Continuing my series, “Kyle’s Personal History – A History,” let’s talk dating. I’ve had… hmm. I don’t really… ugh. I’m kind of a… what’s a kind way of saying “untouchable CHUD?” Yeah, that puts that out there for everyone – I’m not good at talking to women in person when I’m actively interested in them; I’ve never had a long-term relationship, and defining what little I have experienced as a “short-term relationship” is being so very forgiving and loose with the terminology that it makes Webster ponder why he compiled a dictionary in the first place while simultaneously revolving so rapidly in his sarcophagus that it affects the rotation of the Earth itself! My experience is minimal, my familiarity trifling, my … insert more synonyms here.
I don’t want to turn this into a place to vent my internal frustrations and other personal tales (that goes on at an even less-frequent extent at kylevanson.wordpress.com, and even more of my inanity can be found at whitecosby.com SHAMELESS PLUG), but it’s a necessary opening to explain what I’m talking about. See, my failures pushed me into the realm of online dating. For those unfamiliar with the prospects of trying to cultivate LOVE through a service older than the Gateway computer on which I type this, online dating is, in a brittle and unpleasant nutshell, difficult. Starting a conversation with a complete stranger, even through the safety and relative anonymity of email, requires a degree of bravery (perhaps not in a traditional sense, but still). The ratios are completely skewed – every single heterosexual woman on an online dating site is inundated, swamped, besieged(!) with emails from EVERY SINGLE HETERO MALE USER, no matter her profile – that is how desperate the male side of the online date-o-sphere is, and how sadly objectified the female side is. I’m as guilty of it as anyone – I filter my searches by “newest profile,” rationalizing my behavior with the idea that if a woman is new to the site, her inbox will be emptier and she more likely to see my one email amongst the flood.
But this is neither here nor there, and not the point of this entry. No, the issue I want to talk about is one I mentioned long ago – the idea of being “Spiritual but Not Religious.” Match.com in particular allows users to select this particular phrase as a descriptor of a user’s faith system, and as an atheist user, it is galling. Infuriating. VEXATIOUS!(!) It is such a nebulous amalgamation of words, “spiritual but not religious.” At face value, I read it as “I do not accept the dogma and ritualistic nature of organized religion. Perhaps I am dissatisfied with the behaviors, acts, or scandals of large churches, or perhaps I have become disillusioned with the obvious dissonance between what religion preaches and what it practices. I feel that all humanity has a ‘spiritual’ side, one responsible for art and music and our appreciation for nature and beauty, and that this side is poorly represented by existing religions. I cannot be sure whether or not there is a god, but I live my life under the assumption that, even if there is, our time is better spent bettering the human spirit and condition than on our knees, tithing to white men in white robes.”
IT IS ALMOST NEVER THUS.
Way, WAY back in a blog I wrote in November, I mentioned the “spiritual but not religious” group, and said that these people deserve a good tar-n’-featherin’. I shouldn’t have to clarify that I was joking – tarring and feathering someone sounds like a horrible thing to do (not to mention exhausting and not very cost-effective – I don’t even know where to get tar, or at what temperature it is to be applied). But since some people reading this blog took my obvious jokes about participating in Wiccan ceremonies and owning magic crystals literally, I clarify – I don’t want to physically hurt and humiliate anyone using an industrial-revolution-era tactics. Anyway, when I said that the “spiritual but not religious” group needs a stern talkin’ to, I received a response that said,
“To me, spiritual means feeling a sense of awe in my relationship to the universe – looking up at the stars and thinking ‘i’m part of this.’ There is no sense of the mystical, just a joy of being part of something so vast and so beautiful. So you want to take on the ‘spiritual but not religious?’ Bring it on. I’ll be waiting.” – Randy Burbach*
Sadly, Randy, I’m not talking about you. You and I are using the word “spirit” and its various forms and suffixes in a very fantastical sense, an unrealistic definition, maybe fourth or fifth definition on the list – there’s no embracing of “real” spirits with you and I, Randy, no sir-ee. What you’ve described, Randius, is the best-case scenario when I see the phrase “spiritual but not religious.” I am always disappointed by what I find when I begin to dig a little deeper. No one thinks this way, Randy. You have no confederates, accomplices, co-conspirators(!) when it comes to the realms of online dating! “Spiritual but not religious” means anything from “there most certainly are spirits and a real and personal GOD-thing, but I’m not religious,” to “No existing religion correctly preaches what I believe – HERE COMES THE CRAZY!!!”
Here are some samples from a few “Spiritual but Not Religious” profiles (within a 10-year age range and within 50 miles of Las Vegas):
Spiritual but Not Religious: “I believe in God” (Great.)
Spiritual but Not Religious: “im inbetween…i believe theres something higher than all but its not determened from a book” (SIC)
Spiritual but Not Religious: “Not a believer of religion, but a strong believer in God.” (Clears that up.)
Spiritual but Not Religious: “I do believe in some sort of “higher power” so whatever you want to call that ” (I want to call it ‘you wanting to sound interesting.’)
Spiritual but Not Religious: “I do believe everything happens for a reason and there is a higher power that guides us all.” (And… why do you believe that, perchance?)
Spiritual but Not Religious: “God is real. God is love. God is good ” (This is spiritual but not religious?)
Spiritual but Not Religious: ” There’s something greater that we’re not supposed to fully understand. Truth is relative!” (To quote Tim Minchin’s “Storm:” “I resist the urge to ask ______ whether knowledge is so loose-weave of a morning when deciding whether to leave her apartment by the front door or a window on the second floor.”)
Spiritual but Not Religious: “I believe in God over the title of religion. My faith is VERY important to me.” (Faith is somewhat stronger than considering yourself “spiritual,” don’t you think?)
Spiritual but Not Religious: “I consider myself SUBMMITED TO GOD! no religion can tell me what to do but HIM.” (I believe this may be a quote from Charles Manson, actually..)
Spiritual but Not Religious: “I dont categorize myself but i do have a stong connection with God.” (Again, SIC. Am I the only one who takes online dating just the teensiest bit seriously?)
Spiritual but Not Religious: “I suppose I could be described as Pagan, or the belief that there are many gods/goddesses in the world.” (UGH)
Spiritual but Not Religious: “I believe in God but i refuse to go with a specific religion…” (That’ll show them!)
Spiritual but Not Religious: “When I go to church its a Christian Church.” (I mean, come on. What the fuck is that?!)
Granted, those are the select few that choose to type something underneath their selected “religion” to define it further. Plenty leave that space under “Spiritual but not Religious” (which I’m shortening to ”SbnR” for the rest of the blog because I’m tired) blank, beckoning the innocent atheist or agnostic into their chamber of indefinable non-theology, where ghosts are TOTES REAL, and, if you do each pose just right, yoga will actually connect your consciousness with the beating heart of Gaia or some shit. But you only get to find that out seven or eight emails in, or, if you’re unlucky, during that first date (where you just HAD to go to Olive Garden and buy her that “expensive” glass of wine she wanted, AND split the dessert because, hey, maybe she’ll let you hug her in the parking lot so you can remember that fleeting moment of human contact when you disappear back to your lonely chamber of “self-love”).
And, sadly, this extends to those who list themselves as agnostic and even atheist. I’ve mentioned these folks before, but I’m staggered, jaw dropped to the floor, face wiped clean with industrial paint thinners and steel wool when I hear that there isn’t a “god,” per se, but there most definitely are ghosts, or people most assuredly are capable of levitation or psychic abilities, or that homeopathy is actually a valid form of medication, or aliens have visited Earth for years the evidence is everywhere why are you looking at me like that this was on the HISTORY channel!
The other truly maddening thing, when it comes to selecting a representative faith on one’s profile, is that the user can then select what their ideal partner would choose. I say “one’s profile,” but this extends only to my experience on Match.com. I’m not aware if other dating services do this, but I do know for a fact that eHarmony won’t even let you pick “atheist” or “agnostic” or even “spiritual but not religious” – if you want eHarmony’s help finding love, you better bow down before a deity’s golden altar, you desperate lonely plebes. So, for hair color, a Match.com user can pick just “brown,” or select every color under the sun, or pick them all and leave out bald. The unfeeling monsters.
I cannot count on my freakishly many-fingered hands how many times I see SbnR, or even agnostic, as the listed faith of the user, and everything under the sun EXCEPT FOR ATHEIST as their ideal mate’s faith. This happens a lot. In my search for those examples of hypocrisy above, I saw one where they had listed SbnR as their label, and then only picked “Christian,” “Christian – Catholic,” and “Christian – Other” as the faiths acceptable in those they’d date. It’s even rampant with folks with profiles listing themselves as belonging to a particular church, particularly when it comes to that prickly term “atheist.” Plenty of profiles from Protestant women say they’re willing to accept SbnR men, hell, even agnostic men, double hell, even CATHOLIC men, but not atheists. Apparently a mind that can’t figure out the difference between an epistemological question and a subjective one is more romantically desirable than a mind that has been clearly made up.
Do you see the problem now, Randy? Let me ask you, Randtholemew, and all you folks out there – have you had good or bad luck finding like-minded partners? Have any of you braved the choppy, freezing waters of online dating? I want to say that I wouldn’t have a problem dating someone who ascribed to a faith, but I’d be constantly worried about the upcoming day, and it would up-come with great haste, that I considered them simply too disconnected from reality to tolerate, that I wouldn’t be able to contain the desire to mock their imaginary friend any longer, that I’d blow up at some family reunion without a like-minded compatriot with whom to share snide comments. Have you encountered folks who claim to be nonbelievers but totally are? Or the SbnR types that break Randy’s utopic mold and stray towards the woo-woo side of the pond? I love reading your comments!
…they make me feel like someone… might one day… love me?