Atheists Have a Better Shot at Marriage Than Bible-Believers

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wedding rings over bibleIs a family that prays together really one that stays together? According to Tom Ellis, former chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council on the Family, famously claimed that "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." Judging from new findings, that bold assertion couldn't be further from the truth.

Instead, research by the Barna Research Group shows that American divorce rates are highest among Baptists and nondenominational “Bible-believingChristians and lower among more theologically liberal Christians like Methodists. Guess who has the lowest divorce rates? Atheists! Yes, those same heathens who don't even believe there IS a higher power approving of our unions or encouraging us to get hitched.

Backing up the findings: Research in 2008 showed that the Bible belt has the highest divorce rate, whereas marriage is looking a lot healthier in blue states. Interesting!

To be fair, churches can often provide healthy support for marriage: a strong sense of community, marital counseling, and parenting classes, etc. But apparently, that's not enough to keep divorce rates down. One possible reason: points to the fact that many of these congregations are opposed to birth control or encourage couples to be hands-off when it comes to family planning. As a result, these religious young newlyweds have more kids younger, which doesn't exactly sync up with marital bliss. Much research shows couples under 30 years old are less satisfied in their marriage with the birth of each child. (Parenting tends to make couples happier only after age 40.)

I'd also speculate that perhaps atheists are getting married because they genuinely want to -- and are making the conscious decision to of their own, 100 percent personal volition. In other words, there's no push related to what they believe a religion wants them to do. And that could translate to greater happiness and satisfaction in marriage. Other factors: They're more likely to be older when they get married, they have fewer kids and the kids they have are planned, and parenting is more likely to be egalitarian rather than the man being the "head of the house."

I wouldn't say this should be viewed as a reason for anyone to change how they practice or don't practice religion in order to have a healthy, happy, long marriage! But considering how the high rate of divorce is these days, it's certainly food for thought.

What effect (negative or positive) do you think your religion -- or lack of -- has on your relationship/marriage?


Image via AndrewMalone/Flickr

in the news, love, marriage


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Jespren Jespren, many years of studies, after studies, after study have shown the lowest divorce rate between those who 1) don't cohabitate before marriage and 2) identify as 'born again' believers.

Elaine Cox

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics...Benjamin Disraeli

Daisy329 Daisy329

Makes sense to me.

miche... micheledo

My faith has only strengthened my marriage.

But I find this study fascinating and sad.  I read an article last week that talked about how the church tends to promote marriage, sometimes to the point of excluding singles.  Marriage is necessary, or somehow a loftier position then singleness.  It can be pushed to the point that people marry out of a sense of duty or calling in their faith.  And singleness is seen as a curse.

It was an interesting article, made more interesting by this new study.

nonmember avatar Jesse

Jespren, where's your citations on those studies? Did your pastor tell ya that or did you actually read about it? I live in the Bible belt and I promise that the majority of people here get married super young and eventually divorce no matter how strong or weak their religious devotion is.

Lucky... Luckysgirl665

My husband and I have a strong marriage because we work to keep it fun, loving and exciting. That is what keeping a marriage strong is about, having the same goals, staying in love, communication, commitement, trust, keeping it exciting, never forgetting why you got married in the first place, and having fun!

keelh... keelhaulrose

Jesperen, I've done a few minutes of research and have found citations to back up the article and none to back up your assertions other than those dismissing the church going divorced as "not really faithful". I can make a lot of statistics say what I want if I dismiss a part of the population for no reason other than they don't support my ideas. If it worked like that I could say "100% of the gay population wants to marry, if they say they don't they're not really gay" with their standard of proof.

Eddie... EddiesMama1983

 The only reason athiests have a low divorce rate is because most don't marry, they shack up instead!

nonmember avatar Mon

It makes sense.. my SIL uber christian married more then likely so she could sleep with her SO.. a couple years later bam divorce.. my husband and I arent religious and our marriage is going into our 8th year. We didnt marry cause we had to follow some book. We actually cared about each other. Oh yeah and we test drove the car before buying... he liked it and out a ring on it ;)

nonmember avatar skipper

My husband and I are both atheists and we have been married for almost 10 years. Honestly, we do have many "traditional" values in our marriage but they have nothing to do with God or religion. We have a very strong marriage and I hope it lasts forever. I wouldn't wish divorce on anyone regardless of their religion. You don't need God in your marriage to make it a strong marriage.

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