Anyway. I wanted to write about my Saturday with Josh and Raffie but I have been too distracted by other things (Roger Federer/tennis/witnessing tennis history/#18/crying tears of happiness, and Bruno) so I haven't got round to it, and so I will do so now. We'd made plans to walk to Grantchester on Saturday which I cautiously agreed to (cautiously because it is cold and I was not certain whether I would be enthusiastic about walking in the cold for about an hour), and which I almost bailed on. I'd got back late the previous night; Bruno made me dinner at his, and I ended up coming back to my room really late. I woke up at 11am the next morning and felt really tired, and so I texted them to ask if I could join them for dinner.
Raff's response was the following: "WHAT????????" (Something along these lines.) After this display of outrage, I had no choice but to stick to the plan.
I am glad I did, for it was a great day. We had lunch at Vedanta after discovering that the Old Bicycle Shop was full (save for some seats at the bar which would have made conversation between three people quite difficult), and the first thing that we talked about was Bruno. They probably spent an hour asking me all sorts of questions about him and what we did the night before. Raff was especially interested to know whether he made a separate non-vegetarian dish for himself (he didn't). Josh grilled me on his educational qualifications, and made some Josh-esque and hopelessly reductive sweeping statement about the personalities of guys who drive sports cars. When he says things like that, I simply laugh at him.
What I was really interested in, though, was NOT whether Bruno's educational qualifications qualify him to be discussed over lunch (this was Josh's contribution), but our discussion of his religious views and my problem with dating religious people. Let us begin with my problem with dating religious people first. It is essentially this: because I am literally and fundamentally incapable of comprehending how one could believe in the truth of religion - essentially, that a, or more than one, higher supernatural being(s), sometimes called God, other times called something else, exist(s) - I will always feel as if there is an impediment to my forming the deepest possible connection that I can form with this religious person.
I certainly felt that way with Dominic. But if I am being honest, I have not dated anyone with his degree of religiosity. Wei Chuen, for example, was Christian, but he was not religious to the same degree as Dominic. Despite that, it eventually became a problem, at least in my head: I didn't want to get married in a church; I didn't want to go to church; I didn't want to bring up my children with a religion.
I still don't want any of those things, though it is less important to me now that I don't get married in a church (perhaps, at 30-going-on-31, the more important thing is to get married, period). That said, I wonder if my anti-religion sentiments weren't sometimes an excuse to get out of a relationship that was slowly losing its lustre, as was maybe the case with WC. (With D, though...the lustre was never really there. In any event, the religiosity was too much for me.) And if they were a mere excuse, then perhaps I am missing the point and placing too much weight on something that ultimately may not matter after all. My mother, for instance, kept telling me when I was in Singapore that I am mistaken in putting so much weight on religion; that other things are more important, such as the way the person treats me, whether he is honest, whether he is sincere, etc.
My mother is half-right, but she, too, misses the point, albeit in another way from me. Josh was actually quite instructive in showing what the point should be. He didn't understand why it mattered to me how a person provides an explanation for his values/moral system; for example, would it matter if the person were a moral nihilist (he didn't use this example) or a relativist (I think he used this example)? If not, why should it matter if he were a Christian or a Catholic, if (and only if) the work that the relevant religion is doing is merely to provide an explanation or justification for the person's substantive moral positions? More importantly, why should religion matter if the religious person's substantive moral positions are aligned with my own?
That brings me to Bruno's religious views. I remember how on our first date I thought that this was never going to happen because, among other things, he is Catholic and I was done dating religious people. But I asked him more about it on Friday night and it seems that he believes in the existence of a supernatural being which he calls God; but he is happy to recognise that other people of other faiths have different names for it/them. More importantly, his substantive moral positions - at least, the ones that came up - are mostly similar to mine. He is pro-choice, pro-contraceptives (like any rational person would be), anti-homophobic; and since these issues are some of the most controversial ones when it comes to Catholics, I was quite happy to know that he is sensible. I also liked that he was well aware of how cultural it is, the faith that one ends up with; and if it is cultural, then it gives a believer very little grounds to say that his religion is the truth and all other religions are false (it is also this arrogance of Western religions that I find extremely off-putting; anything that hints at cultural imperialism is off-putting).
So maybe it shouldn't matter at all that he's Catholic. Maybe I would finally stop caring. Maybe Josh is right, that I am focusing on the wrong thing, and that one's substantive moral views are what actually matter. I couldn't date someone who's homophobic, pro-life, genuinely believes that human beings are superior to animals and hence entitled to do with them what we wish; to kill them for food, etc. I couldn't date someone who questions my vegetarianism and does not respect it. I couldn't date someone who supports the death penalty. If the religious love interest does not oppose me on any of these things, does it really matter that he subscribes to a certain religion?
In fact, it would probably matter more that Bruno isn't vegetarian than the fact that he is Catholic. At least he says that he respects and admires my vegetarianism, and his first reaction to my hypothetical case of eating an animal that died a natural death was not 'Ugh, the meat won't taste good!' but that there may be health implications arising from that. That is fair enough; but the concern about how the meat would taste (which was D's reaction; and if I am being honest, it was in that precise moment that I started to fundamentally question the relationship) is just selfish and morally repugnant. How can the taste of the meat be more important than the life and non-suffering of the animal? But then again, a person who would say this wouldn't be vegetarian, and so it should come as no surprise that he/she would not hold the animal's life and welfare in high regard.
(As an aside, I think that meat eaters should be honest about their selfishness. I genuinely think that it is morally inconsistent to say that one loves animals and not be vegetarian/vegan; indeed, I think that I am being morally inconsistent by not being vegan. If I care about animal welfare, if I am against animal cruelty, then I will not be a part of anything that profits from animal cruelty, even if the cruelty is a by-product of the production of the animal product which involves no killing of the animal. I am talking about eggs and milk. I don't buy milk anymore because I think that I am more lactose intolerant than I'd realised, but I still buy dairy yogurt and cheese, and I still buy and eat eggs. My explanation is that, in a perfect world, there is nothing inherently wrong with eating eggs and drinking milk because these food products do not necessitate the killing of an animal. But we live in an extremely imperfect world, and the production of these food products causes suffering to animals. And so I am being selfish and morally inconsistent by not being vegan. And so I think that meat eaters should either acknowledge that they don't care about animals, or that they care about their enjoyment of food more than reducing animal cruelty.)
So that part of the conversation about Bruno was quite a revelation. If things continue to go well with him and I decide that the religion issue isn't an issue anymore, then Josh will get credit for it.
One downside about Saturday, though, was that we spent too much time talking about me: my future plans, my stupid paper, my PhD. Ahh! I hate talking about myself so that was really tiring. At Grantchester, they peer pressured me into going over to theirs to watch the new Martin Scoresese film, Silence. It's about missionaries in Japan in the 1500s (or something like that) so I wasn't keen at first, but I was glad that we watched it. Despite the really slow start, it turned out to be a really good film. It addresses both sides of the proselytising of religion issue really well, even if I found the portrayal of the Japanese characters rather caricature.
Okay. I have to go do stuff, so I will end this here.