“Bible Belt Couples ‘Put Asunder’ More,” the New York Times proclaimed on May 21 of this year: “The divorce rate in many parts of the Bible Belt is roughly 50% above the national average.” So much for the notion that secularism is to blame for the decline of traditional families, among other frequently lamented social ills. Apparently, in a least a few states, the divorce rate correlates to an excess of piety, not the absence of it.
What do we make of this amusing correlation? I doubt that religiosity directly causes divorce, but in some cases it may cause marriage, by condemning premarital sex and cohabitation as sinful; and marriage, of course, is the one indisputable cause of divorce. Marry in haste; divorce when you come to your senses. “I had this vision that this is just what people do; Get married, have kids and Christ comes back,” one Oklahoma divorcee told the New York Times.
She remarried, but a great many Oklahomans apparently prefer living in sin. (Religion may not cause marriage after all.) According to the Times, the number of unmarried cohabitating couples in Oklahoma increased 97 percent in the past ten years. It increased 125 percent in Arkansas and 123 percent in Tennessee. The average national increase in unmarried couples for the same period was 72 percent.
Statistics like these are deeply troubling to God-fearing social conservatives like Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who declared a “marital emergency” in his state; and Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, who has initiated a multimillion dollar campaign to strengthen marriage by sending publicly funded “marriage ambassadors” to talk shows and public schools and providing premarital education. ...
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...tates, when the Supreme Court held that Mormons could be prosecuted for entering into polygamous marriages. Thus, Judeo-Christian notions of marriage are incorporated into law while historic Mormon beliefs about marriage are criminalized.
As Utah polygamist Tom Green recently learned, laws against multiple spouses are still liable to be enforced. Green, who boasted five wives and an estimated twenty-five to thirty children, was convicted of four counts of bigamy (and one count of nonsupport). He was not a particularly sympathetic defendant: one of his wives was only fourteen when he married her, and he could not support all the children he promiscuously fathered. So, it’s probably not fair to say he was prosecuted because of his religious beliefs, but he was prosecuted in spite of them. He is not a particularly virtuous man, but he is, after all, a religious one.
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