Dating an Atheist


I came across this website while looking for help regarding interfaith dating.

I am a Catholic who has been brought up in a strict Catholic family. I would consider myself very devout also, due to the fact that I have attended Catholic schools all my life and go to Church every Sunday. But I just started college this year and fell in love with an atheist man. At first, it was supposed to be a casual dating situation, but it turned into something much more; I’m in love!

As I’ve mentioned, he’s an atheist, so we RARELY agree on religious issues. He COMPLETELY respects my religious views, and has never insulted me on my faith (except for when he’s just teasing me - we like to tease each other on our faith differences). Also, I like discussing with him the difference of our beliefs because it has made me more confident about myself and my background. So these things aren’t really a problem.

I have a two-part problem:

We had pre-marital sexual relations (which I know is a sin). As an atheist, he has no problem with pre-marital sex, and as things got more serious, I suddenly found myself not a virgin anymore. I don’t regret that I had sex with him because I do love him, but I do feel bad that I have sinned (that I regret). I feel confused, especially since he always asks how sex could be a sin if we both love each other and aren’t hurting anyone. What’s worse is that though I know that it’s a sin, I still feel tempted to do it again. I want to do it again, but I don’t want to sin. This has caused many sleepless nights and worry.

But the worse part of this problem is what he said. He said that in a relationship, he believes in The Triangular Theory of Love, which states that a solid romantic relationship must have intimacy, passion, and commitment. He believes that passion includes having sex. I told him that I understand his belief in this, but I don’t understand why he needs this to be fulfilled before marriage. He said that before marriage, he wanted to be sure that the marriage would work (he would be able to tell through this solid triangle). And when I told him that I might not be able to have sex with him again, I asked if he would stay with me. He said that he could guarantee a whole year, but he wasn’t sure if he would be able to stay with me after that. He said that he wasn’t sure if he could go out with me any longer without fulfilling that third point in the triangle. But he said that he’ll try because he loves me. I appreciate and love that he’s being completely honest with me, but I felt discouraged at that.

I love this man so much, and I really don’t want our relationship to end. I’ve been up at nights and crying because I worry over it. Every time I talk to him, he is able to comfort me, but he said that he’s getting frustrated because it seems that I want sex, but I quickly change my mind. These two opposing wants (the want of sex, the want of not sinning) are killing me! I don’t know what to do. And I don’t want to stop dating him!

I would appreciate anyone’s advice because I am at a loss. I don’t know what to do and I’m scared. Please, if you can’t give advice, pray for me, because I need it!

Thank you, and sorry for the long post!

~ datinganatheist

You need counseling so you can clarify what you want - possibly different counselor, possibly the same one - not sure. You may want to go to a Catholic counselor. Be sure to clarify with anyone giving you advice that they will not judge you, and will encourage you to come to your own decision(s) rather than try to get you to agree with their own personal position, about religion or anything else. You can decide yourself if you want to go to a priest for spiritual advice, but remember that priests are not necessarily trained as counselors, other than in the area of faith. You are new to CAF so in case you missed it i am closer to your boyfriend’s religious views than your own, so please do not think this is a suggestion from a Catholic. I’m not, and it isn’t. Good luck, and enjoy yourself and seek happiness whatever your decisions.

Loving someone is willing the good of them above yourself. How is it loving to accept and promote his lifestyle which involves you both fornicating?

How much do you love your faith? You acknowledge fornication is a sin but you don’t regret it? Have you confessed it? You understand that when you confess a sin you have every intention of re-committing, that that’s a very grave sin in of itself?

And how far have you thought this through? Say you get married, contracepting? I’m guessing you’re doing that now. What if you get pregnant? He’s an atheist. They tend to be pro-abortion, with no moral code that answers to God why bother with caring for that child? Could you go through that? [not saying all atheists are pro-abortion by the vaste majority tend to be].

And if you do have kids? Hows that going to work? Kids ask you if there’s an afterlife, why do we have to go to Mass when daddy doesn’t? They’re going to get one big contradicted life. And as a Catholci you are oblidged to try and raise those babies catholic. Sure, that’s a long way off, but if you truly love this guy, then thats usually where love takes you. If you can’t see yourself marrying him, why are you with him? Why did you shag him?

Sure, my words may not be charitable, but I think you need to hear them.

You say he respects your religious beleifs, but now he’s wanting sex, which is a very serious sin outside of marriage for a Catholic.

You need time out. You probably need to let this relationship go and chalk it up to youthful desires. Get to confession. that’s the most important thing. Resolve to live a pure life.

But I think you need to evaluate just how much your faith means to you, and what it actually means to be Catholic. There are plenty of atheist girls for him to be with sexually, why risk your soul for this?

This bit for me is the part that stands out to me.

Regardless of your religious differences NO MAN should ever use sex as a bargaining/blackmailing tool EVER.

To me this says “If you have sex with me I will stay with you” it doesn’t say “I love and respect you so much I am willing to wait”. To me I would be questioning his feelings for me and whether he wanted me and our relationship, or if was all about sex.

He was neither bargaining or blackmailing. he was being true to the conclusions he has reached about living a good life. He was sharing them honestly. It could not possibly be ‘all about sex’ if he was willing to abstain for a year. This couple need honest and neutral counseling. we have no right to assume the motives of either party.

I was raised protestant and my wife is a cradle Catholic. I can tell you that if you truly love your faith, you will never be able to reconcile these within a marriage. I use to tell my wife that i would never covert to Catholicism. In hindsight i regret the burden that i have placed on my wife to raise our children Catholic. It has caused some serious strain on her and i now realize how selfish i was putting her through that. I say this because this was just in dealing with another Christian demonination which has many of the same beliefs. As an aetheist you have opposing views from your boyfriend. I have recently become Catholic and i can truly say it has been a life changing experience. I now lead this effort to build our childrens Catholic faith as my wife wanted help all along. All i can tell you is to pray. i know this sounds cliche, but i mean REALLY pray for wisdom and guidance.

Get away from this person immediately.

They are already pulling you away from God and from you faith. You are now convinced you are in love with this person who expects you to violate your religious beliefs and have sexual relations. He has given you an ultimatum of sex or he can’t “guarantee” he will be with you.

Honey that is the oldest line in the book. Not only that it reveals a disturbing aspect of his character AND yet another aspect of the huge religious chasm that seperates you. What if, after you are married, one of these elements of this so called “triangle” is suddenly missing-- he will hit the door. That’s what. Love is so much more than that.

You have not even thought through the implications of marrying him. You know the Church’s teaching regarding contraception, raising chidren in the faith, etc. How do you expect to raise your children Catholic with an atheist father?

Please go to confession, get some separation from him, and give yourself time to get perspective on things.

Also consider that perhaps “casual dates” with atheists or others who are not Catholic is not the best approach to finding the man God intends for you. The family is the domestic Church. The role of parents is to co-create new souls for heaven, to raise up those children in holiness, and to help each other get to Heaven. We hear in scripture not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Animals who are unequally yoked chafe at the yoke. You ar experiencing that agony of chafing right now, as your faith and morals have been compromised by a smooth talker who has you believing there is a way you can be happy with someone who rejects God. It just isn’t so.

what you have is HUMAN love - its just an emotion -

what is important is True Love , which goes beyond human love - human love **always **subsides

True Love is a choice and a commitment and with Gods Love obtained through the sacrament of matrimony when your standing in front of a priest

btw WELCOME to Catholic Answers

Dear sister in Christ…Your name chosen for this forum documents the problem. What is the purpose of dating? It is to discern MARRIAGE, not just to go out and have a good time. You chose to date an atheist, someone who cannot help you live your faith in any way. Someone who will end up tearing DOWN your faith, as he has already done. I am not going to ascribe bad motives to this man, but as an atheist, his motivations are entirely different from your own. He has already caused you to sin, because he has no belief in God, and sex to him is just a physical act. It cannot be spiritual because he does not believe in God.

Here’s what you are fighting now. You got attached emotionally, and put aside your good judgment in order to date him. Then, you allowed yourself to be tempted sexually. YOU chose to have sex with him, you didn’t simply “find yourself not to be a virgin.” You had sex, and you enjoyed it. God created sexual intimacy for marriage, and yes, it feels good. But if it’s not within marriage, it hurts your soul. Yet, you have united your body with that of this man, and there will be a pull back toward more sex. FIGHT THAT TEMPTATION!

I am actually rejoicing that you are in pain. It means that you have a well-formed conscience although you have chosen to try and silence it. LISTEN TO IT! You know there is something deeply wrong here. This man is not going to help you get to heaven, which should be the goal of any potential spouse. In fact he has already caused you to take several big steps AWAY from your faith. Your conscience is telling you that you must not go any further into this relationship!

Do you have a Catholic community at your college? You need to start making more friends in that community. You still have to use discernment - there are plenty of Catholics who fornicate, unfortunately - but your chance of finding a chaste Catholic man to date improves when you are surrounded by other Catholics (go to Mass).

Go to confession as soon as possible. You have sinned, but you have recognized your sin. The devil will tempt you to do it again. And the atheist man will help him. But YOU will suffer the consequences. It really is a turning point for you, dear sister. Turn TOWARD Christ! Say NO to going any further into this mess!

Welcome home!!! Wonderful testimony. I wish you could talk to my husband and explain this to him. He’s a cradle Catholic but very lapsed, we both were when we married but I returned 21 years ago after I had our first son. He never has, he’s pretended for our sons’ sakes but I pray that he will return one day. Our sons are 21 and 18 now and he has never done anything to help them be good Catholic men. :frowning:

I’ll start here. This one’s older than Adam, I think. Look, all kinds of people have all kinds of great sex before marriage and then go on to get all kinds of divorces. Great sex guarantees nothing. And you will regret having sex with this guy at some point. I guarantee it.

Marriages don’t “work.” People do, in a SACRAMENTAL marriage. They commit. They care for one another more than themselves.

He, regardless of what he feels, does not love you. If he did, he would put your need in front of his desire to have sex. He does not. He does not at all respect your religious beliefs and I’m suspecting you aren’t very well-versed in what they are. He thinks he is smarter than you. He is objective and reasonable and you are a foolish girl who has been brain-washed. He could care less what you believe as long as he gets to manipulate you into the sack.

Let’s start with some humility and fact recognition: you are very young, on your own and quite confused. You have great big feelings. Get over them. Go immediately and find a priest, I assume there is a Parish you are going to, confess and seek counsel.

Walk away from the guy.

Right now.

You want sex because you are a normal healthy human person of child-bearing years. There is NO FORM OF BIRTH CONTROL THAT IS 100% EFFECTIVE.

How many sins are you committing, anyway? You going to have an abortion if you get pregnant and all of a sudden he finds someone else? Which he will.

You are not “devout” because you go to Mass once a week. You are fulfilling the basic requirements. You are devout when you are in love with Jesus Christ more than yourself and your feelings and desires.

Walk way. Not because he is an atheist, but because you can’t recognize how much he does NOT love you.

Bears repeating. Sex is not love, when you’re not married. (Sex is only a part of love, when you are married.)

I feel for you, OP.

You thought you found love and now are in a painful bind.

All I can say is, Get thee to confession and find spiritual direction.

Whatever you do, do NOT resume sex with him. That was a mistake, but you already know that.

I don’t agree that you MUST end it with him. But the relationship now sounds like a “near occasion of sin.”. Ask your confeSsor.


My opinion is that you need to clarify in your own mind which is more important to you, your religious commitment to your faith, or your commitment to having a relationship with your lover, and satisfying your mutual desires.

I can’t predict the future. But right now, the path which would allow you to be in harmony would be if he were willing to continue dating with the intent of a discernment for or against marriage, while not having sexual relations.

I think he is right to put an approximate time limit on that discernment. You two should be able to figure it out in that amount of time. It sounds like he is willing to meet you half way.

Good luck! Congratulations on finding a good man, and love. Also have some patience to see if he is the right one for marriage. It is a big commitment, so take the time to figure out what you can as objectively as possible. A counselor or wise friend who s your ally may help you to clarify things for yourself.

You deserve SO much better…

An atheist is NOT the right person for a Catholic to marry. No matter how “good” he may be in other areas, our beliefs do not mesh and this man cannot help her or their children to get to heaven. This particular atheist has already helped her to violate her Church’s standards by taking her virginity, and now he is telling her that sex is one of his non-negotiables for going forward. Meet her halfway? No, he is letting her know that he needs sex with her and expects her to come across if she wants him to stay with her. He is mocking her faith which unfortunately she is cooperating with. NOT a good candidate for further relationship let alone marriage.

You should not not be dating an atheist for the same reason that I would never date a Catholic. If your most basic views and beliefs are polar opposites what hope can there be for a life and family together?

Forget this guy. He’s a real tool. It’s nice he isn’t in your face about making you abandon your beliefs but his “triangle” is unholy and is turning you against God. Let this jerk go and find yourself a nice Catholic man to be with. There are plenty of them out there. Just have faith that God will provide for you. You realize if you were to marry this man you would be obligated to raise your kids Catholic. Even if he didn’t object what happens then when your kids inevitably doubt and get curious? Is he going to adamantly and tenderly reinforce their faith in Christ and His Catholic Church each and every time citing the proper sources to give your kids confidence in the Truth? Or when you’re not around is he going to offer his opinion which will cause dissention? If he’s not willing to renounce his atheist ways then he is not husband material. I’d give “him” a year to open up to the idea of being celibate with Christ. If not then you’re leaving “him”.

It sounds to me that this guy is telling you that he loves you only if you have sexual relationships and so he is not going to marry you unless you have sex. This same individual is also telling you that if something happens to you he will not stick to his marital vows and he will dump you.

I saw a plaque that said, “No man is worth crying over, and the one that is, won’t make you cry.” It makes sense. No boyfriend should have you making decisions that are making you stay up at night, crying. That is not love. Instead it is pressure. He is pressuring you to do something you know is wrong. As much as you don’t want to stop dating him, you have to. He does not love you. He loves what you do for him, you give him sex.

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