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Dating and commitment, the atheist way.
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palaeo Offline
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Post: #1
Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

Being an atheist/feminist/humanist makes me more selective about the people I date, and it definitely dictates who I am attracted to. And it also makes me feel that a traditional wedding ceremony/marriage is not something I would be interested in if I were to get into a committed relationship. But like all things, my views might change the more I learn. So I would like to hear your opinions on marriage, commitment and dating.

Does being an atheist make you date more selectively?
What is your view on marriage as a whole?
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Ajita Kamal Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

(17-06-2010 09:52 PM)palaeo Wrote:  Being an atheist/feminist/humanist makes me more selective about the people I date, and it definitely dictates who I am attracted to. And it also makes me feel that a traditional wedding ceremony/marriage is not something I would be interested in if I were to get into a committed relationship. But like all things, my views might change the more I learn. So I would like to hear your opinions on marriage, commitment and dating.

Does being an atheist make you date more selectively?
What is your view on marriage as a whole?

I learned early on that I am incompatible with believers, at least as far as proper relationships are concerned. I know people who are atheists who claim that the religious identity (or beliefs in general) of a potential partner doesn't come into the picture. In truth these folks form self-selected social groups, and are subconsciously filtering out mates just like the rest of us.

But I think that people are too complex to generalize on such issues. As you say, growing up changes you, with each experience opening up a new way of seeing the world. Some atheists will share your views, which is evidenced by the fact that there are separate categories for atheists on many dating sites.

We should not assume that someone who shares all our views will make us happy. I know that's not what you're saying, but I've made that mistake before Censored I'm staying single for the foreseeable future, but I do have a fairly good idea of what I will want. Promoting atheism and skepticism is something that I do with my life, and is a part of me, but it doesn't have to be what my partner wants. What I do need is someone who is progressive and driven to create social change. Of course she has to be an atheist but once we get past that triviality, the sharing of the many experiences and desires that we have in common (music, art, books, nature, travel etc.) becomes more important. And when you peel back that layer, what's left is who we are as people, how much we enjoy the company of the other person, and how much we care about each other. So, the beliefs are important up to a point. But there is more to a relationship. Say you meet Theta and are attracted to him/her. You may just happen to be at the same place as Theta at this particular time in your life when your paths have crossed. But how do you make sure, sooner rather than later, that you are not doomed to continue on past each other? To know for sure if your paths could merge and take you both someplace nice, you must share the same values.

So, beliefs are important to a point, but for a truly happy relationship you must share the same values. This works for me. But of course, we are only talking about logically accessible levels of behavior here. Our social behavior is determined by extremely dynamic and complex interactions between culture and biology, and much of how we pick mates and form relationships (and fall out of them) is unpredictable for all intents and purposes.

One last note on this. You should all watch Brain Sex, a 3-episode TV series by the BBC, if you haven't already.

"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
(This post was last modified: 18-06-2010 09:15 AM by Ajita Kamal.)
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Recidivist Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

Hell, my relationship came about because of a shared affinity for dead baby jokes. So, you know, you can't tell what will work and what won't :P
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palaeo Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

(18-06-2010 11:45 AM)Recidivist Wrote:  Hell, my relationship came about because of a shared affinity for dead baby jokes. So, you know, you can't tell what will work and what won't :P

OMGZ!! That is so romantic! And strange. But good strange. Big Grin
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Recidivist Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

Yeah, we both tend towards sociopathic humour and a love for all things ironic.

We managed to slow-dance to Megadeth on a deserted beach. It helps to be dating someone who shares your (off-kilter in my case) cultural references and your little quirky tastes. The mainstream gets boring :p
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palaeo Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

JEALOUS! I've been looking for off-kilter and quirky since I started dating and can't seem to find it anywhere! *sigh*
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astrokid.nj Offline
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Post: #7
RE: Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

(18-06-2010 08:55 AM)Ajita Kamal Wrote:  You may just happen to be at the same place as Theta at this particular time in your life when your paths have crossed. But how do you make sure, sooner rather than later, that you are not doomed to continue on past each other? To know for sure if your paths could merge and take you both someplace nice, you must share the same values.

[So, beliefs are important to a point, but for a truly happy relationship you must share the same values.
One last note on this. You should all watch Brain Sex, a 3-episode TV series by the BBC, if you haven't already.

Ajita,
Thats really good insight. I watched 'Brain sex' and plan to read the book sometime soon.
I feel our values (morals and virtues, as defined in Dr Kamath's blog) are logical consequences of our beliefs. Religion offers stupid beliefs, and hence many of their values are so very fked up (kill homsexuals, etc), and even when they have good values, they are for the wrong belief (do good, because you will accumulate good karma and go to heaven???). Remember Sam Harris's talk on values?
So.. I would actually wish to find a partner with similar beliefs.

This is a really important subject. Even leaving atheism aside
(coz.. how many of us think about atheism early enough in life? In our formative years, we are more interested in our education and establishing ourselves. And marriage tends to happen around then),
understanding what you need/want from your marital partner is a tricky issue, one that I have failed at miserably, with my first marriage ending in divorce. I would say that for Indians, this is one of the biggest decisions in life, coz the "punishment for a failed marriage" is quite high at times (unlike liberal countries).

As an atheist/naturalist, I tend to go nuts after repeated exposure to super-natural thought/action from my parents, with whom I spend only a fraction of my time. So, I wonder how I will live with a spouse who does similar. Much as I would love to find someone with similar values, its very very hard. We can consider this a cerebral issue, or a learn-from-experience issue. Whatever cerebration you do, only learn-from-experience teaches you a lot more.. coz each individual has his/her own good and bad side. The question becomes.. "can you live with this bad side?". Frankly, I am all for live-in relationships, and take it from there. I am quite interested in learning more about the breakdown-of-marriage-as-an-institution in the more liberated countries of the world (western europe apparently). I lean a lot more towards that.

PS:
Men and women are so very different, of course, and they differ in how they approach atheism. The comments in the Pharyngula thread are just fascinating.
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/...p#comments

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead
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Ajita Kamal Offline
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Post: #8
RE: Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

(01-07-2010 03:07 AM)astrokid.nj Wrote:  I feel our values (morals and virtues, as defined in Dr Kamath's blog) are logical consequences of our beliefs. Religion offers stupid beliefs, and hence many of their values are so very fked up (kill homsexuals, etc), and even when they have good values, they are for the wrong belief (do good, because you will accumulate good karma and go to heaven???). Remember Sam Harris's talk on values?
So.. I would actually wish to find a partner with similar beliefs.

Astrokid.nj, all the evidence from biology points to a combination of factors that are responsible for who we are. But one thing is certain. Values are informed by beliefs and in turn they do inform beliefs, but values do not derive from beliefs. Values are derived from emotional experiences.

Beliefs are only concerned with evaluating truth claims about reality. Values by definition are subjective.This is why you can have two very rational and skeptical people like Hitchens and Bill Maher be on opposite sides of the political spectrum. This is because political and social preferences are informed by beliefs and decided by values.

Harris is concerned with coming up with a political strategy for creating a society based on science, not with understanding the objective truth. In his desire to do so, he makes some fundamental errors in his reasoning- errors that are actually so well known in philosophy and science that it is amusing to see someone actually state them. This is what I tried to explain earlier in the rape thread. As I said there, if Harris were to publish that argument in an actual peer-reviewed paper, he'd be ripped apart. If you want to understand how values are a different beast, see an actual scientific researcher like Jonathan Haidt.



Beliefs are indeed very important, which is why we are all here- to try and eradicate false beliefs. As I said in my previous post in this thread, the beliefs are important, but once you find someone with an acceptable set of beliefs, values come into play for determining long term compatibility. Superstitious beliefs cause a lot of suffering. But knowledge alone is not enough to end such suffering. Knowledge must be tempered with compassion. This compassion is a value, also known as empathy. Most of us have varying degrees of empathy, and our beliefs and experiences shape this emotional response to the iniquities of others, but empathy itself is a very biological phenomenon. Different people who are provided with the exact same information about the amount of suffering in, say, Africa, will more often than not have different empathetic reactions. This is the value response that varies from person to person. Reason informs, biology responds and neither is the same for all people.

However, Harris' conclusions are not far off, even if his premise is false. As long as we remember that beliefs in themselves are devoid of value, informed beliefs can help the more empathetic among us create a future that reflects our values. Removing superstition allows those of us who have more progressive values to come together and push out those views that are based on repressive and bigoted values. But it is important to remember the role that values play. Note: In Harris' argument, the desire for 'well being' is a value. This is where he makes the crucial category error (that I was talking about in the other thread). It is not a belief. Once that desire has been decided by the interaction of biology and experience, we express belief about well-being. However, the value precedes the belief in well-being as a "good" thing. Harris has a ready answer to this, of course, but it relies on making the category error.

In the context of this conversation, there are many atheist men and women with whom I would not want to have a thing to do. I'd rather socialize (or even date) a woman who is a compassionate person but has no inclinations towards promoting rationalism (although I would at least require her to dislike religion) than a hardcore skeptic who, say for example, is against universal healthcare, worker's rights and gender equality. There are others who would go further than I and declare that the beliefs of their partner are irrelevant. One thing is for sure as far as I am concerned. On the chart that Haidt draws up, I'd steer as far away from the conservative women as I can. Nothing turns me off faster than a person with no compassion for people other than those in their own tribe. But I am also not very tolerant of people on the far left who have a really low threshold when it comes to seeing patterns in the noise.

"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
(This post was last modified: 02-07-2010 08:07 PM by Ajita Kamal.)
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unsorted Offline
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Post: #9
RE: Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

I've thought about this a lot, and for me, there are just a few deal-breakers that would rule out a person -- devout/fundamentalist religiousness, and explicit racism and anti-feminism.

I once read this great comment on Sepia Mutiny: a potential partner has to be 3 things: smart, cute and sweet. These are all subjective of course: smarts that suit yours, attractiveness that attracts you, and values and personality that gel with yours. It's the "smart" aspect that's a stumbling block for most rationalists I think - whether to "settle" for someone who believes in god/thinks homeopathy works/doesn't know a logical fallacy from a lamp post. It's a toughie. Personally, I wouldn't rule out someone who isn't an atheist, because I myself wasn't an atheist for most of my life, and I would have been devastated had some awesome person rejected me because of that. People change their minds - if there's some smartness, cuteness and sweetness there, we should give them a chance.
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palaeo Offline
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Post: #10
RE: Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

I agree to some extent with unsorted. It's just that I've never met a religious person who was not a little crazy when it comes to their beliefs. I would never want to have a an actual fight about something like religion with a partner. I don't think I can definitely say I would never date a person with theistic beliefs but I would rather not go there.
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siddharth Offline
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Post: #11
RE: Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

(17-06-2010 09:52 PM)palaeo Wrote:  Being an atheist/feminist/humanist makes me more selective about the people I date, and it definitely dictates who I am attracted to. And it also makes me feel that a traditional wedding ceremony/marriage is not something I would be interested in if I were to get into a committed relationship. But like all things, my views might change the more I learn. So I would like to hear your opinions on marriage, commitment and dating.

Does being an atheist make you date more selectively?
What is your view on marriage as a whole?

I agree with a lot of what Ajita says (in his first post; I haven't read the rest entirely).

Anyone I get into a relationship with must be an atheist, humanist and staunch feminist, but these are only necessary conditions, not sufficient conditions.

This is not to say I haven't been involved with women who weren't religious before. It's just that religion and god never really came into the picture. What connected us were other things, and these said girls never brought up anything irrational for me to judge them. But the relationships didn't last long anyway (for reasons that didn't have to do with any irrationality).

Things are different now, and I do not think I could have a serious relationship with someone who isn't an atheist.

I too believe that I will be an activist in any capacity possible for the rest of my life. But I do not expect my girlfriend to be. What would connect are other characteristics that are far more important, in my opinion, for two people to connect.

As far as marriage goes, I do not believe in the institution. But I do like the idea of having a nice marriage style party (non-extravagant) with my closest relatives and friends.
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murthymail Offline
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Post: #12
RE: Dating and commitment, the atheist way.

Dang! Freethinking just reduced the (already diminishing) potential single female samplespace available out there.

My future looks quite bleak. Huh Sweatdrop

Here's my take: The distinction between freethinking and atheism becomes important here. If I were to draw a Venn diagram, I suppose Atheism Xn Freethinking would be a non null set, I mean to say you could still be a freethinker and also a theist as you may not have really explored religion through the freethinking scanner. I was skeptical about many things but never an atheist simply because I did not happen to think about religion critically. One might call it selective freethinking but it is not! I can completely empathize with a person who is truly skeptic and rational but hasn't really pondered about religion because of a plathora of reason. But it is the freethinking attitude that matters to me the most, an open mind makes for a great conversation. And if a person is skeptical by nature, sooner or later, atheism will be at the doorstep.

Murthy

"Credulity kills" -- Carl Sagan
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