New study: regular churchgoers and married people most satisfied with their love life

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

This article from Science Daily.


Regular churchgoers, married people or those who enjoy harmonious social ties are most satisfied with their love life. This also goes for people who are currently in love or who experience the commitment and sexual desire of their partners, says Félix Neto and Maria da Conceição Pinto of the Universidade do Porto in Portugal. Their findings, published in an article in Springer’s journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, look at the influences on love life satisfaction throughout one’s adult life.

The researchers associate love with the desire to enter into, maintain, or expand a close, connected, and ongoing relationship with another person. In turn, love life satisfaction is a purely subjective, overall measurement of someone’s actual enjoyment of love. To investigate the factors that influence this across various age groups, 1,284 adult Portuguese women and men ranging between 18 and 90 years old were asked to evaluate and weigh specific facets of their own love lives by using the Satisfaction With Love Life Scale.

[…]While education does not impact a person’s love life satisfaction, religious involvement does. The finding that believers and regular churchgoers are positive about their love lives is in line with previous studies that associate religious involvement with better mental health and greater satisfaction with life and sexual relationships in general.

Previously, I blogged about a study reported in USA Today, which showed that people who attend church have lower divorce rates than those who don’t attend church.


It’s been proclaimed from pulpits and blogs for years — Christians divorce as much as everyone else in America.

But some scholars and family activists are questioning the oft-cited statistics, saying Christians who attend church regularly are more likely to remain wed.

[…]The various findings on religion and divorce hinge on what kind of Christians are being discussed.

Wright combed through the General Social Survey, a vast demographic study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and found that Christians, like adherents of other religions, have a divorce rate of about 42%. The rate among religiously unaffiliated Americans is 50%.

When Wright examined the statistics on evangelicals, he found worship attendance has a big influence on the numbers. Six in 10 evangelicals who never attend had been divorced or separated, compared to just 38% of weekly attendees.

[…]Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, agrees there’s been some confusion.

“You do hear, both in Christian and non-Christian circles, that Christians are no different from anyone else when it comes to divorce and that is not true if you are focusing on Christians who are regular church attendees,” he said.

Wilcox’s analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households has found that Americans who attend religious services several times a month were about 35% less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation.

Nominal conservative Protestants, on the other hand, were 20% more likely to divorce than the religiously unaffiliated.

“There’s something about being a nominal ‘Christian’ that is linked to a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life,” Wilcox said.

Whenever I talk to atheists about marital satisfaction and marital stability, they always tell me these myths about how atheists divorce less and are happier in their marriages than religious people. But when I ask them for studies, they don’t have any, or they start to talk about the Discovery Channel or Star Trek or something. It’s like they believe things without any evidence at all. Meanwhile, one also has to note that atheists have much lower rates of marriage than church-attending believers.

Now clearly, there are going to be atheists with great marriages that never break up. But individual cases do not overturn peer-reviewed research studies. The fact is that marriage is an institution that is soaked through with moral values and moral obligations. If you think that morality is just arbitrary customs and conventions that vary by time and place, as is logically consistent with atheism, then the odds are that you won’t be able to stay married for long – if you even get married at all.

8 thoughts on “New study: regular churchgoers and married people most satisfied with their love life”

  1. Not trying to argue, but to give another side of things… from the inside (over two decades heavily involved in the Christian church), I saw a lot of terrible marriages from “regular attenders.” They also were the first to say they’d never get divorced and actually had great marriages. One thing statistics cannot show is that a large group of regular attenders are also deeply weighted by, as you perfectly out it, moral obligation. They can’t face the failure so they lie. Obviously I’m not saying this is everyone. But you know as much as me that it’s true in certain cases, maybe more than you’d want to admit. That is precisely why “stats” are always marred. Even with how many atheists there are in our country, some are lying about being Christian because they “can’t let family know the truth,” so once again our numbers are off.

    1. Having conducted some of these research surveys for education I can tell you that there are rules we have to follow such as an individuals answers must be kept from view from anyone that isn’t directly involved in the research. Your accusations that people have to lie or else their family might find out are illogical. We go out of our way to make sure there’s no contaminating the results for fear of losing our positions and sued for breaking the law. We’re required to tell participants that their answers won’t be seen by anyone else and policies in place to make sure.
      Many in the social sciences are atheists. Do you really think they are so stupid they don’t have safety guards in place to ensure honest answers without coercion? Or do you think you’re the only one clever enough to think of these possible scenarios?

      1. I always enjoy watching an attempt at friendly discourse turn into arrogance on the side of the Christian. You also avoided everything else I said from my actual experience within Christianity.
        But let’s just take your results regarding divorce rates. We know that according to recent surveys atheists and non religious make up approximately 20% of America. Christian (70%) and religious (6%) make up about 76%. So if non-religious get divorced 50% and Christians 42%, the odds are that as a Christian you are way more likely to get divorced. 42% of 76% is higher than 50% of 20%. Putting at into real people numbers? It’s bad. You have to at least see that, right? That might be why we’ve heard from the pulpit so often that it’s the same in and out of the faith.
        And no I don’t think I’m the only one who ever thought of what I said, but it doesn’t make it any less true that people lie. But if survey stats are absolute, then you’ve painted a worse picture of Christianity in regards to divorce. Worse in the faith, not equal to non religious.

        1. The problem is that it’s not the label “Christian” that matters, it’s whether the person is a regular churchgoer. Regular church attendance is a better, but not perfect, measure of whether the couple takes the prohibitions on divorce in the Bible seriously, and has a view of marriage as a commitment that requires self-sacrificial (Christ-like) love. The more the two people in the marriage accept the Christian standard of self-sacrificial love as normative to the marriage enterprise, the less likely they are to divorce. I’ve met women who were cohabitating with atheists who called themselves Christians who prayed to God for career success. Just the label is meaningless, it’s how much skin they have in the enterprise that counts.

        2. I’m curious. Am I an arrogant Christian because I’m defending the intelligence and creativity of atheist scientists or because I pointed out that your post comes dangerously close to insulting them? I’m not sure how either is arrogant or particularly “Christian” but I’ll let you have the last word on that.

          “You also avoided everything else I said from my actual experience within Christianity.”
          That’s because I don’t necessarily disagree with it. I have no reason to disbelieve you. You don’t quite commit an Anecdotal Fallacy. So what did you want me to say? My critique was that you seem to think these examples are statistically significant. I disagreed because of the way research is actually done and since I believe the scientists involved are smart enough to think the same thoughts you have and work to account for them.

          “let’s just take your results regarding divorce rate”
          You ignore the distinction between nominally religious and the genuinely religious in this study.

          “the odds are that as a Christian you are way more likely to get divorced.”
          What you mean to say is that by sheer number of individuals the number of religious divorced is greater than the number of non religious happily married. And that would be true. But for what you actually said. No. The odds are better for the religious because odds are relative to the population. That’s exactly why we use odds and statistics rather than just raw data especially when comparing two groups with different size populations.

          Yes, people lie. But usually to someone and with reason. Answers are kept anonymous even to researchers and no one else is allowed to see your answers. How does lying convince anyone about yourself when no one can know what your answers were? I could equally say that a non religious person “can’t face the failure so they lie”. After all even the non religious feel the obligation not to fail and pain when they do. Even better: a bitter non religious person could claim to be religious and unhappily married to skew the results (and if you read atheist comments on YouTube, that isn’t that far fetched). In that example the liar actually gets something they want by lying, in yours there is nothing to be gained by lying and nothing to be lost by telling the truth. The question is are these scenarios statistically significant?

          “But if survey stats are absolute, then you’ve painted a worse picture of Christianity in regards to divorce. Worse in the faith, not equal to non religious.”
          This seems to contradict your earlier point about lying skewing the statistics to favor the religious. And as pointed out above, the way odds and statistics work the religious have better chances of being happily married than non religious according to this (and several other) studies. The sizes of the two populations doesn’t change that.

          1. I actually wrote an entire other response but the mediator didn’t allow it, which I respect. Maybe he realized what I didn’t. I responded to him thinking it was another comment from you, and got into bible topics I could have avoided. To the mediator, I am sorry. If you don’t want to post this either, I’ll respect that, but I hope you will allow it. Please allow others on your blog to see a view not your own or all this becomes is more indoctrination.
            Memytym, the way your comments read seem arrogant. I apologize if I was/am wrong. As I said in the beginning this was never to argue. I simply wanted to say that stats lie. I was not speaking as an atheist trying to beat on Christians. I was speaking as someone who has extremely deep roots in the world of regular attenders. And there is way more to the divorce rate than what the surveys say.
            You are right, this is about odds not raw numbers. That was bad reasoning on my part.
            I think that you are very wrong about who has more to lose. Christians, such as those who are most churched are indeed also most indoctrinated. They also are more involved, i.e. deeper community ties, ministry involvement, friends who expect certain Christian behavior from each other. Admitting failures and struggles, especially marital is more of a loss for a regular church attender. The non-religious community, especially as painted by Christians, would theoretically not give a damn about their divorce. Now to go a step further, if Christians were to actually divorce they would face the very likely possibility of loss of friends, peer judgement, loss of ministry involvement, loss of value within their community, and on and on it goes. Please don’t act like this is not reality. 33 years of church, multiple churches across the country, I know it is reality. I explained, I personally knew deeply involved church goers that had issues but refused to admit them. My examples are statistically significant. Like most Christian arguments, this entire thing is biased by squeezing things in to prove that “real Christians” don’t get divorced but other people do. Frankly, I think that’s bull. But even if stats say so, it doesn’t acknowledge the crux of the matter. Of course incredibly indoctrinated minds that have been constantly told that divorce is an atrocity and constantly watched a social stigma out upon divorcees, might “have a better chance at staying married” over other people. If anything, the case this all makes is not a positive thing. To me I read that someone like myself who stays with and stays faithful to my wife does so for genuine love while the regular attenders of Christian churches are too scared to leave what’s killing them. If you or the mediator would simply have admitted that from the start I wouldn’t have pushed so hard. But I find it infuriating how Christians ignore everything counter to their views and treat it as secondary information.

  2. Mr King,
    “I simply wanted to say that stats lie… [T]here is way more to the divorce rate than what the surveys say.”
    Statistics don’t “lie.” They don’t “say” anything at all. Before you misunderstand me this is a point to your credit. Data must always be interpreted and the preconceptions going in will dictate how. In this sense I think your concern is valid, regardless of whether you are right or wrong.
    “I know it is reality… My examples are statistically significant.”
    As I said earlier, I’m not contradicting your experience. But here you have gone too far and have committed the Anecdotal Fallacy. Unless you mean you did research on a truly random sample, complete with sound mathematical test for significance, and not just an informal appeal to your personal experience. That’s why repeated studies, submitted to peer review, justified with mathematics are so important. It’s to diminish as much as possible the influence of our individual experience. I admit above that it can never be truly abolished.
    I’ve been raised by drug dealers, bikers, aerospace engineers, mechanics, and the Uber religious and listened to them all. From that, my personal experience states that nothing is quite as deluding as personal experience. Or perhaps my experience has mislead me!
    Words and phrases like “statistical singnificance” have specific scientific meaning. Words matter.
    In addition, the article mentioned is from ScienceDaily. Not a Christian website. And they only post research that has been submitted to secular peer review. And as mentioned, the vast majority of scientists in the social sciences are atheists and not religious. This is not just a Christian propoganda fluff piece even if it’s wrong.
    Further, research (again, done by secular science and submitted to peer review) have shown that most divorcés regret their decision, many remarry. Couples who stay together despite marital problems (barring extremes like violence) tend to have better adjusted children than children of divorced parents.
    Even further, less relevant, and at risk of committing the Anecdotal Fallacy myself, I have talked to non-religious couples with marital problems and they mention pretty much all the same things you have: obligation, peer pressure, not wanting to admit failure, loss of friends, loss of social standing, just none church related.
    “Please don’t act like this is not reality… If you … would simply have admitted that…’
    Please point out where I said it doesn’t happen and that you’re lying. I said earlier I don’t disbelieve your personal experience. I don’t feel the need to “admit” anything.
    “The non-religious community, especially as painted by Christians” I don’t consider the non-religious a ‘community’ since most people don’t group themselves together for such reasons. What’s more, I think it is specifically because I do my best NOT to caricature people of such wide diversity as the non-religious “community” that I disagree with most of your assumptions.
    Now, I have defended the soft sciences three times in as many days. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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