More Christians Divorce Than Non-Believers According To Statistics


If you look at divorce statistics by religion it may be a bit surprising. While the assumption may be that people who are practicing members of a religious faith are less likely to divorce, the statistics may paint a complete different picture. The slogan:

“The family that prays together, stays together” is well known among Christians. But is this true? Being a Christian myself I would assume that marriages between Christians have a far better chance than those of non-believers to succeed.

But the slogan seems to fall by the wayside when cognizance is taken of the outcome of research done by the Barna Group in the USA. The Barna Group is widely considered to be a leading research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture. The Barna Group offers a range of customized research, resources and training to serve churches, non-profits, businesses and leaders.

Although many Christian churches attempt to dissuade its members from getting a divorce, the research confirmed a finding that was identified by the Barna Group almost a decade ago that born again Christians have the same likelihood of divorce as do non-Christians.

According to the survey 30% of atheists and agnostics had been married and subsequently divorced, but the Barna Group pointed out that they have lower rates of marriage 65% and a higher likelihood of cohabitation. Barna also stated in a 2004 survey, that one can understand why atheists and agnostics might have a high rate of divorce, since they are less likely to believe in concepts such as sin, absolute moral truth and judgment. Yet the survey found that the percentage of atheists and agnostics who have been married and divorced is 30% - still less than the numbers for the born again population of 33%.

The outcome of the survey below:

Divorce Among Adults Who Have Been Married

(Base: 3792 adults)

Population SegmentHave Been DivorcedNo. of Interviews
All adults33%3792
Evangelical Christians26%339
Non-evangelical born again Chrisitans33%1373
Notional Christians33%1488
Associated with non Christian faith38%197
Atheist or agnostic30%269
All born again Christians32%1712
All non born again Christians33%2080

(Source: The Barna Group, Ventura, CA)

The research found that born again Christians who were not evangelical was indistinguishable from the national average on the matter of divorce with 33% having married and divorced at least once. Multiple divorces were also unexpectedly common among born again Christians.

The survey also showed that divorce varied somewhat by a person’s denominational affiliation. Catholics were substantially less likely than Protestants to get divorced (28% versus 34%, respectively).

Among all born again Christians, which includes evangelicals, the divorce figure was 32%, which was statistically identical to the 33% figure among non-born again adults, the research group noted. According to George Barna, who directed the study "There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage”.

While a higher proportion of born again Christians in the United States marry 84% compared to the national average of 78%, recent trends indicate that Americans are growing more comfortable with divorce.

"Interviews with young adults suggest that they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility," Barna noted. "There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life."

Other population segments least likely to have been divorced include Catholics 28% and Asians 20%. Divorce was at a higher rate among Baby Boomers 38%, African Americans 36%, adults who did not attend college and with lower household income 39% and people who consider themselves to be liberal on social and political matters 37%.

About the Author:

Bertus Preller is a Divorce Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law and 13 years as a practicing attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on and on the expert panel of and is frequently quoted on Family Law issues in newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times and magazines such as Noseweek, You and Huisgenoot, and also appeared on SABC television on the 3 Talk TV show. His clients include artists, celebrities, sports people and high networth individuals. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters, international divorce law, digital rights, media law and criminal law.

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