What good is religion? Faith can be a powerful force in marriage

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series What good is religion?

FROM WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome journalist David Briggs, who specializes in reporting on research into the impact of religion in American life. This is his fifth and last column in the series …

Wedding rings

Photo by Jennifer Dickert, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The economics of relationships are shifting, and generally not in a positive way for the institution of marriage.

The recession, the rising financial independence of women and cultural shifts and technological advances that make single-parent families more acceptable and feasible are contributing to fewer people walking down the aisle.

Religious groups are not immune to these trends, but new research indicates faith is a powerful force slowing the decline.

Regular church attenders marry at higher rates, divorce at lower rates, are less likely to engage in extramarital sex and have more children than the general population, one new study found.

And highly religious individuals are most likely to hold up traditional models of marriage despite the financial costs involved, including the loss of income when one parent cares full time for children.

Two studies presented at the recent annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture provide insights into why people of faith are more willing to pay the high costs of marriage and raising families even in an economic downturn.

“Religious incentives play a central role in marriage decisions and should play a role in any economic model of marriage,” researcher Brian Hollar of Marymount University said in his presentation, “Holy matrimony, Batman! Why do the devout pay so much for marriage?”

There are unhappy and abusive unions, but research has indicated numerous benefits associated with married life. Married people, in general, live longer, are happier, have better mental health and are less likely to suffer from long-term illnesses or disabilities, studies have found.

Do these findings seem reasonable in your experience?

Are you married? Is faith a positive factor in your marriage?

Are there ways religion plays a negative role in marriage?

DAVID BRIGGS writes the “Ahead of the Trend” column for the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA). You can read David’s entire column, called “Faithful Unions: Religion Buffers High Cost of Marriage,” at the ARDA website.

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