On a campus where gay couples are as common as North Face jackets and not believing in God is actually kind of cool, you would think that dating someone with different religious views would be as easy as taking candy from a baby. Unfortunately, for many students this idea is completely unacceptable because as they like to put it, they are looking for someone who shares the same “ideals” and “values” as them.
Sure, dating someone with different religious views can be challenging. Of course no one wants to be the idiot who gives a Jewish girlfriend a dreidel for Christmas. Everyone wants to be able to spend religious holidays with that special someone. Nonetheless, refusing to give people a chance simply because of what they believe is just as bad as not dating people because of their race.
Yes, I’ve heard it all before, “You can’t compare religion and race because religion plays a huge role in their social identity and everyday lifestyle, blah blah blah.” This actually does have some validity. But for many, race carries just as much weight in their social identity as religion, and in many communities there is often a parallel between the two. For instance, in the black community race influences educational background, economic status and even religion, with most black people being either Christian or Muslim. Yet, you will quickly be called a racist if you as much as mention you only want date within your own race.
Why then is the blatant discrimination against someone because of their religion OK, but you’re called a bigot if you choose to not date someone because they are of a different race? You can’t actually look at someone and tell whether he is Jewish, Christian or Muslim. But there are some people whose race you can’t determine by just looking at them either. Sharing a religious belief can increase your comfort level with someone, but assuming that the relationship will be uncomfortable because of religion is silly. Judging whether someone is dateable or not based solely on whether that person reads the Quran or the Bible is a bad idea.
What happens if you meet someone that is giving, loyal, attractive, hardworking and an all-around great person, but you never allow that person to show you that side because that person is Buddhist and you are Christian? That’s just as narrow-minded as me dating a guy who’s broke, ugly, lazy, ignorant and annoying because he just so happens to be black.
One of my Jewish friends brought up a point that, in some instances, dating someone of the same religion is just as tough as dating someone from a different religion when one person is a staunch religious follower and the other person is less devoted. He says that a lot of girls at the University who are Jewish by birth identify more with being “American” than Jewish. As he put it, “to them, Louis Vuitton means a lot more than the Star of David.”
In this instance, the argument that exclusively dating within your religion is OK because of shared values is null and void. If someone is a non-practicing, uninterested Jew, do you really have any more shared values with them than you would with someone who is a non-practicing, uninterested Christian?
It’s hard finding a good Boo these days. So, in order to expand your options, sometimes you’ve got to think outside the box. Try something new. Test the waters. But, if you decide to give interfaith dating a try, please don’t put converting that person on your agenda. No one wants to wake up every morning hearing “Baby, do you love Jesus yet?”
Picking and choosing who to date because of religious views is a luxury that students of dominant religions have. It’s easy to vow to only date a Christian when you attend a university where half the student body is Christian, but stepping outside of that comfort zone may be beneficial to your love life. Many students from the University have gone on to have very successful interfaith marriages, but you will never know until you try.
Shakira Smiler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.