Suppressing all details, I have in mind a man about whom a reader has written to me. My reader, like many of you, is a bright, successful, ambitious and hardworking twenty-something Catholic woman in a competitive field. Her work brings her into constant contact with other bright, successful, ambitious and hardworking people, male and female. And one of the attractive male ones, more my age than hers, gave her good advice, met up with her for lunch/drinks on numerous occasions and went out of his way to help her professionally.
My reader, charmed by this attractive man and his caring behaviour, wondered if he were interested in a romantic relationship with her and so asked him if he were. And he explained, with an honesty he probably felt quite proud of, that he is much older than her, that he is an atheist, that he has only short-term sexual relationships with women--and is always upfront with them about that--and that he considers sex a part of a normal male-female dating relationship. He didn't think she would be interested in that, so no he was not interested in having a dating relationship with her.
Your fellow reader was extremely shocked by his confession/rejection and read him the chastity riot act over email. He suggested they not meet again until everything cooled down. She then emailed me. And I had just been reading Quo Vadis, so all I could think about was the pagan Petronius and how, despite his many noble qualities and great reputation in Rome, he would have made a totally inadequate husband for a Christian woman.
Catholic women are very often shocked by attractive, sympathetic men who admit to being sexually promiscuous and, fearing for their souls, give them chastity lectures. But I can tell you that it is deeply annoying for sexually active people to be lectured by virgins about sex. Catholics in the confessional will put up with it from priests, but that's probably about it. I have been myself lectured by virgins--not just Christian ones--on sex, and I found their ignorance of sexual realities simply staggering.
Catholic virgins may certainly have a better grasp on Christian teachings about sex, but Christian arguments are rarely going to make a dent on non-Christians, particularly atheists in a post-Christian society. Adult atheists have their own moral code about sex worked out, and whereas it usually includes such things as "being honest", "using protection" and "reciprocal generosity", it does not usually include the idea that sex should be restricted to married people.
As difficult as this is--and I would not have taken my own advice when I was a twenty-something, which is too bad, but I was not a mental giant--the correct response to having your courtship rejected by an attractive, sympathetic atheist man who likes and admires you but dates only those women who will agree to short-term sex flings is to say, "Oh, I beg your pardon. I misread your signals" and let the friendship drift down to acquaintanceship/business contact level.
Incidentally, asking a man if he wants to have a dating relationship with you is INDEED a form of courtship unless he has been hanging around smiling wistfully and wordlessly for ages with a dumb smile. "SCOOTER! Ask me out or go away!" is not making the first move. But a heartfelt email saying, "You did this nice thing and you did that nice thing, so if I am wondering if..." is indeed the first move.
If you make the first move, getting shot down is most DEFINITELY a possibility. Getting shot down by an atheist used to having "respectful", short-term sex with random women all the time but admires you for your winsome Catholicism/youth is a certainty--if he's a decent sort. If he's not a decent sort, he might accept your advances and then lamb-to-the-slaughter you might really be in trouble. As some benighted young man said of one of my then-straying readers, "I love turning a Catholic girl into a slut." Charming.
So considering the possibilities, I thought my reader's atheist crush object was quite a good guy as atheists go. He has bought into post-Christian society's sexual ethic about having as much sex as possible, but at least it is the version that preaches that sex should be only with willing people who do not expect more commitment than you are willing to give, using "protection", showing "respect", respecting "choices", donating to Greenpeace, etc, etc, etc. That's certainly a lot better than American PUAs going on virgin-hunting sex tours in Central and Eastern Europe.
Considering how many Catholic priests and nuns have run away to
Listen, I'm TRYING to give the atheists a fair shake here. (Can you tell?) They are men of their times. They don't expect any eternal reward for their good deeds, so it is indeed something that so many of them choose to live honest lives of mutual respect and sometimes even heroism.
I suggested that my reader read Quo Vadis and contemplate Petronius. Petronius, the arbiter elegans of Nero's court is most definitely a man of his times. Fabulously wealthy, incredibly cultured, impressively handsome, Petronius attracts the abject devotion of his slave girl Berenice, and no wonder. But Petronius, although he believes in romantic love, cannot accept the notion of Christian love, and thus... Well, read the book.
My personal feeling, as you know, is that women should not ask men if they want to enter into romantic relationships with them. Either you're in one or you're not, and if you (the woman) are confused about it, you're not. (Clue: man hangs around grinning goofily like Scooter.) Why risk giving your feminine ego a beating by hinting you want more?
Also I really do not think Christian women should date atheists. This is not because they are bad people. They are almost always, or very often, good people, or at least goodish. It's just that their religion--"Everyone should do whatever they want as long as they are honest about it and don't hurt anyone I recognize as human"--is incompatible with our own relationship with Christ.
*Not all atheists are bed-hoppers, of course. Many long for true love and a real girlfriend/partner/wife, but I suspect it would be unusual for them to expect to wait until their wedding night for sex. What why put up with an atheist's crap when there are Christian guys around?