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I lied about believing in God so my girlfriend would sleep with me

From its start in 1906, A Bintel Brief was a pillar of the Forward, helping generations of Jewish immigrants learn how to be American. Now our columnists are helping people navigate the complexities of being Jewish in 2021. Send questions to [email protected].

Dear Bintel,

Over a decade ago, I was dating this really incredible girl in college, who was smart and interesting and beautiful. She didn’t seem very religious or anything, but one night we were talking and she asked about my ‘moral center,’, or where I get my ‘moral compass’ from.

We talked about it a little bit and eventually I surmised that she would not sleep with me unless she thought I believed in God. I don’t entirely remember the conversation, but it seemed clear that she trusted people who had God in their life, because otherwise everything was free-fall, or there was no ultimate fear of moral accountability.

It was actually a really interesting conversation. I sort of went along with it, and talked about feeling really grateful that I had faith in my life, even though I was not really sure what God would want from me. It wasn’t all a lie, exactly, but it was not really how I felt. I don’t really care if God exists or not. It just feels like another world to me. We had some more intense conversations and ending up sleeping together a few times before it broke off.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to say one of the blessings at my little brother’s wedding, which will be in August. My brother has become somewhat religious, and his wife is planning a very traditional Jewish wedding. I was going over the words of the blessing with her dad (who offered to help me practice the Hebrew), and we talked about what it means to say blessings, and the concept of God.

I don’t think I’ve really thought much about God at all since those conversations with the girl from college. Seeing this man’s faith suddenly made me feel bad about lying all those years ago. I got this strange sense that maybe the universe didn’t like being dragged into my sexscapades.

I want to reach out now and apologize to her, or…apologize to God, if that’s possible? I don’t believe in God, still, but I feel bad about how it all went down. I haven’t spoken to her in many years, though we have some friends in common. What do you think? Would that be weird?

**Remorseful Non-Believer****

Dear Remorseful,

I’m curious why you think this moment hit you harder than your conversations in college. Did you just take the girl’s faith less seriously? Are you more open now, whether because of recent life events or just general growing up, to the idea of faith and religion?

It sounds like you respect your soon-to-be in-law’s father, so when talking with him about his own beliefs, the idea of faith suddenly seemed serious. That made lying about your faith at an earlier moment seem more serious too (unlike, say, the relative banality of lying about your favorite movie or the fact that you also hate olives, in order to win a girl over) and now it’s troubling you.

Whatever it is, I think you should hold onto this new feeling — but I don’t think you should contact your college fling. She might be upset to realize you intentionally misled her, or she might have a totally different memory of the events and not be interested in rehashing them. The relationship seems so short-lived, and so distant, that it is likely she doesn’t really care all that much about your current views on God. Let’s keep this new feeling about you, not her.

But you feel bad that you used God to get laid. It sounds like you suddenly realize how many people might feel you acted disrespectfully, and that has given you pause. That’s an admirable reaction, if one a bit too late. And if it really was a calculated move on your part, then you should feel bad.

But it also sounds like you weren’t really ready for a conversation about faith and God in college — these were concepts wholly new and not very intriguing to you, and not ones you considered deeply or felt strongly about.

You say you didn’t lie exactly, and that makes me wonder if even then part of your answer was aspirational. You were trying on for size, perhaps, what it might feel like to talk about faith as though it was something you had. College is a great time for trying out different sorts of beliefs or seeing how new ways of life might feel, and I imagine there is room to be more gentle with your past self than you currently feel is warranted.

If you really feel a need to make amends, choose a charity that helps bring positive associations with God into the world — a food bank run by religious Jews, for example — and send in a donation by way of divine apology. You can also just speak one out loud, even if it feels silly. Or write about it in your journal, trying to go over those college events and consider anew how you feel about them.

God has a very long view of life, so I hear, and you can take your time letting this new experience settle.

Shira Telushkin lives in Brooklyn, where she writes on religion, fashion, and culture for a variety of publications. She is currently finishing a book on monastic intrigue in modern America. Got a question? Send it to [email protected].


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