Graph Answers the Question: Do Christians Divorce More than Average?

In 2008, the Barna Group released some troubling statistics: 33% of Christians are divorced versus 30% of atheists/agnostics. This caused some teeth-gnashing among religious leaders as they sought to understand and explain these numbers.

In theory, Christian marriages should last longer. The bible says “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16) and teaches husbands and wives to live together in “mutual submission” (Ephesians 5:21), loving, sacrificing and forgiving one another as God does for us.

So is it true? Do Christians divorce at the same rate as non-Christians?

Well, no. Because that same research also shows that Christians marry more often than atheists and agnostics. 84% of Christians are married, or have been married, versus only 65% of atheists/agnostics. So when comparing marriage rates and divorce rates, you can see that only 40% of Christians who marry also divorce, versus 46% of atheists.

Research by the National Opinion Research Center confirms this: 42% of Christian marriages end in divorce vs 50% of non-Christian marriages.

Even this doesn’t tell the whole story. According to the Oklahoma Marriage Study, among those who are still married, Christians say they are more committed to their spouse, more satisfied with their marriage and less likely to discuss divorce.

The moral: percentages only tell half the story. To understand the full story, ask “what makes up the rest of the 100%”? That may uncover more interesting stories, and the full truth.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

4 thoughts on “Graph Answers the Question: Do Christians Divorce More than Average?

  1. Your graphics are nice and they do tease out more from the data. However, if we are to “understand the full story” we need to look further at the underlying assumptions and conclusions. I have no idea what the real situation is but I can see some complexities that are not considered, eg,

    1. The data seems to be a subset of Christians – evangelical, etc, not all Christians.

    2. The data is only from US Christians, a small majority of the world’s Christians, so the conclusions, if correct, can only be applied to that demographic, not “Christians” overall.

    3. It compares churchgoing Christians and non-Christians. Does it take into account whether it is the community effect of church going rather than being Christian? For example, compare married and non-married church attenders, compare church attenders with people with similar social, non-religious connections.

    4. Because people say they are more satisfied doesn’t mean that they are – your final graph. They may be saying that because there is an expectation of them that they will say that. Likewise they may find it more difficult to leave a marriage.

    There are many other possible nuances that the graphs tend to gloss over. Being a scientist, I am always wary of absolute conclusions from epidemiological studies, especially if they do not appear to be tested on independent data and peer reviewed. John Ioannidis (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1182327/) has shown that many published scientific studies reach unjustified conclusions.

    To me, the moral is not just to to present the data clearly (as you do) but to also dig deeper into studies before accepting their conclusions.

  2. In Christianity divorce is a sin. So this makes sense. I guess Christians win. You guys can keep being goody goodies, attach yourself to societal structures and taboo, and believe that that Jewish guy walked on water. Ultimately the world is just like school. Just because you got the gold star, the 4.0 GPA, or stayed married to a person doesn’t mean that your going to be the best person. I’m glad you became the tool that your parents always wanted you to be.

    1. I have no idea what your rant is intended to say, Nick. You obviously have some negative attitudes toward Christians given your word choice. Ultimately, your comments say more about you than they do about me.


      Bruce Gabrielle

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