Evangelical Divorce Rate Higher Than Atheists

A new report finds that evangelical Christians have a divorce rate that is higher than the national average and specifically higher than the non-religious. This despite what Baylor University, which is one of the contributors to the report, calls their “strong pro-family values.”

Despite their strong pro-family values, evangelical Christians have higher than average divorce rates — in fact, being more likely to be divorced than Americans who claim no religion, according to findings as cited by researchers from Baylor University.

The research is part of a new report released by the Council on Contemporary Families.

From their section of that report:

Cohabitation is now the most common path toward marriage, and it is on the rise among religious groups as well. But non–affiliated young people are the most likely group to cohabit. Overall Catholics are the least likely to cohabit. Across all religious traditions, teens who attend religious worship services more often and say that religion is more important to them are less likely to cohabit than less observant teens.

Overall, couples who have higher levels of religious service attendance, especially if the couple attends together, have lower rates of divorce. But there are big variations among religious groups. White Catholics and Mainline Protestants are less likely than the average American to be divorced, with 12.4 percent and 12.5 percent of their populations being currently divorced, respectively, compared to an overall average of 14.2 of Americans currently divorced.

But white Conservative Protestants and Black Protestants are more likely than the average American to be divorced, with 17.2 percent and 15.7 percent of their populations being currently divorced, respectively. Indeed, Evangelical Protestants are more likely to be divorced than Americans who claim no religion.

Let me suggest a reason for this: They don’t really have “strong pro-family values.” What they have are strong anti-gay biases and strong opposition to abortion. That’s really all they mean when they claim to be “pro-family.”

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • cptdoom

    I’d love to see those divorce rates broken down by age when married, as, from my anecdotal experience, it seems a lot of evangelical divorce comes out of very young (17 – 21 year olds) couples getting married because the woman is pregnant and then divorcing relatively quickly. Many of my evangelical cousins’ friends have gone through this, yet their subsequent marriages, and the marriages of those who waited until their mid-20s to marry, seem relatively stable. I guess it is better to be a divorced single mother than a never-married single mother in fundieland.

  • http://howlandbolton.com richardelguru

    And maybe if you co-habit first you find out what a bastard your potential mate is before it’s too late?

  • matty1

    That’s not really a reason in the sense of a cause it’s just pointing out their hypocrisy. After all the study lists Catholics as having lower than average divorce rates and their official position on ssm is pretty close to that of evangelicals.

    For an actual hypothesis on the relationship between Evangelical Protestantism and divorce see this research by Jennifer Glass.

    Abstinence-only education, restrictions on the availability of birth control and abortion, support for marriage as the resolution of unexpected pregnancies, and distrust of secular education (especially higher education) among the populace in religiously conservative counties work to create an environment where young people of every religious belief – or none – tend not to pursue higher education or job training, and instead to engage in early marriage and child-bearing.

    Now many of these like restrictions on birth control also apply to what the Catholic Church advocates and this discrepancy doesn’t seem to be addressed. Maybe despite the similarities Catholics are more likely to delay marriage and seek further education, but that is just a guess on my part.

  • Sastra

    They may also have a strong and idealized view of the “proper” and “natural” roles of a husband and wife. You have either one of a couple with a feeling of divine entitlement — then you’re likely to find out that the other one has a very human feeling of resentment. A marriage is supposed to go more “smoothly” if there is a recognized Head of the House.

    Bet it don’t.

  • Thumper: Token Breeder

    I’d posit that it’s due to the lower levels of co-habitation. You simply don’t know how well you get along with someone until you live with them full-time.

  • dingojack

    ” White Catholics and Mainline Protestants are less likely than the average American to be divorced, with 12.4 percent and 12.5 percent of their populations being currently divorced, respectively, compared to an overall average of 14.2 of Americans currently divorced.”

    Yes – but is this statistically significant? What other factors (for example, age at which the couple married, pregnancy, strong views on gender roles etc. as suggested above) play a part in this? What strength do the correlation for these confoundings factors have?

    Enquiring minds need to know.

    Dingo

  • doublereed

    I’m actually surprised about the Catholics, because they tend to lean so liberal (regardless of their silly institution). Actually, that’s quite interesting that they cohabit the least but still are average in terms of divorce rate.

    Let me suggest a reason for this: They don’t really have “strong pro-family values.” What they have are strong anti-gay biases and strong opposition to abortion. That’s really all they mean when they claim to be “pro-family.”

    Far too kind for my taste.

    “Pro-family” means you will disown or antagonize your children for marrying people of other races and religions (and of course if they are gay or transgender). “Pro-family” means domestic violence. “Pro-family” means that you want workers away from their families on holidays in praise of almighty capitalism. “Pro-family” is the worst form of doublespeak I’ve ever seen.

  • Trebuchet

    Doesn’t evangelical Christianity also correlate pretty strongly with poverty or semi-poverty? And lack of education? Seems like those things might contribute as well.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    “This despite what Baylor University, which is one of the contributors to the report, calls their “strong pro-family values.”

    They do have, “strong pro-family values”, they DO!

    They have such “strong pro-family values” that they want to have as many families as possible in the three score and ten which they are allotted by YWHW*. It’s sorta their version of the old Chicago Machine Pol’s advice to, “vote early, vote often.”.

    And they get bonus points in PARADISE for shamin’ teh slutz and teachin’ them some tough lessons on economics!

    Win, WIN!!

    * I could be wrong but I don’t think that the fundies have addressed that bit of nonsense in their inerrant Wholly Babble.

  • Michael Heath

    I wonder how these results stack up when you compare these sub-groups only against their respective socio-economic class. Does religion predict a higher or lower divorce rate within a socio-economic class? Or does religion not even play a part? Ditto for education levels.

    I’m skeptical that religion is a consistent detriment when comparing between the religion and irreligious in all socio-economic classes and education levels, particularly the lower levels of either. I speculate the religious have an advantage in the lower levels over the nones.

    I’m not surprised that Catholics and Mainline protestants do better than conservative Christians, primarily because it’s my understanding they’re better educated, not just in terms of their respective rates of higher education, but also given the delusions promoted at conservative Christian “colleges”.

  • Scr… Archivist

    cptdoom @1,

    Maybe this will help: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2009/10/15/marriages-and-divorce-a-50-state-tour/

    And this: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2009/10/15/the-states-of-marriage-and-divorce/

    In Arkansas and Oklahoma, men and women marry young — half of first-time brides in these states were 24 or younger on their wedding day. These states also have above-average shares of women who divorced in 2007-2008.

    It’s the opposite state of affairs in Massachusetts and New York. Their residents marry late — half of ever-married New York men were older than 30 when they first wed. These states also have below-average shares of men and women who divorced in 2007-2008.

    It seems to be a little more complicated than that, but I think you’re onto something.

  • Michael Heath

    Me earlier:

    I speculate the religious have an advantage in the lower levels over the nones.

    Re cptdoom @ 1 and Sastra’s post @ 3:

    I presume that conservative religion results in more people not getting the education and career they’d achieve if they were raised by freethinkers or in a theologically liberal home. However I still think within those lower groups, there may be an advantage when one is a part of a religion given the communal advantages of belonging to a group who sometimes looks out for one another.

  • http://onhandcomments.blogspot.com/ left0ver1under

    This isn’t the first time these results have been shown. The Barna Group, owned and operated by fundy christians, has twice done studies on religion and divorce, and reached the same conclusion both times. Fundies and baptists are the most divorced, atheists and catholics the least, though in the second one they were desperately trying to say, “Everybody’s the same!”

  • Ryan Jean

    The Non-Affiliated (or religious Nones) are also below the U.S. median net worth and median education level, with a median of only 12.7 years of education. Less than 10 percent of this group holds an advanced degree. Only Black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics have lower levels of educational attainment than “Nones.”

    I wonder why they don’t explore this any further… Might it be because the “Nones” swing much younger in age, and are thus less likely to have gotten that far in life yet? Of course, acknowledging that forces them to admit A) that they’re losing the youth, and B) that when compared within appropriate age brackets “Nones” don’t fare worse than the average.

  • cswella

    Based on the community of people I know, I’d suggest a strong reason for this divorce disparity is the push by religious expectations to marry earlier rather than later. Just about every marriage under age 25 (that I’ve been aware of) has been doomed, the main reason being you don’t really know who you are and haven’t experienced enough.

  • timpayne

    Exactly right MH @ 10. I suspect that the same sampling could be used to demonstrate that Evangelicals are less skilled at tennis.

  • matty1

    The link I gave at three does say that the study found an effect of early marriage in evangelical communities even when controlling for poverty and cohabitation.

  • smrnda

    Early marriage is probably an issue – it’s people getting married since then they can *have sex* or handle an unplanned pregnancy, but I think another issue is that evangelical Christians tend to believe a lot of nonsense about marriage, mostly that ‘all you need is Jesus’ and that following rigid gender roles are going to help.

  • matty1

    That certainly sounds plausible and the link doesn’t give the full methodology just a summary of the results so we can’t use it to rule out other causes not mentioned. In fact without the methods we can’t be sure they have adequately controlled for what is mentioned but it’s a start, which is why I referred to it as a hypothesis.

  • cptdoom

    Another big difference between Catholics and evangelicals that may account for their divorce rate differences – Catholics are far more likely to disregard their religious leaders on matters of sexuality. Nearly all married Catholics use contraception, for instance, and I have to say the rate of pre-marital sex among my friends in Catholic high school did not seem different from those who went to public school. There was also a lot of “hidden” cohabitation – like my sister spending every weekend at my brother-in-laws before they were married – among my Catholic friends.

  • iknklast

    One issue could be the gender roles in the marriages. If the partners are equal, they would perhaps be happier about the marriage and more willing to work to make it last.

  • Wylann

    It seems odd to me that the study cites ‘currently divorced’. I haven’t read the study, but to get a more accurate reflection, wouldn’t they want to include previously OR currently divorced people in their numbers?

  • busterggi

    “Let me suggest a reason for this: They don’t really have “strong pro-family values.” What they have are strong anti-gay biases and strong opposition to abortion. That’s really all they mean when they claim to be “pro-family.”

    Let me suggest that they just want sex and are afraid to admit it.

  • D. C. Sessions

    “Pro-family” is the worst form of doublespeak I’ve ever seen.

    “Pro-life?”

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    Let me suggest a reason for this: They don’t really have “strong pro-family values.” What they have are strong anti-gay biases and strong opposition to abortion. That’s really all they mean when they claim to be “pro-family.”

    You left off a fanatical devotion to patriarchy. I imagine that women who don’t want to be treated as chattels and men who can’t handle any independence in women contribute a lot to the failed marriages.

  • AsqJames

    All the percentages in the second quote seem to refer to people who are “currently divorced”, which seems a little misleading to me. Are they not counting people who are on their second (or third or fourth…) marriage? Aren’t those people both “divorced” and “re-married”? I mean they’re still divorced from the person they used to be married to, it’s not like the divorce was annulled.

    I wonder what that would do to the figures.

  • peaches

    I think smrnda @ 18 hits on a great point. Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism has talked a lot about the lack of adequate and honest marriage preparation in evangelical circles. Specifically, the fiction that the only route to a happy sex life is to completely abstain from sex (including just thinking about sex) prior to marriage. Evangelical youth are promised a phenomenal sex life once they’re actually married as long as they totally abstain prior to the wedding day. There is no advice given nor tools provided for couples who don’t get the perfect sex they were promised. It seems that the evangelical view of marriage generally follows this pattern; it’s a great big dose of just-world fallacy and magical thinking all wrapped up together: if you just follow the right steps in the right order and be a good boy/girl, your marriage will be instantly and always perfect. Communication is not emphasised as a tool for dealing with problems because those problems should not exist. If they do it’s because you (usually the woman) did something wrong and you should try and fix it unilaterally without taking to your spouse about whatever the problem is. Libby Anne’s threads on evangelical marriage advice almost always boil down to how communication with your partner is never offered as a solution to marriage problems. It seems unsurprising that this model of marriage would fail at higher rates.

    At least Catholics seem to understand that ant marriage can face problems and that counseling and communication are good things.

  • peaches

    *any* marriage, not ant marriage. Though I’m sure ant marriages have their own unique sets of problems too.

  • matty1

    @25 “You left off a fanatical devotion to patriarchy.”

    Would you like to come in again?

  • http://festeringscabofrealityblogspot.com fifthdentist

    It is totally about family values. When a fundamentalist is caught screwing around, he gets divorced and then starts ANOTHER family. And the wife he screwed around on gets remarried and becomes part of another family.

    Some of the people I graduated with in high school are in their third family. Fundamentalists love families so much that they are constantly forming new ones.

    How many families have you atheists started?

  • matty1

    I would think the whole male dies after mating once thing would be an issue for ant marriages. Then again this might work well for some people.

  • dingojack

    ArtK (#25) – ‘… and a night out with the neighbours. Oooooohhhh!! Cardinal Fang, You’ll have to do it!’

    Peaches (#28) – not sure about marriages but Redbacks (Latrodectus Haseltii) sure put a crimp in art families.

    :) Dingo

  • dingojack

    Especially those bloody flying Manets. Little bastards ruin a perfectly good picnic..

    :) Dingo

    ———–

    I blame having to type the last post THREE BLOODY TIMES!!! FIX THIS ED – NOW !!.