Is 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-believing” Christians 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: Alternet.com 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