Fox News is loudly proclaiming that President Obama has declared War on Traditional Marriage!. really Fox? Then why were divorce rates among Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians the highest in the county since before someone even imagined that Gays and Lesbians should be allowed the same right to marry as other people? Those statistics came, by the way from a Evangekical Christian research institute, the Barna Group, in the year 2000:

Denomination (in order of decreasing divorce rate)

Non-denominational** 34%
Baptists 29%
Mainline Protestants 25%
Mormons 24%
Catholics 21%
Lutherans 21%

Barna’s results verified findings of earlier polls: that conservative Protestant Christians, on average, have the highest divorce rate, while mainline Christians have a much lower rate. They found some new information as well: that atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rate of all. George Barna commented that the results raise “questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families.” The data challenge “the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriage.” […]

The data showed that the highest divorce rates were found in the Bible Belt.* “Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma round out the Top Five in frequency of divorce…the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average” of 4.2/1000 people.

* Note: Divorce rates were still higher in the Bible Belt as of 2009 according to a US Census report.

I don’t remember much discussion of marriage rights for same sex couples back in 2000, do you? Perhaps among gay activists but not in the national news. Maybe, just maybe, the people who fired the first shot in any so-called war on marriage were conservative Christians, and they were shooting themselves in the foot at that! After all, the divorce rate is lower among (drum roll please) atheists and agnostics than among Christians — yes, lower even then Catholics!

The Barna Research Group, an evangelical Christian organization that does surveys and research to better understand what Christians believe and how they behave, studied divorce rates in America in 1999 and found surprising evidence that divorce is far lower among atheists than among conservative Christians – exactly the opposite of what they were probably expecting.[…]

Barna should, however, acknowledge that the divorce rates for conservative Christians are higher than for liberal Christians. He also doesn’t take the further step of acknowledging that perhaps conservative Christianity and conservative religion in general are unable to provide a sound basis for marriage – that perhaps there are other, more secular foundations for marriage that conservative Christians are missing. What might they be? Well, an obvious possibility is treating women like fully autonomous equals in the relationship, something which conservative Christianity frequently denies.

The difference in divorce rates is particularly interesting given the fact that the Christians getting divorced in the highest numbers are among the same Christians who are most likely to raise an alarm about the state of marriage in society. They also tend to be the same Christians who want to deny gays the right to marry on the assumption that gay marriage is a “threat” to the institution of marriage. If marriage is in any danger in America, perhaps the threat comes from the unstable marriages of conservative Christians, not the relationships of gays or the marriages of godless atheists.

Yet I don’t see Fox or other right wing news/disinformation outlets claiming atheists pose a “fundamental threat” to marriage, do you? “Gay Marriage” is the supposedly the only danger to marriage among all the “Real Christians” (i.e., the ones who aren’t liberal, who by the way also have lower divorce rates than fundamentalists).

You know what? If the Fundies want to save traditional marriage maybe they should all convert to Hinduism. According to a Pew survey in 2008, American Hindus have the lowest divorce rate in the country at 5%. Obviously gay marriage doesn’t seem to have affected them much. Just a thought my fundamentalist Christian friends, just a thought.

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