.

  13. I don't think creationists are monsters (why did she have that idea?), but I do think they are quite stupid and I would not want to marry a stupid person.

    Of course, I may at some point have to lower my standards…

  14. (why did she have that idea?),

    She probably had that idea because her religious upbringing taught her to see the world in stark either/or terms rather than with any nuance.

  15. For me, I think it depends of the person was just raised in a creationist environment, or actually IS a creationist. The first is just ignorance and is fixable. Good opportunity museum dates and things. Loads of discussion.

    The second case is the same as astrology buffs, palmists and every other kind of pseudoscience-swaller. That kind of intellectual laziness is deeply unsexy.

  16. Infophile said:

    "Personally, I can’t afford to have too stringent standards on who I date, so I’m hesitant to rule out people on any one thing."

    Eh, I've been completely and unabashedly single for so long that, at this point, I feel like I owe it to myself to be just as, if not MORE, picky. Now, I REALIZE that I have absolutely no reason to 'elevate' myself in such a way as to reject so many people out of hand: I'm not handsome, not talented in any interesting way, lack motivation and dedication in any area, and despite my perceived intelligence I'm quite uncultured and always learning how little I know (or will ever know) about EVERYTHING.

    But at the same time, I guess I don't feel so desperate that I need to lower the bar of certain characteristics I admire in humans in general, and SPECIFICALLY in members of the opposite sex. I'm a picky bastard, and I'm already well-aware of the fact that my non-drinking, non-partying, tragically unhip, bar-avoiding, critical, skeptical, scrawny atheistic ass is unlikely to EVER encounter someone looking for precisely that combination of traits.

    But I guess that's what makes it appealing to me. It's difficult, and I'd rather find someone close to what I want despite all of the difficulty than keep bouncing from people that aren't so close but are perhaps easier to get. Maybe that makes me just as crazy as all of the creationists; I don't know. All I know is that it feels like the right choice, even if it involves closing far more doors than I leave open.

  17. I'd sleep with a creationist as long as they didn't have problems with the idea of pre-marital sex, contraception, and/or snoring. I really don't mind anyone having wacky beliefs, my problem is with people that try to impose them on other people or assert non-mathematical/unscientific truth. I'm an atheist, but also a libertarian. I'm pro liberty to believe in any old shit. Just don't go scamming money from people (a la psychics/alt med) or claiming authority because of a God/religion and I won't argue with you.

    To that extent I would marry a creationist (or any faith), provided they didn't push their faith on me, as much as I wouldn't push my atheism on them. The marriage would have to have a degree of respect for the others views to work. I would hope to have interested level headed debates on the subject of religion (as I've had with plenty of religious people) without screaming at each other. If those terms couldn't be met then there'd be no chance of a marriage.

  18. I couldn't/wouldn't date a Young Earth Creationist. There would probably be a lot of other issues that would go along with that, which would cause me not to be interested in the first place. Almost all my ex-boyfriends (as well as friends) were/are pretty much of the deist variety (no church-goers, one agnostic, one atheist). We didn't discuss religion frequently, and they cared not about me being an atheist, so it wasn't a big issue. If I had married any of them and we had kids, it might have then become more of an issue. People who were interested in me and then found out I was an atheist, didn't outright reject me – they would try to "save" me first. That would last about two seconds.

    I have to agree with Bug-girl's sentiment above. My serial-dating days are over, and I may have become more impatient or set in my ways, but I really don't want to deal with religion arguments in a relationship. I don't want a carbon-copy of me, but I'd like to be on the same page regarding the issue of religion and lack thereof. Sometimes it's nice not having to explain where I'm coming from. There are plenty of other things to do.

  19. I have dated religious people, but I couldn't date a creationist because our beliefs would be too radically different for it to work out. I love science, and I just can't date someone who is anti-science. Besides, I have better things to do than argue about basic science with a girlfriend.

  20. Infophile, when I said I wouldn't marry a creationist, your scenario is what I had in mind. I could try to date (as I would probably try to date any kind of woo girl I'm really interested in), but the ensuing conversations would eventually touch on one of the hot topics, and her inability to change her mind would then quickly kill it for me.

    Her ability to concede or at least agree to disagree might make it last a while longer, but in my opinion, most woo subjects are well documented enough to be able to change your mind about them once presented with evidence. If she'd insist on it, I don't give it a high chance of success.

    So I suppose I'd be trying to "save" her, change her. Maybe that's wrong, but I would at least try.

    I could deal with someone who'd have different opinions on politics, on philosophical matters, on raising kids, anything that doesn't really have a wrong answer.

    But someone who – in things that have a very clear right and wrong side – insists in believing the wrong side, I couldn't deal with that.

  21. Expatria said:

    Eh, I’ve been completely and unabashedly single for so long that, at this point, I feel like I owe it to myself to be just as, if not MORE, picky. Now, I REALIZE that I have absolutely no reason to ‘elevate’ myself in such a way as to reject so many people out of hand: I’m not handsome, not talented in any interesting way, lack motivation and dedication in any area, and despite my perceived intelligence I’m quite uncultured and always learning how little I know (or will ever know) about EVERYTHING.

    Ever get the feeling you're talking to a future version of yourself? Perhaps I'll get to that point eventually, but for now I think I'll keep my standards low enough to not rule out everyone I'm likely to meet.

  22. What the folks say who've been married for the longest about what kept them together, the most important thing is the friendship between the partners. A friend isn't someone you need to walk on eggshells with in day to day conversation. Between an atheist and a fundamentalist is a profound gulf of world view that would be a minefield of differences over child rearing to politics. It'd be eggshell city every time you turn around.

    I like to let folks that I'm going to be dealing with know where I stand right away on the relevant issues,and that would pretty much preclude marrying a fundamentalist/creationist.

  23. Infophile,exarch:

    Always nice to be reminded that I'm not alone! Now if only I met a female who'd cop to the same charges, then PERHAPS I'd be in business! :-P

  24. Geez, humans are so complicated. Why can't we select mates like birds and other animals? The best feather dance and prettiest song win. Now, that would make frat parties interesting…

  25. Evy, I hate to break it to you, but that is what we already do. That's why us geeks and nerds have done nothing but complaining on this and other blog entries like it. We are not pretty, strong, we don't sing particularly well, etc… So we don't get any mates. Not until the other, fancier male birds are done with them and the disillusioned female bird decides to settle for one that won't be picking up younger "chicks" and stuff like that.

    Okay, I think I've already reached my wallowing quotum for January. Now I have to wait a whole month before I can self-pity again :evil:

  26. Did you guys ever watch the original 'Walking With Dinosaurs?' Well, one segment featured the giant flying reptile Ornithocheirus migrating across the ocean to its breeding grounds. As I recall, we 'followed' the progress of an older male Ornithocheirus, its delayed arrival at the breeding grounds, and its last unsuccessful attempt to attract a mate, ending in its death.

    I've kept out of the whole 'feather dance/pretty song' debate because I've long harbored the suspicion that my attempt would end in the same way as that of the unfortunate Ornithocheirus. While being picked at by beach-scavenging critters would look vaguely amusing, I don't think it's the ideal way to go out!

    (PS: Unlike exarch, I have no monthly wallowing quota. I find the mud in my wallow helps keep me from being burned)

  27. In highschool, I dated a Mormon girl. She was the first girl I had ever dated and I really thought I was in love. When we eventually discussed marriage, she insisted that I join her faith because that was the only way we could be wed FOREVER. (Yes, no "til death do us part" for the Mormons.) So, wanting desperately to keep this girl, I actually sat down with a couple of their missionaries and really tried to swallow what they were saying. I REALLY TRIED! But at the end of the hour, I had to break up with the girl.

    But here's a little variation on this whole topic. It seems most everyone who posted an opinion, would not date a creationist. What about a pseudo-scientist? Many years after I broke up with the Mormon girl, I started dating a pagan. She was wiccan and she was into astrology. But she was smart and responsible and she was crazy about me. All right, she was good-looking, too. ;o) We had a long talk about religion one night, and afterward agreed to not talk about it again. I found her beliefs quaint and a little whimsical, but pretty much harmless. She said my beliefs scared the hell out of her! (That we have no soul and my only concession to an afterlife is that the atoms of which I'm made will nourish the Earth's fauna. Then when the sun eventually destroys the Earth, those same atoms will be strewn across the Universe.) We've been together now for 13 years, and without me trying, she no longer believes in astrology, and she now has leanings toward Buddhism, with which even my skeptical self has no problem.

    So date those fundies and tree-huggers! Maybe, as an onion in the fridge will taint the taste of your oranges, your beliefs will soak into theirs. …. Hmm. Maybe not the best analogy …

    And just imagine what an effect a good "seeing to" would have on Sylvia Browne!

    "God cannot exist within a rational mind." – Me

  28. I used to date a girl who was into astrology and God (but not creationism), She gave good head but I'm glad I didn't marry her.

  29. Sweet fancy Moses…starting the day with the image of giving Sylvia Browne a good "seeing to" was NOT what I needed…thanks so much Briarking. Now I need mindbleach AND mouthwash. Ugh.

  30. Yes, exarch, guys have to put forth effort. But tunes and feathers come in handy for girls feigning to be selected for a guy's "efforts". ;)

  31. I am just about the only atheist in my circle of closest friends and loved ones. My friends' religious beliefs tend toward two clusters: those who believe their own specialized forms of Christianity and those who hold various pagan beliefs. A few are astrology advocates; a few believed that God, in some way, directed the universe into its current form. I don't think any are young earthers, though; they tend to accept science on those points it's particularly clear about.

    The thing is, each person has made an effort to examine the universe and decide for him or herself what to believe. Each is happy to discuss the issues, and modify beliefs according to new data or rationale. The one fundamental point on which we disagree is whether it's acceptable to believe things that science can neither confirm nor deny.

    I think that's fair; it's something I can live with in a close friend. I know I could love and would be willing to date such a person. I have no idea whether I could become willing to marry her, though. The jury's out; at 27, I have not yet been willing to marry /anybody/. All I can say in general is that simply believing in the supernatural is not a deal-breaker. It depends entirely on what she believes, why she believes it, how that affects the way we relate to each other, whether she would feel obligated to pass her beliefs to our children, and so on.

    It does rather disappoint, though, to find that someone I am interested in allows so subjective a thing, about which we so easily fool ourselves, to help define her view of the universe.

  32. Oops. Sorry, Expatria! I didn't realize my little joke would cause such harm. Take a quick perusal of the Skepchick calendar to replace the image. Or maybe try to picture Sylvia Browne out hunting with Dick Cheney.

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