Proof #38: Divorce Rate Among Christians

A reply to proof #38 of God is Imaginary.

GII is right: Marriage is a big deal, evidenced by not just the pomp and circumstance surrounding it, but by the Bible itself. Jesus taught that marriage was indissoluble (Mt 5:32, 19:9). And, we know that under the Mosaic Law, adultery merits the death penalty. Marriage is an institution that, at least in theory, is for life.

In Proverbs, we find that we should rejoice in the wife of our youths:

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? (5:18-20)

So GII expects that the divorce rate among Christians should be zero, since God will supernaturally protect that which he joins together. Why would that follow?

What we see in the Bible is admonitions and commands to remain faithful. God’s ideal is that we marry once, and for life. The exception, though often translated as “sexual immorality” in Matthew 19:9, is better understood as unfaithfulness to the entire concept of marriage--dividing or destroying the institution, in other words. So, that means that this proscription from God describes things as they ought to be.

“Ought” implies “can,” but not how things will be. It would make no sense for God to command us to do something that he’s going to do for us. Which means that staying together for life is how God envisions marriage, but has delegated to us to carry out.

So, if the divorce rate among Christians is the same as the rest of the world, that just means that Christians aren’t living up to God’s commands. And that’s not a big surprise or a controversial statement. Jesus, as the Great Physician, came to heal the sick (the sinners), not the well (the righteous).

But, is the divorce rate among Christians the same as non-Christians? Though GII cites a study done by George Barna that says so, two leading sociologists disagree with this study.

The problem is that not everyone who self-identifies as a Christian actually is one. Though its impossible to judge if a person takes Christianity seriously or is just marking a box on a questionnaire, both sociologists who dispute this study added the criteria of regular church attendance to self-identifying as a Christian. With that simple addition, the study shows that Christians with that qualifier attached are actually 35% less likely to divorce.

Christians who don’t attend church regularly are 20% more likely to divorce than their secular counterparts.

A third sociologist adds that religion creates circumstances that help to nurture strong marriages:

Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said that they were more religious reported higher average 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. (source, also the source for the statistics cited above)

So, contrary to GII, it is possible to slice these statistics to show the divorce rate among Christians is much lower than the general population. Even if it wasn’t, all an equal divorce rate between believers and unbelievers shows is that believers still disobey God. Given that God has imposed moral responsibility on people and expects them to adhere to his standards of holiness, he must give us the free will to not do so. That we choose to gratify our flesh rather than our spirit isn’t proof that God is imaginary; rather, it is proof that we need a Savior.