Ask the Yangxifu: Would a White Christian Girl Date Atheist Chinese Boy?

Image of a small wooden cross casting a shadow on the wall
A Chinese boy wants to date a white Christian girl at his school, but he's an atheist and she's serious about her religion. Could they ever be anything more than just friends? (photo by Colin Brough)

P asks:

I’m a Chinese student in an international school. I’m befriended with a white girl and I want to go out with her.

The thing is, she is Christian and she is very serious about her religion, like she goes to church every Sunday with her family and believes in God. And I am an atheist. She said she makes friends with other people regardless of their religion. But I wonder if it’s a different case when it comes to relationships. I don’t really want anyone of us to change belief, it’s hard to do that.

As many Chinese are atheist, agnostic or Buddhist, do you think that religion comes in the way of a relationship between Chinese men and Western women? And what should I do in my case?


If she’s very serious about her religion, you might have some serious problems being anything more than a friend.

Many Christians rank their relationship with God as one of the most important things in their lives, so it’s not surprising they often prefer to love within their religion (ever heard the phrase, “the family who prays together stays together”?). In some cases, it’s a requirement:

Some churches forbid interfaith marriage, drawing from 2 Corinthians 6:14, and in some cases Deuteronomy 7:3.

I know a Chinese man, also an atheist, who started dating a white Christian from the US earlier this year. They lasted only a few weeks before she had this “divine realization” — she just couldn’t commit to anyone who didn’t share her beliefs. If she’s that kind of girl, not even Lao Tianye — China’s father of heaven — can help you.

Doesn’t mean you don’t have a hope and a prayer of getting together with her:

Some others believe that anyone has the freedom to choose her or his partner for life, and that love has no boundaries. This attitude is found most often among those who may be identified as progressive or liberal Christians. It is supported by 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 with the central sentence: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband.”

Yes, it does happen, as all of the Christian-Atheist and Christian-Buddhist couples will tell you. But, clearly, it takes a certain Christian to embrace that relationship — someone who considers the person and the love they share more important than religion.

Is she that person? Who knows, but there are ways to find out. For example, you might say, “hey, the other day I found this really interesting website about Christians and atheists dating. Have you ever heard of that?”

Then pray…er…cross your fingers for good luck. 😉

What do you think?

Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China/Chinese culture (or Western culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.

35 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: Would a White Christian Girl Date Atheist Chinese Boy?”

  1. Ah, yikes. I think religion is often the biggest obstacle in dating, not race. Seeing past skin color is one thing; loving someone who in their heart of hearts can never share your innermost beliefs and convictions? That is so much harder to do.

    My biracial white/Chinese Methodist friend has been seeing a Malay Muslim for nearly three years, and they are now in the tough process of trying to break up because neither one of them can imagine being married to and having children with someone not of their faith. Religion aside, they are perfect together. Until recently, they’ve worshipped separately, and spent their relationship thinking about things other than religion. They just couldn’t ignore it forever.

    But of course, there are many interfaith relationships that work despite the struggle. My Chinese atheist friend is seriously involved with a staunchly Christian African. They’re butting heads less and less as the relationship progresses. I wish them luck.

  2. I’m a Jew who used to date a Korean guy who happened to be an Episcopalian and who wants to be a minister. (I’m more of Jew by blood type, although I’m trying to get back to some Jewish traditions.) It will take a lot of compromise. If the person is conservative and/or happens to want to be a religious leader, then they might ask you to be a Christian, and especially if it will come to marriage. (My Korean ex asked me to convert, but I wouldn’t.) There is also a chance that the person will go out with you regardless of your beliefs. (Case happened with me and my Korean ex.) And unless you or she are willing to somehow compromise, the relationship will not be long term marriage material. Hope I helped 🙂 Out of curiosity, are Jewish women and Chinese male couples are common or not really?

  3. I agree, this doesn’t look good. There is a very strong current in Christianity to keep love and marriage within the faith – for some, even within the church or at least the particular branch of Christianity (protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox…).

    And it is always dangerous to deal in generalisations – so take this with a grain of salt, and Americans, don’t be offended*, please – but I do find American Christians in China to be more likely to be conservative, evangelical, even fundamentalist than other Western christians, and conservatives, evangelicals and fundamentalists are by far the least likely to marry outside the faith. And yes, I did write ‘marry’, because that is the whole point of dating, isn’t it?

    But don’t give up hope, because there are plenty of Christians who both date and marry outside their faith. I could even introduce you to an evangelical, bordering on fundamentalist Christian whose wife sympathises more with Daoism than Christianity. So there is hope.

    *because this is a personal observation based on my own experience, and therefore highly subjective, and I can think of plenty of counter examples.

    1. @Christine, definite yikes! Your story is a great example of how religion can get in the way of an otherwise great relationship. Too bad things didn’t work out the the Methodist-Muslim couple, but hope the atheist-Christian couple works things through.

      @Sveta, you asked about the Jewish-Chinese connection — you should read my blog post about this very issue. There is definitely a strong affinity between Jewish women and Chinese men.

      @Chris, that’s an interesting observation, and I’m not surprised you’ve observed this among American Christians as this has been my experience as well.

  4. 1 cor 7:15 talks of what a Christian should not get into divorce in such a marriage but it doesn’t say that the situation is ideal and should be followed. I would imagine people with different core belief in their world views and relgiipud belief, it will be hard to share their lives
    Together. The key question may be that what decision will lead to race in your heart.

  5. First of all, I thank you very much for your replies and thoughts.

    I see religion partly composed of a value system and partly of culture and tradition.

    Being an atheist I do have ethical principles, which are more based on my personal philosophy. I have a high opinion of Christian values and am more than willing to live by them. But I just don’t share the most essential element of any religion, that a deity exists. I am bewildered that a religion like Christianity, so outspokenly promoting love, making love the foundation of its moral teaching, would prevent love from happening.

    I think the Western culture is largely based on the Christian religion. I see Christmas as an equivalent to the Chinese New Year: Both are very important, merry family gatherings. But don’t you think that it is easier for Westerners to enter the Chinese culture than vice versa, because in China we separate tradition and spirituality most of the time? The Girl in my mind is an active member of a Christian organization, where they do activities together. Even if she accepts me as an atheist, I guess I would never be part of every aspect of her life and, somehow, feel like an outsider. That kind of sucks.

    Sometimes I imagine being asked by my loved one to convert. Just a scenario in my mind. Would I do that? Should I do that?
    If it really is true love, I guess any sacrifice is worth it. I know some Chinese people joining a church just to get some advantages or to find access to the local community, when they are in a foreign country. Compared to that converting to make your loved one happy seems fine.
    But on the other hand, converting would clash with my conscience, even hurt my dignity as a man, because I then fail to stick to my convictions. And then again, would you consider it true love, if someone holds a divine imaginary friend above you?

    1. @P, I think it really depends on the girl. People can be active Christians and yet still be open to love with someone who doesn’t share their views, but respects them. I’m reminded of Melanie Gao, a woman from the US married to a Chinese man — she is a Christian as far as I know (she dropped the word God into our conversation many times, so I think her faith is very important). When I happened to meet with her in Beijing, she told me how her husband would go with her to church even though he doesn’t seem to be as fervent about religion (I don’t know if he is an agnostic or atheist or what, but I’m sure he wasn’t raised Christian). She said he usually spent most of the church time playing with/watching one of their kids, and she had no problem with it at all. It was as if she understood, intuitively, that church isn’t his thing, but she’s grateful he supports her desire to come and bring the kids on Sunday. So there’s mutual respect there, and Melanie’s the kind of Christian who is more open-minded.

      Also not every Christian expects their partner to convert, so what you worry about may not even be an issue.

      I don’t think you can really write this girl off until you understand her views on marriages between Christians and atheists — so bring up the subject, and see what she has to say. You might be pleasantly surprised.

  6. For Christians faith is important, but for white American Christians, particularly the evangelicals and fundamentalists race and preserving the white skin color is equally if not more important. Also true for many mormons. In fact many white Christians here in America dont even know that there are Chinese Christians.

  7. The sad thing about religion is that nobody knows for certain whether god exists. But everybody goes around taking it as a given that god does exist, or they say they have this conviction or they believe it. Well, this is no way the same as that god does in fact exist. Worse still, a whole lot of beliefs and creed and practice and taboos build around the belief, the conviction and everything else is brushed aside and lo and behold if you are not in you are out. As if god is an exclusionist. I remember that Jesus said god is love. He didn’t say god is a Christian or a Buddhist or a Taoist or a Hindu. He just said god is love. P, you have to find out whether the girl of your dream is someone who can only accept you if you accept her god. Otherwise it may be a good idea to let go now rather than later when the pain will be deeper.

  8. @P: The problem is that most Fundamentalist Christians (e.g., Southern Baptists, Pentecostals) see their religion primarily as a value system. There are many different types of Christians — Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Fundamentalist Protestant, Mormon, etc. — and each one tends to have different views about what religion is fundamentally about. Some will expect you to convert before you get married, others don’t really care. Some will expect you to convert before dating them, others don’t really care until you’re ready to get engaged.

    I’m Jewish, and I’ve had the experience of a Fundamentalist dating me primarily to try to convert me. I thought it was unusual, but apparently it’s not. Stuff Christian Culture Likes is a tongue-in-cheek blog, but my friends tell me it’s still pretty accurate:

    @John: I’m not sure preserving skin color is a big issue with Fundamentalists. Or more accurately, if they are racist, their racism doesn’t seem to have much to do with their religion. Fundamentalists have been one of the first groups to colonize Africa and African slaves, and they’ve been among the most effective. They seem to have gotten used to the idea that the single missionaries will sometimes marry African people and have biracial babies.

    It used to be a big deal with Mormons, and their holy books explicitly supported racism. The Mormons I know have all said that they’re working really hard to overcome their religion’s racist past. (And it does seem to be working: I do know someone who’s an Asian-American Mormon.)

  9. If you don’t ask where it itches how do you where to scratch. Don’t be afraid to ask her! Going to church or temple every sunday doesn’t mean you are a good person. If you don’t hurt someone physcially or cheat someone financially etc and you give more than you take, you are considered a good person. I see alot in my life where people go to churches or temples all the time but they don’t have good heart, selfish, conceit and they cheat in any ways. My point is a good person is always a good person even though you don’t go to worship in a church/temple. Life is not always about religion 24/7. Most preachers/ministers are living in million dollar homes and traveling with private jets and followers are working their asses off for 10% donation . “There is no other business better than Church/temple business ” why? freaking non taxable incomes ! We have alot priests who are child molesters and seduce male followers here in America ( all over the news) If you don’t work one day, will god help you with your bills ?Do you think by converting your relationship will be fine in the future? the answer is no. A relationship/ marriage needs a lot of hard work in order to survive . Going out party all the time and get wasted , gamble all night long and go to church/temple and ask for forgiveness ” oh I’ve sinned ” What the hell is this? How many times a person can sin? tell me . Sometimes, I really think deeply on this subject that are those people going to church/temple are learning to be good people or just wasting time over there. Anyway, I don’t want to comment too much on this subject due to my opinions and my personality.

  10. I come from a Jewish family and actually had a dorm roommate in college who took it as her mission to convert me to Christianity. In fact I even discovered she wrote in her journal about how disappointed she was that she failed to convert me despite all our conversations. I think she was just out to “win” some conquest to convert the unchurched.

    The thing about Christianity is some believers are really totally into this stuff and some aren’t. I went to a Chinese church for a while hoping to find someone special but stopped after awhile because I really could not see myself being really totally into this stuff and if I were married to a guy who was really totally into this stuff then there are going to be problems. I would rather go out running and practicing kungfu for hours instead of sitting in a church for hours. That’s how bad it was for me at least, sitting in some church listening to blah blah blah and then singing blah blah blah and praying blah blah blah.

  11. if the girl doesn’t have issues with it, she also has her parents also influencing her decisions like pressuring her to go out with someone from a strong christianity background to make them proud so who really wins in the end? the girl! The girl says this is too hard, i can’t deal with it anymore so sorry bye bye, china boy, please find someone more suitable and similar to your background! It’s just not meant to be.

  12. Li Lan,

    those are fanatics/religious control freak of a kind who can’t or respect anybody who will have diff beliefs other than their own. If they can’t make space or allow with the exception that they will be able to live with partners who have diff beliefs

  13. @ Jocelyn: You are right, I should ask her… some day. I’ll probably do it in the most subtly indirect manner (you might say this is the strength and the weakness of us Chinese 🙂 But it’s ridiculous for us to talk about marriage. We are still very young and not even a couple (yet). It’s just, when I think about dating a white girl, all the negativity pops up in my mind automatically. First, it’s the “White Girls don’t find Asians attractive” issue, but luckily I got over that. Thanks to your blog, actually, so no matter how it turns out, I’m very much indebted to you 🙂 But then, religion appears to be the second biggest issue. I’ll take my time and see how it goes.

    @John: She is neither a fundamentalist nor an evangelical. (So, thank God! lol) She is a protestant, but I don’t know what that implies.

    @ordinary malaysian: Sadly, so few people understand the true meaning of love. “Love is never selfish”, that’s what they say, but how many time do we see people only trying to satisfy his or her own needs?

    @EM: I’ve read this blog article. Dating somebody just to convert him, this is downright creepy. I think it isn’t so in my case. We are just friends right now, so she isn’t bartering dating for me converting. Although we did exchange our views on religion, we never had any argument about it. Maybe it’s because most of the time I pretend to be ignorant about Christianity (, maybe I really am).

    @Bruce: I see you are a fellow atheist and I really agree with you. Religion doesn’t necessarily make you a better person. In extreme cases it might even take away your ability to think freely and make you dependent on what other people feed to your mind, kind of a mental servitude, (OK, this is medieval :D).

    @Li Lan: I like to sing. But hell yes! there is no way I would put listening to endless blablablas over practicing kungfu 😀
    The girl told me she is bored during sermons sometimes, her parents drag her to go there. But she also told me once, that she wanted to become a priest, but her relatives talked that out of her. So it’s kind of confusing.

    @cautions: Parents could be an issue: not only religion, but also their daughter dating someone with a completely different background. It appears to me that Christian families tend to be more conservative. But on the other hand, they have been living in China for a couple of years, so they should be more open about it. On those (rare) occasions I talked to them, they seemed to be nice, but I need to get to know them better.

  14. Umm, don’t want to burst your bubble, but fundamentalists and evangelicals are typically Protestants…(They’re a sub-group of Protestant religion…) and evangelicals and fundamentalists are also commonly Baptists if I’m not mistaken. (If i’m not correct, please tell me.) Please don’t be mad by my comments.

  15. @P : Go and talk to her. I think you know how to talk to her and don’t assume that she will start a relationship with you okay. If we put our hope too high , we might fall even deeper. Like they say ” it’s not sold until we get cash in hand”. If nothing starts yet, I think you should start something right now before another Atheist jumps ahead of you. Yup, life is that strange! Well, have you hugged her or held her hand before?If not yet, approach her in your own way . Let’s not talk about her religion and her family yet right now. You need to be her man first and the rest will eventually solves itself. I’m not a certified relationship expert ,but that is just common sense. If you don’t know the answer to A , how will you solve C? Just love the person . YOu don’t have to get invloved with the religion. Many religious groups have asked me to join and I just refused. I would go to the Temple to pray once in a while during the holidays but I’m not really into that. Last time I said ” if you guys keep pushing me to join such and such religion, I will go rob a bank or someone” :). I am just very stressed out with work and everything . I just don’t have time to pray and think about god all the time. good luck

  16. I am a white Christian girl and I am about to marry a Chinese agnostic. While many Christians believe that we should marry within the faith, I determined that (after my widowed grandmother re-married, her new husband is an atheist) if grandma could do it, I could to it too. We found a church that we both like that will accept him without trying to “convert” him, and we have a very healthy relationship. The only recent problem is simply a problem with people. We can’t find a pastor willing to perform the ceremony due to our religious differences. But we’re doing fine. Hope that’s encouraging.

  17. @P,
    it doesn’t look good for you really. My advice would be : try to have a thorough conversation with her regarding the values that both you and her subscribe to, whether its religious or secular. If the differences are too hard to surmount, then its better that you look somewhere else to find that special someone.

  18. I’m both Chinese and Christian. My circle of friends includes mostly non-Christians.

    However, in a serious relationship, I personally would only date/marry a Christian woman who shares the same values as myself.

  19. @P: You need a lot of bonding with her seriously. Once, she DEEPLY has feelings for you , you can move mountains . Today is Sunday and I’m still here. You don’t see me at church/temple. You don’t have to showyour face there as long as you have god in your heart and that’s the most important thing. Seem like I have every right answer to every question right? Not really because I’m older than you and these kinds of subjects , I have talked about already. Most of my friends are not young people like you. Like I said don’t assume you will have a relationship with her and you will live happily ever after . Things can turn within days or months. God will test your patience and god will test you to see if you can handle problems through out the relationship/marriage. That’s why we’re humans and humans come with problems until death. Even priests have their own problems ,too ” I’ve sinned again , my lord” 🙂 lol

  20. I don’t mean to offend because I know religion is a very sensitive subject. But just because religion is sensitive, do we stop thinking? This thing about god testing us gives the lie to the claim that god is omniscient. If god is omniscient, why is there a need for god to test us? God should know before-hand how or which way we respond. Unless of course, we want to suspend the claim that god is omniscient as far as how humans will react to a given situation or scenario or more specifically how or which way you or I will respond to it. Or maybe god does indeed know before-hand, but chooses not to for some obscure reason. And then what, once god comes to know? So that god can mete out rewards or punishment? Ah, how mundane. Divine? I hardly think so. So that we can appreciate what is good and what is not good for us? I thought that is something we adults are supposed to figure out by ourselves. And I do seriously think that that’s our responsibility. We can’t just throw it back to god and say “that’s your job god. You brought us into this world and now you must be responsible for us”, although I am sorely tempted to if god is indeed the first cause to or of everything that exists. And by the same token, Bruce, you have not sinned. Sinning for being able to think? Nah, if god thought so god is not worthy of your respect let alone worship.

  21. “I’m both Chinese and Christian. My circle of friends includes mostly non-Christians.
    However, in a serious relationship, I personally would only date/marry a Christian woman who shares the same values as myself.”

    You will face no problems if your girlfriend is a Chinese Christian. I am Indian and Christian. Twenty five years ago at Purdue University, my “Christian” parishioners were not happy with the prospect of me dating white women in the church I attended…I think it is a presbyterian church…in fact I did not even indicate that I wanted to date a white woman. However, they were very worried and extremely fearful that there were no Indian christians in the church or nearby…so they tried to set me up with any Indian…hindu or moslem. Word got around that I was being set up with a conservative moslem woman..and I was almost set upon by a moslem gang and beaten up!

  22. @Samathan: I feel sorry you that you can’t find a pastor performing the ceremony. I thought it’s the dream of every Christian girl to walk down the aisle and say “I do” before the priest. But if the bond is strong, ceremonies don’t matter, don’t you think? What do you mean with finding a church that “accepts” your partner?

    Do you think I should avoid talking about religion/religious topics for the time being? Or should I indicate my interest about her religious (and secular) beliefs?

  23. “You will face no problems if your girlfriend is a Chinese Christian. I am Indian and Christian. Twenty five years ago at Purdue University, my “Christian” parishioners were not happy with the prospect of me dating white women in the church I attended…I think it is a presbyterian church…in fact I did not even indicate that I wanted to date a white woman. However, they were very worried and extremely fearful that there were no Indian christians in the church or nearby…so they tried to set me up with any Indian…hindu or moslem. Word got around that I was being set up with a conservative moslem woman..and I was almost set upon by a moslem gang and beaten up!”

    Oh yes, definitely. I’m not surprised. If I were you, I would have definitely left that church in a heart beat.

    I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a church that is overwhelmingly white though. I prefer at least some amount of ethnic diversity.

  24. I did not stay there too long. It was about a mile from the campus. I started attending the University Church which was made up of mostly white youngsters. I actually was among the first to integrate that church. However, no one dated outside their race. Perhaps no one (including myself) asked anyone. From my side, that was not a priority. I was a cash strapped graduate student…a minority in this country with not a great deal of prospect of employment. Things have changed at Purdue since the early 1980s when white skin worship was rampant among young and old alike. See more Asians with whites when I visit, but then again the Japanese and Chinese run the show with endowments and buildings named after them while many whites dont have much money after the Great Recession.

  25. Haven’t been able to read everything here, but I got a general gist.

    First I’d like to point out the difference between “cultural” christians and “real” christians. Coming from a “christian” country or going to church every Sunday a real christian do not make. A real christian is someone who has “given” their life to God and lives a real relationship with him. This is something nobody can really measure in any objective form, because nobody can really read other people’s minds.

    Now here’s something, 2 Corinthians 6:14 isn’t specifically about marriage, but about any relationship so intimate that every action from the other person influences you. It could be a business partnership, but usually marriage fits the bill the best.

    The core idea is that marrying someone with very different values than you is a bad idea, and it is not difficult to see why. Concessions have to be made in every marriage, but there are always some concessions people aren’t willing to make. I know people who I believe to be real christians that are married to non-christians. They acknowledge the difficulties and accept them.

    @P you shold definitely talk to this girl to know where she stands. Worst case scenario, she isn’t interested and you can start the process of moving on…

  26. That last line is hilarious!!!

    I’m a Christian and my husband is an atheist and we’ve managed to make things work very well for 14 years. We challenge each other and have the most interesting conversations about God and spirituality. It can work, if both partners have tolerance and an open mind.

  27. Glad to hear that. I ran into someone from Alabama married to a Chinese American man…both are Christians and the Chinese American man is pretty close to evanagelical…but whites back home keep asking her as to how she could marry someone of different race and religion. Bottom line, there are no Chinese christians according to these folks from Alabama.

  28. i am a man looking for china woman to marry, also i am business man i daels on rael gold such as 24,22,18 carate, i do my business in republic du benin and i am a is to marry a china woman a wife who will take care of me and my business and our children please if anyone see a good one let me no.this +22999968627 or +22997784268 or+22993153090 EMAIL ADERSS:[email protected] or [email protected]

  29. i want to marry a christant woman in china is my draem to marry a white woman,i am a very good christant i have been prayer to god for long to that for me, i no he will do that for me.iam just 30yers old, i am a business man i daels on real gold business, i am anigeria lieve in republic du benin.CANTACT ADDRESS:+22999968627 OR 22997784268 EMAIL:[email protected] thank you.

  30. John, take this with grain of salt, but there was a similar story I heard that a lot of southerners still treat Asians as “heathens.” I guess because the media stereotypes us a Buddhist monks. I was born Christian and I am Chinese too. From my experience it is a little hard for atheists to go long term with Christians. The higher chance you may go long-term or marry if the Christian isn’t serious. It varies between people. Maybe God has a plan for the Atheist spouse? I did had a friend of mines that said she wouldn’t marry me because she knows I would convert her and vice versa. I couldn’t help but kinda agree. A lot of these southerns should come to this south place called “Hawaii.” Lots of Asian Christians here. Me being one of them. And yes, I am attracted to white women, but I would prefer a Christian one who is led by the spirit.

  31. Terence:
    Yep, I used to live in that southern place called Hawaii and yes, no one really cares about race unless of course she or he is a white southern transplant and has to return home to live. When I was there this white woman from Alabama at the church I had attended had just come to Hawaii, and she was staring at all the interracial couples in the church..contempt or fascination I do not know…but she was definitely living in another world..for that matter Hawaii and Alabama may well be on different planets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.