I didn't want to post this in the main forum because I want this discussion to come predominantly from the Catholic point of view. The question: would you, as a Catholic, date non-Catholics, non-Christians, and/or the irreligious (atheists and agnostics)?
Here's my situation; feel free to share yours.
A girl has entered my life who I find attractive on both the physical level and personality wise too. She would make for a good girlfriend I believe, except for the fact that she's an agnostic. As a conservative Catholic I would have a very tough time dating a through-and-through atheist, but I'm willing to bend a bit to date an agnostic. Is this wise though? I hold my faith in very high regard; would it be wise of me to date "outside" my faith? Or should Catholics stay close to home and date Catholics?
What are everyone's thoughts on Catholic dating?
Date a person because you love them, no other requirement is needed. If you are strong enough in your own faith, then what do you personally have to worry about in dating an agnostic? How will dating her negatively affect your relationship with God? Is she going to take you away from Him? If that's the problem then either she's not right for you if she cannot respect your religious choices, or you love her more than God, which I doubt. Who knows, maybe through an intimate religion, she may come to respect your devotion and see the happiness it brings you and maybe she may convert. My father was irreligious when he dated my mother, and now he's extremely devout. My sister is irreligious, but now that she's getting married, she's beginning to change. Don't let personal prejudices against certain faiths (or lack of) dictate who you choose to love.
A good point by Mr. Wilburn. People can change, and do not forget that your agnostic significant other today could be Catholic tomorrow, as a result of some eye-opening event or other catalyst to her faith in God.
How much does being Catholic mean to you? Would she be willing to raise your kids Catholic? or are you willing to see your kids - which will mean the world to you - raised without sharing in those same core beliefs? It's a lot easier to get a long with people on the surface, because everybody can be good people when it's just the two of you. but kids have a way of taking your heart very deeply, and you will find yourself caring for them like for no one else.
This is a tough one but I think I would recommend you work to convert her or take a pass. If you hold your faith in high regard, you will find yourself fighting over a lot of things. Sex, use of contraception, weekly Mass, religious customs, practices, and holidays will all become points of contention.
I had a similar situation years ago. I didn't take the plunge and we were good friends for many years. I don't think that would have happened if we started dated.
I'm Protestant, not Catholic. If you asked me now, I wouldn't date a non-Christian ... but, I dated a Scientologist in high school, so my position has evolved. (She was cute enough ... just crazy).
I wouldn't draw a ton of distinction between mainstream Christian denominations. My wife was raised Methodist ... I'm Baptist. That's not enough distinction to raise problems. I'd have dated a Catholic.
Personally, I wouldn't recommend dating anyone that you found unmarriageable ... and I wouldn't marry an agnostic or an atheist. Too much conflict later on, and I just wouldn't think our priorities were aligned enough.
How do you date? Why do you date?
Previous commenters address issues related to serious dating at least, and really only to marriage. Not every date, not every romance, needs to get that far. If you don't see this relationship getting that far under any circumstances, it might be a good growing experience for you.
Oh, I've read "I Kissed Dating Good-bye" and "Boy Meets Girl" and I Corinthians and parts of "Catholic Dating A to Z" [or whatever it's called]. I find the other 3 are poor interpretations of I Corinthians. Casual dating is possible for some people. It doesn't have to scar them for life, leave them with baggage. And certainly the converse is not true - skipping casual dating is no guarantee of smooth courting or a happy marriage. [personal dig: James Dobson did casual dating through college, and he has a model marriage.]
For me, however, I always found casual dating hard. Part of this was I was raised in Joshua Harris' paradigm. Part of this was my personality. But part of my maturing process was recognizing this about myself and then not jumping to daydreams about the conclusion of the relationship every time I was asked out.
More contemporary Christian writing about dating is pointing out something that was true even in the 70s but not addressed: There are more "good Catholic girls" than "good Catholic boys," at least when it comes to people actually attending Mass and Theology on Tap, etc. The "girl code" certainly says I should recommend that one of the few available good Catholic boys only date good Catholic girls.
If she is agnostic, then she believes that there is a God, but she isn't certain that any particular religion is absolutely correct about its own particular interpretation of God (and please clarify this statement if you find any error in my reasoning). The fact that she does believe that a greater being exists means that she has the humility to understand that mankind is not the end all, and that there is something greater to believe in, and to help guide one's own actions. An atheist, on the other hand, withholds a belief in something morally superior to man, and that, to a Catholic, is unacceptable. At least with an agnostic significant other, she understands that there is a higher authority that dictates what is absolutely morally correct.
You can date her with this in mind, and she may even see your example that you set while practicing your own faith, and eventually begin to go to Mass with you, maybe even become inspired enough to become a confirmed Catholic. If you have children and want to raise them Catholic, you can make that clear to her before discussing the possibility of marriage, and come to some agreement, thus putting your own mind at ease about instilling faith in your offspring.
Why do you date? The answer is because you want to discover the other person. So, do not be afraid of love; get to know her, talk to her, and understand her points of view. If you find your love for her growing rather than receding, and you find happiness in your life as a result of that love, then God's will has been done. God is love; so while she may not believe in a traditional Catholic God, her faith in God, whether or not she will admit it, is still there as long as benevolent love exists. In this way, God abandons no one.
You misunderstand agnostics. Agnostics don't believe in God. They don't specifically disbelieve either ... though most agnostics lean atheist. They're indecisive between belief and disbelief -- not between one god or the other.
I see. Thank you for clarifying.
In consideration of Mr. Bauer's clarifying statement regarding agnostics, I suppose the question is; is she open to believing that there is a greater being, and if so, can she be influenced into having a more concrete set of beliefs about God? Or does she have complete apathy one way or the other, and simply doesn't care about the conversation as to whether or not a loving and omnipotent God exists? I think I personally would be fine with the former, and I would take issue with the latter.
All that said, here's my story. Well, the first part of my story. I very much see it as incomplete only 3 months into marriage.
I was raised an evangelical (see above re: Harris and Dobson). I am an Anglican Catholic. I went to the third Most Catholic Catholic College. I took the position that I couldn't marry anyone there because I couldn't respect a Roman Catholic who would compromise his Faith to marry a non-Catholic.
I should add that the average age at my parish is over 60. I've been the youngest person in attendance on Advent I (when the youngest lights the wreath) 3 years running. Even the Rector knew I'd never marry another Anglican Catholic. [Now if only the senile old men could get it in their heads. "Why don't you marry John [only man under 40 to ever attend Mass]? He seems like a nice young man." "I don't think his wife would like that [also, he's not very smart]."]
Flash-forward to 5 years after college graduation and one terrible romantic fail with a fellow Anglican later. I was mostly leaving the religion issue aside in deciding what dates to accept. I met my now-husband completely randomly. He was Jewish. We went on a few dates. After the third, he says, "There's something I have to tell you. I've been in RCIA for awhile." I'm very surprised and reveling in the irony. But looking long-term, I know it'll be better to be married to a fellow Christian than a fellow Jew. I'm a believer primarily.
Despite being an Anglican Catholic, because I've been a believer so much longer, and because of my formal education, I'm a "better Catholic" than my husband. I remember about Fridays and HDOs. I explain other Laws of the Church to him. [He hasn't been to confession ever.] He's precisely the kind of Catholic I once said I couldn't respect. But that, of course, is not true now.
FWIW, he says I was instrumental in his conversion. He was only beginning RCIA when we met, and I answered some questions about the basic heresies. So "missionary dating" can happen and work, maybe, I guess...
St. Paul lays this all out very clearly. If you marry a nonbeliever, you will be pulling in opposite directions. He says: avoid it. Note that he doesn't say atheist or pagan, but nonbeliever. An agnostic isn't yoked to Christ. She may be sweet, but her goals in life are different from yours, at the very core.
But St. Paul does not say, don't marry someone who belongs to a different church. The closest thing we see to that is his thing about "I follow Paul" -- "I follow Apollos" -- he says, get over it, and follow Christ.
I was Protestant. I joined RCC before I took any interest in my now wife, but I never really changed my beliefs. Christian is Christian, and as Paul suggests, denominational differences are trivia compared to that.
Now, in a practical sense, there could be problems if you're both attached to your denomination and unwilling to bend. In which case I suggest somebody bend. But I know a couple (not well) in which he's Methodist, she's Catholic, and it's been working for 20+ years. I wouldn't care for going to different churches, though! And IIRC RCC requires you to promise to raise the kids Catholic, if you marry in an RCC church. Surely you shouldn't lie while taking your vows...
But that's not what you asked. You asked about an agnostic. Can people change? Sure. And if she finds herself devoted to Christ, St. Paul's words will no longer apply.