Should I date an atheist?

My boyfriend doesn’t share my Christianity because of his abusive childhood. Can we make it work? 

Never mind the religion, says our elder. Has he worked through his past trauma?


Dear EWC

I have been dating a man for almost four months now. I’ll call him Brian. He is very kind and generous and has qualities I am looking for. One quality he doesn’t have that I am looking for is a spiritual life, specifically a Christian spiritual life. He is a self-proclaimed atheist. While I don’t agree with his lack of belief in God as I am a Christian, I do understand it. He comes from a very abusive family background with a father who abused him and his brother and mother. His mother never left the situation and when his brother was 15 and Brian was 16, his brother shot and killed their father after being attacked by him again. Brian witnessed his brother murder his father. He says he doesn’t believe in God since what kind of God would allow innocent children to be subjected to that abuse. He treats me more kindly than most men I’ve met who do profess Christ. However, my family is very spiritual as well as religious and they would never approve of me being with him and certainly not being sexually active with him as I am. Do I try to cover up his theology and continue to date him or cut him loose? I am a recent divorcee (we split four years ago and divorce became final last summer) with an eight-year-old son and though I really want to remarry, I know I cannot afford another divorce. What should I do?


Lloyd replies

Hi there. I found your letter very interesting in that I seem to want to answer the question you didn’t ask. Let me see if I can break this down.

Short version of advice regarding dating with different religious stuff – go for it! Longer version to follow.

Question you didn’t ask. I’m not worried that this guy is an atheist, I’m worried about his tremendously tragic childhood. He may be just fine, but if I were in your shoes, I would want to know what he has done to get there, i.e., therapy. That kind of childhood has to leave scars and I’m not saying that everyone who experiences such things is broken, but I find it a lot redder flag-ish than the whole god, no god thing.

But that wasn’t your question. The long version of the why you should go for it:

You are a Christian because your parents are Christian. If you would have been born into a Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist family, you would be one of those. It’s all a construct to get us through the day and allow us to make sense of the world (your boyfriend is what happens when they fail miserably at explaining the world that one has experienced). As long as you both understand that, you’ll probably find that when it comes to it, actually how you live your life is far more important than the labels you call yourself. I think that if one person loves Adam Sandler movies and the other person hates them, you should really not consider a future together. The religion thing – meh. 

You have been married, divorced and have a child. I think that qualifies you to not worry about what your parents think about the religion or lack thereof of your bed partner

So, in summary. Keep dating him and dig deeper into the trauma that he’s experienced and find out if it has caused relationship problems, i.e., what is his dating/marriage history. And don’t worry about your parents – remember, they’re only Christian because their parents were. And besides, this way you get a bad boy!

I’m well aware that I could be right on or full of crap. What I hope is that my ideas have broadened your ideas. Feel free to let me know. I’m rooting for you.

Article #: 472890

Category: Dating/Relationship

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