Divorce and Religion — Which Religions Are More Likely to See Divorce?

Study Looks at Connection between Divorce and Religious Practice

Church congregationIn a national study on the relationship between religious practice and divorce rates, researchers found some interesting—and surprising—trends.

Though the common perception is that half of all marriages end in divorce, the study showed that the national average is actually around 36%. One of the first surprises of the study—those who are self-proclaimed atheists are among the least likely to seek a divorce. The research showed that atheists and Catholics were the most disinclined to obtain a divorce, with slightly more than one out of every five pursuing divorce.

For purposes of the study, researchers distinguished between “born again Christians” and Protestants as a whole. Here are the rates based on the major categories in the study:

  • Atheists—21%
  • Catholics—21%
  • Born-again Christians—27%
  • Jews—30%
  • Muslims—31%
  • Protestants—34%

Divorce, Religion and Geography

The study also looked at the impact of region or location on divorce. Those states that fall in what is customarily referred to as the “Bible Belt,” in the South and the Southeast part of the United States, generally had higher rates of divorce, probably due to the fact that those states are heavily Protestant. The anomalies in the Bible Belt—Alabama and Arkansas. States in the Bible Belt with high rate of divorce include Kentucky, Oklahoma and Mississippi. By contrast, New Jersey—a predominantly Catholic state—has one of the lowest incidences of divorce in the country.

Researchers theorize that more conservative religious states tend to encourage marriage at a younger age, and may rely on abstinence rather than pharmaceutical contraception, often factors in increased divorce rates. The statistics in New Jersey support this theory. The state has one of the oldest average ages for marriage, as well as one of the country’s highest average incomes.

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