Does love really conquer all? What’s it like for an atheist to date a religious person in Africa? These six African atheists share how they have navigated their relationships with religious partners.
1. Adilah*, Namibian
I dated a Christian woman and we made a rule at the beginning of relationships to quickly quench heated debates. But we’re not robots, so once or twice, we almost had really hectic theological debates. But we managed not to let them snowball. When we were first getting to know each other, I asked her how she saw us ever working out, considering how very strongly atheist I am, and how very strongly religious she was. I promised to drop her off at church every Saturday (she’s Seventh Day Adventist) and pick her up after. She thought it was very sweet. If she sneezed, I’d say, “God bless you,” not because I believed in this God that must bless her, or because it’s just what people say, but because she believed. When I was going through stuff, she would tell me, “I know you’ll be fine, because I pray for you to the God you don’t believe in.” Despite my nonexistent faith in God, I would be grateful.
2. Idaraesit, Nigerian
There’s no law that says atheists can’t date religious people, but it’s very weird to me. I didn’t use to care about religion before — because I don’t believe in it, obviously. But growing older, I now prefer not to date religious people, especially the ones who staunchly believe in hellfire. I once fell for a beautiful woman who was deeply religious but she kept on invalidating my worth just because I didn’t believe in her god. It messed with my self-esteem so much and it was hard to move on.
Later, I dated non-dogmatic Christians who don’t think hell exists and those who don’t go to church. These relationships were a little better but they still got weird at some point. I really hope my next relationship will be with an atheist because I feel that if I and my partner are on the same page in terms of religious beliefs, we may last longer.
3. Rita*, Zimbabwean
I prefer to date atheists as it’s better not to have someone trying to convert me or praying for my soul to be saved. But we’re in Africa and my primary target audience is small. So I typically have to make do with what I get. My last relationship was with a Nigerian Muslim guy while I was living in Cape Town — the first Muslim I ever dated and it lasted less than a month. We were fucking like rabbits but he still thought he was better than me because I don’t subscribe to Islam.
4. Fundiswa*, South African
My boyfriend and I are super together. His family loves me and everyone thinks no couple could be more perfect. I’d like to marry him but she’s a devout Christian, and I don’t believe in God at all. He has the purest heart I have ever seen but doesn’t think my heart can be truly pure unless I convert to Christianity.
It didn’t use to be a problem and we dated for two years, but now that we’re thinking of the next step, I’m considering if I should just convert for the sake of it. I don’t think religion should stand in the way of our love. But then again, I won’t mean it and I wonder if he’ll see through my insincerity. I have never been more stressed. But one thing I’m sure of is that I don’t want to lose him.
5. Kwame*, Ghanaian
I’m an agnostic engaged to a Muslim but she’s not pious. I don’t know how, but I’ve started to be more open-minded about her faith. I used to love watching her pray, Then one day I joined her and it felt so peaceful, like Yoga, but even more comforting. Since then, I’ve prayed with her whenever I can, even when we’re not in the same location. She calls me and tells me she’s about to pray and I stop what I’m doing to join in. I’ve even started learning Jumat prayers little by little. and even though I don’t believe in her religion.
I still have my reservations about meeting her family, and I don’t know where this road leads, but as long as she’s in my life, I want to experience every bit of her.
6. Femi, Nigerian
I’m nonreligious and my bae is Christian. My last two relationships before this one were largely the same — they were hypocrites. They committed all the sins in the Bible but drew the line because I didn’t believe in their god. But my current significant other is more of a liberal Christian.
I feel like I’ve influenced my current partner religiously more than she’s influenced me sha. She doesn’t go to church as much as she used to, nor does she pray as regularly as before. I wake up and narcissistically thank myself for existing, so that’s not good. Anyhoo, we’ve been going strong for two years and one month and it’s been my best relationship in forever. Religion has never been a problem for us.