Make religion work when dating

Shaheed Shihan Columnist


 One of the assumptions most dating sites today act on is best portrayed by Homer in The Odyssey is that “As ever, God is bringing like and like together.” But we all know opposites attract just as much. Making an interfaith relationship work isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible. 

About 37% of married adults in the US have spouses from other religions. This means there is at least one Jewish woman checking out a Muslim or Buddhist for every two Jewish woman on JDate, looking for the perfect Jewish man.

The forbidden fruit is definitely one of the appeals of an interfaith relationship. But in many families marriage to a person of a different religion/atheist/agnostic is often classified as “the nightmare scenario,” and in some cases one might even be disowned. So this summer as my parents brought up the issue, they were open to having me marry an American, on the basis that she be Muslim. 

And I questioned, what if she’s from a different branch of Islam than me? What if she’s not a practicing Muslim, just like me? What if she’s only Muslim by birth, just like me? And that’s the case for about all the people I know. Growing up, how much of a choice does one actually get to make an informed decision about which religion to choose? Or not choose one, for that case? 

On a campus of approximately 13,000 students, that’s 13,000 different perspectives. And I believe that equals 13,000 different interpretations of whatever religion they believe or do not believe in. So if I do get turned down by a Christian girl because of a faith I was born in and not my personality, while she may be open to dating a person who identifies as Christian, even perhaps a Pentecostal Snake handler, I find the math doesn’t add up. And I’m a math major.

But the truth is many interfaith couples do take their religions seriously, and still make it work. For one, there is definitely a spillover of knowledge. Avoidance could be an option but the way forward would definitely be to talk about it. There is a general consensus that Islam, Judaism and Christianity are technically “bed partners.” 

Belief in, or lack thereof, a religion plays a significant role in both our public and private lives. It is just one of the many differences that every couple have to pilot through. For most interfaith romances, the ideology should be to move forward by exploring the differences, learning to accept it, and perhaps even celebrating them.

Shaheed Shihan is a senior majoring in mathematics. He can be emailed at [email protected].