Claim: Atheist matrimony outlasts Christian marriage

So much for “The Family That Prays Together Stays Together.”

A new poll by the Barna Group finds that born again Christians are as likely as non-Christians to get divorced. In fact, atheists are slightly less likely than born again Christians to get divorced, if the poll is accurate. [The difference is within the margin of error.]

Click here to see the complete poll.

Updated: March 31, 2008 — 4:39 pm


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  1. Are atheists more likely to live together instead of get married? So that when they break up, they aren’t counted as divorced? Just wondering. Statistics are funny things.

    Rev. Andrew J. Weaver, Ph. D.

    In the United States, young couples marrying for the first time have about a 40-50% chance of getting a divorce — one of the most stressful events that a person can experience. Marital difficulties and divorce present major risk factors for emotional problems in both children and adults. And, the number of youngsters affected by divorce has increased dramatically — nearly one in three born in the 1990s will experience the disruption of divorce, as compared to one in ten in 1970. About one-third of the children of divorce will experience long-term emotional difficulties. Can religious involvement improve the odds of marital stability and satisfaction?
    There is increasing evidence that for a significant number of people, commitment to a nurturing faith community enhances family life and marital stability. Greater religious involvement has been found to be associated with satisfaction and positive adjustment in marriage in large national studies. In a survey of 4,587 married couples, results showed that when spouses attended church or synagogue together regularly, they had the lowest risk of divorce among all married groups. This study showed that shared participation in a faith community gives a couple a sense of purpose and mutual values that increase family commitment and enhance an integrated social network of relatives and friends.
    A separate 12-year study using a national sample of married persons found a consistently negative association between divorce/marriage difficulties and frequency of church or synagogue attendance. Married couples who participate in worship reported lower levels than those who did not of key problems including: jealousy, moodiness, infidelity, irritating habits, spending money foolishly, alcohol and drug use. The researchers suggest that couples who practice their faith may internalize behavioral norms that are taught in the religious community which are consistent with marital commitment.
    In a comprehensive study of married couples living in a Midwestern city, researchers investigated the relationship between joint religious activities and faith-based belief about marriage with their marital functioning. They found that greater involvement in joint religious activities and increased perceptions of marriage as having a spiritual dimension was linked to better functioning in several non-religious aspects of marital life. The data demonstrated a consistent positive relationship between couples incorporating religious beliefs and practices into their marriage with marital satisfaction, collaboration and fewer marital conflicts. This study strongly supports the efficacious effects of public and private faith involvement for some couples.
    Religious commitment is a consistent predictor of long-term marriage. Couples who had been married for more than 30 years indicated that religion figured prominently in their lives. Many spoke of the spiritual support and comfort that faith offered during difficult times. Their religious beliefs also encouraged commitment though the value placed on the marital bond in their faith’s teachings.
    At a time of widespread concern about the demise of the family, it is important that we understand more about what factors support marriage and family life. Couples are more likely to thrive when they are supported by communities of people committed to marriages. Churches and synagogues are the most common institutions in our society that have both a vested interest in preventing marital breakdown and the capability to deliver counseling and education. If active involvement in faith communities can increase marital commitment and serve as a deterrent to instability and divorce, it is important that people of faith understand this.

    Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D., is a United Methodist minister and a clinical psychologist living in New York City. He is co-author of Counseling Troubled Older Adults (Abingdon, 1997), Counseling Troubled Teens and Their Families (Abingdon, 1999), Counseling Families Across the Stages of Life (Abingdon, 2001) and Reflections on Marriage and Spiritual Growth (Abingdon, 2003).

  3. The issue is not the lable, Methodist, Muslim ect.. The better indicator is the behavior. Do they go to worship together or pray together is a much more productive marker in science. You might look at the work of the sociologist Dr. Chris Ellison at the university of texas as a start.

  4. I do believe that praying together is an important part of a Christian marriage however, just praying together is never going to be enough. The fact is that any marriage can only survive if each spouse is willing to take care of the needs of the other and take the focus off of themselves. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 in the Message translation has a great definition of love which clearly demonstrates the selflessness that love is supposed to be. If couples would focus on this definition of love and not the feeling of being in love, I believe that the divorce rate would drop like a stone and it wouldn’t matter if they were Christian or not.

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