Today, an interesting article appeared in my news feed that made me curious enough to do more reading about marriage and divorce. The facts, when isolated from a conservative or liberal agenda, are sobering, fascinating, and not at all what one might think given media coverage of the same. Here is an encapsulated version of the information I found.
- Conservative, self-defined, born-again Christians have the highest divorce rate by far in the nation—a whopping 13% higher than atheists! (The old saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” just isn’t true.)
- People living in the “Bible belt” have the highest divorce rate in the nation.
- Less educated people have a higher divorce rate while more educated people have a lower divorce rate.
- Married couples who argue about money once or more per week are 30 percent more likely to divorce.
- Atheists and Agnostics have the lowest divorce rate.
- One year after Massachusetts legalized marriage equality for same-sex couples, their already low divorce rate actually dropped.
- If you live in a red state, you’re 27 percent more likely to get divorced than if you live in a blue state.
- If only one partner in your marriage is a smoker, you’re 75 to 91 percent more likely to divorce than smokers who are married to fellow smokers.
- Married adults now divorce two-and-a-half times as often as adults did 20 years ago and four times as often as they did 50 years ago. Between 40% and 60% of new marriages will eventually end in divorce.
- The bible belt has the highest rates of: divorce, murder, STD/HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, infant mortality, and obesity rates in the nation. (Yet, they believe that being obese is genetic and being gay is a lifestyle choice. Huh?!)
- The average length of time a couple in the US remains married is only 11 years.
Divorce rates by faith group:
- Non-denominational (Independent, conservative fundamentalists): 34%
- Baptists 29%
- Mainline Protestants 25%
- Mormons 24%
- Catholics 21%
- Lutherans 21%
- Atheists and Agnostics 21%
Failure to Help
If Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council actually, sincerely, wanted to support family values and maintain a truly special place (the actual definition of “sanctity”) for marriage in this nation, he and his organization would stop wasting their time babbling on and on ad nauseam about marriage equality being a “war on marriage,” and focus on what really is causing marriage to fall apart in this country. Religious fundamentalism is probably strongest in the very places in this country where divorce, murder, STD/HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, infant mortality, and obesity rates are the highest. This fact speaks to the outrageous level of ineffectiveness of what religious leadership is actually doing in those areas. Is what the religious extremists are doing actually hurting the institution of marriage. Is their “cure” (raising hell about gay people all of the time) really a level of indifference to the real issues and actually making the state of marriage worse! I have come to the conclusion that they themselves are the ones defeating their own self-proclaimed mission!
To claim an interest, no, more than an interest: a singular focus, a mission, a calling to preserve a very special place for marriage and do little of nothing except ranting on and on about gay people is, at its very best, disingenuous. Why isn’t the Family Research Council grappling deeply with the actual real causes for divorce in the places where the dissolution of marriage has reached the highest levels?!
Instead, the church chooses to ignore real people with real needs, perhaps because the church has presently demonstrated a real inability to provide real people with anything of substantive value to address their needs and reduce their failed marriages. This inaction or misplaced action on the part of the church is not just an outrage, it’s a moral outrage. Devoting so much of their attention, financial resources, and talk time to decrying marriage equality is perhaps their strategy of choice to obscure the absolute failure of their faith practice to provide critically needed care and support to real people in need: to reduce divorce, murder, STD/HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, infant mortality, and obesity rates. Instead, their “support” is nothing more than turning the very people who are in need of their support away through self-righteous judgement and condemnation!
While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing. But the research also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families. The ultimate responsibility for a marriage belongs to the husband and wife, but the high incidence of divorce within the Christian community challenges the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriages.”
Source: George Barna, president and founder of Barna Research Group
Don’t miss these important facts as I suspect they are all deeply correlated:
- The Bible belt is the poorest area of the nation. (Arguing about money increases divorce.)
- The Bible belt is the least educated area of the nation. (Less education is associated with divorce.)
- The Bible belt is filled with Conservative, self-defined, born-again Christians. (This is the religious group with the highest divorce rate.)
- The Bible belt significantly trends to “red states.” (Red states have a higher divorce rate.)
- The Bible belt has the highest rates of, among other things, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, and infant mortality.
A Plan that Would Work
Shouldn’t Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallagher really be focusing their efforts on getting the people in the Bible belt higher paying jobs, better and more education, and more progressive and liberal religious and political ideology. I mean, hello! The data indicate that effort would actually pay long term dividends in their self-proclaimed mission to protect the special place of marriage!
Clearly, we are once again witnessing a failure of leadership! Shame on them! Shame, shame, shame on them!!
Enslaving people in ignorance is the cruelest form of imprisonment!
I say that everyone should utterly reject organized faith practice that hurts people!
I say that everyone should utterly reject government policy (and those who make it) that hurts people!
I am personally fed up with religious and political liars whose lies promote only themselves and end up hurting people. America: Stop supporting the people that are hurting you!
- Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 2009
- Marriage in the United States
- 15 Ways to Predict Divorce
- Hey Fox, What About This “War on Marriage?” Divorce Rates Are Highest Among Evangelicals is the article that sparked my curiosity.
- U.S. Divorce Rates for Various Faith Groups, Age Groups, & Geographic Areas This article provided these very informative resources below:
- “Christians are more likely to experience divorce than are non-Christians,” Barna Research Group, 1999-DEC-21, at: http://www.barna.org/ (Barna no longer has this report online. However, a review of the report is at: http://www.adherents.com/)
- AANews, Posting #699, issued by American Atheists on 2000-JAN-2.
- Michael Inglis, “Survey of the Unification Church 1982 marriages,” at: http://www.unification.net/
- “Bible belt has nation’s worse divorce rate,” CNN.com, 1999-NOV-12. Online at: http://www.cnn.com/ (Cache copy as of 2000-FEB-11. The page has since expired.) A similar report is at: http://www.divorcereform.org/
- David Crary, “Deep in the Bible Belt, a counterattack on the nation’s worst divorce rate,” Detroit News, 1999-NOV-11, at: http://detnews.com/
- “Survey provides profile of Protestant Pastors,” 1998-JAN-6, at: http://www.barna.org/
- “Divorce statistics collection: Summary of findings so far,” Americans for Divorce Reform, at: http://www.divorcereform.org/
- “Fresh Thinking Needed on Divorce Issues,” Jesus Journal, at: http://www.jesusjournal.com/
- John Rossomando, “Born-Again Christians No More Immune to Divorce Than Others, Says Author,” CNSNews, 2002-JAN-21, at: http://www.cnsnews.com/
- Donald Hughes, “The Divorce Reality.” 109 pages. This is an eBook written from a positive, conservative Christian. It can be purchased and then downloaded from Theatron Media at: www.Bookstore.TheatronMedia.com
- William V. D’Antonio, “Walking the walk on family values,” The Boston Globe, 2004-OCT-31, at: http://www.boston.com/
- James Veverka, “The moral hypocrisy of the Bible Belt,” Stop The Religious Right, undated, at: http://www.stopthereligiousright.org/
- Arland Thornton, “Children and Marital Stability,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 39, #3, 1977-AUG, Pages 531-539. Abstract at: http://www.eric.ed.gov/
- Aandrew Cherlin, “The effect of children on marital dissolution,” Demography©, Vol. 14, #3, 1977-AUG, Pages 265 to 272. Abstract at: http://links.jstor.org/
- “Bible Belt Leads U.S. In Divorces,” National Center for Policy Analysis, 1999-NOV-19, at: http://www.ncpa.org/
- “U.S. state divorce rates…including 2004 data.” Divorce Reform, at: http://www.divorcereform.org/