American Christian Divorce Rates Vs Atheists and Other Groups – throws a pall over Christian Fairy Tale Teachings about Marriage
(Edit. I added another link. The first link, called “Dumbfounded by Divorce,” was added later.)
Christians divorce at higher rates than atheists, agnostics and other groups. The page linked to below has tables and charts showing rates among evangelicals, Baptists, atheists, etc.
It’s sad and interesting that despite the fact you have this cold, hard data showing that Christianity does not inoculate a marriage from ending in disaster and divorce, some of the Christians quoted on the page below seem to be in denial about that and want to maintain this fairy tale, evangelical / fundamentalist / Baptist mythos that Christians have better, stronger marriages.
As I post about often, even Christian sites run studies, exposes and stories about Christian men who are arrested for, or who admit to having, porn addiction problems, who rape women, abuse their wives, fondle children, who have extra marital affairs, and who visit prostitutes. Any and all of those things, or other behaviors or situations, can lead a woman to divorce a man.
If Christian married men use porn, have affairs, go to prison, etc., just as some Non Christian men do, what on earth makes preachers and laymen think that being Christian makes a marriage divorce-proof?
I do sometimes read of Christian women who stay with an abusive Christian husband for many years because either their interpretation of the Bible concerning divorce is off, or their preacher’s interpretation of divorce, based on biblical passages, is such that these women feel that to honor God, that they should stay with an abusive loser.
But a lot of Christian women do leave and divorce such men, or ones who cheat on them or who turn out to be child molesters.
When it comes to mental illness, a lot of American Christians think being a Christian makes one immune from having depression, schizophrenia, anxiety attacks, and so forth.
Many Christians insist all a Christian who claims to have depression needs to do is to pray and read the Bible to be healed of depression (or other mental health problems) – which shows that some of the are admitting that yes, “real” Christians can and do get depression and other mental health disorders – but the proposed to solution, to use Bible reading and prayer, does not cure depression.
I am just really puzzled why so many American Christians think being a Christian makes them more pure and godly than the average Non Christian and so forth?
It can be bad teaching. I did have it emphasized to me as a Christian youth by adult Christians that if only I was a good girl, prayed, and read my Bible and so on, that God would answer my prayers and such, but that has not been the case. But some Christians stubbornly cling to the fantasy that being Christian means they will be immune from sickness, calamity, divorce, and depression.
If the Christian fairy tale belief that marriage makes a person more godly and mature were true, then one would not to expect to see so many marriages between Christians fail, but they do.
- He [Barna] rejected the idea that large numbers of divorced Christians left their marriages before they converted.
He also found no reason in his 3,854-person national survey to believe that large numbers of Christian marriages broke up because the Christian partner was “unequally yoked” with a non-Christian.
… People who marry late, earn high incomes and are well-educated have lower divorce rates, studies show.
But Mr. Barna said that according to his numbers, divorce rates do not seem related to educational achievement or income. His study did not look at age of marriage.
… But what Dr. Austin calls “magical thinking” is often a factor among evangelical and fundamentalist couples he counsels, he said, and that leaves them less prepared for the rigors of marriage. “The atheist doesn’t believe in God and so doesn’t depend on God to save or fix a marriage. It’s just ‘the two of us,’ and that takes the magic aspect out of it,” he said.
… But many fundamentalist or evangelical couples base their marriages on “very irrational and unrealistic principles,” he [Dallas therapist and Southwestern Seminary graduate Dr. Roy Austin] said. “They say, ‘Put God first in your marriage’ whatever that means to them ‘be faithful in church, be a good Christian, pray a lot, attend church, and God will work everything out for you.’ Then they find out that’s a lot of hogwash.” He’s also seen problems when some fundamentalist men, in leading the household, become “cruel dictators” who “expect their wives to become servants.”
I’d encourage you to visit the page and see all the data. Here are some excerpts:
Divorce rates among Christian groups:
The slogan: “The family that prays together, stays together” is well known. There has been much anecdotal evidence that has led to “unsubstantiated claims that the divorce rate for Christians who attended church regularly, pray together or who meet other conditions is only 1 or 2 percent”. 8 Emphasis ours].
Dr. Tom Ellis, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council on the Family said that for “…born-again Christian couples who marry…in the church after having received premarital counseling…and attend church regularly and pray daily together…” experience only 1 divorce out of nearly 39,000 marriages — or 0.00256 percent. 9
A recent study by the Barna Research Group throws extreme doubt on these estimates. Barna released the results of their poll about divorce on 1999-DEC-21. 1 They had interviewed 3,854 adults from the 48 contiguous states. The margin of error is ±2 percentage points. The survey found:
– 11% of the adult population is currently divorced.
– 25% of adults have had at least one divorce during their lifetime.
– Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significantly higher than for other faith groups, and much higher than Atheists and Agnostics experience.
George Barna, president and founder of Barna Research Group, commented:
- “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.”
According to the Dallas Morning News, a Dallas TX newspaper, the national study “raised eyebrows, sowed confusion, [and] even brought on a little holy anger.” This caused George Barna to write a letter to his supporters, saying that he is standing by his data, even though it is upsetting. He said that “We rarely find substantial differences” between the moral behavior of Christians and non-Christians. Barna Project Director Meg Flammang said: “We would love to be able to report that Christians are living very distinct lives and impacting the community, but … in the area of divorce rates they continue to be the same.” Both statements seem to be projecting the belief that conservative Christians and liberal Christians have the same divorce rate. This disagrees with their own data.
The survey has come under some criticism:
– David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University has said that the survey doesn’t make sense. He based this belief on his assessment that Christians follow biblical models of the family, making a bond that “the secular world doesn’t have…It just stands to reason that the bond of religion is protective of marriage, and I believe it is.”
– Tom Ellis of the Southern Baptist Convention suggests that the Barna poll is inaccurate because the people contacted may have called themselves born-again Christians, without having previously made a real commitment to God. He said: “We believe that there is something more to being a Christian…Just saying you are [a born-again] Christian is not going to guarantee that your marriage is going to stay together.” 9
– Some researchers have suggested that religion may have little or no effect on divorce rates. The apparently higher rate among born-again Christians, and lower rate among Atheists and Agnostics may be due to the influence of financial and/or educational factors.
Under the section heading:
Barna report: Variation in divorce rates among Christian faith groups:
- Non-denominational ** 34%
- Baptists 29%
- Mainline Protestants 25%
- Mormons 24%
- Catholics 21%
- Lutherans 21%
- ** Barna uses the term “non-denominational” to refer to Evangelical Christian congregations that are not affiliated with a specific denomination. The vast majority are fundamentalist in their theological beliefs. More info.
- Barna’s results verified findings of earlier polls: that conservative Protestant Christians, on average, have the highest divorce rate, while mainline Christians have a much lower rate. They found some new information as well: that atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rate of all.
George Barna commented that the results raise “questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families.” The data challenge “the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriage.”
Donald Hughes, author of The Divorce Reality, said:
- “In the churches, people have a superstitious view that Christianity will keep them from divorce,
but they are subject to the same problems as everyone else, and they include a lack of relationship skills. …Just being born again is not a rabbit’s foot.”
Hughes claim that 90% of divorces among born-again couples occur after they have been “saved.”
Farther down the page:
- One reason for the higher divorce rates in the Bible Belt may be the lower percentage of Roman Catholics in the South. Their denomination does not recognize divorce. Other reasons could be related more to culture than religion:
- Couples in the South enter their first marriages at a younger age.