Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Are Atheists Better At Marriage Than Christians?

It can’t be denied that Christianity and Christian leaders elevate marriage to the level of a holy institution. Jesus had a few words to say about the meaning of marriage, and the biggest denominations declare it to be a sacrament on par with baptism. Americans who are less religiously-inclined obviously still get married, but for more secular, social, or financial reasons, not because of the belief that the creator of the universe smiles upon their vows. Considering that religion has been harping on the virtues of marriage for millennia, one could reasonably assume that anyone who browses online marriage records would discover that religious people got divorced less often.

Secular Lovebirds

But according to a study by the Barnes research group, giving marriage a divine glow doesn’t necessarily lead to matrimonial success. It showed that theologically conservative Baptists have the highest divorce rates, with more liberal Christians being slightly more likely to have a more successful marriage, and atheists being the most likely to stick together. Maybe the family that never prays together stays together.
What could possibly account for this discrepancy? Even those who don’t favor religion are a bit puzzled by the counter-intuitive results. Besides providing a strong framework around marriage, religion also gives married couples a social support system in the form of a church congregation. Christian couples who are having difficulties with their marriage can turn to church-based support groups or their church’s pastor or priest to receive moral guidance.

The Downside Of Tradition

One theory purports that all the importance surrounding marriage actually hurts a couple’s relationship in the long run. Since marriage is so important, many people in Christian communities get married and have children early in life. This causes a financially stressful situation, which is a ripe environment for divorce.
Even more well-off Christians may be harmed by a prerogative to have many children. Some highly conservative religious movements, such as the Quiverfull movement, believe it is their holy duty to have have as many children as possible. That may fulfill a divine destiny, but it doesn’t lead to a happy partnership. Some research shows that big families strain marriages, and people who have a lot of kids young frequently have to stick out the early years before finally enjoying their familial legacy when they’re middle aged.
Nonreligious people on the other hand, feel less of a personal imperative to get married. If they believe that they are poorly-suited for the commitment of marriage, they may opt out entirely. With fewer commitment-phobes joining the ranks of the wed, they can’t add to divorce statistics.
Since atheists aren’t backed by a religious tradition of marriage, they also feel more freedom to define what marriage means to them. Features of marriage that used to be considered essential, like having children, are treated more like one tray at the marriage buffet. If they don’t like that part, they simply don’t try it.
Of course, it’s never quite that simple when discussing complex demographics. There are also economic factors to consider, especially since the struggling economy is turning a stable marriage into a luxury item. But this research does challenge the idea that religious people hold a monopoly over marriage.
Robert Pepper is a blogger in Augusta, Maine.  He writes about marriage, dating, and relationships.

1 comment:

  1. A family that prays together will not stay together unless they are actually using religion in their practical life. Most people follow religion with a kind of hatred or vengeance they learn things and preach stuff but fail to follow it. Kind of agree with this post and it surely did make me stop and ponder.

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