Shun the Atheist Boyfriend

A poll reveals that parents of all political persuasions are very squeamish about the prospect of a godless daughter- or son-in-law.
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The young, educated Brooklynite tweaks his sardonic bow tie and gently tugs the laces of his newly polished Oxfords. He spent the afternoon picking out just the right flowers for the mother of his young, educated girlfriend—tonight's the night he'll ask her to be his gal for life.

He's got a kick in his step as he strides up the walk to her Staten Island home. The door opens to shouts of greetings and mom-ish kisses and surprisingly pushy offers of food and drink. They nosh, they gab, and things are grand—that is, until they sit down for dinner.

Over bowls of matzo balls, dear Dad-To-Be brings up metaphysics, as one often does over soup. "So, my boy, what does God have in store for your career, you think?" DTB asks.

"Oh," coughs the Brooklynite, mildly, "I don't think God has much to do with it, but I'm very excited—"

DTB interrupts. "But, son: Don't you believe in God?"

Suddenly, the room is silent, much silenter than a Jewish household in the New York suburbs was ever meant to be. Bubbe isn't even singing softly to herself anymore. 

"Uhhh," the young atheist says.

A gray light falls over the room, which is odd, because it's only 5 pm. If only our young Brooklynite were Jewish, he might have made a mental comparison to a room where people are sitting Shiva, or maybe a Bar Mitzvah luncheon after the lox have run out. Needless to say, this doesn't bode well for future vacations with happy in-laws. 

Our poor Brooklynite isn't alone; it's hard out there for single atheists. In general, Americans don't like the idea of atheists in certain parts of public life, like politics, but they definitely don't like the idea of an atheist shacking up with their kid for life. In a new Pew survey, nearly half of respondents said they would be unhappy if a member of their immediate family married an atheist, including 73 percent of conservatives, 51 percent of moderates, and 24 percent of liberals. In fact, liberals were only slightly more likely to be unhappy if a family member married a born-again Christian.


Marrying an Atheist vs. a Born-Again Christian

Source: Pew Research Center

Unfortunately for our atheist hero, his relationship ended. He lived out his life in solitude, save the company of his cat, named Zarathustra.

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Emma Green is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the National Channel, manages TheAtlantic.com’s homepage, and writes about religion and culture.

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