Marriage Stats

I had always assumed that the often-quoted “50% of marriages end in divorce” statistic was one of those bunkum urban-legend stats, akin to “75% of communication is non-verbal” and “you only use 10% of your brain.”

But it turns out the Center for Disease Control actually keeps stats on this issue. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in this survey, which was obtained by face-to-face interviews in 1995 with more than ten thousand women (a representative sample of the US).

In particular, Table 21 (on page 64 if you’re following along) lists “probability of first marriage disruption by duration of marriage.” It includes both divorces and separations without formal divorces, separated into columns by years and into rows by different characteristics, such as education, income, and religion.

If I’m reading this chart right, 43% of marriages fail in the first 15 years, which makes the often-stated 50% estimate for all marriages sound pretty reasonable.

More interesting is the breakdown by categories. It looks like if you want a long-lasting marriage, the best thing for you to do is to be an Asian. 23% of Asian marriages failed by the 15 year mark, compared with 42% each of white and Hispanic marriages and 55% of black marriages.

Religion does play a role, but not as much as you’d think given how much the Religious Right bangs on about the sanctity of marriage. 40% of “Fundamentalist” marriages marriages broke down before the 15 year mark, compared with 37% of Catholic marriages, 44% of “Other Protestant” marriages, and 56% of those claiming no religious affiliation.

How seriously you take your religion makes a difference too. 39% of those who claim religion as Very Important to them had a broken marriage by the 15 year mark, compared with 45% of those claiming it as Somewhat Important and 54% of those claiming it as Not Important.

There’s a lot of other factors that they track, and not just about marriage breakdowns. There are tables about the likelihood of first marriage by age (75% of women are marriage by age 30), probability of cohabitation transitioning into marriage, and probability of remarriage after divorce. It’s fascinating stuff to explore.


I learned a useful new word today from Karen Armstrong’s recent TED Talk about religion. This word comes from the Quran, which dismisses religious opinion as:

zanna — self-indulgent guesswork about matters that nobody can be certain of one way or the other but which makes people quarrelsome and stupidly sectarian

I’m glad to have found this, because there needs to be a single word to describe the sorts of arguments I hear all the time about religion, especially in the fundamentalist circles. It is unbelievable the petty arguments that I hear, and that I’ve participated in.

For example, there is significant controversy over whether Christians will be called up to heaven to be with God before the final seven years of Tribulation, or whether they will have to endure the Tribulation before being called up. This issue is quintessential zanna: People have divided up into “pre-trib” and “post-trib” camps over an issue which has absolutely zero bearing on Christians’ behavior.

Another example is the King James Only controversy, wherein one camp believes that God specifically protected the Textus Recepticus (the Greek and Hebrew source materials for the King James Bible) from copy errors, and the other camp believes that modern archaeologists have discovered better Greek and Hebrew source texts. This issue has literally divided Christian fundamentalists into two separate factions, when all the variations between the two texts could fit on a single piece of paper. It is absurd.

Of course, this behavior is hardly new for Christianity. The Arian schism in the second century AD (where people argued vehemently for decades over whether Jesus was the same substance as the Father, or whether he was of a similar substance as the Father) threatened to tear the early church apart. Century after century, Christianity breaks into smaller and smaller factions, usually over the weakest of differences.

Zanna, all of it. Paul calls it “carnal” –fleshly, unholy behavior. Enough.

When we fight over zanna, we substitute love for one another (by which all men are to know that we are his disciples) for animosity. We trade the peace of God for unholy conflict.

But the worst thing about zanna is the fact that while we argue over the things we cannot know, we neglect the things that we do know. We neglect the Golden Rule. We neglect our duties to the poor and the fatherless. We neglect the kindness and humbleness that Christ exemplified. People die lost and alone while we argue over metaphysics.

It’s time for peace. It’s time to come together and to admit that we all worship the same God. We all want to live in peace here on Earth, and we all ought to be kind to each other while we’re down here. Let’s stop guessing at the details of the divine plan and start doing what we all know we should be doing instead.

Sick Religion

I was watching this BBC documentary on the cult of Scientology, where I heard the story of Michael Henderson, a man who was one of the early members who recently grew disillusioned and left the church.

One of the practices of Scientology is “disconnection,” where followers of the cult stop communicating with family members who are antagonistic to the church. The members of Henderson’s family who are still in the cult refuse to speak with Michael or with his dying father. About nine minutes into the video, Henderson says, on the brink of tears:

It’s difficult to describe how a man of 76 years whose proudest accomplishment in life is his six children… They won’t speak to him.

It’s sick to see how manipulative Scientologists can be, twisting and breaking the ties of family for their own ends.

Of course, Scientology is hardly the first religion to do this.

One of the staples of the missionary stories my mother has told me is of people being disowned from their families for converting Christianity. People are persecuted for leaving Hinduism and Islam, and even for converting from the Catholic version of Christianity to a Protestant version of Christianity.

Last night in church, an evangelist from Ambassador Baptist College gave an illustration of a man who was rebelling against his parents’ religion. One day, he heard some noise in his house as he was preparing to leave for work in the morning, and went to investigate. It was his mother, praying. She was pleading with God, saying “I’ve already had one son go away from you, and I can’t bear to lose another one. Please, bring him back to you, Lord. And if he won’t repent and come back to you, Lord, I want you to kill him.

That is sick. It is wrong.

And yet the evangelist was praising her for this! Because it worked. After a near-death experience, the man returned to Christianity. The preacher called this twisting of the familial bond “calling sin what it is.”

I cannot bring myself to praise any religion that would make a mother wish death upon her own child rather than see him choose a different path.

If your religion demands that you cut off ties with your family merely because they disagree with you, you should cut off ties with the religion instead.

Religious History Timeline

Someone went to the trouble of putting thousands of years of religious history on a timeline. It’s really cool; it goes from A.D. 1 through present day, covering the reign of Pontius Pilate and the ministry of Christ through the publishing of The Da Vinci Code and the discovery of the Gospel of Judas. Click on any event to get a little more detail. The top two bands are Jewish history, while the bottom two are Christian history. It’s really interesting to poke through.

ACLU Defends Christian Student’s Religious Expression

For too long Christian organizations have condemned the American Civil Liberties Union as anti-Christian and anti-religious freedom, accusing them of wanting “to remove any vestige of Christianity from public life.” This accusation is false.

What the ACLU actually opposes is the promotion of any particular religion by the government or by government-run organizations. In fact, their position on religion in public schools is quite balanced, and a position that Christians should be able to stand behind (my emphasis):

The ACLU defends students’ free speech rights in the public schools and defends students’ rights to pray in the schools. Additionally, whenever a teacher allows children to choose their own topics for an assignment (such as which book to read, which song to sing, or which topic to study for a presentation), students may choose religious themes – and the ACLU has protected their right to do so. Schools may also offer courses about religion or about the Bible or other religious works.

Public schools themselves should not, however, be in the business of promoting particular religious beliefs or religious activities. While it is permissible for public schools to teach about religion, it is not permissible to promote particular religious beliefs. While public schools should not be leading children in prayers or religious ceremonies, they should be respectful of the religious beliefs of students. Further, public schools should protect children from being coerced by others to accept religious (or anti-religious) beliefs. Public schools should seek to create an environment conducive to learning by all students and not act as vehicles proselytizing for religious or anti-religious beliefs.

The ACLU believes that the religious education of children should be directed primarily by parents, families, and religious communities – and not the public schools.

This isn’t just rhetoric. For example, in 2004, the ACLU sued a school for censoring a student’s yearbook entry which contained bible verse.

But you’ll never hear a pastor talk about how the ACLU defended religious liberty, will you?

Right now, the front page of the ACLU web site prominently displays a Bible verse.

But of course, the ACLU is an evil organization bent on destroying America’s Christian culture, right?

Enough already.

The ACLU says that the government and the schools shouldn’t be trying to influence your kid’s–or your–religious beliefs. That’s what the separation of church and state is all about. Why would you want the government telling you what to believe?

Christians: Stop attacking the ACLU. You’re only hurting people trying to protect your religious liberty.

UPDATE: Further investigation turns up “The ACLU Fights for Christians,” a collection of news links demonstrating that the ACLU fights for–and not against–Christians. For example: The ACLU defends a girl who wants to sing “Awesome God” at a school talent show, ACLU demands that a county put up a Christmas tree, and the ACLU helps free a street preacher from prison.

More Fun @ Christian Supply

I’m always amused when I visit Christian Supply, a local Christian bookstore, for a couple of reasons. First, I love seeing the innovative new ways that people try to sell Bibles. You might think that there’s no market for a 2,000 year old book that most everyone in the South already has a copy of, and you’d be right. That’s why Christian marketers have had to invent things like:

Drink Deeply Bible

This is essentially a standard paperback Bible, but stuffed into a plastic box.

metal biblemore metal bibles

This is a Bible in a metal case. Same words, different style!

Second, I enjoying seeing the blatant exploitation of trends in popular culture, such as:

jack bauer as religious instruction

Frankly, that could be referring to their ratings this season as well as to anything spiritual.

christian ipod nano cases

If there is a consumer product, there will be a Christian rip-off of it. Seriously though: Tune in to God? You know iPods don’t have radios in them, right?

These next couple are from the Christian Self-Help section:

Probably the same guy who moved your cheese.

They don’t even try to dress this one up in spiritual language. They just get right to the point.

Then, there are the T-Shirts, ranging from the irreverent to the nigh-blasphemous.

I like how they trademarked this.


That’s clearly a picture of a headless dog being held down by a pair of tires.

As with any advertisement, you have to watch that fine print.

If there is MySpace in your afterlife, you did not go to heaven.

Jesus as the Starbucks Lady. Calvin and Zwingli would not approve. Not as offensive as the Godweiser T-Shirt, but close.

As long as Christians are a marketing demographic, there will be cheesy Christian-targeted books, products, and clothes, and I will always have something to write about after going to Christian Supply.

On Traditional Marriage

I found a new favorite quote about gay marriage today:

Throughout history, marriage has formed the cornerstone of human society, and we experiment with that institution at our own peril.

Of course, throughout history, it’s more common to find societies where men take multiple wives. I don’t see why we need to redefine that part of marriage.

Also, most marriages were arranged by elders to establish economic liaisons between families. And the family of the bride was usually prepared to pay the family of the groom a healthy amount to take her off their hands.

Now the liberals are trying to shove this whole monogamous marriage for romantic love fad down our throats. I’m a real conservative. I want six wives chosen by my dad, and I want each one to come with a free donkey.

Not Again

idol.pngSome folks in Florida have erected a new 10 Commandments idol in front of the Dixie County courthouse.

*sigh* Here we go again. We can look forward to the ACLU suing Dixie County, to pastors around the country denouncing the ACLU and using this event as a demonstration of how “oppressed” Christians are in the United States, to the courts eventually deciding in favor of the ACLU, and to a few months of peace before some nutjob tries this again.

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: A block of granite that size costs $20,000. How many people can you feed with $20,000? How many gospel tracts can you buy? How many missionaries could your church support for a year with $20,000?

This isn’t about spreading the gospel or doing any kind of good. It’s about building the egos of the donors and the Dixie County commissioners. Don’t believe me?

Former Commissioner John Driggers broached the subject on behalf of an unnamed county resident, asking whether the board was “bold enough” to allow the monument to be placed at the courthouse. After then-county attorney Joey Lander told the board he would defend any lawsuits stemming from the decision for free, commissioners voted in favor of allowing the project to proceed.

Joey Lander and John Driggers are using the ten commandments as a publicity stunt. Maybe, just maybe, this time conservatives won’t fall for it like they did the Roy Moore publicity stunt in 2003.

But who am I kidding?