Why “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is, Maybe, a Red Flag for Stupid

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.

Chicks dig synonyms, yo. These girls are some fly lexicogroupies.

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.

These poor women. Abandon all hope! (Also pictured – my unabashed jungle fever.)

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.”


Think of the white men. Think of their rattling coffers.

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*

*Pictured: Randy, Waiting.

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!!!”

Cue “Entrance of the Gladiators,” The Goofy Song with the Badass Name(TM)

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 :D” (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?!)

Sadly, the one I REALLY wanted to share with you came from a profile that has since been removed, but it basically said “I believe THIS.”

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!

I couldn’t resist.

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?


Kyle Van Son
Match.com Profile | okcupid Profile – Yes, I’m using this public space to find that special someone to end my bachelordom.  Wouldn’t you?

264 thoughts on “Why “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is, Maybe, a Red Flag for Stupid

  1. Apparently I’m yet another exception. I use “spiritual but not religious” in exactly the way your example, Randy, does. I am also on a dating website. I have encountered others, including many of my close friends, who use that phrase in the same context. Perhaps you are simply in the wrong location.

      • Andrew – I agree 100%. But this isn’t a scientific study, nor was it intended to be. I just wanted to share my experiences, and really had no intention to until I received the comment from Randy. Encountering SbnRs who I felt shouldn’t really be labeling themselves as such was just a rock in my shoe until someone told me to “bring it on.”

        The article itself really makes no steadfast conclusions of its own; only the headline does, and a headline isn’t the place to find facts.

        Thanks for reading!

    • sorry, but Randy’s explanation is not spiritual at all. spirituality always is connected to some spirits/ghosts/gods/higher beings (I just looked it up in the dictionary). How is critical thinking and knowledge about nature spiritual? Especially if you answer ..but not religious, it has to be implied that you are still dapling in the religious drawer (ghosts, spirits, etc). It’s a misuse of a word.

      • not so much, man
        often “spirit” is used as “what that connects us to a realm/existence higher than just our flesh”
        so lots of times people mention spirit/soul when talking about music, art, love, nature and the universe.

    • What would have to happen in the world to convince you that Jesus doesn’t love you?

      What atrocities, catastrophes or lack of evidence of the love of Jesus would need to be presented to you in order for you to come to the conclusion that “God/Jesus doesn’t love me” or “there is no God/Jesus”?

      • Jesus existed long ago, and, as I am not a believer in communing with spirits of the dead that I do not know/have no association with, how can a dead guy that never knew me, love me? I believe in a god and think Jesus had nice ideas at times, but the Christian god is a whole different beast, and the idea a spirit from forever-ago loves ME is arrogant, self-important and skewed considering the person never knew me.

  2. Hi Kyle, Thanks for a great post. I’m responding just in case this may be of any help to you. I’m a woman internet dater, a few (crucial?) years older than you. Skinny, blonde, have modeled. I am AN ATHEIST. No “spiritual”–none of that rubbish. And I’m an artist, and no one could value deep emotional responses to art and music and drama more than I do. But they are HUMAN responses–nothing magical about them. To me, that doesn’t diminish the awe or mystery or amazingness of those feelings. I would love to find a partner who is brave enough to say: No, your god has nothing to do with this. We humans are wondrous enough as we are. I hope so much that you’ll find a girl who understands that, and celebrates it. Don’t give up! -Freya

    • Glad I’m not the only one who thinks that way. Spritual doesn’t really mean “in awe” etc. It implies some sort of supernatural element. I am NOT spiritual. I am an atheist and that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a sense of awe, amazement or wonder when I gaze at the stars or whatever. Just means I don’t believe in deities. It’s clearly listed, in this context (the dating site), as a religious outlook or attitude towards religion, rather than ones emotions.

    • And Freya, I was almost with you until you felt the need to pathetically, desperately let everyone know that you’re skinny, blonde and a model.

      What exactly were you thinking with that disclosure here, other than maybe wanting to look as sadly desperate as possible?


      • Maybe she was trying to get a date, in a sort of, “hey, you have the same problems finding someone I do, maybe you or someone else who reads this and empathises would be interested, here’s what I look like just in case that fits what you’re after.”
        Seems a natural reaction to reading something where a person complains about not being able to find someone who fits a certain criteria, and realising that a) you have the same problems and b) you fit the desired criteria, but may not fit others so mention a few extra things for clarification.
        Seems less desperate and more practical. It seems rather negative to be judging people for trying to find happiness by labelling them desperate, especially within the context. Especially seeing as its regarding a pretty basic human drive. It’s like, oh, you’re supposed to want this, but you have to pretend you don’t, otherwise we’ll judge you. I just think it’s a strange attitude the world has, and I imagine the transference of the principal to other human needs like hunger which just highlights the ridiculousness of it.
        Also, yeah, good original post, I agree completely lol. I’m currently in a relationship with another atheist, who reads dawkins even, and even she (very) occasionally believes in ghosts but I chalk it down to a stress induced logic fail, and seeing as I’m arachnophobic I figure I’m in no place to judge an occasional slip outside of the logical lol. (Cos, you know, spiders can’t really hurt you, unless you go somewhere like Australia, which I won’t because of that very reason, and yet still I scream and run)

    • Thanks Freya! (Kickass name, by the way.) I agree across the board, except I’m not skinny, blonde, but I have modeled (I have great hands.) Why is it that so many insist on there being some magical, unknown element out there guiding our actions? Doesn’t the realization that all of the art and music and beauty humanity’s produced came from what were, thousands of generations ago, prehistoric apes make it seem even MORE magical?

  3. As an Atheist, I’m always saddened to see these snarky and pretentious jabs at believers. Blog entries like this only serve to deepen the intolerance believers have for us while reinforcing the stigma that Atheists are pompous and callous. Making fun of people – and suggesting they are stupid – really doesn’t do much, other than possibly impress your friends and create a slight uptick in your readership.

    There is always a high road and one can always find a way to respect the beliefs of others without having to resort to the adolescent attacks found in this blog. I hope you think about tolerance the next time you decide to launch into believers: the way you act (as an Atheist) reflects on the rest of us.

    • “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”
      -Karl Popper

    • Jeff, would you be upset by snarky and pretentious jabs at people who believe that 1 plus 1 is six, or that the earth is flat, or that the moon is made of cheese, or that the government is covering up information about bigfoot? Or is it just religion that should get a pass? Would you respect someone’s belief that the earth is flat?

      • Surely, what a person believe in terms of theism or atheism is only one facet of them. Whether to agree with them or not, whether to respect that view or not, it would be a narrow mind that will judge a person on just that one aspect of their lives. So what if the person is a regular church-goer? Question is, do you like them and being with them? Do you trust them? Are they good company? Couples rarely seem to agree on everything! I’m agnostic and my wife is a non-practising Christian. When our children came along she wanted them Christened. I went along with that and why not? That kept her happy and didn’t hurt anyone.

    • I don’t know whether or not you are an atheist, but you do seem to be an apologist for the religious or “believers” as you call them. You either haven’t fully read or have failed to understand this blog post as the main target of criticism is people who either misrepresent themselves as non-religious when they are religious, or who are simply confused about their beliefs. I’m an atheist but I’m not worried about your comments reflecting on me as you clearly have little in common with me in terms of attitude to religion and belief in gods. I strongly disagree with your statement that others’ beliefs can always be respected. Indeed, it can be very dangerous to respect beliefs. Would you always find a way to respect, for example, racist or sexist beliefs?

      As a final point, I’d like to point out that humour is a wonderful tool for criticizing irrational beliefs.

      • If the person with irrational beliefs is not trying to force their point of view, why criticise them? If they are happy in their delusion, why spoil that for them? Do we have any more of an obligation to educate those we believe are wrong in their thinking than an evangelical Christian has in trying to convert us? If they are not harming us, leave them alone!

    • Would you show “tolerance” for an individual’s convictions if he or she espoused belief in Zeus, vampires, Tares, geocentrism, or a flat earth, OR would you instead respond as though the claimant of said belief(s) had ten heads? I would presume the latter. If someone’s beliefs are completely unsubstantiated by evidence then you can better believe I am going to call them out on it; it’s the only intellectually honest, moral thing to do. Anything less would be tantamount to withholding evidence, or encouraging willful ignorance.

      I will defend with my dying breath an individual’s right to believe whatever he or she wants to believe, but that freedom of belief doesn’t automatically make said beliefs exempt from derision, especially when so many unjustifiable beliefs deeply inform the way our society is run.

      I also have to point out that this conversation should go both ways. If ANY claim is given a “get out of jail free card,” merely because exposing its unreliability makes adherents to said claim uncomfortable or offended (atheist and theist alike), then this discussion between the two camps can’t go any further. If something is silly, then it should be demonstrated as such.

      This is all summed up very nicely by a popular quote that’s been floating around for quite some time:

      “No. I do not respect your religious beliefs. I respect your right to have them.”

      I don’t respect the claims of theists (in most of their manifestations) any more than I respect the claims of moon-landing denialists, geocentrists and adherents of homeopathy. I expect the author of this blog feels much the same way.

      • I do not understand why people have to find a high horse, climb on it, and try to knock others down. This country is full of wide eyed extremists and fools, but every society from the beginning of time is full of people described in the original blog. You are never going to change them, or cure them, or help make the world a better place by mocking them.

        A far more effective use of your emotional energy would be to turn it inward and work on being at peace with yourself…and stop worrying about the kooks. Frankly, unless they decide to cage you and make you pledge an oath of fealty, it is perfectly OK to leave them alone. You will find it a lot easier to move through life that way.

      • Guys, acceptance and tolerance are two very different things. You can listen to someone describe their deep and personal relationship with Dagon and personally think they’re loony. You don’t have to accept that belief as something rational.

        But as a decent human being who is fucking capable of interacting with other people with some level of respect and not total ass-hattedness, you damn well better be polite about it. I am about as fundamental an atheist as you can get; I don’t think of spirituality as anything more than aesthetics. But shit, guys, we’re asking for respect, we bemoan how much we’re distrusted and disliked, and we turn around, like children, and just throw all that shit back at everyone around us? That somehow makes us superior? Give me a fucking break.

    • I’m a “believer” (Ukranian Catholic), and I really thought this was a very reasonable post. I’ve seen snarky and pretentious jabs at believers, and this didn’t seem to be one of them (or maybe I’m just used to it.)
      He just wants people to not be hypocritical, and to critically think about ideas, and not contradict themselves. That doesn’t seem too much to ask to me.

      • …it didn’t seem snarky? I wasn’t aiming at pretentious, but I was definitely aiming at, at least, a modicum of snark. Damn.

        Thanks Nick. Always nice to hear that the “other side” has a sense of humor. Wish the same could be said for everyone!

    • Actually Jeff, even if you have a point, I would side with Kyle anyway. He has a sense of humour wheras you clearly don’t. You come across a lot more pompous and unlikeable than he does. Why on earth would you try to respect the views of someone who is clearly delusional? Do you think your calm ration and above all dull attitude is going to convert people any better? No of course it wont. It would just convince religious people that atheists are sad miserable bastards with no sense of humour.

    • Jeff, I believe you’re an atheist as much as I believe in magical super-beings.

      Which is to say, not at all.

    • I agree with you completely Jeff. I’m an atheist myself, and I also find it sickening how many non-believers are intolerant to believers (and half-believers). The very thing us atheists have been fighting for, the right to our own view, now many of us (it seems to be a popular stance to take) are being just as intolerant as some believers are to non-believers.
      I’m not saying we should “tolerate the intolerant”. I’m saying that it’s not cool to call ordinary people stupid and ridicule them because they aren’t as “enlightened” and “intelligent” as you. Meet their beliefs with real arguments, not this childish talk. It’s one thing to not tolerate policies, discrimination, terrorism, and harmful acts inspired by religion. Another entirely to spew hatred on ordinary people who just hold a different view from you.

      I’ve become ashamed of my fellow atheists for their arrogance, not least sanctified by Lawrence Krauss who has on numerous occasion now called believers stupid on public forums. Shame on you Krauss, and shame on all of you here acting in the same un-classy manner.

    • Would you have the same complain if he had written this piece about ultra conservatives? ultra rights? I don’t think so. This is a complain almost always exclusively brought forward against calling religion stupid.

    • ” the way you act (as an Atheist) reflects on the rest of us.”

      So we’re just homogenous group that can judged as a whole on the actions of a few people?

      There is no Atheist Bible. There are no core tenets of belief. Judging all atheists based on a blog that you didn’t like is idiotic.

      • Well, yes, atheists may represent a much more homogeneous group than theists. No book is needed to deny everything that is supernatural.
        Homogeneity is very true for atheists regarding their belief system, but much less regarding their behaviour. It may be the opposite way with believers of any religion. Their personal ideas may be put off from the official lores in various ways. Yet, their behaviour (morals, reactions) are relatively easy to predict.
        Thus, it may be a rational proxy for anyone (including for atheists) to avoid atheists—who might or might not have an adequate moral system to guide them in their actions.
        As for me, I am an agnostic who is willing to take the chance of dating relatively unpredictable (but therefore exciting) atheists girls… 😉

    • So, as an atheist I must always respect everyone’s religious beliefs, must I? Does that include all of the following:
      – The belief that women should have fewer rights than men?
      – The belief that homosexuals are evil and should be punished for simply being what they are?
      – The belief that a child should be denied proper medical treatment for serious illnesses, in favour of the power of prayer?
      – The belief that a woman should be forced to marry her rapist?
      – The belief that little girls should have their genitals hacked off?
      – The belief that apostates and atheists should be put to death?
      – The belief that people with certain religious beliefs should have special privileges in society?
      – The belief that a sister or daughter should be killed if she chooses to fall in love rather than be forced into a marriage?
      – The belief that a child should be told that her best friend who has died has gone to Hell where she’ll suffer for eternity because her parents took her to the “wrong” church?
      – The belief that children should be taught to believe utter nonsense (such as creationism) rather than be taught facts and critical thinking?
      etc, etc, etc

        • Adrian, by “good manners” in this context, do you mean showing uncritical, deferential respect towards religion? This has done nothing over the centuries to end the atrocities perpetrated by religion. If you don’t point out the moral failings of religion, how can you expect the indoctrinated or the ignorant ever see the damage done by religion? Should we be uncritical towards any kind of atrocities anyone may commit, or do we preserve this privilege only towards those who attach some sort of supernatural or spiritual power to their actions?

    • Jeff

      While I respect peoples’ right to believe what they wish, however bizarre, I see no reason or benefit in respecting the beliefs themselves. Many people believe in things which are demonstrably untrue or impossible to prove one way or the other.

    • I was going to respond, but I’ve come a day late for that, it would seem. …hell, I’ll do it anyway.

      I think I need to reinforce a point made in the blog itself – people are never the issue, and people are never the ones I’m ridiculing. The kooky stuff that comes out of their mouths, or the goofy words they choose to use in their online dating profiles; the clear dissonance between what they claim to believe and what they actually believe – this is what is worth attacking. I’ve no doubt that every single one of the people whose profiles’ I’ve sampled above are WONDERFUL! Lovely, fun, intelligent folk whom I’d love to share a pint with sometime. But during that drink at the bar, I may or may not take my perfectly reasonable leave to mock some of the ideas they have.

      It seems like it must be stated again and again – everyone is entitled to believe whatever the hell they want, and everyone else is entitled to find those beliefs patently ridiculous. And just because you’re offended, that doesn’t mean you’re right.

      Thanks for reading, though!

  4. Probably not in the context of this article but after reading it I felt the need to comment about the ‘spiritual’ journey that my wife undertook over the course of our 10 year marriage. We’re from the UK so Religion isn’t such a big thing and in my circles isn’t really discussed as it’s mostly irrelevant. However on some drunken nights I’d start a ‘discussion’ about the absurdity of religion and associated voodoo sciences that she believed in and my wife used to be very very defensive about them. Particularly as she’d studied Theology at Degree Level so she could put up some interesting arguments. At this time she was clearly a believer in all things supernatural. As the years went on I’d present to her my logical, empirical and scientific understandings on such topics without preaching. I’d then periodically reignite these discussions. She is now as empirical as I am and will scoff at any suggestion of anything otherwise.

    • Right on, Mr. Mister.

      This is a point I suppose wasn’t too clear in the blog – I have no desire to change these people (at least, not in our initial interactions online). I also have no qualms about meeting and getting to know someone who is either a card-carrying member of a particular faith or has a few nutty ideas about crystals and vortexes. It’s the people who say they’re not religious, but then say “But the Bible is God’s word.” UGH.

      I love your song, “Broken Wings!”

  5. eHarmony does in fact allow you to choose ‘atheist’, ‘agnostic’, and ‘spiritual but not religious’. My fiancé and I meet each other there and I was even able to narrow my preferences on who they matched me with by saying that I would only date people in those three categories. Check your sources next time you “know for a fact”.

    • Lindsey…you should check the facts on what the owner and founder of eharmony thinks about gays and gay marriage before you tout the site. FACTS are, the guy is a scumbag who does not deserve your, or anyone else’s money.

  6. Personally, I list myself like that sometimes because I live in a place where not being Christian + being fat eliminates me from the dating pool completely. That – or agnostic. It looks like no matter how pathetic a guy within 100 miles from me is, he filters a fat girl out, and if through some reckless omission he fails to set the filter on fat, the Atheist thing would do it. Unless he is a horny 20-something who doesn’t care for any degree of personal relationship and would write to a wooden barn if it had ladyparts….

      • When I receive notifications of comments via email, they don’t say whether or not they’re comments on the blog itself or replies to comments. So, naturally, Keith, I thought this was directed at me and now I’m sad.

    • I have considered myself an atheist since age 8. I met my husband on match.com a decade ago and couldn’t remember how I listed myself…so I went back and checked and WOW! not only was the profile still there (but not visible to other members), but I listed myself as SbnR. I don’t believe in anything supernatural. The word “atheist” can cause a very visceral reaction in people who do not know one personally. I can only imagine that I wanted people to reserve judgement until we had a chance to speak in person. For potential mates I listed Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist / Taoist, Christian / Catholic, Christian / Protestant, Jewish, Spiritual but not religious. Honestly, I have no idea why I included Christians in there. Maybe I figured I could talk some sense into them. Although I must admit that in the ensuing years I have become much less tolerant of religion since I have come to understand how damaging it is — to the individual all the way up to the whole of humanity.

      When I met my husband he was agnostic. Of course he’s atheist or even anti-theist now. You can’t take a thinking person and expose them to the ideas of atheism and not have them gravitate in that direction. People who were indoctrinated have at least partially built their identity on something false. Rebuilding that foundation is very challenging for some. Try to remember that many people are on a journey away from religion. Whom they encounter during that time will help determine if they succeed in becoming free thinkers and how long the process will take. Maybe give these people a little more consideration. Those who show signs of cogent thinking could blossom into the kind of partner you would cherish.

  7. “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.”

    Exactly. 😉

  8. While I haven’t waded into the waters of online dating, I will say that dating-while-atheist was a challenge for me until I met my now-husband. Partially this has to do with the fact that my post-religious transition happened at the same time as the most active dating years of my life (late teens/early twenties), so I was still trying to figure out my own lack-of-beliefs while navigating what I wanted from a partner. I admit I landed in my current situation through sheer dumb luck– my husband was at a similar life stage in his atheist explorations and also happened to be a hot nerd who found me attractive (yay!).

    You are too right about needing a fellow atheist for maintenance of sanity at family events. Having someone to roll my eyes at when my half-sister tells me she’ll be praying for me is the only thing that keeps me from snapping. And planning a secular wedding works best if both partners are committed and standing firm in the onslaught of “it has to be in a church or you’re not really married!!!” gnashing of teeth that came from, in our case, both families.

    Anyway, I’m living proof that you CAN find an amazing atheist partner. You just have to have fait– oh, crap. Well, you know what I mean. Good luck!

    • Thanks, Rachel. Glad somebody is making it work!

      I didn’t have any dating experiences in high school, and not because of faith or lack thereof – I was still a card-carrying Catholic, despite not taking any of it seriously. I was, despite being involved in theater and choir, way too shy in that aspect. When I finally did grow a pair by senior year, no one really looked at me that way, and I ended up going to prom with a girl who was new to the school and still had a boyfriend out of town. …high school was fun. College was no better.

      Wait a moment – there are HOT nerds?! When did this happen? That’s not funny! Way to make things tough for the rest of us regular nerds.

  9. I live in Seattle. It’s very, very frustrating being a true atheist here (that is, someone who doesn’t believe is magic mumbo jumbo unproven by science). I can’t tell you how many people around here call themselves atheists but go on to spout the wonderful spiritual benefits of acupuncture, astrology, etc. And yeah, dating is hard when you’re surrounded by these folk.

    I feel your pain bra.

    • Thanks bra.

      Yeah, atheists do come in all shapes and sizes. A very nice and attractive woman I met through match.com is an atheist, but her belief in ghosts came out during our second or third date. It actually didn’t bother me too much, and I had no intentions of breaking things off just over that. Things fell apart for entirely different reasons, sadly. Long before I could start a slow and steady regimen of ridicule to rid her of her delusions.

  10. I checked out your profiles. Too bad you’re in Nevada and I’m in Georgia! Only category where I don’t “fit” in: your desire for those demonic mewling creatures known as “children.”

  11. I don’t know about eHarmony in the US, but here in Australia, it will let you specify almost everything except atheist, including SbnR and “neither Spiritual nor Religious”. One of the questions in the long list you can answer for additional comparitable material is “Would you date an atheist?”,though. -.-

  12. Andrew is correct: your data seem incomplete. I don’t know anyone who uses that phrase and identifies as anything other than maybe agnostic. I know lots of Christians, a few pagans, and a Muslim and none would say “Spiritual but not Religious.”

    Also, you’re amusing. Thanks for that.

    • Thanks for finding me amusing. Tell my dad; he doesn’t agree.

      I’ll agree, my sample size is not one I would submit to any scientific papers. It’s just what I’ve encountered after over a year on match.com in Las Vegas. But these people DO exist – “I’m spiritual, not really religious… but I do have a personal relationship with Jesus.”

  13. Dear Buddy,

    I feel your pain. This article cheered me up loads and loads.

    My only advice, and I don’t come from America where religion is so pervasive, is that it takes time to disabuse people of the notion that atheists aren’t a cold-hearted, sociopathic version of Spock who just want to level the earth with nuclear explosions and torture bunnies because they don’t have an afterlife to fear. But you can do it with some time.

    My previous girl friend told me she couldn’t do reiki anymore because I had infected her with rationalism. I was her biggest fan as a performer of reiki and never expressed any doubts about the practice – I literally CANNOT see how having someone rest their hands on you for sustained periods cannot be calming and beneficial in some shape or form.

    There was probably parts of our belief system that made loving each other hard but and brought out conflict but probably not THAT much more than any other relationship. I genuinely feel I sold her on the idea that there is no shortage of wonder and curiosity in the atheist cosmology and had the company of a beautiful, caring person for a couple of years. And that person was definitely from the school of SbnR.

    Also I still think people like Randy are fucking insultingly wrong and weak for categorizing all he has attributed to spirituality as mutually exclusive to atheism.

    • Sorry to hear things didn’t work out with Ms. Reiki. Shame. I don’t really want to change these people, honest. As I mentioned above, I went on a few dates with a girl who later told me her personal experiences with ghosts. Whatever. I had no intentions of dropping everything and turning tail over that. I just find the phrase itself insultingly vague, particularly when the person’s beliefs are clearly religious.

      …what are “torture bunnies?”

  14. You are not alone. Is harder being a woman who’s not belive in god… or other bullshit.
    And I am a lovely woman, but I use my brain, and that is fatal, no matter what.

    • That’s a shame. …not that you’re a lovely woman who uses her brain. That’s good. Brains are sexy – the bigger the better. But it sucks royal jelly that not many men feel that way. Better luck to you, Nadia.

  15. Maybe you should try an atheist online dating site – I just did a quick search and there are a few. Or move to the UK! I’ve used a couple of general online dating sites here in the UK and found that very few women describe themselves as spiritual. The most common self-categorisation is Protestant/Catholic/Muslim and non-practising. Of course, this is also nonsense but the implication is that they were brought up in a religious environment but aren’t religious themselves.

      Please don’t encourage him to move to the UK.
      We already have more than enough pompous egocentrics spouting their verbal diarrhoea, and that’s just in the House Of Commons alone…

      • While I can’t disagree with the “verbal diarrhea” part (and learn to spell it correctly for maximum chuckles – it’s a great word that deserves your respect), egocentric? The man who called himself a CHUD? A little more self-esteem and ego would do me good, I think.

        Thanks for reading!

  16. Hang in there Kyle. I’m in a much older age bracket and have experienced all the maddening bs you describe. Finally found an unapologetic atheist and we have hit it off like nobody’s business. It’s a lonely haul, to be sure. I think it’s an American thing. Enjoyed your rant. –Alex

    • They’ve got to exist! I know what the evidence says, but I, against all logic and reason, believe they exist!

  17. I dated a girl recently who was spiritual but didn’t subscribe to a particular religion, met her in the street not on-line. She didn’t like to be defined by a particular religious dogma or structure. Saying that she was very open minded to criticisms about her beliefs(she has a masters in journalism), but did not display adequate critical thinking, she was fond of confirmation bias in her descriptions of human behaviour relating to the fuzzy archetypes found in astrology. Nevertheless, seeing as how we are now friends and I feel I can be more assertive in my criticisms and lend her several books on science and philosophy, try and get her to see reason! Hopefully…

    • Good luck to you, James! Show her that thing they did on astrology, where every single zodiac sign felt it was described best by the same bland list of traits.

      What sign is she? She’s probably an Aries. They ALWAYS fall for confirmation bias.

  18. I have been on eHarmony for a while and I can attest to the fact that you can declare yourself as spiritual, but not religious or neither religious nor spiritual.

  19. I love your words. My husband and I are both happy atheist heathens. Please continue being snarky and intolerant of people’s imaginary friends. There’s no reason for you to tolerate something you strongly disagree with. I’m happy I stumbled across this little article. Good luck to you!

  20. Hey Kyle!
    Thanks for posting this, it was a very interesting read. I’m an Atheist…as my user name would suggest…and I was lucky enough to find a like minded person when it comes to theism. I haven’t used an online dating site, so I wouldn’t know anything about how they work, but I did meet my match online, when it was least expected, on an online game and we’ve been together happily for about 4 years now. Good luck on your endeavors, maybe try an online game if the dating sites don’t work for ya! 😉

    • Sadly, Atheist Chick, most people in the online games I play are more interested in tea-bagging noobs, to use the popular vernacular.

  21. I got kicked off of Eharmony for admitting that I did not believe in god(s) AND that I did not want children. Or rather, I received an email from the administrator (or whatever) that there were NO MATCHES FOR ME and that I was not compatible with the users of Eharmony. Yeah, well, I didn’t want to play with you either. *sulk*

    Seriously, when I was doing the online dating thing, I would not accept matches from the “spiritual but not religious” category for this very reason. And living in the Midwest, that one thing alone pretty much weeded out I’d say about 80 percent of the available dating population.

    Did you ever think that maybe, just maybe, you might meet someone who believes in god, that you could be interested in? I asked myself that question, several times. And I hate to say it but my answer was no and has remained no. Because I have to be with someone whom I respect, and whose intellect I respect, and while the guy may be a nice guy, just the fact that he has conversations with an invisible sky god is enough to turn me off. We can’t even be friends, dude. Because I know how it would end. I would make a zombie Jesus joke and he’d be all offended and hurt and would accuse me of being insensitive to his beliefs. Yeah, well that’s because I am.

    So yeah, I totally get it.

    • This exactly. Michelle, you hit all the nails on the head with a big, many-nail-hitting hammer. I too would rather not start a friendship or relationship than get a month into something great and make a joke about amputees simply not praying hard enough that “offends” and wrecks the whole thing. I’m willing to try, but I like to find out early it’s going to be a problem when I start lumping your sky wizard in with Zeus and Wotan.

  22. The SbnR, or “The Randy Choice”, is code. Subconscious subtext really. It means, “I hold an extremely common point of belief with no real interesting, original, or thoughtful opinions, but I’ll paint it with this paint that makes me look like I DIDN’T cobble my deepest held beliefs together from Lord of the Rings, Communion classes, and relationships with REALLY dumb girl/boyfriends in high school.”

    In a (few) word(s), it’s an opinion that reflects the culture of blind Narcissism and self-importance that is rotting our culture from the inside out.

    • Yeah. “Let me quickly piece a ramshackle set of beliefs together, like a prom dress made from old carpet samples, so I can stand out like the unique snowflake I know I am!” Ha.

      • You’re such a sick narcissist. You and Mitchell.

        Anyone who doesn’t conform to your fallacious belief that there exists nothing outside of your field of vision is referred to as “dumb.”


  23. I met my wife on eHarmony. And, yes, almost everything on my profile was a lie (my honest profile got rejected, so I made several more to see what it takes to be “matchable”). I got super lucky, in that, almost immediately I met a wonderful girl who only halfheartedly believes in a nondescript “higher power” but is utterly apathetic toward questions about god(s), faith, the supernatural and religion in general. At the time, she didn’t even have a word or phrase to describe her position beyond “spiritual but not religious.” Today her “higher power” is probably something akin to “fate” or “destiny” (and then just because she finds these ideas romantic), she’s cultivated a profound dislike of fundamentalism for the harm it does, and she’s proud (proud!) to say that her husband is an atheist. So there is hope in online dating for atheists, even among the nebulous “spiritual but not religious” category. Either that, or I’m just the luckiest guy on the interwebs.

    BTW, you get mad props for using an okCupid handle that only MST3K fans would get, but I’m not sure it’s the best strategy for attracting teh ladies.

    • I did it for you, Justin. I also did it years ago, back when I didn’t understand that using your Xbox Live Gamertag as your dating profile username was a DUMB IDEA.

  24. I’m an openly atheist internet dater… I recently got rejected by a SbnR it was awesome… Here’s the message.

    “hey chris,

    sorry for the delay! online dating sure does have its challenges, but one thing i think its useful for is learning more about what we want or don’t want. that said, i’ve been giving the atheist thing a good amount of thought and i just don’t think that in terms of partnership, a partnership with someone who didn’t partake in ritual or ceremony of any sort would nourish me fully. ”


    “partake in rituals and ceremony?!”

    I’m active on OKCUPID. You pick your faith then you pick your position in the belief…
    I.E. “Christianity – and somewhat serious about it”, or like mine states “Atheist – and very serious about it.” there is also a “laughing about it” I’m still trying to figure out just what the hell that means…

    There was some conversation prior to this that were about the “sprit connected, higher power, something bigger” malarky that so popular these days. I say that’s cool for you, I don’t personally buy it. As long as that system of beliefs is not currently murdering, nor in the past has murdered fellow humans for not believing it, I’m totally cool with YOU believing it. Do Not Ask Me To Believe It.

    • That last paragraph EXACTLY, Chris. Although I mock the profiles who said they were pagan or believed in Mother Earth and Father Sky – whatever. These people aren’t hurting anyone (I don’t think), and I’d have no issue striking up conversation with them. I just hope they’d be able to stick it out when I start mocking their belief system. Believe whatever you want, but don’t expect me to respect your belief. And if you find it makes you a better person? Don’t stop believing it on my count! If your belief in Gaia’s all-powerful hand can’t stand up to a little japery from a dolt like me, it wasn’t a very firmly-held belief to begin with.

      Tell that SbnR that your ritual could be sleeping in on Sundays, or always ordering two Doritos Locos Tacos instead of one. That’s my expert advice.

  25. This fits with my experience in general.

    I have found that “Spiritual but Not Religious” is more often than not shorthand for “I’ve never given it any serious thought, but the social norm to believe in SOME kind of nonsense is too compelling for me to just leave that part of my identity blank.”

    • If someone wrote that on their profile underneath SbnR, I’d respect them a whole lot more, I think. Thanks, Oran!

  26. Hi Kyle, thanks for sharing your experiences. I too have dabbled in online dating but I live in Australia and so things are a little different here. Firstly I don’t ever recall seeing SbnR as an option for religion on the website I used (an Aussie site similar to match.com). I saw plenty of atheists (in fact, I ended up with one) and not much pickiness due to religious status.
    Thank you. Your blog has made me realise how lucky I am to be living in a country where I receive no prejudice for being atheist.
    You’re possibly not doing yourself any favours by being so judgemental towards theists (or half theists?), but I understand the frustration.
    I heard of a dating website for nerds seeking other nerds. Why not start one up for atheists seeking atheists? (You owe me 5% of the profits when it takes off)

  27. Kyle,

    As an atheist (lower case because it’s *not* a belief, but a lack thereof), I can relate to your feelings of otherness and exasperation at the all too common perception that we atheists are necessarily close-minded, intolerant, etc. Actually, I’ve got one thing on my chest that I’d like to remove right now: “tolerance” really bothers me. Not because I have any great desire to persecute and/or oppress anyone, because that isn’t the case at all. No, my problem is with the very idea of merely “tolerating” someone. Religious folks, the Sbnr people, and PC atheists seem to have a hard-on for this “high ground”, wherein they are, of course, too “good” to be anything less than tolerant. But what does it mean to be tolerant? Does it mean that you go out of your way to learn about others’ beliefs (make believe or otherwise)? The answer appears, to me, to be a resounding NO, considering how ignorant these very same people often are of the same faiths and conspiracy theories, ghost, aliens, etc., that they defend.

    The way I understand tolerance, and the way I see it used, is that it is the nominal form of “to put up with”. For example, “I’m not close-minded, I put up with everyone’s beliefs!” Swap the verb phrase in the latter clause with the single verb “tolerate”, and tell me that they mean completely different things. Yeah. They don’t.

    Anywho, one of the most things I find most annoying is that the PC crowd tends to stress the importance of respecting others’ beliefs, as if said beliefs have some dignity of their own. They don’t. If I kick a Bible or *gasp* burn a Qur’an while nobody is looking and nobody ever finds out, it’s as if nothing has happened. The books don’t have widdle feelers, so they perceive no pain; they do not feel slighted in the slightest! So why are we expected to respect people’s beliefs?

    I think it’s because, at root, people don’t understand the difference between respecting X set of beliefs and respecting X set of people. In other words, respecting the holder of beliefs, rather than the beliefs themselves. Again, beliefs do not have dignity; whenever people try to ascribe dignity to them, it is because they don’t want people challenging their worldview/s, because that necessarily means challenging what these people understand to be reality (“I’m offended!”). But, clearly, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jews (you get the idea) can’t all be right, so why is it incumbent upon nonbelievers to pretend that they can be? Why should we bend over backwards to please a bunch of people who insist on believing in things for which there is no evidence? We don’t go to surgeons who merely have “faith” that they can perform a procedure — we go to highly trained professionals. We don’t ride aboard planes designed by engineers who merely have “faith” that their machines won’t explode upon takeoff — we require all aircraft to be meticulously constructed and tested. In every one of those cases we would consider it ludicrous *not* to oppose the reliance on faith by people who really should know what they’re doing. So why is it that we’re supposed to respect the masses’ faith/s, never questioning them, lest we make Jesus cry and Muhammad angry? Why is it that we’re supposed to grant the believers their La La Land, yet we must quietly weave in and out of their nonsense in order to live a life of reason?

    It is completely possible to respect people without respecting their beliefs, and I get the feeling that you do precisely this, Kyle, while still exercising your right to criticize whatever and whomever you will.

    Also, I totally feel your pain. As an atheist with no clear political affiliation (I piss everyone off, it seems :D), a low nonsense threshold, and some eclectic interests, to say the least, it’s tough to find a potential love-friend — let alone friends of the platonic variety. It’s always nice to be reminded that one isn’t alone, so I thank you for this.

    Keep writing the good fight, dear Sir.

    • Thanks, Keanu. All good points. Something that just doesn’t get mentioned enough – how can we be expected to respect religious beliefs equally when each different religion negates the others? Are we to then respect certain religious beliefs MORE or LESS than others? It would make sense to do so, but then you’re back at square one, disrespecting someone’s beliefs by simply not respecting it as much as someone else’s! It’s far easier on everyone to just go “Look, you’re all nice people, but you’re also all wrong. Think about it, sleep on it, get back to me.”

  28. i laughed. thanks. i am a christian and i wish people would just admit what they are. also, you can be wrong and not be an idiot. we can sometimes simply disagree. but sometimes someone is not just wrong, they are also a fucking idiot. appreciate the post.

  29. Love it!

    Especially the cost-effectiveness re: tarring/feathering.

    From another atheist*
    * No god/God/gods/spirits/ghosts/higher powers/religions

    • You left out psychics, homeopathy, young Earth, alien visitations, and dolphins having healing powers, so I assume you believe all of those. I’d tar’n’feather you if it wasn’t so damn expensive.

  30. As an atheist woman with a profile of a couple of different dating sites, I totally feel your pain. What I find most hilarious is that not only does my status say “atheist,” I also mention in the body of my profile that I have no desire to hear from anyone other than atheists or agnostics and I STILL get emails from dudes that say “God is an important force in my life” or similar. Which always makes me think, He believes in a sky fairy AND he’s illiterate? What would possibly make me want to respond to this dipshit?

    Also, my favorite email ever (I still have it ’cause it makes me laugh when I’m having a bad day) is from a Mormon who offered to take me to temple as a first date.

  31. I’m an atheist female and found my atheist husband on OKCupid. We were both listed as atheist and I only considered agnostics or atheists. We even had ourselves a little secular shin-dig of a wedding and created a little godless flock of children and dogs. So, it’s possible and we exist.

  32. This behaviours is geographically specific to North America
    In north west Europe, dating sites are chock full of self identifying atheists!
    Proud religious folks are a minority in Western Europe!

  33. This behaviours is geographically specific to North America
    In north west Europe, dating sites are chock full of self identifying atheists!
    Proud religious folks are a minority in Western Europe!

  34. That you would suggest it’s stupid shows your ignorance, which is not stupidity. The chasm between religious and spiritual is far greater than you understand, because you gravely misunderstands the meaning of the word “religious.” You also appear to suffer from a common misconception among many self-proclaimed atheists about the distinction between atheism and agnosticism. The very explanations (in response to type prior article) that you disparage as failed attempts to articulate the chasm are, in fact, excellent expressions of it. You just don’t see it because you are blinded by your limited perspective. You most likely have very little understanding of atheism ad well, as your comparative analysis is fairly sophomoric one. No one can help you with that but you.

    • What I’m suggesting is “stupid” is “using the phrase “Spiritual but not Religious” as a blanket term for everything and anything pertaining to faith, any varying degree. I think it is stupid to select “spiritual but not religious” as your “faith” on a dating profile if right underneath it you’re going to write “God is good, and I have a very personal relationship with Jesus.” That’s not “spiritual but not religious” at all, and you’re being a bit “stupid.”

      I get so upset because when I see SbnR I get this false sense of hope. I get this idea that the person describing themselves thusly is fed up with religions of all kinds – he or she doesn’t like the discord between practice and preach. He or she finds that organized faith, dogmatic rule-following, and kowtowing to a god that creates a hell for the creatures he loves so much are all bad things. Maybe there’s something else going on in the universe, maybe there’s a mystical side to the world we don’t understand. That’s what I want to see when I read “SbnR,” and when I don’t, I think what I usually find is pretty “stupid.”

      But I’d love to hear your explanations, Michael, on the differences between atheism and agnosticism, and why I have very little understanding of atheism. Oh, wait, you said no one can help but me. Thanks for diagnosing the problem though.

      Let me try to explain the difference I see between atheism and agnosticism. Agnosticism answers a different question -as I stated in the blog post, it answers an epistemological one, an empirical one. If you asked ME this question, I’d answer the same as any agnostic – it’s only real answer to give. The question is, “Is there a god?” This is a question of fact. There’s no ifs or buts here, it’s a yes-or-no question. And since I am a tiny human dot on a big planet in a big galaxy in a big universe, I don’t know. I am agnostic on the question of “Is there a god?”

      But the atheist question is different. The atheist question is entirely subjective. It’s asking a question about a specific person in a specific circumstance at a specific time. “Do you believe in god?” If you answer “no,” you’re an atheist. Now, I’m of the opinion that if you answer the empirical question above like any rational human being should, with “I don’t know,” that makes you an atheist as well. How can you believe in something you don’t know exists?!

  35. I just wanted to say I so enjoyed your article. Since I would definitely claim to be one of those Spiritual but not religious people I found it extra amusing. I have dated Atheists, Agnostic, Christians, and even a Jewish fellow.
    I haven’t done the online dating yet… Although it had been suggested to me.
    Your article actually made me ponder what I would actually say about my beliefs. I guess I would mostly say I am a firm believer in science, lover of critical thinking, very anti religion and all it’s righteousness, yet I believe in the awe that I feel by the beauty I see when I take a walk in the woods. I also believe that no human mind is smart enough to have all the answers. I read teachings by the Dalai Lama because his wisdom about being kind to one another is inspiring. I don’t know does this make me wishy washy or maybe still open to the fact that there is still so much to learn.
    Please keep on snickering at people and their beliefs because if someone can’t laugh at themselves then they are too arrogant. Keep writing about it so I can snicker with you.
    Good luck on the dating. Keep me posted.

    • Uh, ok, Heather. How do you want me to “keep you posted?”

      Other than that, though, thanks for reading. You clearly fall into an SbnR range I wouldn’t consider “stupid” by any means.

  36. Using eHarmony I identified myself as not spiritual or religious and indicated that the religious beliefs of my partner would be very important to me. The matches that were sent to me were of men that had also indicated they were not spiritual or religious. The individuals that I questioned further about their beliefs were all agnostics or atheists. After 4-5 months I found a nice atheist with a similar personality to myself. We have been dating a few months. He’s an atheist in the sense that he believes god is about as likely as unicorns and fairies, which I guess could technically be categorized as agnostic, but for all intensive purposes I would consider that to be an atheist point of view. Just what I was looking for :) Hang in there. I would filter out the people identifying themselves as spiritual but not religious. I wouldn’t want to date anyone identifying themselves that way. Don’t lower your standards. You may find yourself in an unhappy relationship with an unhappy ending that way. I hope this helps. Good luck!

    • The problem is, the list of folks categorizing themselves as SbnR is growing and growing all the time, while the list of agnostics and atheists, at least on match.com, is the same as when I joined over a year ago. Just not many women (in Las Vegas) come right out and say it.

      There is also the option to leave it blank, which fills it in with “I’ll Tell You Later,” but there’s no way to search for just the “I’ll Tell You Later”s. What’s that about?

  37. What a stupid article.

    You atheists want to narrow things to an authoritarian level, where you’re “stupid” or “ignorant” if you even slightly accept that there might be a mystical dimension to things. Your ignorance makes me sick – you and all of the other devotees of atheism.

    You have no idea what exists beyond what you see. Think about all of the things for which there was once no evidence but were later discovered. Then thing about what a moron you sound like when you talk about how acknowledging the spiritual is a ‘red flag for stupid.’

    Tell it to anyone who has seen a ghost. Give them some BS line about “hallucinations” and psychobabble that they can only betray their own five senses to conform to.

    A “red flag for stupid”? What an ignorant moron you are. Humiliating.

  38. Dismissing out of hand ghosts and extraterrestrial visitation. People like you are as ignorant as the church fundies you criticize. It’s truly laughable.

    What a moron you are. Please do us all a favor and refrain from reproduction. Refrain from breathing too, if you can help it.

  39. The genius on this blog apparently has evidence that every witness to extraterrestrial visitation and spirits is delusional or hallucinating. We’d all like to see it, you complete dolt. :)

    I’ve known people who have seen ghosts. In some cases, the stories were very difficult to explain away. But carry on with your ignorant position that you won’t believe anything that isn’t before your very eyes. What a freaking joke. You’re so stupid.

  40. I would also like to add that I have met many nice atheists via an atheist group on meetup.com. I have gone on hikes with this group, but they also meet for coffee, drinks, or other activities. They tend to be interested in activities related to science and (surprise) atheism. Perhaps there is a similar group in Vegas that you could find via this website or a similar one. It’s worth checking out.

  41. Since you were posting about your lack of dating experience, and your online dating trials and tribulations, I am going to give you a little bit of unsolicited advice. Take it or leave it. When I was a young woman, about 30 years ago, I worked for a dating service. Back then, as now, there were way more men in their late 20’s than women in their 20’s, and I was always struck by the fact that the men always wanted to date women younger than themselves. I knew this would cut down their choices a lot, and I always encouraged them to at least go a few years older than they had originally wanted. I was hoping we could at least send them on one date. So even though you are willing to date someone six years younger than yourself, (20), you are only willing to date someone two years older than yourself. This seems like an unnecessary limit. You’re not willing to even date someone 30? You are losing out. It may also be true that as a person gets older they are more willing to admit they are an atheist. Anyway, please don’t feel the need to explain your choices to me. I have heard them all. And really, please do what you want. It is your life after all.

    • You are 100%, no doubt about it, right Wendy. The age range listed on both of my profiles is honestly something I didn’t give a moment’s thought about – I actually questioned whether or not you were pulling numbers from thin air before checking myself. I’ve since made the change and expanded beyond someone two years older than me.

      I think I’d actually prefer someone older than me. I like smarts, and I’d prefer to have to keep up with someone smarter than myself than the other way around. I’ve no problem being the idiot in the room.

      • Kyle,

        I know it’s been months, now, but I’ve just come across this post. I was reading down the thread rooting for you, the whole time wondering if you’d limited your search by any unnecessary things. I’m so glad someone else said it. :) Best of luck in your search. May you find your happily ever after.

    • Actually, I get out quite a bit. The issue is that my “getting out” is for work – I travel as part of my job all around this great country of ours. I’m always out and about, sometimes away from home for weeks at a time. And I don’t really stay in my hotel rooms – I walk, I take in restaurants and bars and hot spots. But it’s hard to create more than a superficial relationship when I’m going to be in a city for two nights tops.

  42. Hilarious also how your definition of “spiritual” completely omits the “spirit.”


    • Testimonial evidence is not hard evidence. It absolutely cannot prove anything on its own. Ask anybody in law enforcement about the fallibility of eyewitness testimony, particularly well after the fact. If a dozen people said they witnessed a murder but the police never find a body or any other hard evidence to back it up, there is no case–no proof a murder was even actually committed. Why are we required to provide evidence to disprove what you claim exists when you cannot provide us with evidence that it does?

      Let me put it this way: I know for a fact that God exists because I AM God. I even have testimonial evidence to prove it.

      Suzy Abrahms, a divorced mother of 4 living in Florida watched me walk on water. “Went and plucked my best Sunday hat out of the pond after the wind took it…gators didn’t bother him none, neither!”

      Jon Douglas of Twodot, Montana succeeded where Satan failed and actually got me to turn stones into bread. “Best damned…er, excuse me…best blessed bread I’ve ever put butter on!”

      Bobby Franklin of Mesa, Arizona was immensely grateful that I healed his blinded eyes. “Damned lasik was gonna cost me a fortune!”

      • Hey guys,

        I apologize for the angry comments I made last night, and continued to make today. They were out of line and it was a knee-jerk reaction. I sounded like an obnoxious moron. Coffee turns me into a bit of a demon at times. This apology should go out to Kyle, that older lady I called an “idiot,” and everyone else I vented off on here. Wasn’t cool of me at all.


        “Testimonial evidence is not hard evidence. It absolutely cannot prove anything on its own.”

        I’ve never found the argument regarding eyewitness testimony as being completely without credibility to be particularly compelling. It basically amounts to an appeal to doubt our “lyin’ eyes.”

        “Ask anybody in law enforcement about the fallibility of eyewitness testimony, particularly well after the fact. ”

        Will someone recall a car being a different color, or perhaps “fill in” some details about a suspect’s face that do not actually exist? Yes. They will not create an entire scenario out of whole cloth, unless they are deliberately lying or in the midst of an intense hallucination.

        “If a dozen people said they witnessed a murder but the police never find a body or any other hard evidence to back it up, there is no case–no proof a murder was even actually committed.”

        Let’s follow your hypothetical scenario, Aaron.

        If that did, indeed, happen, then the only reasonable conclusion would be that the body was moved. Or that the murder was simulated. Or that, for some reason, these twelve witnesses had conspired to lie.

        Hallucination can immediately be taken off the table, as no two people will see precisely the same hallucination, let alone twelve.

        It is outside reason to suggest that twelve separate individuals simply came under the delusion that they had seen a murder. While it does not necessarily mean there was a murder, it does mean that there should be some explanation as to why they saw what they saw outside of “eyewitness testimony isn’t credible.”

        This is within reason. If you believe it is outside of science, then your interpretation of science is outside of reason.

        It is because I’m repulsed by the arrogant tone of this post. I know you guys hate it when people say this, but it seems like atheism has become something of a religion to some of you, and you are engaging in the same fallacious absolutism that fundamentalists have become so notorious for. Now not only are fundamentalists outside of this narrow definition of “reason,” but so are those who even acknowledge that there might be a mystical side to things.

        To say that you do not believe in anything for which there is no hard evidence is perfectly reasonable, but to say that you have a strong disbelief in all such things is kind of ludicrous. To say that anyone who believes that such things exist is “stupid” is insufferable. Take yourself backwards a couple of centuries, and think about everything we had no “hard evidence” for simply because we had not found it. Do you honestly believe that we will not know so much more after the passing of a few centuries?

        Think about quantum mechanics, and all of the many esoteric ideas that have been realized as possibilities. In light of this reasoning, how can one possibly dismiss as foolish the idea of something like spirits (as in ghosts) and extraterrestrials when so many millions from so many different walks of life have reported such things all throughout time?

        “Let me put it this way: I know for a fact that God exists because I AM God. I even have testimonial evidence to prove it.”

        I’m not really speaking of religion, but simply supernatural phenomena in general.

        In this case, things are very subjective. If only a few people have seen and experienced one’s “miracles,” then it is a reasonable possibility that they might be lying on behalf of their cult leader.

        However, when supernatural phenomena is corroborated by testimonial evidence from all walks of life, all periods of time and all around the world, I think the explanation that it is without credibility simply because no one has found hard physical evidence is completely unsatisfactory.

  43. I prefer the Japanese word ‘Yūgen’. More awe and awareness – consciousness raising without all the spiritual mumbo jumbo.

  44. I’ve seen this numerous times as well, the Sbnr thing. I’ve finally decided to take it out of my matches. Although I think OKcupid is better for atheists anyway, more pointed questions. If you want some depressing fun, go to a speed dating event wearing an atheist pin.

    As for eHarmony, they got sued, that’s why it’s different in the US than elsewhere. It was considered religious discrimination.

    And finally, this is what worries me when people talk about the rising tide of the “nones” or the not religiously affiliated. This by no means, means atheist.

    • It worries you that people aren’t ignorant enough to declare an absolutist belief that nothing outside humanity’s field of vision exists?

      That’s pretty funny. The comments on this blog betray the true level of stupidity that self-identified atheists carry with them. What a complete joke.

    • I’ve done speed dating numerous times, but only once has my lack-of-faith come up. It halted the conversation pretty quickly.

      …she found my lack of faith disturbing.

  45. Anyone who has an absolute belief that there are no ghosts is either ignorant, religiously inclined to disbelieve, or a moron. You can be the first and the last simultaneously, as the blogger makes himself out to be.

      • Key indication of a moron is when they think anyone who disagrees with them is a troll.

        What unrelenting narcissism you must suffer with.

        • You may delete all of my comments if you’d like. Please remove the e-mail, though.

          As I said, I was not in a good state of mind when I made those remarks and I apologize for it.

  46. There’s another question eHarmony asks: “how important is your partner’s faith to you?” How I could answer that question? Does it mean that it’s important that my partner’s faith (or lack thereof) match mine? Or is it important that he have faith in god? And of course, by “god” they mean the Judeo/Christian god, not Krishna or Thor or Gaia.
    I have never called myself SbnR, but when I say I do not believe in god, others assume I am SnbR. Sometimes they ask “but you are spiritual, right?” I hate that question. No, I am not. I do not believe in spirits of any kind. I do not think yoga or meditation will bring you closer to the universe. I do not believe in ghosts, aliens, the Illuminati, the Holy Grail, Bigfoot, homeopathy, elves, fairies or angels. I’ve read about and studied many various religions, not to seek god but to try to understand why people believe. And I still don’t really understand. I’m as baffled about their belief as they are by my lack of belief.
    So, where are all those atheist men I keep hearing about? I’m over 60, so perhaps they are all much younger than I.

  47. I have a message of hope! I am happily dating a fellow atheist I met on OKC. I put “atheist and very serious about it” on my profile. I originally tried dating people who were “spiritual” or “agnostic,” even though I (personally) have little respect for those choices of identification. I quickly got more picky, though, after realizing that my initial impulse on reading someone’s profile and exchanging a couple of messages was usually dead on. I never felt a good connection with the “spriritual” or “agnostic” people. So I started only going out with atheists. I got pickier about some other stuff, too. I stopped considering people that were not enrolled or graduated from a post-graduate program and I immediately ruled out anyone showing ANY indicators of machismo or douchebaggery. I also started paying less attention to indicators of “coolness” or normative, stereotypical attractiveness. Obviously, I was dating a lot less for a while there because I was being picky. But I ended up with the guy that I am seeing now and we’ve been going along well for about a year now. This has been the least complicated/difficult/drama-laden relationship I’ve ever been in that lasted more than 6 months. I am super happy I did not spend any more time on agnostics and SbnRs.

  48. Just a thought, but it may be that a partial explanation for your difficulty in finding a suitable admitted atheist girl is the subtle yet extremely successful social programming of the American male to equate Christianity with morality; the ideal woman being a good clean Christian girl. (The film Coming to America and Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin” come immediately to mind as prime examples). As a single American girl living in the Midwest, I can tell you that when I tell a date I’m an atheist, what he really hears is ‘I’m fucking the entire Russian army, your mom and her brother and, oh, by the way, children are out of the question because everyone knows atheists eat their young’. Point being, despite one’s true convictions, some women may identify as SbnR just to preempt the predictable conclusion that if she’s not a ‘good, clean Christian girl, she’s not relationship material. At least I choose to believe that explains why I, a reasonably fit, attractive and successful woman in my early 30s, am sitting alone this lovely Friday evening! Incidentally, an atheist-only dating site is a fantastic idea! Never tried online dating but I would if such a site existed!

  49. Just wanted to say that I met a fellow atheist on eHarmony and we will be married quite soon. They are on there! It’s been a couple of years since we’ve met, but if memory serves, I picked atheist or at least something that indicated that I was an atheist on my profile, and so did she.

  50. The problem with being smarter than everyone else, is that you are smarter than everyone else. Additionally, online dating people are frequently, though not always, the ones that most chose not to date… for a reason.

  51. More proof that the democratization of media has lowered journalistic standards beyond all hope of redemption – good job. Not only is your writing shit – you come off like a snot nosed, intolerant, smug little prick…oh so sure of the fact that there’s only one right way to think & that those who don’t follow suit are just “dumb”. Or if you were just trying to right some half-serious, humorous fluff piece – it just comes off as lazy. Man are you even trying? God I hope you can do better than that – come on.

  52. Kyle you are one very talented guy. don’t listen to the haters in thread. Haters like S.Stern stay cooped up in overblown feelings of superiority and don’t accomplish shit with their lives. You Kylester are one funny and very thoughtful dude. There’s bound to be someone out there for you and your still young enough to find that person. Keep up the good work. because it’s work, and you’re producing it. Haters only hate, and criticize. You’re shipping good shit and it’s geting better. Rock on. !!

    • Thanks, Little Bobby Stills. You stay rockin’ in the free world.

      Although I must defend S.Stern, as it wasn’t he/she who was doing the trolling. Let it be known here – S.Stern: you cool.

  53. I loved your post, and got a kick out of the varied responses. I met my atheist husband via a singles ad in a magazine long before internet dating (30 years ago). I tend to run the other way from people who self-identify as “spiritual.” I don’t believe in spirit. Life and nature are awesome, sure, but they’re not made of spirit. Do continue your search for a like-minded partner, as I’ve found that it makes all the difference in a long relationship. Believing pretty much the same things about life, death, most morality, and the inanity of some other people’s views makes for a lot of spirited conversation (ha). My atheism has come to be a very very major part of who I am (even wrote a novel Kylie’s Heel, about an atheist woman, and my mate wrote a book of poetry called Questions About God, which calls into question all the silly myths people take literally).

    However, the commenter who suggested you widen your acceptable age ranges (etc) for a date is quite correct. Don’t let geography or a few years of age difference or anything else get in the way of what might be a great love.

  54. Interesting reading. A lot of laughs in there. I am not sure I fully get your vitriol at those who claim some sort of spiritual belief. Sort of though. So me… I like the label agnostic. To be atheist is to take a stance that nothing yet proven by science could possibly exist. Which is kind of odd. It is almost treating science as a religion. I am generally abused as an agnostic for being uncommitted. By me that is fine. Science continually uncovers what may have been totally unfathomable just a few years earlier. I actually think there may something to all the spiritual stuff, something to with general life energy recycling, left over energies… various ways in which there could be something that generates a lot of the general mythology around it. So I am not committed to a firm stance that there is no substance to the beliefs. BUT… yeah I think overall I agree with you. And mmm…. found love yet? Good luck, may God be with you/bless you; ask the universe and it shall give… seek your spirit guide… Haha.

    • I think that agnosticism and atheism answer two very different questions – one of them epistemological, one subjective. Agnosticism is the best answer for the question, “Is there a god.” As you say – we don’t know, there’s no concrete proof that such an entity DOESN’T exist. It’s the same answer for the teapot in space or the FSM.

      Atheism is my answer to “Do you believe in god?” No I don’t.

      HOWEVER! I feel that if you’ve answered the epistemological question with I don’t know, then you’ve got to answer the subjective question with “no.” How can you believe in something you don’t know exists? What would be the point?

  55. One of the best/funniest/true things I’ve read in ages. If I wasn’t married, too old and didn’t live down under I would very much want to date you Kyle. Funny is sexy. Someone, a true, card carrying atheist is out there waiting for you my friend.

  56. This is a shamefully intolerant view that borders on hate speech. You should be ashamed of these views; I am ashamed that these views are associated with my non-belief. Your essay’s intolerance for world-views other than your own demonstrates a great deal of egotism and arrogance, and it is that same egotism and arrogance that eventually lead to otherwise religious people committing terrible acts in the name of their faith. You may think your reasons for spewing hate are different and somehow justified (it’s logic! you say), but I’d venture that the views you express here are bordering on what you purport to despise about religion.

    • First – this is one of the tamest blogs yet written on this site. Hell, in the last blog post I called Sylvia Browne “Queen Douche” IN THE HEADLINE! So I don’t know exactly where you’re finding all of the “hate speech,” but I would really advise you, if you found this blog offensive, to never turn on the television. The stuff on there will BLOW YOUR MIND.

      Second – there’s nothing more arrogant or egotistical than claiming a knowledge about how the universe operates, especially when that knowledge places the believer at the center of a universe created just for him/her by a benevolent being concerned with his/her everyday activities. That is arrogant. Saying that I don’t think there’s a god or that I don’t believe ghosts are real isn’t in the same ballpark.

      Third – If someone can hate the sin, and not the sinner, I can disrespect the belief and not the believer. I would put good money on the fact that every single person whose profile I sampled from for my little list of goofy SbnR examples is a WONDERFUL human being with friends and loved ones who does good deeds and is a courteous driver to boot. People aren’t the problem, and I try not to attack people when they don’t deserve it. Ideas are fair game. World-views other than my own can go screw themselves (if that was something intangible ideas could do – you know what? They can, because they’re intangible; they can do whatever they want). And so can my world-view. My world view can go screw itself. It’s just an idea, even if it is my own.

  57. There seems like a simple solution… why don’t you just… ask? On the first or second email: “Hey, I see you described yourself as ‘spiritual but not religious.’ I’ve noticed that means widely different things to different people. What do you mean by it?”

  58. You nailed it. That’s exactly the bunch of reasons why I abandoned online dating.
    It’s such frustrating experience to discover that our kind is so very, very, very rare – it almost made me lose my faith. Fortunately I didn’t have any in the first place.

  59. Yes I have had luck finding a like minded partner. As grads of the medical sciences we didn’t actually give much thought or credence to defining our relationship with metaphysical bs… too busy being involved in the real world. Yes we fully define ourselves as atheists now but would prefer to just be called rational as opposed to being a negative of something that doesn’t even fucking exist. But that’s another conversation. Suffice to say that in my younger years I too used Randy’s version of spiritual to define myself mostly because I was making the discovery of what I thought on my own …a personal mental evolution of thought without the popular input of a vocal online atheist movement or the likes of Richard Dawkins and Hitchens influencing my world. People must be given the opportunity and the tools to reach the point where we are able to apply reason to all aspects of life not just to theistic issues. Atheists need to get over the idea that people either have your exact same mindset or not… that kind of thinking borders on creating an stheist dogma. No. Its a mental process to reach the conclusions you and I take for granted but probably reached in the same way. When we solve equations its never ok to simply write down the answer… The steps one follows to get to the answer are as important. We as atheists need to accept that people who decribe themselves as areligious / spiritual / agnost etc today may well be on their personal mental journey. We seem too often to fall into the trap of being dismissive and impatient when someone isnt ready to see things as we do right now. Even us older atheists are refining out thoughts and changing our understanding of why people gravitate to supernatural belief. Recent work in field of neurogenomics and psychology are proving fascinating with respect to this. Lets not write people off as stupid

  60. Hi Kyle,
    What a really great post. I really enjoyed reading it and found myself laughing out load several times at both the amusing things you write and the crazy things people say.
    I agree with you in many ways and your post certainly proves that there sure are a lot of strange folk thinking and believing a lot of very strange things.
    Anyway I just wanted to maybe give you a different point of view on the dating thing. I had a long term relationship with a girl a few years back who was into all things crystally and magic and fairy like. I’m an Atheist (or at least an Agnostic flying ever closer to having the conviction to stick to calling myself an atheist). But I found going out with this girl for those few years was FUN. She was actuallty very intelligent and had a good successful career but her view of the world was silly yet beautiful, crazy yet interesting. I really enjoyed my time with her. Let’s rewind a little bit here though to point out that I would not have been amused or interested in any of her stories if she had been a devout Christian or Muslim and had simply been barking rules at me from some ancient book of intollerance or if she had insisted we face the north star when we kissed or some other craziness.
    She was a free thinker and a lot of the stuff she believed was just her own dreams and imaginings (that had maybe been influenced by stories and tales etc)
    I guess my point is – and I’m taking a long time to get to it – Is don’t dismiss a girl as stupid and not go out with her because she believes in fairies or ghosts. She may be everything else you want in a partner. Intelligent, funny, caring, loyal – and just a tiny bit silly and naive (which is no bad thing).

    • Yeah. I’ve mentioned above, I met someone on match who I really liked. She listed herself as SbnR, but not the type I’ve mentioned above that secretly loves Jesus. A few dates in she tells me a ghost story that happened to her. I listened, didn’t mock or make jokes – that would come later in the relationship when we were good and comfortable and happy. I had no intentions of dismissing her because she had different beliefs about meaningless stuff like that.

      Sadly, it fell apart for entirely different reasons shortly thereafter. Short story – she didn’t like how often I traveled for work. Sad; I really liked her. Ah well.

  61. Kyle, if I weren’t three times your age and happily married, I would date you. You are a great guy. You are bright, funny and willing to think for yourself. Have you thought about attending a Doctor Who or Discworld convention? . If you were to dress like a Feegle, you would be instantly popular. Seriously…. have fun. Spend your time with interesting like-minded people. The partner thing will sneak up on you.

  62. Kyle –

    You’re a funny, witty, charming man. Don’t sweat your present relationship status – it’ll happen when it happens. Until then, just enjoy the ride. Yes, people are idiots sometimes. It’s especially prevalent in young people who have never had their ideas challenged. You’re still young, and so are your potential partners.

    I have to admit that I met my husband nearly 12 years ago online. Neither one of us identified as an atheist then. I don’t think we really thought much about religion at the time. We are both firmly dug into the atheist camp now, but back then we just flew by the seat of our pants. Why not try that a bit? Let loose. Forget about the serious stuff and just have some fun! Who knows? Maybe your true love is cossetted in a Christian mire that she won’t break out of until she meets your quirky arse.

    Be brave. Drop the label and live a little. :)

    • You’re right. That’s one of the niggles with online dating – all of that stuff is just sitting out there for you to see and read before even meeting the person. So we all create these mental pictures, these snap judgments rather unfairly. Whose to say that the profile I dismissed because I saw “Christian – Protestant” as the listed faith isn’t a wonderful person I could connect with and stay up with for hours drinking wine and talking the intricacies of the 3 Blade movies? The world will never know.

  63. Yeah. “Well i don’t really believe in god, but i believe Jesus loved us all and died for us.”… What what ?

    Mostly those “spiritual people i have encountered are those who believe in things like horoscopes, chakras or w/e they are, healing magnets, stones and crystals, tarot shait etc. etc. . Fate is one of their favorites too… Everything happens for a reason? Do you mean god has plans for all of us or god works in mysterious ways?

    I think i would rather put my life together with a proper and really religious christian than one of those mentioned above… well on the condition that possible children of that union would be given at least somewhat neutral upbringing and proper education.
    Yeah i know they are just as ban as those “spirituals”, but for some reason they won’t make my blood boil quite as much.

    • Interesting. I don’t know which I would prefer. I think I may agree – I mean, at least the Christian has a 2000-year-old-plus cult backing him/her up.

  64. Hi Kyle,
    I am so glad to be swedish when I read this :). We may not have to many that are open about being atheists here (since that seems to be considered a delicate political statement of some sort), but this is a nation of mostly non-believers. Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of SbnR, a lot of people who believes in ghosts and goblins, I blame the dark winters, with mystical sounds in the bushes.

    But when I was searching for a partner, I just put “atheist” in my profile and did not give it any other thought. And that is my point, religion is like taste in music here, it is nice if you agree, but not really important.

    Here, it is the real believers, those who go to church and actually really believe in a higher power that are the weird little minority.

  65. There is a girl in my class who is very non religious, which made me feel at least slightly better when joining the school. It then turned out, when I asked her if she did believe anyone shoe believes in reincarnation, she is broadly anti-vac, her grandma is a homeopath so she supports that, and she believes an alien visited her best friend. the worst thing? When talking to my best friend about her she said I should RESPECT the other girl’s views! Acknowledge, alright, but why necessarily respect? I reserve the right to call it bullshit.

  66. Dude. You’re going into a dead-end! Stop whining about online dating and GET OUT OF THIS BULLSHIT! Catch up with some PUA guys in your area. I’m sure there’s an internet forum for your area where you can find some wingmen. Learn to approach chicks in real life like a real man! Learn to make them fall in love with you so strongly that they will not give a fuck about your spiritual views anymore. Or even better, be a man for whom they will be willing to abondon all their retarded believes!
    Do you know why you’re having problems with “dating”? Mostly because of religion and religious repressions of male and female sexuality, but that’s a story too long for this comment.
    I’m a believer – I believe in humans! Don’t let me down!

  67. I just want to give you a tip for your online dating. As a woman with some experience of this: Don´t go for the new profiles, these are the one´s getting flooded with emails, trust me I know 😉 You´ll have a better chance if you pick the once that have been members for a couple of weeks. They don´t get as many emails and they have probably learned to actually read what your writing and not just go for the dudes that just look good!
    Good luck :)

    (And if my english is a bit not so correct, is´t because I´m not a native english speaker :) )

    • Thanks for the tip, Blomma! I’ve sent a few messages to profiles that have been active for quite a while, but they usually respond with “Oh, sorry, I’m not active on here anymore.”

  68. Yeah, I used Match.com for a year and was confused by the whole “Spiritual But Not Religious” thing. I’m a staunch atheist and it said so on my profile, but the (admittedly few) women who contacted me tended to be devout Christians. I began to presume they just looked at the pictures and read maybe the first sentence in my profile, thusly not bothering to come across the sick and sordid truth. I even ended up on a date with a devout Christian (I thought she’d be the “nice” sort), but it ended dreadfully when she asked if I as religious. I questioned her about my profile and if she’d seen the “Atheist” bit. She had, but she thought it meant I was open to religion! Then she went on to claim she had dated an atheist… the whole thing ended quickly as it was clear from her expression I was a certified psychopath and she needed to flee. Then, on the way home, an extremely drunk Christian man threatened to kill me on the bus. Yeah. I’ve not had a date since (that was August 2012).

    I’m much the same as you Kyle – pretty useless with women. Very shy. And Hell bent, apparently.

  69. I think you’re missing the point that religion has a strong cultural element (attending communal events, participating in rituals, sharing a community’s understanding of what are normative responses to existential questions etc.), and can’t be reduced purely to assenting to certain propositions. That’s not to say that the propositions within religion are beyond question, but rather that you’re falsely reducing it.

    This is why there is a distinction between religiosity and spirituality: if you are “spiritual, but not religious”, you may assent to the propositions of a particular religious belief but lack the cultural elements.

  70. The eharmony in Australia is totally different from the eharmony in the USA. I noticed this difference a while ago. Its not really a matching site in Oz just a singles site so you can select these other ‘religions’. This might explain the confusion.

  71. After a very harsh breakup, I went about 3 years without dating. When I finally decided that I was ready to get back onto the market, I chose online dating through okcupid.com – a site that had been recommended by a friend. The main reason that I chose to go with online dating was that I typically have quite a few male friends who end up placing me in the “friend zone”. I should clarify that I’m a geeky gal, so guys tend to see me as a friend, not someone they would date. The theory was that if I started a relationship online with the obvious intent of dating, that hopefully I would not end up in another “rejected by a friend” situation.

    As a staunch Atheist, I made sure to not only select Atheist in my profile drop-down menus, I also mentioned it in my summary. I went on a few dates with guys who had marked themselves as “religious but not serious about it.” They often were taken aback by my atheism, despite the fact that it was clearly written about in my profile.

    Eventually I found a wonderful man who was 96% compatible with me. We’re both liberal atheists who do not want children. It was like winning the lotto. The best part is, this is the healthiest, most romantic relationship I’ve ever been in. My boyfriend (now for almost a year and a half) treats me better than any one ever has before. He’s kind, compassionate, strong, supportive, patient and thoughtful. I couldn’t be happier!

  72. Mate, move to another country…… the issue isn’t your atheism…. its that the country you currently reside in is one of (if not the) scariest ultra-religious places in the west.

    I actually quite like the article, and I think your being incredibly kind to these “spiritual” nutters…. go tour Europe, Australia, New Zealand…. your young, get yourself on a few tours, meet a few girls, see some awesome places while your at it…. (personally, I recommend Denmark) sure, there will be some bat-shit insane religious people, but the percentages of atheists in other parts of the world is far higher…. I get the feeling you know this, but would like to meet a nice local girl…. fair enough….. but I would strongly suggest giving it a shot.

    • Heading to Ireland for a week in a week! If I like it (which I am sure I will), maybe I’ll find a way to never return to the garish US.

  73. I’ve always wondered, where do the “realising the self” and the “meditating into Nirvana” but non deity worshipping, no religion clinging people fit into this spectrum?
    Are they agnostic? atheistic?? or just plain old “Spiritual but not religious” ?

    P.S: The previous comment was hilarious – “God loves you too random citizen” 😛

  74. I can self-identify as SBNR. You see, I really just don’t give a hoot about religion and I don’t care to think enough about it one way or the other to choose atheist or any other label. This atheist bit, man, it grates on me because you folks identifying as atheists are always so deeply concerned about religion and religiosity. Just go, live, get laid and maybe in a moment of orgasmic bliss, you’ll catch a glimpse of an 8-limbed creature through all the flailing. When you do, don’t think “wtf Vishnu”; don’t think “Hindus are crazy”; just enjoy the rocket ride. When you awaken the next day, I hope you think, that was one sweet night. This atheist thing is the least pragmatic thing around. And dammit Cedric, if you read this, stop posting your damn anti-religious claptrap on my facebook wall, I can’t stand to hear people talk about religion.

  75. So only select “atheist” under ideal mate’s faith and be done with it. Never read another SbnR’s explanation again. Problem solved.

  76. Hi Kyle,

    I think you are putting the cart before the horse. Don’t let -your- religious beliefs (yes, the atheism you practice is without a doubt a -religion-) get in the way of just, you know, getting laid. If it starts to get serious, then worry about the religious stuff. But you need to get some experience, my friend. Focus on what you -like- about a girl, not what’s wrong. There is a reason you’re having a hard time with the ladies, and it’s not because you’re socially awkward or whatever you think. It’s because you’re really, really critical. Stop judging them so harshly, and I’m guessing you’ll have a lot more success in the love department, which, lets face it, is a lot more important to your happiness than clinging to some rigid religious identity. (Yes, I’ll say it again, your dogmatic atheism -is- a religion.)

    Genuinely wish you the very best of luck. :) Go get ’em, tiger. :)

  77. I’m with Randy on this one… though you’re not talking about him. I feel connected to the universe in a sense; more accurately with human kind. I find the concept of collective consciousness interesting but I am not well read on the subject. My superstitions are nill. Dieties are a rediculous cop out for rational reasoning and acceptance that we lack all the answers. I am inclined to poke fun at a mates religion at some point. Not that I’m inclined to intentionally offend them. Just that living with a peraon who is not like-minded is like an ongoing sharade. The painful downside of this being that it severely limits the dates that you could potentially meet to those who are understanding and accepting of Atheism.

  78. Loved this. I’m sure I am much older than you. I married a Catholic turned agnostic, but really never understood if he was a true atheist. The marriage fell apart for other reasons and we parted as friends. My second marriage to a true atheist fell apart also – turned out he was psycho. I am now married a 3rd and last time to a Christian. I am an atheist. We are perfectly matched on every other level, but we agree to disagree about religion and do not discuss/debate this. We raise our kids to choose how they wish to believe. The moral of my story – don’t just look for those who you match with on that non-religious level -you could be missing the one connection who believes differently, respects your atheistic non-belief, but is your match on many other very important points. It’s hard enough to find love.

  79. As a female, atheist, ‘doesn’t want kids’ match.com user I would just like to say –

    “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 sorry, but no. Having boobs is not enough to get you noticed on a online dating site. I would LOVE to be inundated, nay, besieged with guys wanting my attention, even if they are ‘spiritual but not religious’ (given some time and a relatively intelligent guy, I can fix that) but I think you are vastly overestimating the attention that women, in general, get on a dating site.

    Especially for an atheist nerd that doesn’t want to breed.

    • I’m sorry for misrepresenting the facts. That was just my explanation for why I send messages and never receive replies. They’re inboxes must just be FULL and mine has simply been lost.

      It’s better than the alternative of having my message read and having it spur nothing but apathy. That’s disheartening.

  80. As one of those women who gets of (occasionally) interesting friend/date/whatever requests on a couple different dating sites, my first go-to is their religious preference. OKCupid does allow atheist with varying degrees of seriousness about it. If the prospective man has indicated atheist/agnostic but has ANY woo shit on his profile, I usually reply with one request for clarity. I also take a look at how religious questions were answered (this is how OKC matches you).

    Unfortunately, atheist =/= skeptic and that’s a deal breaker for me. Imagine my surprise when an avowed atheist starts quacking about alt med and spirits… /eyeroll

  81. Here’s a good example of weeding out the “wrong” people. I went on a first date with a guy (long time ago). Our first date we saw “Bad Santa” in the theater. I sat there gaffawing while he sat there stone silent. And yeah, he never asked me out again and I would not have accepted anyway. It’s sort of like that.

  82. I used the SBnR for my profile on match.com when I was on it. It wasn’t really a problem for me, but I knew that I didn’t want someone religious and I put that on my profile. I explained to my now husband in our first conversation (it lasted 7hrs.) that I switch between being agnostic and atheist depending on how I feel that day. He was the same way so it wasn’t a big deal for either of us. The crazies I met were like I want you to be my girlfriend even though we live hours away from each other and I’ve never even talked to you on the phone. Or I can’t date you because you don’t want to have kids of your own (apparently adoption is a really hard decision for some people) even if you have health problems and think you can’t get pregnant. My advice is dont be afraid to ask people indepth questions in the very beginning. Life is too short to play around and if a girl can’t handle answering your questions maybe she shouldn’t be on a dating site, and why would you want someone who can’t just tell you what you need to know? Also, try to have fun! Dating is supposed to be fun, not some horrible exercise that you are forced to do :) hope that helps. Good luck with the rest of your online dating!!

  83. must admit i cant say i’m atheist but its not of any belief. Frankly if there is some sort of creator bullshit…he is irrevelant. he, she, it, makes no difference. but i do have a problem with people who scream “there is no god” who fucking cares, the issue isnt about a god, its about bullshit ancient beliefs that have been proven bullshit through science and technology. (i know too many bullshits but there is just sooooo much of it) Also i cant say i’m agnostic because i dont care. Its the people who care either way that i consider dumb. Go forth and fill urself with knowledge and the great blobby thing in the underworlds underpants wont mean shit anymore.

  84. It was always a puzzlement to me why sometimes just mentioning ones atheism and anti-theism seems to so negatively affect certain other people. I think the best explanation I’ve ever heard is based on the perceived personal rejection on the part of the theist. In the theist, a personal god is a manifestation of the ego. Consequently, the theist subconsciously perceives the atheist to be rejecting a part of themselves (the theist). Hence the reactions of frustration, resentment, anger and, in some of the more mentally unstable population, anger, aggressiveness, and anti-social behavior. Once again is why I pass on people who are religious or claim to be SbnR.

  85. Hey Kyle, I just wanted to say that being a daughter of a Dutchman, I was raised as an atheist. My mother is a loose christian. She likes to sing in the choir and socialize. She has always considered herself SbnR. Surprisingly my parents are a great match. They listen to each other bitch about their religious gripes and on some points just agree to disagree. My parents were wonderful about letting the kids choose for themselves what they wanted to believe because of it. It may not be the end of the world to meet someone who claims to be SbnR. It may just be that they are lacking in a bit of self-confidence and use it as a support group. It may just be that they want to keep an open mind because they were raised around religion and can understand the allure of mass-ritualism. They may simply want to not comment or decide on the issue publicly because of work, friend, or family reasons. Some may say that is cowardice. I say that it is simply human nature to want to “fit-in” and have others approve of you and your choices. So give a few of the SbnR ones another chance. Maybe, once they get to know you, they will realize that they were just scared they would be forever alone and use you as their strength to come out as a true atheist!

    I would like to add that I agree with the issue in your experience may lie in the area of your search. It must be time to broaden the horizons a bit. Out there some hipster girl from the Pacific NW is just waiting for you to show up!

  86. I have a mixed view with this. The kinds of people the author says theoretically seem fine but do not occur are, at least according to research into the Australian census, where people who list “spiritual but not religious” as one of the largest single categories under what the ABS call “inadequately described”, actually the bulk of people who put that phrase “spiritual but not religious”. I think he is making a strawman of people who do actually tend to believe that “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.” as the author cites. I am sure you get the people, stereotyped by lots of images of women here, into mindless woo but by and large the research suggests you have people who feel a sense of the sublime, often coupled with a cultural affiliation for the religious symbolism of their upbringing, but who are utterly disillusioned with organized religion and are, in practice, agnostic. David Tacey’s, Adam Possami and Neville Drury’s research, the diverse pros and cons of their research models not withstanding, into this suggests that this is the main reason behind fluctuations of people who come under the agnostic and atheist camp over the past 20 years.

    So sure this pejorative take fits some but the research indicates that they are the minority and most people in this camp fit in the category the author says never happens. Perhaps if he cited some research or stats on it he would have a stronger case for it. Isn’t it perhaps a simpler issue to look at that category or “spiritual but not religious” as representing people who are simply alienated by organized religious movements but still feel a cultural attachment to the idea or agnostics (or even atheists) who want a sense of the sublime? After all it is a category that would fit people like Carl Sagan very well. Depends what the person being interviewed takes the word spiritual to mean which is much to nebulous a term than is described here. You need to know that before knowing what the phrase means to someone.

  87. Hi Kyle, I hope your trip to Ireland goes well. Not wanting to destroy any hopes but of all the European countries, Ireland is probably the most religious of all of them. A very very catholic country. They only allowed divorce in the 90s, and abortion is still illegal. Scandalously so- read this http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/14/ireland-woman-dies-after-abortion-refusal

    By the way, diarrhoea is the correct spelling in British English, as is haematology, oedema etc as they are the original Latin forms. Don’t know why the Americans omit the As and Os..

    Love your article, very funny, and don’t stop looking for your atheist lady, we do exist!

  88. Pingback: “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is, Maybe, a Red Flag for Stupid | Affair In Love

  89. Great post. I laughed out loud.

    I would suggest it’s simpler than you make it out to be though. SbnR usually means 1 of 2 things. A get out of the conversation free card, like ‘I like all kinds of music.’ /sigh Or a license to do what ever the F you want… I’m pretty sure each founder of every major religion was originally SbnR. Amirite!? ;P

    SbnR in my experience has usually translated to; ‘I don’t care to think about it outside of my little cozy world, so here’s my clever (not really) shield.’ …”Next.”

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  91. Wow has online dating changed that much? Back when I used to do it, they never asked people what their beliefs were because nobody really cared. ‘Dating’ really meant ‘sex’ when the word ‘online’ came before it.

  92. Pingback: Pope To Atheists: "Keep Up The Good Work." Catholics To Pope: "STAHP" | The Proud Atheist News Blog

  93. Occasionally, happiness is an open mind and a closed mouth. You may find rewards in the trying to understand another instead of being understood. Women get tired of wind bags that rip everyone and everything apart (I don’t care how handsome you are).

  94. What annoys me about this article is the author’s fundamentalism. If you’re an atheist, fine. Be an atheist and refuse to anyone’s notion of religion. Do you. And while you’re at it, leave people alone to do them. I find the bullying by atheists every bit as offensive as the bullying from the Christian Right.

  95. I used “spiritual but not religious” for a very long time following my escape from christianity. As a pretty staunch atheist now, I merely consider it an evolutionary phase I eventually grew out of. Not saying this is the case for all “SbnR” people, in my case though, it was a stepping stone to the other side.

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  108. I just got dumped by a spiritual but not religious girl. She said that she didn’t think we could ever share the spiritual connection she shared with her ex (or rather a guy she had a two week open relationship with). He is an atheist actually, but she didn’t know it. He just used Buddhist mediation techniques for mental control. Every time I meet a woman who isn’t religious and seems intelligent, she will feel incompatible with me if I don’t believe in astrology or something. I find dating spiritual but not religious is often just as bad as trying to date a religious woman. They always find your lack of faith disturbing. No matter how much I respect her religion or spirituality, I will always eventually be told my atheism is a problem.

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