Atheism and Poly: What’s Stopping You?

women from behind with an atheism logo on her T-shirt which reads "You can be good without God"
Image by Jennifer Boyer / CC BY

“I get that you’re poly and all, and you seem happy enough,” she says, “It’s just…”

“Just?”

“Well, what’s to stop any of you from running off with a new person the minute you fall in love? New people can be awfully shiny.”

I smile. “They sure can.”

“Seriously though,” she says. “That part of poly would make me crazy. Not having anything to stop anybody from leaving.”

“Well, here’s the thing,” I say. “You’re an atheist, right?”

“Yeah,” she says. “Secular ethics all day, every day, baby.”

“Without religion, what’s to stop you from killing someone?”

She rolls her eyes and groans. “Ugh, not that again. You sound like my mother. Atheism isn’t a license to just do whatever. Just because I’m not religious, doesn’t mean that I don’t have a sense of right and wrong.”

I nod. “It’s silly, right? You definitely have good judgement.”

“If religion is the only thing stopping you from doing bad things, that’s fucking terrifying,” she adds. “I mean, religion is held up as proof that you’re a good person, but if you think about it, if you really think about it, there’s kind of something to be said for people who hold themselves personally accountable without a doctrine to fall back on.”

“Exactly,” I say. “The same goes for relationships. If the only thing keeping you from leaving people you’re committed to is monogamy, then you’re doing your relationships wrong.”

“Huh.”

“And here’s the thing. Even if you’re monogamous and you’ve agreed to be exclusive, there’s no guarantee that one of you won’t leave the other. For any number of reasons. Serial monogamy is totally a thing. Hopping from one person to the next.”

“Ain’t that the truth?” She laughs, connecting more dots. “And besides,” she adds. “Plenty of religious people get arrested. Just look at all those congressmen with wide stances.”

 

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