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POST SCRIPTUM TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE, “ATHEISM AND DIVORCE.”

     The article found below was originally written as a response to research completed by Barna about ten years ago, which helped fuel atheist propaganda about their supposed high marriage success. In 2008, Barna completed an enlightening new study which "conclusively" spotlight the fact that atheists have no reason whatsoever to gloat about any special success in marriage.

“Thirty percent of atheists and agnostics had been married and subsequently divorced. However, the three-point difference from the national average was within the range of sampling error, suggesting that their likelihood of experiencing a dissolved marriage is the same as that of the population at-large. A representative from Barna also pointed out the atheists and agnostics have lower rates of marriage and a higher likelihood of cohabitation, a combination of behaviors that distort comparisons with other segments.(Emphasis mine)

<http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/15-familykids/42-new-marriage-and-divorce-statistics-released> (24 October, 2011).

     As my article below emphasizes, when all relevant factors are taken into consideration, atheists are not at all superior in their ability to live successfully as couples; contrariwise, when both their marriage and cohabitation failure rates are combined, their so called success in relationships becomes nothing but wishful thinking and a gigantic illusion.

Michael C.


ATHEISM AND DIVORCE

     Very little else has produced as much euphoria in atheists than Christian researcher, George Barna's announcement that Born Again and other Christians have a very high rate of divorce, while atheists have the lowest rate. Atheist web sites immediately announced the glorious news worldwide. The divorce rates they published were the following: Jews: 30%; Born Again Christians: 27%; other Christians: 24% -- atheists only 21%. [1]

     According to some atheists, the main reasons why atheists divorce less are as follows:

1. Atheists take marriage more seriously. 

2. Atheists cohabit before marriage .

3. Atheists have an equal relationship with their mates.

4. Atheists reject the patriarchal model.

     An atheist leader, Ron Barrier, spokesperson for American Atheists, was quoted as follows:

These findings confirm what I have been saying these last five years. Since Atheist ethics are of a higher caliber than religious morals, it stands to reason that our families would be dedicated more to each other than to some invisible monitor in the sky. With Atheism, women and men are equally responsible for a healthy marriage. There is no room in Atheist ethics for the type of 'submissive' nonsense preached by Baptists and other Christian and/or Jewish groups. Atheists reject, and rightly so, the primitive patriarchal attitudes so prevalent in many religions with respect to marriage.[2]

     Are the views of this and other atheists really valid? Is there more to all this than what they want us to believe?

     Let's start with the actual statistics. Was George Barna quoted correctly? We have tried to locate the original stats from the Barna site, and this is what we found:

You can understand why atheists and agnostics might have a high rate of divorce, since they are less likely to believe in concepts such as sin, absolute moral truth and judgment. Yet the survey found that the percentage of atheists and agnostics who have been married and divorced is 37% - (Emphasis mine) very similar to the numbers for the born again population.[3]

     Assuming that we are missing something and that, indeed, the 21% mentioned by atheist sites is what Barna really found, we would like to inform gleeful atheists of the following crucial facts they need to keep in mind before they get too euphoric:

1. The sample used by Barna was a bit less than 4000. Atheists and agnostics make up about 10% of the American population (2% being atheists). That means that about 400 of the people sampled were atheists/agnostics (About 80 being atheists). This is hardly a sufficient sample to reach any reliable conclusion. In fact, had the sample proven the opposite, atheists would have laughed the conclusions to scorn -- and they would have been right in doing so. Generalizing about a population of 6 million atheists from a small sample of eighty people is simply absurd and very far from scientific.

2.  Atheists tend to cohabit in large numbers. According to Barna, " Forty-two percent of adults who associate with a faith other than Christianity had co-habited, while atheists were the most likely to do so (51%).[4]        

     It is critical to stress that it is a well known fact that cohabiters experience a very high number of "breakups" before getting married. "Millions of people ...  believe that cohabitation is a prelude to marriage. And for many, it is. However, Smock reports that 45% of cohabitations break up with no marriage. Another 10% continue cohabiting."[5] 

     Barna did not include this enlightening fact in his research. Thus, if 21% of atheists divorce after marriage, and 45 % break up once or more before marriage, what we have is the astounding rate of about 66% of atheist couples experiencing "at least" one break up. If, however, the number is 37%, then we have a shocking figure of 82%. How is that for success in relationships?

     What needs mentioning is the fact that many atheists do not cohabit as a prelude to marriage. They in fact see cohabitation as "equivalent" to any marriage relationship. Therefore, their cohabitation break ups are to be seen as the end of what was to be a committed relationship. These break ups were not included in the Barna research, thus giving an incomplete picture of the true state of relationships among atheist couples.

     It should also be stressed that, unlike what atheist propagandists preach on the Internet, it is a well established fact that people who live common law before marriage have a greater, not lesser chance of divorce than couples who don't live common law. Thus, given the fact that atheists' cohabitations rates are 51%, it is quite possible that their divorce rates are actually higher than the 37% mentioned by Barna.

"A study of 3,300 cases based on the National Survey of Families and Households, (NSFH) found that in marriage, prior cohabiters “are estimated to have a hazard of dissolution that is about 46% higher than for noncohabitors” (DeMaris & Rao, 1992).  Larry Bumpass, who has overseen NSFH studies, concurs" [6]

     These facts totally shatter atheists' contention that cohabitation is a good thing, and that it is one of the reasons why they have a low rate of marital dissolution. The truth is the very opposite.

3.  Catholics and some other major denominations, according to Barna, have a 21% divorce rate. Furthermore, there are smaller Christian groups where divorce is probably next to non-existent, given their strong belief that marriage is a sacred institution not to be tampered with. Conveniently, atheists don't bother mentioning them.

4.  Research indicates that what correlates highly with marital success is age at marriage and finances. People who marry young tend to have a greater probability of divorce. People who experience financial stress have greater probability of divorce. Baptists, for instance, tend to marry younger that atheists. They also experience greater financial difficulties, because of lower educational levels. Therefore, these factors are without doubt affecting their divorce rates.

5. The appellation "Christian" a Christian does not make. There are great numbers of people in this world who call themselves "Christians" but have never internalized the teachings of Jesus Christ. Most, in fact, do not even know what His teachings really are. Another major problem is the fact that large numbers of professing Christians do not even accept a Christian world view. Among Born Again Christians researcher George Barna found that only 9% have a Biblical world view.(7) Whatever the reason, large numbers of Christians do not take seriously Christ's teaching that marriage is sacred and that divorce is only allowed when sexual immorality takes place.

Although Bible scholars and teachers point out that Jesus taught that divorce was a sin unless adultery was involved, few Americans buy that notion. Only one out of every seven adults (15%) strongly agreed with the statement "when a couple gets divorced without one of them having committed adultery, they are committing a sin." A similar percentage (16%) moderately agreed with the statement. The vast majority - 66% - disagreed with the statement, most of them strongly dismissing the notion.[8]

     What we see, therefore, in some professing Christians is a strong disregard for Biblical  teachings, with ensuing marital disasters.

 

6. Given the more "flexible" sexual morals of some atheists, it would be safe to assume that at least some atheist couples have more "elastic" relationships which actually allow affairs with other people. Such "alternative" lifestyles are not condemned by some atheists, given their "tolerant" attitude toward sexuality. Clearly this would prevent some couples from splitting up because of out-of-marriage sexual relationships, at least for awhile. The dark side of this is that it increases their chances of contracting deadly STD's.

 

7.  Recently the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has published its mammoth study on Religion in America based on 35, 000 interviews. The results are quite enlightening in further elucidating the topic of atheism and divorce. According to the Pew Forum a whopping 37% of atheists never marry as opposed to 19% of the American population, 17% of Protestants and 17% of Catholics.(9) How enlightening... Not only do atheists cohabit and break up in very large numbers, they also do not marry in very large numbers.

 

CONCLUSION

     There are, therefore, no justifiable reasons for atheists to gloat about the Barna research. The Barna stats about low atheist divorce rates are an "illusion" that cunning and skillful atheists propagandists have been parading for years to elevate their philosophy. The reality is that relationships among atheists are a vortex of instability with much accompanying turmoil and mental anguish.  When the various relevant factors are taken into consideration, atheists are not as successful in their relationships as they would like others to believe. This does not excuse the very high rate of divorce among "some" Christian groups. Divorce is strongly condemned by the Christian Master, and going against His will makes evident a superficial and hypocritical form of Christianity that only serves to give ammunition to the enemies of Jesus Christ.

Michael Caputo

Author of the award-winning book, God Seen Through the Eyes of the Greatest Minds

[1] Wicker, Christine, "Dumbfounded by Divorce." The Dallas Morning News. <http://www.adherents.com/largecom/baptist_divorce.html> (3 July, 2008).      

Atheist Empire. <http://www.atheistempire.com/reference/stats/index.html> (3 July, 2008).

[2]Barrier, Ron, cited in "Divorce and Remarriage," Religious Tolerance. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm> (3 July, 2008).

[3] "Born Again Christians Just As Likely to Divorce As Are Non-Christians," The Barna Update. <http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=170> (3 July, 2008).

[4] Ibid

[5] Mcmanus, Michael, Mcmanus, Harriet. "How to Create an America That Saves Marriages." Journal of Psychology and Theology, Vol. 31, 2003. <http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst?docId=5002556504> (3 July, 2008).

[6] Ibid

Barna Web Site, "A Biblical Worldview Has a Radical Effect on a Person's Life" <http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=154> (31 august, 2008).

(9) The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. <http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report-religious-landscape-study-chapter-3.pdf> (07 September, 2008)


Further Reading

1. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. <http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report-religious-landscape-study-chapter-3.pdf> (5 October, 2008).

2. Christians vs. atheists: Who really divorces more? <http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?pageId=42582> (5 October, 2008).

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