Morality, life's blessings and religion Part 6 Family Values
The born again crusaders love to talk about family values. I don’t buy it for a second of course. I do value family and the family unit. I think it evolved for very important reasons. But I have to question how much these fanatics really value family. Over the years I have seen religious fundamentalism tear families apart. One relative converts and then launches a crusade against the others. She, usually, will tell them how evil they are; how their church is false, how they are going to hell, how they need to convert to her religion.
Families respond to that rather badly. Relatives stop speaking to each other. Parents will reject their own children and have nothing to do with them until they “find God.” Divorces happen, families split up, hatred incubates and grows. Yet the Christians tell us that they believe in “family values”. It simply isn’t true. Family doesn’t come first to them. Their religious fanaticism does. And just as an Islamic extremist is willing to blow himself up to find happiness in heaven the Christianist is willing to blow up his own family.
But they persist to argue that when religion grips a family it is stronger. Is this true? We can again look by checking the divorce rates in our Jesusland states and our Secular States. As I write I don’t know what the results will be and I’ll report them exactly as I find them with proper links provided, of course. In fact various studies have been done to see how religion impacts on family stability. Here is a whole page of such studies. I will have more on this after I check the state by state numbers.
The first problem I can see immediately is that for some reason the national data is good for most states but some of our Jesusland states have no statistics available. I am looking here.
I checked a second site and skipped it because it was missing this data as well. I wonder why these states are unable, or unwilling, to provide this information. We are also missing data on California that is recent. We have the 1990 figure but not the current one. I will look at what I can find. These are all for 2002. Some states are missing from the list.
North Carolina 4.5
NEW HAMPSHIRE 4.3
South Carolina 3.4
NEW JERSEY 3.4
RHODE ISLAND 3.2
The statistics for Georgia are very suspicious. If a state had a consistent trend in their divorce rates I would assume it fairly accurate. But Georgia saw it’s divorce rate cut in half in a very, very short period of time. In just seven years they went from 5.1 to 2.5. Divorce, like abortion, can be tricky because of state intervention. If a state changes divorce laws making it hard to divorce then the number of divorces will go down. It they add requirements that slow down the process then divorces may decline shortly after the law is passed only to rise later as couples fulfil the requirements. The divorce rate trend for the entire country has been improving but this is a very dramatic improvement in a very short period of time.
Missing from this list is Oklahoma as well. This is critical because date from Oklahoma exists from 1995 just not from 2002. And in 1995 Oklahoma had one of the highest divorce rates in the country. It should be noted Nevada was hired but it was divorce mill. People moved there, lived there as short period to qualify as residents and then divorced. Hawaii has an very high marriage rate because people fly there to marry and Nevada does the same with divorces. Otherwise Oklahoma was the leader in divorces in the country. Even with the downward trend in all states that would imply Oklahoma has high divorce rate today. California is missing with recent data. It is one of our Secular States. But older data shows California having a relatively low divorce rate.
Even if we take Georgia at face value the missing data skews things a bit and we need to keep that in mind. Some Jesusland states with high divorce rates in the past are now missing from our list. And one Secular State, with a low divorce rate, is also missing. That will skew things to make the Jesusland states look more favorable. Instead of 22 states as in our other surveys we have only 19. Of the Jesusland states where we have current data we find the average divorce rate is 4.57. For the Secular States we have a lower divorce rate of 4.0. But since we had to exclude two Jesusland states with very high divorce rates that lowered their divorce rate average and we had to exclude one Secular State with a lower divorce rate thus increasing their divorce rate.
One way to adjust for this and get an idea of how this changed things is to actually use older divorce data that is more complete. If we use the 1990 statistics we can add California and Oklahoma back into the equation. But Louisiana is still missing. Using 1990 data from the same source we get the following:
North Carolina 5.1
NEW HAMPSHIRE 4.7
South Carolina 4.5
RHODE ISLAND 3.7
NEW JERSEY 3
We don’t know where Louisiana might have come in yet. But of the five states with the highest divorce rates four of them are Jesusland states. Adding Louisiana to the mix would not have improved that . And of the five states with the lowest divorce rates all of them are Secular States. When we calculate the averages we find that in 1990 (where we have more complete data) the average divorce rate for the 10 Jesusland states where we have data, was 5.91. For the Secular States it was 4.51. That gives you some idea what excluding Oklahoma and California does to the averages. One article I read says Louisiana historically had a high rate of divorce but I’m still trying to find any number for any year. In addition it should be noted that Louisiana, through the efforts of theocrats there, have made it much more difficult to divorce. If the couple has a child separation time required for a divorce is doubling in lengthy to one year. In addition they are creating new forms of marriage that are very difficult to dissolve.
Now these laws don’t change the emotional content of the marriage. It doesn’t mean the couples are still marred in any way except legally. They don’t even have to be living together. It just makes it very difficult for them to divorce. The theocrats apparently believe that forcing people to remain legally married makes them married in other more meaningful ways. But what we are able to find is that the Jesusland states do have a higher divorce rate. The family that prays together is not more likely to stay together. We also have other information that is useful.
In 1999 a Christian research group, Barna Research, did a study finding that born again Christians were more likely to divorce than atheists or agnostics. George Barna, president and founder, said: “While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time.” But I should note that Barna got a lot of heat for this report and later claimed that Christians had the same divorce rate. But of course, if religion binds families together the divorce rate shouldn’t have been the same but better.
The original results showed that among conservative, fundamentalist independent churches the percentage divorced was 34%. Baptists, the largest fundamentalist sect in America, had a divorce rate of 29%. Mainstream Protestants, who tend to have more secular views, had a divorce rate of 24%.. Atheists and agnostics, people who are clearly secular in viewpoint, had a divorce rate of 21%.
US regions also show differences. The South, which is where the fundamentalist are strongest has a divorce rate of 27%. The Northeast which is very much more secular has a divorce rate of 19%. Associated Press, using census statistics concluded that the divorce rate in Bible belt states “are roughly 50 percent above the national average”.
Interestingly there is other data which indicates Christians are no more stable in their relationships than non-believers.
There is one other area on family relationships and morality I want to look at here. That is how many children are born to couples who are not married. Do Jesusland states do better or worse than Secular States when it comes to out of wedlock births. Here we have some data.
And here is what we find when we rank the states in our survey.
South Carolina 38.7%
RHODE ISLAND 33.9%
North Carolina 32.8%
NEW JERSEY 28.3%
NEW HAMPSHIRE 24.1%
Of the eleven states with the highest percentage of births to unmarried couples nine of them are Jesusland states and only two are Secular States. Of course of the eleven states with the lowest rate of births to unmarried couples nine of them are Secular States and only two are Jesusland states.l Of the five worst states all are Jesusland states and the five best states are all part of the SSA. In two Jesusland states almost half of all births are to unmarried women. The average percentage of out of wedlock births in the US is 32.8%. Nine of our Jesusland states are either at this level or above it! Only one Secular State from our list is above the national average, all the rest do better than average.