I Broke The Second Date Rule

Badger Nation asked me a few days back in a comment about me breaking The Second Date Rule with Jennifer when I stopped being an Evangelical Christian and became an Atheist. The Second Date Rule being “if I just saw behavior like that on the second date, would I have ever had a third date with this person?”
The answer to that question is yes indeed I did very much break the second date rule. I more than broke it, I shattered it. I had been sent off to a private Christian school at age 7 and converted to an Evangelical faith at age 16. I started work for The Bible Society in New Zealand at age 20 and quit a year later to work on a summer camp in Maryland. Viki, one of my new American friends on the camp liked my perspective on discipleship as a teaching strategy. Being unstoppable in personality, Viki convinced her college Chaplain to let me come and teach a weekend discipleship retreat in conjunction with the college chapel.
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  1. You are very lucky. My parents fought over religion and eventually divorced. I also recently read Don't Sleep There Are Snakes by linguist Daniel Everett, who lost his family when he came out as an atheist.

    I guess one benefit of not marrying when young is that your religious beliefs are more likely to be stable when you are older. When I was 20 I was a very ardent atheist and now at 24 I am again a theist. I don't think things would be going very well now if I had married the boyfriend I dated when I was 20…

    Even though I'm a theist, I think it's great to see an atheist proving that you don't need God to be moral :) It's dumb when theists get mad at atheists. It just makes them dislike religion more.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I'm dismayed that you turned atheist but can understand it as well (anyone who takes thinks about their faith in the least bit should question it IMHO). Having an instinctual desire to move away from faith is perhaps not uncommon – esp as people get older and believe their destiny is in their own hands (self-empowerment and all that). Though curious though why your in-laws prayer should make you angry rather than indifferent (a subconcious reason for that)?

    Certainly, society's idea of what constitutes faith can make me recoil at times (from mind numbing ritual without thought, excessive emotionalism, the infantile manner in which God is viewed- Santa anyone?). At least I'm proud to say that my wife made a very conscious and deliberate conversion to Catholicism after long and careful study.

    Of course, if we're growing, taking in the world, trying to learn from life..our ideas and worldview will likely to change as well. So what seems rather certain now maybe questionable in the future (ie, my father turned from strictly rationalist/scientific mindset to a strongly devout Catholic in his later years).

    In the words of Donald Rumsfeld- we don't know what we don't know. And there are alot of unknown unknowns. If nothing else, it does give me pause to consider the many highly intelligent and thoughtful people with deep faith throughout history (and – unlike The Great Christopher Hitchins – didn't consider faith as on par with superstition).

    My 2 cents. Thanks for your blog- I consider it a unique and important public service.

  3. Anonymous says:

    "Come over the dark side, we have cookies".

    Thanks for shareing Athol,
    My wife and I did this in another direction,
    I was a pagan witch she was a christian, when we first met I was going to be "saved", "only found this out afterwords".

    She wanted to go to a Alpha course, I went along out of curiosity and with the hope of getting a decent debate on the subject. After a few lessons of me questioning she started to question too, by the end of it not only was I not "saved" she wanted to know more about being a Pagan.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Athol, just curious, but when did the whole game thing come into play? Around the same time as the atheism, before or after?

  5. Athol Kay says:

    Anon – actively reading on Game the last 3-4 years, but I have done a few things unwittingly right over the years as well. So I've reverse engineered what I've done well.

    I've read on sexuality since I was 10 thanks to my Mom reading The Hite Report and not locking it up. I've read on evo psych for about ten years. It's been a long process. Game has been very helpful at tieing a lot of loose ends together between the disciplines of biology, pharmocology, sociology, anthropology, evolutionary psychology etc.

  6. Athol Kay says:

    Anon – "Though curious though why your in-laws prayer should make you angry rather than indifferent (a subconcious reason for that)?"

    Because it makes me feel not really part of the family. It's clearly not their intent, but it's how I feel.

    I do love them quite dearly and they are wonderful people. They do care for me too, so it's not a question of love or kindness, nor do they meddle with me Jen. I wouldn't swap them for anyone.

    Ironicly it was me that influenced them to return to church. So I have a sense that I did this to myself.

    I'd rather just keep the peace on this issue. Saying grace at meals amounts to less than 30 minutes of my time a year. It annoys me, but its tolerable.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, I personally would just keep peace on the saying prayers as well. Atheists have such a bad stigma in the US for some reason, especially in the deep south, what part of the USA do you live in? I personally soften the message by saying "I'm not religious" and people usually leave you alone about it. If they keep pushing, like "Come on, you must believe in something", I usually tell people "I respect what you believe in or don't believe in, please respect mine" and they usually stop, since they'd look like a huge jerk if they don't.

    You've respected your wife's beliefs all along, you supported it, I don't see a reason she should be that upset about yours.

  8. ATHOL:

    When my family says grace, we're inviting our guests to share in an intimate part of what makes us a family. It's the same reason I make a home-cooked meal when company comes, or we ask them to stay with us…it's about making them feel included in our day-to-day life while they're here. I can't speak for your wife's family, but our intent is certainly the opposite of making anyone feel "not part of the family."

    I can't imagine the difficulty for you of disagreeing with your wife's beliefs and having to raise children together. Religion (or to not have one) is so personal to an individual's identity…and I'm not sure I could find a middle ground like you have.

    For my part, I applaud you for being a gentleman and (it sounds like) discussing the his and hers beliefs with your wife, rather than trying to make her see your point of view. I wonder, however, if your alpha-ness had anything to do with her decrease in church attendance? If you're obviously the leader of the family, it would be difficult for your wife to decide on going to church and making the children go too while you stay home…wouldn't it?

  9. Anonymous says:

    This was a Wonderful post.

  10. Athol Kay says:

    "You've respected your wife's beliefs all along, you supported it, I don't see a reason she should be that upset about yours."

    It's not about just respecting her beliefs though, it's about something we did together as a couple, being ripped away from her without her consent. It's about having her hopes for a family all together in church on Sunday just ended. It's really pretty awful from that perspective. That's why I "took the blame" for it. I'm lucky she forgave me.

    Of course me not going to church had an influence on her. How could it not.

  11. Ian Ironwood says:

    Bold move, my friend. But a gentlemanly one. If your perspective on your faith changed, and that was one of the seminal elements in your relationship, then you owed it to Jennifer to be frank and honest, instead of just keeping quiet and going through the motions. Major props on that.

    I'm curious if your change to Atheism is the result of an either/or mentality, i.e. "if you ain't a Christian, you must be an Atheist" or something more profound. I assure you, there's more than one flavor of ice cream out there, and just because you didn't like one that doesn't make you lactose intolerant. For my part, I embraced Paganism, Wicca at first and then Druidism, in part because of the religion's sanctification of sex as a holy rite, not a sin, as well as for its reclaiming of the idea that the Divine has male and female aspects. Sure, not everyone is going to be into Goddess worship and lusty pagan rites, but you'd be intrigued by the number of Beta men who only discover the permission to realize their Inner Alpha once they are able to conceptualize the Divine as female. It kind of adds a profound new religious element or perspective that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have successfully edited out. Plus, no church on Sunday, no holy text, no preachers telling you you're going to hell . . . because, surprise, no Hell.

    In any case, having been persecuted at various points by evangelical Christians for my beliefs, I can't help but be thankful that there is one less of them to tell me how goshdarn evil I am for not being one myself. But while you may have eschewed organized religion, I do encourage you to develop your spirituality — and in your case (as in my own) that will no doubt go hand-in-hand with the development of your sexuality.

    The entire universe is one big Sex Act, after all.

  12. Athol Kay says:

    Hi Ian, I'm an atheist because I believe that to be true. Disbelief in Santa Claus doesn't make me want to explore belief in the Easter Bunny, nor the Great Pumpkin. It's not an either/or thing at all.

    In terms of spirituality I would be considered a Taoist if you stripped it down to nothing but the Tao as a concept.

    My writing is my spirituality.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Well said Athol!

    Greetings from a fellating fellow Atheist,
    Katherine :-)

  14. Athol Kay says:

    Oooooooh Katherine… progress?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Yes, but very slight…it's gonna take time.


  16. Anonymous says:

    Athol, you do realize that atheism is a lack of belief and not a religion in itself, no? So what did you have a "huge desire" to convert Jennifer to? The Church of Nothingness perhaps? LOL.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Anon, I think converted Atheists feel more strongly about their beliefs because they've invested so much into that transition within their life.

    It's quite natural to want someone you have a strong connection with to believe the same as you on as important a thing as religion.

    - Bible College Agnostic

  18. Anonymous says:

    Just a query. I had though the 'second date rule' referred to behavior. A belief is not a behavior. If your behavior did not change, you perhaps did not break any rule. You can't expect a person not to grow and change in their beliefs, but you can expect someone to behave respectfully.

  19. Ian Ironwood says:

    @Athol I understand your perspective, but I think that reducing the complex and sophisticated phenomenon of Religion down to "Do you believe in things you can't see or prove" is faulty. Indeed, religion in general is not determined exclusively by "belief" (orthodoxy), but also by "practice" (orthopraxy). Unfortunately, due to the the stranglehold Christianity had on Western Civilization for the last thousand years, the way we traditionally think about religion, in terms of personal belief in God, has been hyped as the touchstone for all religion, and it ain't necessarily so. The issue of belief (specifically in a benevolent monotheistic deity) is required in the Abrahamic religions because they are predicated on the idea of Faith: Absolute belief in a deity without proof.

    Setting aside the merits or demerits of faith for a moment, I'd point out that many, many religions (including Taoism, which you mentioned) don't even address the issue in this context. Indeed, in Taoism/Confucianism the relationship with the Deity is of small importance and little significance compared to the cultivation of the human soul.

    Nor does religion automatically deny empirical data (at least not most religions). The Abrahamic religions are the only ones that insist on accepting their sacred books as literal history, not hagiography. Hindus, for example, have no problem rectifying their religion with Science and knowledge of the physical universe. Similarly Buddhists do not insist on a literal interpretation of their scriptures as fact.

    It might seem like I'm trying to get you to switch from Santa Claus to the Easter Bunny, but I'd caution you that a) there are no naturally occurring atheistic cultures anyplace in human history and b) when we start monkeying around with profoundly important cultural and social constructs like Religion (or Sexuality), then we invite Unanticipated Consequences. Every human being enjoys a Religious Impulse which they choose to express in a variety of ways. In many cases the expression of that impulse is greatly useful on an individual or societal basis. If you consider your writing an expression of your spirituality, great (I do too, by the way). But does that singular expression necessarily serve the best interests of you and your family?

    I'd just encourage you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater in this — the psychological forces of religion you're eschewing are as potent as the primal sexual ones you're championing, and casting them aside without a profoundly compelling reason could lead to problems further on down the road. Not that I don't have faith in your ability to overcome them, but . . .

  20. Hey Athol,

    Much respect. I have a great deal of sympathy with atheism, and find myself waking up many days as an atheist.

    Thanks for being a man of integrity.

  21. @Ian, in fact it's a relatively recent development that any Christians at all would take the bible so literally as fundamentalists do. Most Christians still do not do so.

  22. Athol Kay says:

    A belief is not a behavior, but belief clearly can have behaviors that go along with it. Those behaviors of mine where I didn't attend church for example, clearly broke the second date rule.

    Ian – I thought about all that stuff well and truly from about age 15 to 30. I minored in Religious Studies. Jennifer has a degree is Religious Studies. We're "all set" on thinking about religious issues.

  23. Duke of Earl says:

    Though I'm sure Athol already knows this, Biblically faith (pistis in the Greek) is more about trust based on evidence than "believing what you know ain't so" as Mark Twain put it.

    For the first Christians it was the evidence of their own eyes. This Jesus they followed had made some astounding pronouncements about himself, been crucified, and then come back to life again.

    We have testimonial evidence of that (as is pretty much the case with all historical events) but in terms of historical evidence it's as well attested as anything else we bring from the ancient world.

    Would those people trying to convert Athol to pagan religions please point to a historically attested claim from their respective religion that is capable of standing up to the same examination.

    I'm sorry Athol is an atheist now, but there are worse things.

  24. Miles Anderson says:

    You skirted the issue that seems really important to me. How do you deal with kids in a split family like that? I don't believe but am fully accepting of friends belief systems. But if I was procreating with a believer I know just enough about child psychology that religion-mind-fucking them before they get old enough to think on their own makes it hard for them to make their own decision. The types of Christianity I'm familiar with isn't really into letting the kids grow up before starting the brain washing.

  25. That's a tough one Miles. I think for myself the most important thing was keeping us together as the priority.

    If Jennifer had wanted to brainwash the children that would have become an issue to me because ultimately that would frame me as a bad person for turning away from God and I would have had a major issue with actively supporting her doing that with the childrens perception of me.

    Though from the Christian perspective it isn't brainwashing, but being a proper Christian parent and being loving. So you can get into loggerheads with one another very easily.

    Though as it is eldest reacts with a sense of "your religious rituals confuse and frighten me" and youngest likes the music and everyone being together but it's all a bit like recycled Santa for big people.

    So bullet dodged.

  26. Ian Ironwood says:

    @elhaf "relatively recent" . . . how relative? Until the Age of Enlightenment if you tried to treat the scriptures as anything other than literal history you were guilty of Heresy. The period of relative freedom of religious thought is only a few hundred years old at most, and most of that was enjoyed almost entirely by intellectual and cultural elites, not the common folk. But for the vast majority of the history of Christianity acceptance of the scriptures as literal history was essential Christian dogma.

  27. Ian Ironwood says:

    @ Duke Not trying to convert Athol to paganism . . . we don't work that way.

    But as far as the historical authenticity of the OT and the NT, there are hundreds if not thousands of accounts of similar events arising out of Pagan cultures. For example, the Trojan War as depicted in the Iliad is based on historical evidence, and that was a religious event. Likewise, the secret miracles at Eleusis captivated the ancient world for more than two millennia — and those were not based on mere recitation of ancient scriptures, but were witnessed by hundreds of participants every year. The prophecies of Delphi, the miracles associated with Diana at Ephesus, the list goes on and on. Just 'cause it was written in Aramaic doesn't automatically give it more credence.

  28. Regarding raising children: I am one of four kids from very active Baptist parents. Despite prayers before every meal and church 3x/week, by age 11 all four of us were out-of-the-closet atheists.

    Religion is a deeply personal choice, no matter how much your family tries to “brainwash” you. Once the brain grows to a point of rational thought capabilities (age 9), the logic questions begin.

    The last census poll found that 15% of Americans identify themselves as atheists. Prior to 9/11, Dan Brown’s “DaVinci Code”, and the pedophilic Catholic priest cover-up, it was considered taboo to not follow a religion. I suspect that individuals merely claimed their parents’ brand of faith as a way to avoid being ostricized, but now atheism is becoming socially acceptable.

    It certainly has no affect on demonstrating morals. To quote Mahatma Gandhi, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

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