Bible Belt? Divorce Belt?

The Barna Research Group’s national study showed that members of nondenominational churches divorce 34% of the time in contrast to 25% for the general population. Nondenominational churches would include large numbers of Bible churches and other conservative evangelicals. Baptists had the highest rate of the major denominations: 29%. Born-again Christians rate was 27%. To make matters even more distressing for believers, atheists/agnostics had the lowest rate of divorce: 21%…

The study shows that Catholics have a lower than average rate of divorce, 21%.

Some people speculated that Catholics don’t divorce as much as other Christians because their church has held the line against divorce, forbidding it absolutely.

I would like to hear from both Protestants and Catholics as to why they think the divorce rates are this way. I am also curious as to what you all think can be done to lower these rates. I have a few opinions of my own but will wait to hear from you all.


I never understood why bible christians think that Christ was kidding when he spoke of marriage permament sacrament in Matt 19. Diviorce is not necessarily a sin, remarriage is; as long a the first marriage was reconizied by God as valid. A person who remarries after a civil divorce is living in a constant state of adultery in the eyes of God. That how Christ explained it.

Can a “saved” person still be saved if they break the convenant with God and a spouse. The coventant that was confirmed and spoken in the presents of a faith community, a church and God.

If that covenant of marriage can be broken, how can you be assured salvation as a “once saved always saved” tradition believer?

In the Baptist theology, salvation has nothing to do with how you live your life. It is ‘faith alone.’ The way it was explained to me by folks of Baptist descent is that our actions are so riddled with sin that from God’s perspective, there is very little difference between Hitler and Mother Theresa. Only having Christ’s righteousness ‘cover’ us makes us acceptable to the eyes of God.

Naturally, I disagree and hold to the Catholic stance that Grace actually DOES transform our souls and that we are called to actually become holy, not just to appropriate Jesus’ holiness as our own. This requires our assent and efforts, but cannot be accomplished merely with our own strength of will.

In fairness, much of the south has a very different culture and a LOT of southerners marry very young compared to up north and out west. I bet if you broke it out by the age when they got married, things even out quite a bit.

The basic problem is a lack of preparation for marriage. People marry too young and for many of the wrong reasons. Annulments are obtained because of impediments, most of which are related directly to this lack of maturity and preparation.

However, with regard to the non-denoms: I know from my experience that the non-denoms have a large number of so-called ex-Catholics who have become non-denoms because they harbor objections to certain Catholic teachings. I strongly suspect that the majority of these objections have to do with the marriage teachings of the Catholic Church. People have bad marriages, they want out of them; to go the Catholic route involves the hierarchy in ways that they find offensive. The non-denoms ask no questions, so they can go there and find a receptive home among others who also have objections to Catholic teaching. So, they start with this marriage “problem” and soon have got a list of objections a mile long, and curiously similar to Protestantism.

In my sixty years of being a born again Baptist I have never ever heard this. The idea the a Christian can live his life any way that he or she likes, doing what ever they like, commiting whatever sin comes into their mind condtradicts the whole principle of salvation.
About the Barna Group study, it is totally flawed. More intence study show the rate of divorce is directly related to the amount of time Christians spend in church and other religious activitys and not what denomination they are.

forever Baptist

My honest opinion as to why there are so many divorces in general is that people forget that marriage takes 3, a man, a woman and God. Heck, some churches don’t even teach that it takes a man and a woman anymore. My venture about Catholics is that at least in some diocese they do a good job teaching how to keep Christ in your marriage. My priest, my husband and I discussed this at length and hubby and I are committed to sticking by our agreement too.

I suspect a simple reason is that people of those (non-denoms, Baptist) faiths are concentrated in the South of the USA and it is the norm there to marry earlier than up North or out West. Also, living together is acceptable amongst Atheists, Agnostics, and as it is lived (not taught) Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Jews. So with the later marriages among those groups, they would likely have lower levels of divorce. I suspect they would get to within a few points.

But, I think the theology of the high-divorce faiths also does play into it because the differences are so large. Either they are not preparing young couples adequately for marriage or their theology is too easy on divorce which is why I think Barna harps on this.


I dont look at it as why this denom has more of a divorce rate then another. I look at it as many people go into marriage with preconceived notions of what they thought it would be like–and of course their expectations are not met and boom I want a divorce.

My minister did a whole sermon series on marriage and divorce and quoted Barna ALOT. He feels many christians think that God wants them to be happy so if I get a divorce I will be happy and then that is ok with God.

God wants us to be happy but not at the expense of being sinful or disobediant to God’s word.:eek: Once you are married you are bound by God and must works things out at all costs.

It is way too easy to get divorced in USA. We have such lovely role models in Hollywood:rolleyes: :frowning:

All married couples need to put God first in their lives and He will take care of our marriages, but we have to let Him by submitting to HIS WILL NOT OURS!!! HUMILITY IS THE ANSWER:D
Now with that said—Im still a work in progress for 16 years and counting.:thumbsup:

I agree with the idea many young people were pushed to marry as a means to prevent the sin of fornication. BUT I have a lot of issues with this type of study. Were the marriages equalized? as in the those who marry between the ages of 18-21, 22-25, 25-30, 30 and over compared to other like groups or simply assumed to be equal? Was a person married a second time in the Non denominational church counted as per the first religion or the second? To what extent is the Catholic reporting lowered because the divorced couple no longer called themselves Catholic? How many Protestants were Protestant in name but not practice?

Most divorce comes from one or both people not being ready to marry. I do not believe the religion is the major factor, nor the second factor. I simply seen too many things happen ,often where you would least suspect it.

There you have it- faith and reason can’t be separated.

Pitty you haven’t got any figures for Jews and Mormons!


Does the 21% divorce rate for Catholics include annulments?

I’ve wondered about this myself. I guess one has to look at the source.

Does an annulled Catholic marriage also have to get divorced. Seems like it would in order to keep the legalities/tax responsibilities straight.

I think you would need a divorce from the civil side. After all, when you get married you are married in the eyes of both God and of the State.

Your stats prove out one of theories.
That it’s takes a lot of talent and a lot of moxie to stay married.
It ain’t easy.

It would be well to know whether the divorces of non-denoms occur BEFORE they became non-denoms or WHILE they were non-denoms. Same with all the groups, really.

Catholic divorce statistics do not necessarily mean the same thing as those from other groups. The Catholic Church mightily discourages civil divorce, but does not hold that a civil divorce alone is sinful. It regards remarriage as sinful (adulterous). I have known Catholics who divorced for reasons of safety or getting the property rights, child support, etc established when the other party leaves the marriage. It would be good to know how many of the Catholics got remarried versus other groups. Divorce is no-fault in most places, so if a Catholic’s non-Catholic spouse divorces him or her, the Catholic is presumably in the statistics.

Returning to non-denoms. Non-denoms vary so much, they are difficult to characterize in any meaningful way. Some are non-denoms because the “parent” church was, they felt, too strict. Some because they felt the “parent” church was too lax. Some are centered around a leader, who is the entire glue for the group. Some are composed largely of an extended family.

I could be argued that most protestant groups in the U.S. exist at all because of divorce; that of Henry VIII. (Yes, I know it’s different with Lutherans and a few others) So divorce has a very different aspect to many of them, and that’s to be expected.

Finally, all divorce statistics I have ever seen are skewed by the fact that no differentiation is made between the %-age that are divorced once versus those who are divorced multiple times. If one person is married once and never divorced and another is divorced three times and married four times, then the “marriage failure rate” for both is 75%.

So, while these stats are interesting, they probably tell us less than they seem to tell us.

Generalizations are always tricky. (Except for the previous sentence as it is one of the few times I get to say ‘always’ and not expect a rebuttal) I suppose it depends on the Baptist in question. In my case, it was a bible study of folks that went to Middleton Baptist Church in Wisconsion, dunno which Baptist group they were from. The concept used to introduce the topic was a quote from Romans “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” plus, “For the wages of sin is death.” This was expanded into the the comparison of a heineous monster (Honestly, I forget if it was Hitler or Stalin) and Mother Teresa. The point was made that from God’s point of view, both were horrible sinners unacceptable to Him and deserving of Hell. Only being ‘covered’ by the righteousness of Christ allows the Christian to behold God in Heaven without condemnation. In their theology, the righteousness of Christ is imputed onto the sinner by faith, and is not in any way dependent on the good works of the sinner. Is this different from your own 60 years of Baptist learning?

In catholicism, we believe that the actual individual is changed via Grace, but that the individual’s will and efforts are required in cooperation with Grace. Thus, when when a saint stands before God in eternal Heaven, he will do so not as a sinner covered with the righteousness of Christ, but as a fully sanctified saint no longer containing any sinfulness or even concupiscence. By then he will have been transformed to the point where he actually is objectively worthy of heaven! Cool beans!

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