The family that prays together may be less likely to stay together. Research shows that the folks trying hardest to force their religious beliefs on other people, Evangelical Christians, are more likely to divorce than those with no religion at all.
Atheists have the lowest divorce rate when compared to religious groups (except Catholics and Lutherans, with whom they are tied). This is according to a Christian polling company (which confusingly refers to evangelicals as “non-denominational“). The company, The Barna Group, published the numbers in 1999. While many news outlets reported on the study, their links to it are all dead, suggesting that Barna pulled the study off its site. Still available on the website is a 2008 study that, not surprisingly, came to different conclusions.
The original findings about divorce among non-believers are borne out by a 2009 comparison of geographical regions by the U.S. Census Bureau: the Northeast, known as the home of educated liberals (both liberalism and high levels of education correlate with atheism), has the lowest divorce rate, while the Bible Belt has the highest.
The gap between what evangelicals preach about morality and what they do extends beyond their love lives. Federal Bureau of Prisons numbers show that Christians commit more crimes per person than atheists, who commit fewer than the followers of any religion.
In the United States, the “more religious a state’s population, the higher the crime, STD and teen pregnancy rates,” reports Al Westerfield in Knoxville News, summing up the findings of empirical studies. The same pattern holds true when comparing countries: more religious people means more crime, more sexually transmitted diseases and higher teen pregnancy rates.
The numbers make it all the more bewildering that Christians find atheists about as trustworthy as rapists.
A Guardian article discussing what science says about non-believers concludes that atheists are “less authoritarian and suggestible, less dogmatic, less prejudiced, more tolerant of others, law-abiding, compassionate, conscientious, and well-educated.” In a word, based on scientific research, atheists are moral. But that won’t sway evangelical Christians, as they are generally not big fans of science.
They also won’t be moved by the Catholic Church’s acknowledgement that the godless can be good, moral people, since they do not follow the Pope.
The truth is that adherence to a belief in right and wrong doesn’t require a belief in God, and the admirable lives of countless non-believers proves it.
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