There’s some internet rule that goes along the lines of “If you think it, it exists on the internet.” Maybe I’m confusing it with Rule 34 (If you think it, there’s porn of it). But ultimately, I’ve always thought of the internet as a haven for the congregating of niche and segmented voices and a market of hawk-eyed entrepreneurs willing to serve them. So it was much to my surprise when, on some random whim, I Googled “black atheist dating sites” and came up with ... zilch—a dearth of recent content.
What I did find was like a barren field scattered with abandoned Blogspot posts from 2009 to 2012. WordPress graveyards, old podcasts, small forums and Reddit convos largely expressing exhaustion about being a black atheist trying to date other black people—most of them from men, a particular one aptly titled, “Can Atheist Brothas be Blamed for Looking Outside Their Race for Other Atheist Women?” while another posited, “Black women would rather date a drug dealer than a black male atheist.”
Fascinating stuff. However, after some mild lurking and subsequent cackling, I was left with a few questions. Why on earth isn’t there a dating site for black atheists? What’s dating like for them? What online outlets do they even have for this kind of social mingling? By all accounts, atheists residing in the U.S. in general are a small segment of the population. That number is significantly smaller when you specify black people in America. Despite a growing number of people who prefer to identify as “spiritual” as opposed to Christian, the number of black people who identify as atheist or “religiously unaffiliated” is still marginal. Nonetheless, there still seem to be sites that cater to even smaller niches.
Take Redhead Dates, which serves 1 or 2 percent of the nation’s population of gingers, or others serving sci-fi and sailing enthusiasts, like Trek Passions and Sea Captain Date. There are sites with more obvious utility, like Dating 4 Disabled and Cancer Match, connecting people and communities who share more than a rare genetic trait and hobbyist passions. Finally, we can fall directly into the Hellmouth with obscure places like the Atlasphere—a dating and community website (likely created by Rand Paul and Satan himself) for the tasteless cretins and libertarians who love Ayn Rand books.
Of course, there are a scarce few dating sites for atheists; however, the members look exactly the way you expect them to: a vast sea of taupe with a few colored folks peppered in for good measure. There were a lot less fedoras than I imagined, but I still got the sense that you are one click away from a Richard Dawkins quote and a vigorous defense of The Bell Curve.
I did some more light digging and came up with a Facebook group called Black Atheists Mingle that has a membership totaling 863 people. Still, I found the seeming void in online voices and content from young black atheists and secularists particularly confounding. At a time where every category of black identity is vocalized and monetized and given some visibility on social media, this does not seem to be the case for black people who identify as nonbelievers. Fortunately, I was able to take it to Twitter and ask a few black atheist folk what dating was like with them and what challenges (if any) they face.
Mark, a 36-year-old tech director and Baltimore resident, described his experience in dating as “problematic”:
I didn’t grow up too religious. My mom is a believer, but she never really pushed it on me. She never really talked to me about it. She does now simply because she has become stronger in her faith. There is an effect. I’ve had women flat out tell me that they couldn’t deal with someone like me. I’ve had a relationship dissolve around the issue. I don’t think that it was an issue in my latest relationship even though she was really religious. I have never dated a black woman (any woman) with the same outlook. I can’t say that I’ve met more than one and she is the homey. Maybe someone should make Black Atheists Meet.
Tré, a 25-year-old Maryland resident, expressed similar experiences:
There wasn’t a set time where I was like “I don’t believe,” but I remember being in church in my early teens, and they just so happened to start the “gay isn’t OK.” It was in that moment where I started to have that whole Conceited rap battle gif toward religion. Guys that aren’t religious are very rare! Which is weird, considering what the Bible says ... but yeah, some guys can’t handle the God isn’t real “jokes” so they don’t get me/my humor, so dating is harder because of it.
From Desmond, 21:
I was born and raised in Nigeria and religion is heavily (and stupidly) interwoven into practically all we do. Most Nigerians are violently religious. My siblings and cousins know I’m atheist but my parents, aunts and uncles don’t.
When asked about his dating life:
I don’t have a dating life, but I’m fairly certain being atheist would play a major role in it.
Not all men who responded to my questions expressed running into the same road blocks, however.
Brian, a 26-year-old receptionist from Brooklyn, N.Y.:
Being an atheist hasn’t affected my dating life too much, although I briefly clashed with one ex about it because she was Hindu and had her doubts as to whether our differing beliefs could coexist, and also whether or not I took her beliefs seriously. I haven’t met many other Black atheists.
Among the women who responded, similar experiences were echoed, but their atheist ID didn’t seem to be as polarizing.
Sydney, a 20-year-old student in Atlanta whose father is a deacon:
I also have trouble dating other atheists because they want to actively bash Christianity and other religions and come from a morally superior background. Personally, I don’t have a problem with religions, Christianity or otherwise. I see how they can be empowering for others even if they don’t do anything for me, so conversations where people talk down on religious people make me very uncomfortable.
Monica, a 32-year-old attorney in Washington, D.C.:
Both parents Christian (dad Baptist, mom Seventh-day Adventist), raised with a mix of both Baptist and SDA principles. It hasn’t stopped me from dating but leads to lots of debates. Black men tend to want to date women who are Christian, but I try to stay away from devout Christian and aim for “spiritual.” Most of the guys I’ve dated ended up questioning their beliefs rather than shunning me.
R, a 34-year-old physician from Houston:
First called myself a nonbeliever from about the first year of college or so, which was 12 years ago. Ive had several men be turned off because they are looking for “a God-fearing woman,” and on dating apps I tend to not even contact men who state how important their faith is. There are not a lot of atheists in this part of the country, so I’ve only dated Christian men, and most of them just figured I’d change or were semi-OK as long as I would come to church sometimes or even pretend for family lol. I went on a date with an agnostic man this past week. That was nice, but it’s not common at all so no real experience with dating atheist men. Would be awesome to meet more while I live here though.
The responses to my questions were a lot more mixed than I expected. While almost all acknowledged that there are certainly challenges and that it’s generally rare to have never dated other black atheists, a lot professed that they were leading moderate-to-successful dating lives, and in some cases marriages, with theists. Several commented on wanting to “avoid Bill Maher types,” and when it came to finding other black atheists to date, responses ranged from mild enthusiasm to apathy. On the rare occasion, some expressed not even having a lot of chemistry with other black atheists.
Julian Rafael Hassan Roden, a 22-year-old artist from Chicago:
I seem to go after the “good girl” college type who puts God first. Immediately turns most off ’cause a lot are closed-minded, not accepting of the lack of faith. They see it as disrespectful and an attack on theirs. The only Black atheist women I know really aren’t interested in me romantically, nor I to them, as the relationships are based on intellectual conversation mostly, not attraction.
The eager flood of responses I received, however, did illustrate that while not as rabid and visible in community as some of their white ideological counterparts, black atheists do want a space to express their ideas about faith and God among other black people without fear of reprimand or being ostracized. Phil, an IT professional in his late 40s who expressed being a skeptic since he was a child, told me, “I don’t often get a chance to freely discuss my belief(s) or lack thereof. When I do share the fact that I’m an atheist, I’m often met with derisive laughter or utter disbelief (or both).”
At a time where there has been room made for “geeky,” “nerdy,” “alternative,” “excellent” and even “awkward” blackness, black atheism and secularism still remain a pretty open and barren field online, and in our ongoing efforts to call for a multifaceted presentation of the black experience, it’s apparently long past due for someone to take up this much-neglected mantle.