It’s common to hear people say that Christians have the same divorce rate as non-Christians. In fact, most people believe this is an established fact. When digging deeper, however, this turns out to be false, at least when we’re talking about practicing Christians. Religious practice, not religious affiliation, makes the crucial difference.
W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, conducted his own analysis which concludes there is a big difference in the divorce rates between those who are committed to religious practice and those who self-identify with a particular faith.
To explain it further, people who refer to themselves as Catholics are 5 percent less likely to divorce, but active Catholics are 31 percent less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation. Among Protestant Christians, those who are nominal Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce than nonreligious people. Conservative Protestants are 10 percent less likely to divorce, and Conservative active Protestants are 35 percent less likely to divorce than people in the general population. The difference was a much more stark difference among Jewish individuals. Nominal Jewish people were 53 percent more likely to become divorced, and active Jewish people were 97 percent less likely to divorce than the non-religious. Wilcox controlled for socio-economic factors.
So, contrary to what you have heard, religious commitment and practice within a traditional religious faith does correlate with stronger and longer marriages. Reasons for these church-goers’ lower divorce rates may include having a community of support to help churchgoers live out the churches’ teachings. There were important correlations of note:
“Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said they were more religious reported higher levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce, and lower levels of negative interaction. These patterns held true when controlling for such important variables as income, education, and age at first marriage,” reported Professor Scott Stanley, sociologist from the University of Denver. (From FactChecker: Divorce Rate Among Christians)
Jennifer Roback Morse writes in the National Review Online that the false assumptions that Christians divorce at the same rate as others is harmful because 1.) It contributes to a general sense that divorce is inevitable. 2.) It demoralizes people on a personal and policy level. 3.) It makes Christians appear to be hypocrites. 4.) People don’t know that religious practice has a stabilizing effect on marriages.
However, in every culture and religion, I think we can agree that divorce more common than we would hope.
Do you believe your belief system and/or religious practice affects your marital strength?
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Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com. Pick up your copy today!
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