Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Do atheists have a lower divorce rate than Christians?

In the comments, an atheist was arguing that atheists have a lower divorce rate than Christians, so I thought I would re-post this USA Today article from 2011 about that.

Excerpt:

It’s been proclaimed from pulpits and blogs for years — Christians divorce as much as everyone else in America.

But some scholars and family activists are questioning the oft-cited statistics, saying Christians who attend church regularly are more likely to remain wed.

“It’s a useful myth,” said Bradley Wright, a University of Connecticut sociologist who recently wrote “Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told.”

“Because if a pastor wants to preach about how Christians should take their marriages more seriously, he or she can trot out this statistic to get them to listen to him or her.”

The various findings on religion and divorce hinge on what kind of Christians are being discussed.

Wright combed through the General Social Survey, a vast demographic study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and found that Christians, like adherents of other religions, have a divorce rate of about 42%. The rate among religiously unaffiliated Americans is 50%.

When Wright examined the statistics on evangelicals, he found worship attendance has a big influence on the numbers. Six in 10 evangelicals who never attend had been divorced or separated, compared to just 38% of weekly attendees.

[...]Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, agrees there’s been some confusion.

“You do hear, both in Christian and non-Christian circles, that Christians are no different from anyone else when it comes to divorce and that is not true if you are focusing on Christians who are regular church attendees,” he said.

Wilcox’s analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households has found that Americans who attend religious services several times a month were about 35% less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation.

Nominal conservative Protestants, on the other hand, were 20% more likely to divorce than the religiously unaffiliated.

“There’s something about being a nominal ‘Christian’ that is linked to a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life,” Wilcox said.

Here’s a quote from an Oklahoma State University study that confirms the Wright and Wilcox conclusions:

History of Divorce and Religious Involvement

Those who say they are more religious are less likely, not more, to have already experienced divorce. Likewise, those who report more frequent attendance at religious services were significantly less likely to have been divorced. This pattern of findings held using various analytic techniques that test which variables differentiate persons who have been divorced from persons who have not been divorced, while controlling for other variables that might affect the interpretation of the data, such as age, age of first marriage, income, and gender. When both the global rating of religiousness and the item assessing fiequency of attendance at religious services are entered into the same analysis, the attendance item remains significantly associated with divorce history but the global religiousness item does not. This suggests that a key aspect of how religious faith affects marital relationships may be through involvement with a community of faith.

So, please do bookmark this information for the next time you hear an atheist make this argument. Obviously, you can’t expect people who are not serious about their religion to be bound by the moral duties imposed by that religion. People who attend church regularly are probably more serious about their religion, and also probably more informed about what their holy book says. If their holy book is the Bible, then there are few options for divorce.

An article from Focus on the Family by Amy Tracy explains when divorce is allowed according to the Bible.

God is very clear, however, that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He also says, “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). According to the New Testament, there are two justifications for divorce: infidelity (Matthew 5:32) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15).

So divorce is not something a Bible believing Christian can do for frivolous reasons, unless he wants to be in rebellion against God.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , ,

9 Responses

  1. Ken in NH says:

    I wonder what the divorce rate would look like if they filtered on whether their divorce (if any) occurred before or after respondents became active Christians. I suspect it would go way, way down; probably in the teens or lower for those who divorced while being active Christians.

  2. leegrenier18 says:

    And before any critics jump on it, a woman suffering abuse has every right to seek safety and to put her husband under the authority of church and state. A changed man and saved marriage would be ideal still, but a man who is under such authority and whose wife remains separated for her safety unless drastic repentance takes place will probably leave (desert) his wife if he won’t repent. The Bible exhorts husbands to love their wives and treat them as a weaker vessel. Any church that would condemn a woman for seeking safety but not condemn an abusive husband is in the wrong.

    • Yes, that’s why I go for the 4A doctrine for divorce – adultery, physical abuse, addiction, abandonment. But the best solution is to vet the candidate thoroughly, because I don’t think that these behaviors from nowhere. There is usually a pattern.

      • frank keefe says:

        in the UK you are often asked what your religion is and many( obviously not atheists or those of another religious faith) put down Cof E even though they hardly ever attend church or its what their parents were. A Christian who lives the Christian faith would Im sure have a very low divorce rate than non believers

  3. Josh says:

    ““There’s something about being a nominal ‘Christian’ that is linked to a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life,” Wilcox said.”

    That’s an awesome quote. Reminds me of how God will spit the lukewarm out of His mouth someday.

  4. wvson says:

    “When Wright examined the statistics on evangelicals, he found worship attendance has a big influence on the numbers. Six in 10 evangelicals who never attend had been divorced or separated, compared to just 38% of weekly attendees.”

    How does one qualify as an evangelical who never attends worship?

  5. SLIMJIM says:

    I think there was a study I’ve seen sometime in the past of also the correlation of couples that pray together, stay together

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