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Issue #4: Q and A… and W?

March 18th, 2012 by

Q and A… and W?

I had a rather difficult date with this guy– Let’s call him ‘The Inquisition’. I entered into it thinking that it would just be a platonic dinner between acquaintances. I know, I know… I can be a bit naïve that way. But as soon as we sat down, I wanted to slap myself on the forehead. I’m being grilled, twenty-questions style, before I even get a finger near the menu.

“What do you do?

“What’s your sign?”

“How many kids to you want?”

“What are your views on religion?”

“Drugs and alcohol?”

“I love bowling… do you love bowling?”

“Got any siblings?”

“What’s your favorite food?”

“Favorite color? Why?”

“Democrat or Republican?”

“Would you ever date a smoker?”

“What kind of music do you like?”

“What are your hobbies and passions?”

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Are you kidding? It’s the first date, and our food hasn’t even arrived. Who is this guy? It’s going to be a long night. Fortunately, I’m not squeamish to awkward situations; I find them hilarious. I want to laugh, but I can’t. Sipping on my water is all I can do to keep from giggling at all these poor, misfired questions.

“Have you been in relationships with many people? What do you think about sex and intimacy in relationships? What do you think about people who are gay or bisexual?”

Couldn’t you have just sent me a written copy of this exam before hand? I don’t mind answering everything you’re slinging, here, but I spent the last week staying up until four in the morning working on donations for a charity fund. I’m exhausted. I was rather hoping to have a nice, relaxing night, doing something other than rattling off essays to open-ended questions.

“How many guys have you been with?”

Oh, I knew it. Fine.

I give this guy what I call the ‘three-stutters personal-choice’ response, and it goes about like this:

“Actually, I’ve never slept with anyone.”

“Are you LDS?”

“Huh? Oh– No, I…”

“Sorry, Catholic?”

“No, I just…”

“You’re not religious?”

“No, I–”


“It’s a personal choice.”

“That’s weird.”


Happens all the time.

Then there’s this odd, calculating silence. I usually wait a moment, because most people, when presented with a scenario they don’t understand, are compelled to ask ‘why’. And believe you me, this guy has had no trouble with the ‘why’ question. But this time he resorts to a simple clarifier:

“You’ve really never had sex?”

“No. I haven’t.”

“Wow. Okay.”

And that’s the end. Suddenly, I’ve somehow created a bottomless conversation chasm. Apparently there’s just no way for my date to cross this thing, so he changes the subject.

Wait! You’re brave enough to ask me what I think about religion in schools, bisexual relationships, and have me write a dissertation on my favorite color, but you’re not going to grill me on my virginity? Minus ten points for inconsistency, dude– and making me take the oral SATs on my day off.

The truth is, I’m rarely asked the ‘why’ question point-blank when it comes to saving sex for marriage. Once people learn that religion is not applicable to my decision, the topic becomes… well, I don’t know, exactly. Does it become scary?

What is it? Why is the ‘why’ question mysteriously skipped? Because there can be no other answer to ‘why wait?’ than religion? I know I’m not the only one out there that feels this way. I know that if I’d have said, “Yes, I am LDS,” I would have received, “Oh, okay! Yeah, that makes sense, I have a friend who’s LDS… etc, etc…”

What is the deal with believing in morals apart from organized religion? Is it scary? Is it scary that someone sans religious affiliation would choose to uphold ethical values and instinctual restraints that are so often associated with a God-fearing community? After all, there’s no need for confession, no slap on wrist if they don’t. Is it frightening that someone could choose to abstain from certain physical pleasures even though there’s no written code, ultimate command, or higher power compelling them to forgo?

I’m firmly agnostic, but I have nothing against faith. One of my college majors was religious studies and my final thesis centered on the Reformation. I have a lot of respect and admiration for many religious facets. In fact, if I believed in one, my life would probably be a hell of a lot easier.

But if choosing sexual abstinence isn’t the result of a religious upbringing… is there even any point? It’s not a remnant of my Christian upbringing, because I was never raised in a Christian household. But still, I volunteer at Loaves and Fishes and Habitat for Humanity. I don’t drink or smoke or sleep around. Why not? There’s no celestial report card in my mind. I’m not in it for a good standing after death.

What’s the point?

My date wants to ask, but he doesn’t. It’s going to be a long night.

I have been told before that humans are incapable of formulating moral codes on their own– that they require divine inspiration, because ethics are all relative– what one person perceives as ‘good’ and ‘just’ may well differ from another’s point of view. I have been told that we require a universal list of what is good and what is bad handed down to us by a higher power, because if we make that list ourselves, we’re liable to corrupt it with our own selfish interests. So, can I have morals? Do I have a right to ethics? Am I allowed to hold my choices and opinions without believing in scripture and higher powers?

I think that I do. I believe that the best course of action I can take in a situation is the one that will bring peace and happiness to the greatest amount of people. I believe in altruism– that’s caring for the welfare of others besides ones own self– and I don’t think it’s a characteristic unique to the religiously inclined. As always, everything I write here is just my opinion… but I think the nature and origins of altruism can be viewed in both secular and religious connotations.

A couple of neuroscientists at NIH published some evidence for innate altruistic tendencies in 2006– the first evidence of its kind. When volunteers in this study received pure monetary rewards as well as charitable donations, a primitive part of the brain (usually associated with self-interests– food and sex) lit up. When these volunteers instead placed the interests of others ahead of their own by making donations themselves, a very different region lit up– a region intimately associated with bonding and social attachment. Instead of being a superior faculty instilled through teachings and the suppression of selfish urges, the experiment rather suggested that the nature of altruism was fundamental to the brain, wired into our being– a true piece of who and what we are.

In a later study, participants were given MRI scans when they won money, and again when they chose to donate money. Researchers expected to see brain activity suggesting that people perform acts of good will because it makes them feel good about themselves… but instead, another piece of the brain was involved. The temporal cortex came into play– a region sensitive to the difference between acting for personal gain and acting to further the gain of someone else.

All you really need to be able to do in order to place the condition of another above your own, is empathize. Healthy people don’t enjoy witnessing another in suffering– many of us will go out of our way to help those who sincerely ask for it. And the history of humanity is dappled with martyrs and sacrifice, both religious and secular. Sacrifice goes against the concept of survival. A lot of the things we as people feel compelled to do for one another goes against our basic, primitive instincts.

Isn’t that what morality is? A set of standards or practices that don’t necessarily benefit our own personal physical condition in one way or another? In other words, morality tends to throw a hitch in the great, Struggle For Existence, sometimes by turning back and extending a helping hand to another, even in the face of risk. Acting with courtesy and respect toward your rivals… aiding others rather than just yourself… Temperance and self-restraint… these are all hindrances to the nature of survival. And they’ve all been known to exist outside the lines of religion… and now, quite possibly within our biological make-up.

A lot of people out there seem to be looking for a way to clamber to the top, a way to snatch up everything they can in an attempt to be the best and the brightest, but I’m just looking for substance. I’m looking for a way to live that makes the journey worthwhile. I’ll save sex until I have a lasting relationship that will make it meaningful– something to be shared with and given to one other, rather than taken and had for my own purposes.

Living for ourselves, taking all that we desire and giving nothing back feels empty and meaningless at the end of the day– religion or no. Is sheer, meaningless pleasure enough to satisfy one hundred years of living and breathing? Is that what it’s all about? Or is it rather up to humanity to bring warmth and meaning to a world of harsh boundaries and survival? Living one’s life in an ethical context, if for nothing else, can provide a bright contrast to the oftentimes raw, callous natural world around us– especially when disease and disaster run rampant from continent to continent.

Religion may give morality a reason, but it doesn’t have to give morality its existence.

Whether or not you hold to a particular faith, the idea that there is an intrinsic benevolence to mankind is a reassuring thought– especially when we live in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

Oh… And for those who are wondering, there was no second date!

Author: Claire

Claire writes Sexless And The City,'s bi-weekly column detailing the thoughts and experiences of a woman who's twenty five and waiting. Currently, Claire's starving artist soul lives inside the body of a corporate woman, but she's okay with that for now; it just means she gets to stay up late working on her own projects with a bowl of shrimp curry instead of Top Ramen. Aside from creative endeavors, Claire loves trail running, learning, history, and traveling.

10 Responses to “Issue #4: Q and A… and W?”

  1. Olivier says:

    Wow… your date sounds like a winner lol. What universe is he from? All those questions…seriously?! Asking you about your thoughts on gay or bi relationships? Asking you about sex and intimacy in relationships… such a vague question… was he just trying to find out whether or not he’d get laid? Geez.

    Thnx for sharing Claire!

  2. Claire says:

    Haha, yes, he really did ask those questions before our food arrived, and I really did answer them. People in my area are often fairly liberal in their approaches/questions, so I honestly think he was just trying to figure out who I was and what I was about… albeit very tactlessly! 😀 I was more embarrassed for him than I was weirded-out, lol.

  3. Sophie says:

    “Religion may give morality a reason, but it doesn’t have to give morality its existence.”

    Cannot begin to tell you how much I love this line. As an atheist, it bothers me a lot when people just assume I have low morals. One time, when I was 12 or so, my mom’s friend asked me if I was Christian like my mom, or Jewish like my dad, and I said, “I’m Jewish and atheist, like my father.” And my mom’s friend turned to her and said, “Yikes, better watch out for this one!” My mom was offended and upset: I am super well-behaved and friends with people of all different beliefs.

    I am dreading entering the dating scene. I am 18, and I feel nowhere ready yet to date. And I am not really looking forward to it either. >.<

  4. destined4something says:

    I could never truly express how much I love and appreciate this issue! I’m a spiritual person and I’m still working on what that means to me, but my reasons for waiting were never tied to any religious believes! Leo’s, “7 Reasons Why Atheists Wait Until Marriage”, article was what actually led to me discovering WTM since I was looking for resources for people who were like myself.

    When I first registered for WTM I was really excited to finally find a site like this, only to get to the Introduction Forum and that excitement kinda crashed and burn. Reading so many “I’m catholic” and the rest of the good old religious reasons just kinda made me feel like maybe I still hadn’t quite find that support system I was looking for. Among my friends I call myself the Unicorn, because like some mythical creature I do exist. So the Intro Forum was like finding a whole pasture of unicorns, but I was the rainbow bright one and everyone else was just white. BUT, you my dear have given me hope that I’m not alone out in this green field.

    Its also wonderful to have someone who truly knows and understands that moment when people find out you’re waiting and its NOT because of religion! To me it seems like it’s so much more acceptable for people to think its okay and even honorable for someone who is waiting due to their faith. Claire demonstrated this point when you wrote ” “Yes, I am LDS,” I would have received, “Oh, okay! Yeah, that makes sense, I have a friend who’s LDS… etc, etc…”, But if you too are a rainbow bright unicorn, then people are expecting a master thesis or some award winning monologue explaining why on earth you’re waiting! My experience has consisted of people actually lecturing me on the fallacies of such a lifestyle choice. I NEVER get the simple “Oh, okay!” It’s my dream to actually get that response from my future husband 🙂

  5. Claire says:

    Thanks, Sophie– so glad you liked this one! I think the reactions we can get have a lot to do with the notion that people worry about things they don’t understand. Atheism has always been in the minority (at least as far as the writers of history were concerned– you never REALLY know what happened) and so it is much harder to gain any sort of acceptance if your peers don’t understand your foundations– even harder if you happen to be a rarity among Atheists. There will always be some crazy person out there who tries to stand in your way, but I think as you get older you will begin notice the people around you maturing… and suddenly your differences, be them in religion or food preference will become much more transparent, leaving you to connect on more personal levels. After a while, I think people begin to realize that we are all much more similar in ways we never would have imagined.

    …And don’t freak out about the dating scene. Really– chances are, the guy is just as nervous and worried as you. No one is really ever totally comfortable with the dating scene… in fact, I think most people hate it. It is just necessary to go through for most. At the absolute worst, you’ll come away with some really funny stories to share later on! 😀

  6. Claire says:

    Destined4something– I… LOVED… Rainbow Brite as a kid. And I loved your post. I will happily be a Rainbow Brite unicorn with you. It’s true, as far as waiting for marriage, those without religious affiliation are in the minority, but that shouldn’t make our decision any less valid. We’re definitely not alone, but we do seem to be somewhat elusive– probably due to the fact that the general public requires a master thesis for us to make ourselves known. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve been lectured for my life-style choice, but the best one was by a guy who, one year later, ended up with the gift that keeps on giving: child support payments. No matter what, just make sure you do what’s right by you. 😀

  7. Olivier says:

    “but the best one was by a guy who, one year later, ended up with the gift that keeps on giving: child support payments”


  8. Jasper says:

    I just read from Issue #1 to this one. Your style is fantastic. I’m really inspired by your work! Thanks for sharing your stories 😀 Keep going C:

    By the way… I’m gonna write that guy into a script one way or the other. He sounds hilarious.

  9. Dan says:

    I’m a female agnostic 19 yr old waiting as well 😉 It’s never been a struggle for me since I’m stubborn.:P Plus, the pros of waiting outweigh the cons by so much that its laughable. I still have hope there will be a decent looking guy out there who is also waiting who will come into my life. Just gotta have patience! 🙂 I also don’t smoke, drink, do drugs, or even curse. Most people think I’m crazy, but it makes me feel so…clean and happy. I have practically no drama or baggage in my life and its wonderful. Nothing but great friends and fond memories. Everyone, we can do anything we set ou minds to! Claire hits the nail on the head when she says that humans have the capacity to be so much more than our instincts/urges. Keep strong!

    P.S.-Hey true love, if you’re listening, I long for the day we can be together- whether hanging out watching anime, playing Halo, or going for a night out on the town. I’ll be waiting~

  10. Sarah says:

    I love this piece. I’m actually LDS, myself, but I have so many more reasons to wait than ‘just’ religion. I love reading the beliefs and opinions of those who believe differently from myself. Thanks for sharing!

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