Hnn | HNN Articles

How to Explain Humanism When You’re on a Date

 

By Steve Major

I’ve been on approximately 200 first dates in the last five years. A hundred more and I am legally required to write a book about my courting escapades with a title like “300 Cups of Tea” or “300 down, 3,499,999,700 to go!” or “The King James Bible.” I feel like that last one would sell really well.

It so happens (in a shocking level of coincidence in a humanist publication) that I am a secular humanist, and as someone who has clearly made dating a priority, I’ve been commissioned to address the role that humanism plays on my social life.

Dating is challenging at the best of times, but being a nontheist adds yet another layer of difficulty to the whole mishegas. It’s tempting to imagine that fate will deliver your soul mate to you when you’re finally ready for one, but I know far too many smart, funny, kind-hearted, lonely middle-aged singles to put my faith in a notion like that. I don’t believe in God, but if I did, I’d still have to assume he was too busy intervening in sports games and watching third world AIDS orphans starve to death to pay overly close attention to the intricacies of who I’m sleeping with.

The truth is, though, that being a member of an organized religion does make it easier to find a spouse. Religious organizations are a great place to meet people (polygamous sects are good too, if you don’t mind sharing), but humanists need to venture further afield.

It would be rare to find someone of moderate to high religious conviction who would be interested in being in a serious relationship with an atheist and, speaking for myself, the feeling is mutual. Here in America nonbelievers are very much in the minority and, depending how strongly you feel on the subject, that can narrow your choices way down.

Since meeting girls at church or being set up by the temple matchmaker isn’t an option, you have to seek out your own versions of a higher calling: the arts, sports, volunteering! I’ve acted in shows, done improv comedy, joined book clubs, gone on clean-up expeditions, taken dancing classes, and am planning to join a kickball league. All of those things were fun, but for meeting other singles, nothing comes close to the date finding power of the all mighty Internet.

I’ve tried a couple of different dating sites—the differences are almost all a question of appearance and price, their functionality is more or less identical (except eHarmony, which is super expensive, badly designed and biased against atheists).  For reasons both practical and philosophical, I prefer the free sites. If you’re in your mid-thirties or above you should also consider Match.com, just because that’s where others of that age group seem to have gravitated.

These sites all have a religion category on your profile where you get choose from a dozen or so preselected options. Humanism, despite having been coined eighty years ago, still has some branding to do; most sites will offer a nontheist the option of listing themself as an “atheist,” an “agnostic,” “spiritual but not religious” or “other.” I went with “atheist” and being “somewhat serious about it.”

Only 1.6 % of Americans describe themselves as “atheist” according to the 2007 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life which, even on the Internet, makes for an uncomfortably small dating pool. Fortunately when you include everyone who describes themselves as agnostic, secular, unsure, unaffiliated, spiritual but not religious, and other nontheistic euphemisms the percentage shoots up to a healthy 16.1%. We’re still in the minority, but since the nontheistic also tend to be well educated, it ends up being a good dating pool to swim in.

Until the time comes that I start seriously considering marriage and having kids, I’m also comfortable going out with people who identify as belonging to one of the major religions, as long as they’re either “not too serious” or “laughing about it.” I’ve found that encompasses a lot of people for whom their Jewish or Catholic identity is more cultural than religious, which I’m totally fine with. I throw Buddhists into that group too since, as an Asian Studies professor once told me, “Americans become Buddhist when they find Unitarianism too dogmatic.” In practical terms, it usually just boils down to being vaguely New-Age-y and vegetarian. I draw the line at caring about astrology though.

When you work for a group with “Humanist” in the title, the subject is going to come up quickly. Unfortunately a lot of people are unclear what humanism entails, and the AHA’s official definition is kind of a mouthful. So I describe it thusly:

“I’m an atheist, but while atheism only describes what I’m not—someone who doesn’t believe in God—humanism describes what I am: someone who also feels a commitment to scientific principles, behaving ethically, and doing my part to make the world a better place.”

How that goes over depends on who I’m saying it to. For a lot of people, once they get a clearer sense of what humanism is, it goes a long way to taking some of the negative connotations out of being an atheist. For others, even though they presumably already saw that I described myself as an atheist, the knowledge that it’s a big part of my daily focus proves to be a bridge too far, even when paired with the admirable caveats included in my humanism definition.

And religious compatibility is only one tiny component in actually being a compatible match. I once spent an hour having coffee with a girl who only wanted to discuss how annoying religious people were. Yawnsville.

I also once went on a date with a girl who, in all seriousness, told me she needed to get married before the world ended in 2012 so she could have a husband in heaven. In my defense, she was very attractive.

So I’m still looking for that special someone and making the most of my time as best I can. Fortunately there are still plenty of eligible women out there. I’d better start taking notes for my book.

Steve Major is the development associate for the American Humanist Association.

blog comments powered by Disqus

American Humanist Association

We're happy to welcome a new chapter, Montgomery Humanists, to the American Huma...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

This week on the Humanist Hour Podcast, Bo Bennett and Kim Ellington speak with...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

As we have seen by the recent murders of three nonreligious bloggers—Ananta Bijo...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Jennifer Bardi, editor-in-chief of the Humanist magazine, recaps the AHA's 74th...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Prospective Student Webinar this Thursday! Considering the next class of The Hum...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Help the Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers represent humanists at this year's...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Humanist Pioneer Awardee Isaiah Smith, stands up for separation of church and st...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

A South Carolina court has ruled that prayer in public school graduations doesn'...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Right-wing media loves terrorism stories, so how did they all manage to miss thi...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Omaha Metro Area Humanist Association, a chapter of AHA, is participating in Oma...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

This week on the Humanist, Becky Garrison sits down with Quiet Company's Taylor...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Don't miss the Humanist "Ask Me Anything" session with Kristin Wintermute, Execu...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

We love to see our fellow free-thinkers doing what they can to help out humanity...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

With the number of Christians declining and the unaffiliated rising in the US, w...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Ethical Dilemma: How much would you change for your significant other's beliefs?

10 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday Everyone!

11 days ago

American Humanist Association

We're happy to welcome a new chapter, Palm Beach Humanists, to the American Huma...

11 days ago

American Humanist Association

Bob Diven, AHA celebrant in New Mexico, recently participated in a debate about...

11 days ago

American Humanist Association

Washington DC does something right, and we aren't talking about the feds!

12 days ago

American Humanist Association

On May 13, the AHA joined other members of the National Coalition for Public Edu...

12 days ago

American Humanist Association

Ethical Dilemma: What to do about a rude house guest. Tell us your experience w...

12 days ago

American Humanist Association

Don't miss the Humanist Institute's upcoming "Ask Me Anything" session with Kris...

13 days ago

American Humanist Association

On this week's episode of the Humanist Hour Podcast, Bo Bennett interviews singe...

13 days ago

American Humanist Association

A very happy 127th birthday to Inge Lehmann, the Danish seismologist and geophys...

13 days ago

American Humanist Association

Do community events like "Draw Mohammad" contests promote freedom of speech or j...

13 days ago