Buddha Pest
March 3, 2009 12:48 PM   Subscribe

As a general skeptic, how do you come to terms with a partner who believes in metaphysics?

I'm a firm agnostic, staunch proponent of the scientific method, and subscriber to the notion of variability and probability. Just about every partner I've had holds beliefs in such things as predestiny, past lives, and astrology.

I try to keep an open mind, but when a recent girl took me back to her place, gave me a tarot card reading, showed off her crystals, and went on about Wiccan practices, my eyes rolled so far to the back of my head I nearly gave myself an aneurysm. Everything else about her is awesome, but I cannot come to terms with putting effort into someone who doesn't give critical analysis to her surroundings. (As an aside, I'm a very intuitive person, and after her tarot reading, I tore it to bits then turned the tables, providing an amazingly accurate cold reading about her on my own, breaking down my methodology to detailed analysis, body language, and pattern recognition, to which she simply smiled and mused that I'm a clairvoyant with untapped potential.)

The obvious answer is to move on to someone else who shares the same values [is it a value?], but maybe someone can provide me with ideas on how to better temper my tolerance for faith, even insofar as family or friends.

So for the other staunch skeptics out there, how do you deal with partners with a different take on the possible? And is it an issue of potential long-term consequence, such as when marriage or kids come into play?
posted by Christ, what an asshole to Religion & Philosophy (46 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
maybe someone can provide me with ideas on how to better temper my tolerance for faith, even insofar as family or friends.

No offense, but you don't seem to be in a position to do that. You are way too sure that you understand the world correctly, and the 'metaphysican' is full of BS. Maybe if you were somehow led to believe that science and rationality do not understand everything that is interesting about the world, you could be more tolerant. But given the above, I don't see that happening. Find a rationalist.
posted by goethean at 12:53 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Everything else about her is awesome

NO. You don't know her well enough to say that "everything else" is awesome. Chances are, that in additional to her life outlook, there are mountains of other annoying things about this woman which mean you're incompatible.

Save your time, money, and sanity. Move on.

A caution to other posters: this discussion shouldn't be about skepticism vs. kooky spiritual nonsense. It's a basic question about compatibility.

I've got you beat anyway... I dated a chick who didn't believe in atoms.
posted by wfrgms at 12:55 PM on March 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

No one has ever or will ever answer this question as well as ikkyu2 did previously.
posted by Mayor West at 12:57 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

for me, 'god' lives somewhere between the event horizion and the singularity of a black hole. in other words, in places where all our language, all our mathematics, all our physics...everything breaks down. we don't know everything. even though we think we do....especially athiests and rationalists. :)

as to the relational issue at the core of your question: i hope your highest goal isn't just to tolerate her and her beliefs. if that's the best you're shooting for, put the ball down and play a different game.
posted by CitizenD at 1:07 PM on March 3, 2009

My first wife, after 4 years of marriage, decided she was Pentecostal. The speaking in tongues, laying of hands, Cabbage Patch Dolls are demons (really) kind. My response, as an agnostic, was to divorce her. My current wife is Wiccan, but she's not pushy about it. I just view it as if she liked pork rinds drizzled in chocolate and fried worms. I'm not takin' a bite, and she doesn't offer.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 1:09 PM on March 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Yes, this is a huge issue of long-term importance:

- What happens when one of you gets sick and she wants to use Chinese herbal remedies instead of real medicine?

- What happens when she wants to make major financial decisions based on the positions of the stars, rather than sound fiscal principles?

- What happens if you have kids someday? Do you really want them believing in pseudo-scientific crap?

Really, anytime there is a serious decision to be made, you'll be doing the right thing and being logical and methodical, and she'll want to consult the spirits. At least from this skeptic's perspective, I don't see anyway that this can work.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:09 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: wfrgms, I might have you beat...

In college, I slept with this seemingly-normal girl who, mid-coitus, began speaking in tongues, then laughing hysterically. She later mumbled something about the anti-Christ. It was a rather scarring experience.

Also, how did the relationship turn out from your thread?
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 1:11 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

How funny. You two are basically my husband and I. LOL.

Perhaps you can just look on the new age stuff as ways she uses to better herself internally - mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc. and just leave it at that. I really don't think this has to be an issue to end a relationship over, just don't engage her in any discussions where you try to argue your point to her (trying to change her mind). If she ever gives you a tarot reading again (or something similar) just have fun with it - you don't necessarily have to believe in it.

I knew an older couple once where the husband was an atheist, pro-choice democrat, and the wife was a Christian, anti-choice republican. They had a very long and happy marriage.
posted by All.star at 1:11 PM on March 3, 2009

I think this definitely is a value--and it's damn sure a compatibility issue.

There are some situations in which people of differing religious views can co-exist; they all involve both parties not trying to foist their beliefs onto the other. You don't have that with this girl--you're both SURE you're right, and unwilling to allow the other the possibility that their beliefs might be wholly or in part right [based on her pronunciation of you as latent clairvoyant and the general vibes your post is giving off].

Cut your losses while you're not emotionally entangled.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:13 PM on March 3, 2009

- What happens when one of you gets sick and she wants to use Chinese herbal remedies instead of real medicine?

- What happens when she wants to make major financial decisions based on the positions of the stars, rather than sound fiscal principles?

- What happens if you have kids someday? Do you really want them believing in pseudo-scientific crap?

This is pretty extreme. As someone who is into new age stuff, and knows a lot of people with similar beliefs, none of us shuns Western medicine, makes financial decisions based on astrology, or doesn't believe in science.

Obviously if the girl would do these things, then consider breaking it off, but again, these are pretty extreme.
posted by All.star at 1:15 PM on March 3, 2009

maybe someone can provide me with ideas on how to better temper my tolerance for faith, even insofar as family or friends

It might help to think about it in terms of personal or emotional comfort rather than accurate vs. inaccurate: you take comfort in identifying things, facts, processes; people for whom faith is more important than science tend to take comfort in trusting the mysterious and un-provable things that make up their faith or religious practice. My partner is an atheist who takes comfort in thinking there is no god keeping score and all we have is what we can see/experience; I am a bit of a hippy-dippy agnostic who takes comfort in thinking there are huge unknowable truths and maybe also a god, or not. It works because neither of us expects the other to come around to our personal view on the matter(s). It sounds like you and this girl may not be a good match if she wants you to participate in and approve of her tarot/pagan stuff and if you want her to see the error of trusting such things.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:20 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

The idea of being a "firm" agnostic amuses me, because the term itself implies that your position could be swayed. If you present yourself as an agnostic, many people are going to want to share their own beliefs and ideas with you, because they'll see you as a seeker who is still making up his mind about some things; if you don't want them to do this, then you might want to be more discerning in how you present yourself. It could keep you from winding up in the company of people like this in the first place.

You don't have to share a romantic partner's beliefs in order to love or trust them, but you do have to see those beliefs as ultimately contributing to the world of the person you love. Even if you've been with someone for a long time, on some level a person's beliefs are still incredibly personal. My partner and I don't believe the same things, but we are each a product of our beliefs, and we like those products.

It sounds like you got off to a bad start with that one girl; basically she opened up to you and told you what she believed, and you told her it was garbage and went on to try and tear it down. I may not have much in common with her either, but if I had to spend an evening with one of you, I'd probably pick her. Much of life is spent just trying to pass time in each other's company pleasantly while we sort out our own shit, and it sounds like you aren't very good at that yet.
posted by hermitosis at 1:20 PM on March 3, 2009 [12 favorites]

A caution to other posters: this discussion shouldn't be about skepticism vs. kooky spiritual nonsense. It's a basic question about compatibility.

I agree. She's not just someone with an open mind exploring alternative belief systems - she hardly knows you, yet one of the first interactions she's having with you centers on her involvement with Wiccan and occult practices. This stuff is central to her - not just an aspect of her personality, but something she's organized around right now. You won't be able to ignore or escape it, because it's connected to so many things she's doing with her time and her mind.

It's not likely that you really have that much in common, but more importantly, she's not really ready to meet you halfway (you're probably not either). You can be with people who disagree with your outlook on spirituality, but not if you don't have basic mutual respect and a willingness to set aside your certainties when with the other. Instead of setting them aside and simply saying "I see things differently, here's my take," you tried to 'prove' her wrong and debunk her beliefs. Personally, I think they're nutso as well, but playing intellectual one-upmanship with someone you're trying to start a relationship with isn't the best way to get rolling. It's likely that you two could coast for awhile on companionship and physical attraction, but also likely that when you hit the stage where you really need to say things to one another and make plans together, you'd get fed up with her approach, and she with yours.

But, finally, the best people to ask are not us, but yourself and her. Can you be a rationalist materialist and skeptic and live with someone whom you will never ever convince to see things your way? What if she gets more and more serious about these beliefs, wants to have meetings and workshops at your home, or go away to weekend-long workshops on exploring sexual routes to the divine - without you? Meanwhile, can she approach things like parenting and serious illness without having your support and partnership in rituals or forms of prayer she wants to explore? Can she tolerate your condescension? Can you tolerate hers?

Some people can work this stuff out, but the only times I've seen it work are when people are really willing to allow that they just might not have it all figured out and really listen with respect to their partners when stuff comes up. They have to negotiate and be flexible. With my own parents, I have a science-minded skeptic dad and a wifty, spiritual mom - but I think that both of them share values and priorities that are actually more important to them than how they identify their belief systems, and those things hold them together. If you share those values, maybe this can work. If you don't I wouldn't give it very long. But that's really something you can explore only with her, not with us.
posted by Miko at 1:24 PM on March 3, 2009

This is not a solution to your problem, but it's confusing to characterize belief in superstition as "belief in metaphysics". You probably believe in some sort of metaphysical system, although it doesn't appear to involve superstition.
posted by demiurge at 1:25 PM on March 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

I have fundamental disagreements with many of my relatives. I simply don't discuss them. People have a right to believe whatever they want as long as doesn't interfere with others' rights. Another way to say that is that people have the right to be wrong, and you can choose how you respond to that.

You have to let her be who she wants to be. If that means moving on because you believe that critical thought and analysis is a necessary trait in a partner, then move on. Otherwise, restraint and acceptance are your friends.
posted by plinth at 1:27 PM on March 3, 2009

I'm amending my comment, which I think ended up sounding too harsh. I can understand you feeling very uncomfortable in that situation and trying to explain your way out of it, and maybe I wouldn't have done any better. But I think this girl is a fairly extreme example, and avoiding people like her shouldn't be too hard. In other words, try to make sure you don't wind up in that situation to begin with.

Faith can be a very beautiful thing, if properly tended it allows you to live with your love very near the surface. And it can change drastically over time as a person ages, so don't let it be a huge dealbreaker. When it comes to meeting intellectual and philosophical people, it's very important to meet someone who challenges you, and who doesn't mind being challenged. It shouldn't be easy; if you'll indulge me a bible quote, "As iron sharpens iron, so one manperson sharpens another."
posted by hermitosis at 1:28 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

(I should add that in this case 'wrong' is relative not absolute)
posted by plinth at 1:29 PM on March 3, 2009

I understand where you are coming from (I’m also agnostic and in my world, need a science experiment and my own evidence to believe something).

However, have you ever read Carl Sagan’s book Contact? The protagonist easily dismissed a priest who has various religious beliefs. Later, when the protagonist has an experience that no one else believes (just because it is probably beyond where our current science is), the priest believes her. She asks him why and he explains the difference between objective and subjective experiences. No one can disprove what another person experiences, so who are we to disregard the evidence and beliefs they have?

For me, something about that explanation helped – although I may have no evidence, I don’t have the experiences of the other person. I would at least like to respect their beliefs, although I may pose questions and queries (why do you believe in X?)

Although personally, if you want to treat me for a disease state, I want to see a clinical trial.

posted by Wolfster at 1:33 PM on March 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

The idea of being a "firm" agnostic amuses me, because the term itself implies that your position could be swayed.

Side point, but as an agnostic, I disagree with this. It's quite possible to be adamant that, despite what we'd wish, the spiritual realm is unknowable to humans on earth. It doesn't always mean you just haven't made up your mind, that you can "be swayed," or that you're just on the fence until someone presents some proof or disproof of something - it's a philosophical stance that no one can really prove (or disprove) any statement about realms outside of material knowledge.

Agnosticism is also not inconsistent with religious practice. I'm a Christian agnostic with a spiritual practice - nothing inconsistent there. For that reason, I don't find agnostics to be at all incompatible with theists - the only ones I ever clash with are absolutists who are convinced that somehow, amongst the thousands of established spiritual paths in human history, theirs is 100% the right one. If an agnostic confronts an absolutist, there are problems that are likely to rise. We don't have enough information to know whether this woman professes utter certainty about her practices and will brook no doubt - but if so, it could cause clashes, certainly.
posted by Miko at 1:33 PM on March 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

Depends on what you want. As goethean mentioned, you do sound very interested in being right at all costs. Even irrationally so? Are you interested in people, or only people who agree with you or will stoke your ego?

I'd say that someone who's interested in people, you know, those messy illogical meatpuppets out there, filled with contradictions, capable of incredible sparks of creativity or lucidity when least expected, holding different points of view... I'd say that someone who is genuinely interested in getting to know people would not behave the way you describe. And certainly not someone who's interested in getting to know any one particular person better, who exhibits a different belief system. (yes, btw, your beliefs in scientific rationalism are a belief system. With basis, but still...)

What sort of response did you expect from her? She might have just been being polite, you know.

Yes, I do think that opposites can coexist in a relationship, if they respect each other and show consideration, not condescension.
posted by Grrlscout at 1:33 PM on March 3, 2009

I'm in the firm agnostic camp myself, but I generally don't begrudge people their spirituality whether it comes in the form of organized religion or it comes in a crunchy-feely new age form. The world can be a scary place for a lot of people, some people tend to explain those fears away with rationality and empiricism while that doesn't seem to work for other people. For some people religion, mysticism and spirituality help them make sense of the universe and their place in it.

As an agnostic, I tend to think of these crutches as a placebo. Sure for most people the "benefit" they receive from spirituality is non-rational but that doesn't seem to keep them from feeling better... Basically as long as your partner doesn't force you to buy into their beliefs and doesn't let it get in the way of major issues like one's health I tend to think it's relatively harmless.

In this specific circumstance though it seems like it's really going to be a barrier to your relationship progressing. I think you are going to have trouble respecting her as a person, and that generally spells doom for a stable, happy relationship.
posted by vuron at 1:34 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Side point, but as an agnostic, I disagree with this.

I understand this; I'm merely pointing out that many people aren't going to get that -- the term is used pretty loosely, and is poorly understood by people to whom it doesn't apply (and many to whom it does).
posted by hermitosis at 1:37 PM on March 3, 2009

Well, you can tell yourself that everytime she says "energy," she really means "feeling," and her brain just automatically substitutes one for the other.

It's an interesting question, and like most interesting questions, it leads to another one:

How much do you want this particular girl? Do you really want to begin a re-education process?

Something to consider, as you almost certainly have, is that her metaphysical framework is in place because it's *fun* for her-- it makes life exciting, meaningful, and just.

If you decide to take that away, what can you put in its place, that gives her the same rewards?

Or you can take another approach entirely: See if there's a way in which you can leverage her belief system, so that you can make your time together even more fun. Don't think of what you're doing as changing your own internal model of the world; instead, think of it as a very elaborate, sustained, intensifying sexual role-play, one that you apply when you want to amp things up with her, and disregard otherwise.

And you can be explicit about doing this: "I'd just like to explore our relationship by trying out your way of seeing the world-- I don't believe it, but I would like to explore your way, and just see what happens."

The funny thing is, even though you've told her you don't believe, if you just use her terminology, she'll probably accept this happily.

On the other hand, that world view tends to preclude certain useful observations... and if you want to start offering those, well, you can either begin the Great Materialist Re-Education Project, or you can point out all the holes in the metaphysical idea at hand, while implying that this in service of some higher, purer metaphysical experience that's just around the corner.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:38 PM on March 3, 2009

Core belief system conflict = not a solid foundation for a long term relationship.

If it's a long term relationship you want, it's heave ho, I'm afraid to say.
posted by lottie at 1:42 PM on March 3, 2009

If you're interested in learning something about how someone thinks as an approach to being in a relationship and being respectful of beliefs that you don't share, I suggest you read Persuasions of the Witch's Craft.

If you can't respect her as she is, New Age/spiritual/Wiccan/etc. beliefs and all, don't get involved. Seriously. My ex was a proselytizing atheist and the lack of respect he felt for my disagreement with his views was a factor in our divorce.
posted by immlass at 1:45 PM on March 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

but I cannot come to terms with putting effort into someone who doesn't give critical analysis to her surroundings.

If that's where you draw the line then that's where you draw the line. You have a right to get what you want out of life. If you keep settling for something you dont want then you'll never get what you want.

Also, a crystal wearing wiccan tarot card reader? That's deep on the credulous ignorant nutter scale in my book. Lots of skeptics are able to handle someone religious, but not in an extreme way like this. Dont equate everyone with this ridiculous person. Find your comfort zone, dont feel that you have to be "cool with this" because wicca is, like, super-nice and is about nature and.. blahblah. If you think its as ridiculous as I do then act on it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:48 PM on March 3, 2009

Sounds like can't respect other people whose beliefs and views aren't just like your own. Good luck with that.
I'm a solid atheist who has dated (and married) women of all beliefs and philosophical outlooks. I encourage my kids to explore and find their own answers, including religious.
Everyone takes their own path through life. You need to learn that although yours is the right one for you, it isn't the right one.
posted by rocket88 at 1:50 PM on March 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, I was asking more in general, but if people want to focus on this one girl (who I enjoy hanging out with; no emotional attachment yet), here's a couple discussions we've had...

me: What sort of astrological examples do you have that are crazy accurate?
her: My family's astrologer was able to predict the exact year, day, and hour that my grandfather passed. Collapsed on the highway while driving a car, his heart just gave out.
me: Wow, that's pretty incredible.
her: Yeah, he also wrote down my future and my mom's future. But I won't dare look.
me: Oh, have you actually seen the date of your grandfather's passing written down?
her: No, my mom told me...it's in a file somewhere with her and my fortune.
me: Ah, see, for me personally I'd have to see that note written about my grandfather. Would you be interested in doing that?
her: No.

her: Healing crystals are legit. They really work.
me: What has it cured for you?
her: I always get migraines, and the crystals help ease the pain.
me: Do you think part of that could be the placebo effect?
her: Sure, but it works for me, so I stick with it.

In the grand scheme, I can work around the beliefs, but it more gets to me the lack of interest in their pursuit from a critical standpoint. If you believe in something, wouldn't you want to exhaust the evidence against it? That's just me.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 1:59 PM on March 3, 2009

ideas on how to better temper my tolerance for faith, even insofar as family or friends.

The fact that you didn't make the girl cry or get pissed off with you seems to imply that you have a decent level of respect for people who hold different beliefs/values than you. You can give people a healthy amount of respect to believe whatever the hell they want and not necessarily agree with them.

But this
my eyes rolled so far to the back of my head I nearly gave myself an aneurysm

is not a good foundation for a relationship. I think you can find someone who isn't SO FAR OUT from your own worldview.

I cannot come to terms with putting effort into someone who doesn't give critical analysis to her surroundings.

So don't. Congratulations you have found something out about yourself. Put it to use.
posted by like_neon at 2:01 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

My original suggestion was a bit more narrow and technical than appropriate.

Probably a more useful thought is this:

Given that you do find her awesome in every other way, is there a way you can be skeptical about the idea that someone's ideas about the nature of the universe have to match yours, in order for the two of you to be compatible over the long term?

(I write as someone who, yeah, does tend to reduce New Agey stuff to body language, cold reading, personality typing, and hypnotic suggestion... but nonetheless finds it-- and its often very charming and imaginative adherents-- interesting and enjoyable.)
posted by darth_tedious at 2:02 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fundamentally, you seem to lack respect for bother her and her beliefs. It is just rude to try to debunk someone's beliefs. There is a reason religion is not considered polite conversation. If two people want to have a discussion that one thing, but keep in mind that one person's discussion is another person's being uncomfortable with an argumentative jerk.

In general, religious beliefs can be important in relationships. It is possible if both parties are upfront about expectations for children and other big decisions.

I don't know how far you are going to get if you think that all people who believe in miracles, past lives, or anything you don't believe is stupid or somehow crazy. If you don't respect someone, you can't treat them as an equal in a relationship.
posted by Gor-ella at 2:03 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sorry, to me it is a deal breaker.
posted by Think [Instrumental] at 2:05 PM on March 3, 2009

Given the places I have lived and the social circles I've mixed in there has been quite a preponderance of New Age and 'alternative' spiritual beliefs and I have tried to make this work several times. I have never done so successfully and in the end decided it was going to be deal breaker from the start. I don't think it was necessarily these beliefs per se: I've been happy to let these be on a live and let basis—though my Girlfriends have often had a harder time with my non-belief.

Rather it is that, too often, these are indicators of a wider belief in 'magical thinking' and that, in relationship terms this translate into a belief that causality in a relationship resides in nebulous external forces—such as a belief that a successful relationship consists of finding 'The One' —rather than in the individuals within it. This is something I have a hard time dealing with, and frankly have no wish to. In contrast athiest/agnostic/non-spiritual girlfriends have mostly tended to view relationships in terms of the actions of the participants and the responsibility they take for them. In my experience this makes for more successful and emotionally healthy relationships.

I don't think this is always necessarily the case, but I have found a high degree of correlation and I do believe that how we view relationships affects how they work out. In the end it's this, rather than the beliefs themselves that have mattered.
posted by tallus at 2:06 PM on March 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you believe in something, wouldn't you want to exhaust the evidence against it?

If we're talking about experimental medical treatments my doctor wants me to undergo, yes. If we're talking about my faith and religious practice, no. It gets fuzzy when you’re talking about this one particular girl who thinks crystals will heal her migraines, but I think you're confused about the place of religious belief and practice in the lives of most people of faith. For most of the very religious people I know, you go to your doctor for the medical treatment you need (you may also say a prayer, but you still go to the doctor), and you go to your religious ritual or scripture or clergy person to satisfy your need for spiritual connectedness and religious meaning.

Spirituality may not be something that holds any interest for you, and that's absolutely fine, but if you don't understand where someone's spirituality fits into the rest of their life, you should hold your tongue before trying to debunk their religious beliefs. Religion is not meant to be scientific or replace science. That's something certain very religious and certain very anti-religious people forget sometimes.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:41 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you are actually really into this girl, I'd suggest turning it into an academic endeavour. Do some research! Find the places where science and spirituality intersect. I recommend the video "Magical Egypt" for a good look at architecture, religion, physiology, spirituality, psychonautics and astronomy/astrology - once synonymous.

If nothing else, your hard work will hopefully give her some interesting things to think on.
posted by DecemberRaine at 3:04 PM on March 3, 2009

Much of life is spent just trying to pass time in each other's company pleasantly while we sort out our own shit...

That's just brilliant! I completely agree. This is how you learn to deal with different belief systems than your own - you realize that their belief has no impact on you. If you don't want to spend the evening doing Tarot readings, then suggest another activity. Rather than focusing so much on what you don't agree with, find the areas you do agree in and concentrate on those. It's about simple respect in the end. You respect her to not insist on involving you in her beliefs, and you respect her enough not to attempt to tear those beliefs to shreds. Finding someone with whom you share this mutual respect is far more beneficial than finding someone who agrees with your life philosophy lock stock and barrel.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:20 PM on March 3, 2009

Well, obviously you should break up with this chick, you don't agree with or respect her AND you're already scorning her for not being like you. That part's a no-brainer.

But ah...you mention dating more than one girl like this? Everyone you ever have been with, to be precise? Have you ever wondered WHY you keep dating chicks you don't respect for having different beliefs? Because ah, they're not all THAT easy to find. (You put yourself down as partly living in Cali, so I'm gonna assume you mean NorCal, land o' hippies, which is the one explanation I can think of for you finding them so easily. I have no idea how easy it is to find hippies in New York.) You seem to like something about them. I have no idea what that is, but you should perhaps ask yourself why you are attracted to people who don't think like you. And perhaps change your tastes if it really bothers you.

Okay, so I'm one of Those Hippies. I'll admit it. I've generally dated atheists/agnostics and had no problems with that, because I don't push what I think is going on and they didn't to me, and we could live and let live. It wasn't drastically important to make sure one side knew the other one was right. If someone laughed in my face about it I'd be like, "okay, nice meeting you," but I've got plenty of friends who aren't into "this stuff" and we can manage to live on just fine without getting into fights.

Why am I like that? Well, I'm a sensible girl and I have had weird shit happen to me (sometimes with an audience, so I had verification it wasn't just all in MY head), and I want to know why. I most certainly do read a lot about science, trying to find explanations, and so far all I got is "You're just crazy." Investigating the other side, the metaphysical side, is where I've been more likely to find anything, or at the very least people who've been there, done that, and aren't screaming to get me a straitjacket. I've got plenty of "critical analysis" going on, and I wouldn't say that all tree-hugging hippies have never thought about it before. Odds are she may have had things happen to her that made her think, "hey, this wasn't wrong for me." Or that's what she grew up with in her family and it hasn't occurred to her to investigate whether or not it's true.

But...either way, this is already driving you nuts, so you might as well dump her. And maybe look for a nice atheist to date?
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:30 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you believe in something, wouldn't you want to exhaust the evidence against it? That's just me.

No, see, you're taking a scientific, rational approach to faith. It's like if she said, "if you believe in science, shouldn't you just have faith that it will _just_ work?"

Science and faith are two separate systems of thoughts, with their own rules and processes of affirmation and verification. What you're trying to do is examine her system by using the tools and the methodologies of of your system. Perhaps her system uses faith and belief; yours uses empirical observation, theories generated by inductive reasoning, and so on and so forth. Of course that approach isn't going to work out. You're not being openminded, you're being closed-minded.

The open-minded view would be to confront her beliefs on the terms of her beliefs, or at least to not judge her.

The truly open-minded view would be to read about the problem of induction that underlies the "scientific method" and realize that even science is predicated on a sort of faith -- that is, a faith in repetition and causality..

As for your relationship itself -- it doesn't seem that what she's saying is necessarily a dealbreaker. It may be annoying, which is something to consider, but from what you describe her attitude to these things seems more like a series of superstitions than anything.
posted by suedehead at 4:35 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

my eyes rolled so far to the back of my head I nearly gave myself an aneurysm

Contempt is the most deadly of the four horsemen that signal the end of a relationship.
posted by availablelight at 6:03 PM on March 3, 2009

you chose an apt username.

My boyfriend's hardcore humanist, I'm eclectic pagan spiritually. We get along because we don't try to debunk each other's beliefs - we recognise that everyone has their own beliefs for their own reasons, and many cultures hold a strong importance to the spiritual and seemingly "new age" (I doubt you'd go down well with my familial background, for instance, even though their faith is at odds with mine).

There was a time where he got annoyingly "proselytizing atheist", a bit like you in your question. "How could they believe this?! It's junk!" without considering the historical or cultural context. I got so annoyed with him that I nearly slept outside and told him that I wasn't willing to spend time in the same room with someone who does not respect other people's world systems, even if they disagree. I'd never told him or anyone else that what he thinks is stupid, so why should he do the same?

That did the trick. He's better at recognising contexts now.

As for you developing better tolerance and respect for different cultures and faiths? Go volunteer at a multicultural multifaith activity, event, or organisation. Preferably with migrants from vastly different cultures. See how far your "this is all BS" line holds up.
posted by divabat at 10:12 PM on March 3, 2009

It depends on what's at issue. For example, my girlfriend uses Korean traditional medicine when she gets sick. I'm skeptical about its effectiveness. I think it's probably a placebo, but she insists it's not and I'm not interested in arguing the point. Anyway, it doesn't really matter whether it's a placebo or not because, for her, it works. The thing about the placebo effect that's curious is that placebos really do work; they've got better success rates than no treatment at all. So let her have her crystals, if it makes her happy.
posted by smorange at 10:53 PM on March 3, 2009

Take religion out of it. Insert the word "philosophy". Or "code of ethics". 90% of religion is made up of these things. The rest of it is ritual and psychology - or if you are of the religion, a supernatural element. You've demonstrated the psychological element by your own devices, yes? And what did all of that change?

If you disagree with 10% of her beliefs (supernatural element), you still have 90% to work with, right?

It strikes me that if you can't see this basic truth that you have an ax to grind about religion that has nothing to do with rational analysis of the nature of things.

So, is she up for a second date? If so, why not ask her about her philosophy? Her own code of ethics? Every pagan has one - it's kind of part of the whole idea of knowing yourself and accepting responsibility for the consequences of your actions, magical or mundane.
posted by Grrlscout at 12:16 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, every time I try to be the bigger person in a situation like this, I end up wanting to smother the person in their sleep to get out of the relationship. Keep looking. There are plenty of us out there who have a healthy skepticism and yet manage to have a solid moral code.

I'm an equal opportunity judgmental jerkface, too: Evangelical Christians, pagans and atheists alike rouse my ire (at least in a relationship context, otherwise I don't usually care enough to get emotionally involved in people's absolutist lifecodes).

My ex wanted me to work a little more ritual and worship into our relationship, to which I replied, "I feel spiritually elevated when I see a skyscraper or a mountain or the ocean or a piece of artwork. I don't feel spiritually elevated by holding hands and singing praise music, or by spinning a crystal or reading tea leaves or rolling bones or even by denying the existence of any order in the universe. I feel most spiritual when I am alone, and can experience how small I am in the universe." That is the type of person I am looking for. And I suspect that until I find someone who can understand that and appreciates it, I wont have found a lasting companion.
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:24 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Good on you, greekphilosophy. You do realise that the sense of wonder at nature is something pagans also share?
posted by Grrlscout at 11:39 AM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

"...maybe someone can provide me with ideas on how to better temper my tolerance for faith, even insofar as family or friends."

In general, do their beliefs do them any harm? That can be frustrating and infuriating. You'd need to become very good at staying separate, psychologically.

Do the beliefs -- or their practice -- interfere in your relationship with the person? Maybe they don't have time for old friends now that they're really involved in the church, or they keep trying to encourage you to participate, or you feel like they're dismissing your opinions. The problem isn't their faith or other spiritual things. It's really how they treat you and whether they respect your needs and feelings. "I feel uncomfortable/put out/ignored/sad..." is a valid opener when you want someone to be more considerate -- whether or not their religion is a big presence.

I know it's not a small thing. I have my problems dealing with a friend whose political beliefs are abhorrent to me, and a relative that willfully ignores science in favor of superstition. Tolerance doesn't end up play a big part for me. I mostly keep reminding myself that it's all about the interaction.
posted by wryly at 11:52 AM on March 4, 2009

Grrlscout, Christians and atheists generally have a sense of wonder at nature too. That distinction is not what appears to bother greekphilosophy, but rather the relationship prospects who are any of those things and aren't accepting of different philosophies.
posted by Allenthar at 2:45 PM on March 23, 2009

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