I had a drinking game I liked to play when I was in school. The goal was to guess someone’s religion based on their answers to a short series of questions. The catch? The questions couldn’t be about religion. Instead, the questions had to be about love and sex.
The game fascinated me. I got so into it, I would keep a running tally of hits and misses from which to work out a “career average” for correct guesses. I couldn’t get over how often you could match someone to the religion they grew up in with no more than the answers they had given you to three or four questions about love and sex.
To be sure, I did not try for the denomination. The categories were Catholic, Liberal Protestant, Conservative Protestant, Jewish, or Mormon. In other words, I wasn’t dealing with a lot of religious diversity. Back then, most everyone fit into one or another of those categories.
I can only recall one of the core questions now, but it was my favorite because I felt it did more work than the other questions in allowing me to figure out someone’s religious background. If I was asking a woman, for example, I would phrase the question this way, “Do you feel men and women can be just good friends, without having sex?” Followed by, “Why or why not?”
I read a blog post tonight that reminded me of that game. Specifically, the woman claimed it was all but impossible for a man and woman to be platonic friends. She said she’d only in her life had one boyfriend she wanted to be real friends with. And making friends with him had taken 20 years from the time the two of them broke up to the time they were “just good friends”.
Twenty years to make a friend? After reading that, I figured maybe he and she didn’t bring to the problem the world’s best people skills. But I also took a look at her “About Me” page, and noticed that her religion fit her attitude that men and women cannot be just good friends.
Religion isn’t everything, of course. Lots of other things influence how easy it is for men and women to be just good friends. For instance, the older you are, the easier it gets. And the biggest influences of all are arguably the individual people involved. But religion does seem to have an influence on what we tell drunks in college bars about our attitudes towards sex and love. Of that, I’m reasonably certain.