Here a good study on relationship tempo and relationship quality.
Rapid sexual involvement may have adverse long-term implications for relationship quality. This study examined the tempo of sexual intimacy and subsequent relationship quality in a sample of married and cohabiting men and women. Data come from the Marital and Relationship Survey, which provides information on nearly 600 low- to moderate-income couples living with minor children. Over one third of respondents became sexually involved within the first month of the relationship. Bivariate results suggested that delaying sexual involvement was associated with higher relationship quality across several dimensions. The multivariate results indicated that the speed of entry into sexual relationships was negatively associated with marital quality, but only among women. The association between relationship tempo and relationship quality was largely driven by cohabitation. Cohabiting may result in poorer quality relationship because rapid sexual involvement early in the romantic relationship is associated with entrance into shared living.
The authors are from Cornell University and University of Wisconsin – Madison. Prestigious schools, and very far to the left.
Here’s another recent study that shows that if a woman has more partners than just her husband as a premarital sex partner, the risk of divorce increases.
Using nationally representative data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, I estimate the association between intimate premarital relationships (premarital sex and premarital cohabitation) and subsequent marital dissolution. I extend previous research by considering relationship histories pertaining to both premarital sex and premarital cohabitation. I find that premarital sex or premarital cohabitation that is limited to a woman’s husband is not associated with an elevated risk of marital disruption. However, women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship have an increased risk of marital dissolution.
Data from the 1988 US National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) were utilized to assess the impact of premarital sexual activity on subsequent marital stability. Among white NSFG subjects first married in 1965-85, virgin brides were significantly less to have become separated or divorced (25%) than women who had not been virgins at marriage (35%).
[…]The lower risk of divorce on the part of white women with no premarital sexual experience persisted even after numerous intervening and background variables were controlled.
And I am going to save the best study for last. This marvelous PDF is from August 2014, and is put out by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. It is comprehensive, and links to many papers from decades ago to the state of the art today. It seems like people are really rushing into sex these days, without much thought. They want to have fun, feel accepted, be like their friends, conform to the culture. But sometimes, it’s better to be practical than to be governed by the desire for fun and thrills. If you want to do something, look at the research and find out what the consequences are before you do it. That’s what a sensible person does.
When it comes to discussing the Bible’s rules on sex, evidence is very important. Evidence is what convinces even non-Christian people to take the Bible seriously when it comes to putting sex in its proper place. That’s why we need to know what the Bible says, and we need to augment that with real-world evidence so that it is applied to our own decision-making, and so that we can be persuasive when discussing it with others.
One of the things I’ve noticed hanging around in church on and off the last 20 years or so is that it often seems to be the case the church leaders seem to value some people as leaders more than others. Specifically, it seems to me that church leaders prefer to put athletes and cheerleaders into leadership positions, and they tend to be skeptical of people who have intellectual conversion stories, and intellectual interests. I think I actually got the phrase “jocks and cheerleaders” from Dr. John Mark Reynolds when describing who churches tend to prefer, so I’m not just making this up.
But not everyone sees things that way. Of all the people I’ve met or read, I probably agree with Terrell Clemmons the most. And if I disagree with her, then I usually find out that she is right later on. Pretty much everything she writes about is not only relevant, but practical, which is amazing for a person who writes about topics related to Christian belief and practice. One of the things she likes to write about is the background stories of people who were intelligent and successful as non-Christians, who then went on to become Christians through a careful study of the evidence, and then went on to make a difference through outward-focused enterprises.
Never in his 28 years did Mike Minot imagine he would entertain this unthinkable thought, yet lately of an evening he might easily be found pacing around his house like an awestruck research scientist muttering things like, “It just can’t be! . . . Can it?”
The seismic shift had started quite unexpectedly just a few months prior. He was three years out of law school, and life was great. After years of living on beans and weenies as a student, he had arrived on the scene of success. He had a growing law practice, money in his pocket, and a teeming social life. The world was his oyster.
Then he had received an odd phone call. Normally confident and well-spoken, Jim, whom he’d met while studying for the Florida bar exam, spoke awkwardly, struggling uncharacteristically to get his message out. Finally he got to his point. “Sharon and I have been watching what’s been going on in your life. And we decided we would give you a call and invite you to do something. We believe the Scriptures are very important. They’re very important to our lives, and they’re helpful to us. We know what you think about spiritual matters, but we want to challenge you to take some time at this point in your life and reexamine these things.”
To say Mike was taken aback would be an understatement. He was a perfectly contented atheist, and he had no interest in interrupting his prosperous life to look at anyone’s answers to questions he wasn’t even asking. But he did value the relationship he had with Jim, Sharon, and their two adorable kids. If he were to summarily dismiss this suggestion, what would that do to their friendship? It seemed he should at least put forth a cursory effort, if for no other reason than for the health of the relationship.
First thing to note is that the people who ask Michael to give Christianity a look are successful and intelligent themselves. Not only is Jim studying for the Florida bar exam (so that he has credibility to another lawyer), but Jim’s wife has also given him more credibility by marrying him. Married couples are typically more “grown-up” than singles, and I’m saying that as a chaste single myself who has been successful in education, career and finances. Marriage requires a whole set of behaviors from people that singles don’t have to perform. The point is, though, that Michael is being approached by people from the same professional and social background. He is not being approached by a missionary or a street preacher, but by someone who has been effective in their education, career and marriage.
This really does matter – Christians are often perceived (rightly) as over-emotional, irrational, impractical, and driven more by community than by truth-seeking. It’s very important for Christians who want to produce a return that they not be living with their parents in their 20s, have gap-filled minimum-wage resumes, have $20,000 in student in outstanding student loans from an easy, unused non-STEM degree, and no achievements except zip-lining, skydiving, surfing, and fear-of-missing-out travel.
The journey starts with science:
With no predetermined plan, he delved into both the Scriptures and science. The Scriptures felt intimidating, though, and he was more comfortable with science. Not two weeks in, he found something that totally blew his mind. Ironically, it was something that had been there all along: the solar system—and the mind-boggling precision by which it operates. He marveled at the elegant complexity of it. It appeared way too precise, statistically speaking, to be an accident.
Suddenly, this was no longer a casual exercise. He had to find the natural explanation for the solar system. If he continued on his merry life without it, he would forever live plagued by lingering thoughts that he could be living a lie. Never did he want to go in for a lie, and intellectual honesty demanded that he keep searching.
So he put on his miner’s lighted helmet, so to speak, and went to work. But instead of locating the natural explanation for the solar system, he found himself turning up all manner of equally troublesome phenomena—the fine-tuning of the earth for supporting life, with its balance of nitrogen to oxygen ratios and plate tectonics; the information content of DNA; and the complexities of animal and human life, to name a few. The perplexities mounted, and the whole project snowballed. He would go looking for the explanation for one natural marvel, only to encounter two more crying out for explanation.
If I could communicate one thing to the church, it would be this: whether you agree with the old universe and old Earth timelines or not, everyone who attends church for a decade should be able to state the kalam cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, the intelligent design argument, the fossil record argument, and the habitability argument, to the degree where they are naming scientists, discoveries and specific books where the evidence for these arguments are laid out.
Unfortunately, thanks to the “leadership” of many prominent fideist pastors, many Christians have adopted an attitude of outright suspicion to science, preferring instead to pre-suppose the truth of the Bible by blind faith (“the burning of the bosom”, as the Mormons say), and refusing to study anything outside the Bible that might establish the necessary prerequisites to taking the Bible seriously. Successful non-Christian professionals looking to evaluate Christianity, this blind-faith approach is rightly seen as anti-intellectualism.
Other complications did follow, though. He had trustingly believed teachers and authorities who had taught that everything could be explained naturalistically. What else, now, needed to be reexamined? This went beyond science and philosophy to sociology, psychology—everything had to be rethought according to this completely new paradigm. He would later liken it to being planted on a whole new planet.
And his entire social life collapsed in a matter of weeks. But he joined a church, and it became his new social center as well as his spiritual lifeline. He volunteered to serve as a jail chaplain in the evenings, a post he filled to great satisfaction for fifteen years. He met his wife Nichole at church, and they went on to adopt five children. Life settled into a richly rewarding concert of family, jail ministry, and law. Nothing he’d ever envisioned back in his atheist days could match the prosperity of these blessings.
At first glance, it may seem ironic that an atheist committed to seeing everything through the “lens of science” would come back around to see God through the lens of science. But the truth is, it wasn’t science per se that had hidden his Creator from view. Rather, it was the lens of philosophical naturalism imposed onto science—both in education and throughout the broader culture—that had fostered and fueled Mike’s unchallenged atheism.
Naturalism is a philosophy – a philosophical assumption. It’s not science. The origin and design of the universe are science. DNA is science. Habitability constraints are science. The sudden origin of major body plans in the fossil record is science. There are no scientific arguments for atheism. There’s just speculation driven by naturalistic philosophy.
In the end, Minot turns his life around 180 degrees, and puts his intellect and professional abilities to work for the gospel. You can read about all the ways he is making an impact in Terrell’s article in Salvo Magazine. Always remember stories like these when you are making decisions about your own education and career. God is still working, still reaching out to people through science and history, appealing to their minds for a fair hearing, and then asking for their best efforts for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I thought that I would make some general comments about why I think that many people leave the Christian faith, and what you should be careful of in order to avoid following in Dan Barker’s footsteps, specifically.
Basically, there are four major reasons why people leave Christianity.
They want to do something immoral with impunity. This type of person wants to do something immoral that is forbidden by Christianity, like pre-marital sex or getting drunk in clubs with friends. They dump Christianity in order to have freedom to seek happiness in this life.
They want to make decisions based on their emotions, rather than wisdom. This type of person thinks that God’s job is to save them when they act irresponsibly. When God disappoints them by not make their recklessness “work out”, they leave the faith.
They want to be loved by people, not by God. This type of person thinks that Christianity is a tool that they can use to become popular. When they first try to articulate the gospel in public, they find that people don’t like them as much, and they feel bad about offending people with exclusive truth claims that they cannot back up using logic and evidence. So, they water down Christianity to get along with non-Christians. Finally, they jettison Christianity completely. This happens to a lot of young Christians the moment they hit college / university.
They don’t want to learn to defend their faith. This type of person is asked questions by skeptics that they cannot answer. Usually this happens when people go to university after growing up in the shelter of the Church. The questions and peer pressure make them feel stupid. Rather than investigate Christianity to see if it’s true, they drop it, so they can be thought of as part of the “smart” crowd.
Now listen to the discussion and see if you can identify some of these factors from Barker’s own carefully-prepared words. He is trying very hard to make himself look honest and moderate, because he wants Christians to be sympathetic with his story and his motives for leaving Christianity. But I think that there is enough in his statements to construct a different hypothesis of why he left Christianity.
I’ve grouped the data by risk factor. Some of this is my interpretation of his real motivations, based on my experience dealing with former-Christians.
Non-rational, emotional approach to Christianity
he was raised in a devout Christian family where he probably wouldn’t have faced skeptical questions
he converted to Christianity at age 15 as a result of a religious experience, not a serious investigation
his idea of God was probably idealized and uninformed, e.g. – a loving God who wants us to be happy
he wandered around from church to church preaching, with no fixed address or source of income
he earned money by collecting “love offerings” from churches where he performed his music
he wrote Christian songs and Christian musicals, but nothing substantive on apologetics and theology
he worked in three churches known for being anti-intellectual and fundamentalist
there’s no evidence that of any deep study of philosophy, science and history during this time
Desire to gain acceptance from non-Christians
he began to notice that some people were uncomfortable with sin and Hell
he began to avoid preaching about sin and Hell in order to make these people comfortable
he watered-down the gospel to focus on helping people to be happy in this life
his manic approach to Christian ministry was challenged by the “real life” needs of his growing family
he met liberal pastors while performing his music in their churches
he found it difficult to disagree with them because they seemed to be “good” people
he watered down his message further in order to appeal to people across the theological spectrum
Ignorance of Christian apologetics
he began to think that if there are many different views of religion, then no view can be correct
he was not intellectually capable of using logic and evidence to test these competing claims to see which was true
he decided to instead re-interpret Christian truth claims as non-rational opinions, so they could all be “valid”
he became a theological liberal, abandoning theism for an impersonal “ground of being”
he embraced religious pluralism, the view that all religions are non-rational and make no testable truth claims
he began to see God as a “metaphor” whose purpose is to make people have a sense of meaning and purpose
he jettisoned God completely and focused more on helping people find meaning and morality apart from God
seems to think that religion is about having a “great life”, and felt that you can have a “great life” without religion
seems to think that religion is about being “good”, and felt that you can be “good” without religion
religion makes people feel bad by telling them what to do instead of letting them do anything they want
religion makes people feel bad by telling them what is true, instead of letting them believe whatever they want
religion makes people feel bad by telling them that God will hold them accountable for their beliefs and actions
So what do I think happened?
Barker was generating an income from donations from churches where he entertained them. Gradually, his family grew to the point where conservative churches were not enough to support him. He had to change his message to appeal to liberal churches in order to cast a wider net.
He seems to have thought that Christianity is about having his needs met and being liked by others. I think he wanted to feel good and to make people feel good with his preaching and singing. But Christianity is not a feel-good religion. It’s not a tool to make people like you. He seems to have become aware that the exclusive claims of Christianity made other people feel offended, so he cut them out. Christian apologists learn how to provide evidence for claims that non-Christians find offensive or hard to believe, but Dan hadn’t studied philosophy, science or history so he couldn’t defend it. It’s hard to speak unpopular truths when you have nothing to back it up except your music composing. Eventually, Dan just quit making the truth claims entirely.
I also think money was a factor. It seems to me that it would have hurt his career and reduced his invitations from liberal churches if he had kept up teaching biblical Christianity. In order to appeal to a wider audience, (like many Christian singers do – e.g. – Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, etc.), he would have felt pressured to water down the unpleasant parts of his preaching and singing. Lacking apologetics skill, he instead abandoned his message. He needed to account for his family’s needs and “real life”, and exclusive truth claims and Hell-talk would have reduced his ability to do that. It seems to me that he should have scaled back his extreme schedule of preaching and singing, and instead gotten a steady job so that he could afford “real life” and a family without being pressured into altering his message. The Christian life requires a certain amount of wisdom that Dan did not have.
Life isn’t a fairy tale. God isn’t there to reward risky behavior. We need to be more shrewd about financial matters so that we have the ability to not care about what people think of us. Look at this blog. I work all day as a senior software engineer with two degrees in computer science, so that I don’t have to rely on donations. Additionally, I save most of what I make in case a tragedy strikes. Since I am financially secure, I can say what I think, and disregard anyone who wants me to change my message because they are offended. Becoming a Christian isn’t a license to behave irrationally and immaturely with money. For some people, (like William Lane Craig), stepping out in faith works. But if it doesn’t work, it’s better to retreat and re-trench, rather than to compromise your message for money.
I actually met someone like Dan Barker recently. She grew up in an anti-intellectual hippy Christian home. Her mother came from a good family, and decided on a whim to marry a non-Christian. Like Barker, the family exalted feelings and irrational expectations of miracles from God for “fearless” acts. She got herself into trouble with alcohol and promiscuity in her 20s, by making emotional decisions and mixing with the wrong crowd. Her way of fixing this was to fly off on a one-year missions trip, wrecking her resume and finances. Now, she is in her late 30s, unmarried, and literally blaming Jesus for putting too many demands on her that she doesn’t have time for, e.g – morning quiet time. This causes her to feel guilty, and make her want to reject Christianity. She had no intellectual conception of basic core doctrines like God’s existence or Jesus’ resurrection, which might have acted as a bulwark against her emotions. When I explained to her how I had structured my education and career so that I could have an influence without testing God, she seemed bored and said that I was too “fearful”.
This is apparently widespread, especially among anti-intellectual denominations. Another ex-Pentecostal atheist woman I heard about from people who knew her when she was young decided to drop out of college to travel around North America doing pro-life work. When she found herself penniless, unmarried and without children in her mid-30s, she decided to have a baby out of wedlock. The government will pay for it, she said. Rather than trying to justify this decision as a Christian, she blamed God for not making her madness “work out”. She is now an atheist, because God did not reward her decision to live fearlessly for him with a husband and children. It was all God’s fault. There is a whole subculture within Christianity, where the pursuit of fun and thrills can be masked with pious language, and all talk of prudence and restraint is seen as cowardice and lack of faith.
The Christian life requires a certain level of intelligence, a certain level of practical wisdom, and a certain level of self-control and discipline. Make sure that you don’t walk away from God because of your own bad choices.
David French has written about the problems that women are facing on campus in National Review. (H/T Sarah)
In the debate over Title IX and sexual assault on campus, I keep hearing the same questions: Sure, you’re for due process, but do you also care — do you really care — about the victims of sexual assault? Where is the sympathy for them in your many odes to the Constitution? I’m not alone in hearing this critique. The New York Times’s Bret Stephens has heard it. So has Mona Charen. Conservatives who call for Title IX reform are even called “rape apologists.”
That’s an odd accusation for people who, like me, want to see rape prosecuted in criminal courts and rapists locked away for decades, if not life. No one denies that there are rapes on campus, and law enforcement should pursue rapists with the same diligence it pursues all of our most serious criminals. But here’s the problem: Aggressively prosecuting provable rapes will do little to ease the psychic pain of the underlying sexual crisis on campus, a crisis not even a campus kangaroo court can resolve.
The root of the problem is an ideology that deliberately attempts to strip sex of its inherent spiritual meaning and transform it into little more than transactional, physical, pleasure-seeking behavior. It’s an ideology that denies differences between men and women, including the emotional differences in the way that many men and women experience sex.
He’s talking about radical feminism, there.
He also mentions how women choose to drink themselves into oblivion before throwing themselves at good-looking men. I have blogged before about the use of alcohol as a way of voluntarily reducing inhibitions and as an after-the-sex excuse for slutty behavior using a study from the left-leaning Institute for American Values. And I recently blogged about how women basically have one criteria when choosing men, their hot appearance. Most women (including conservative Christian women based in church-going, intact marriage homes) choose “hot” men , and they try to get a relationship started with them by giving them immediate recreational premarital sex.
The core problem isn’t the alcohol. The core problems are the big lies about sex itself. The need for alcohol betrays the existence of the lies. Consider the contrast between the hookup culture — the ultimate expression of transactional sexuality — and sex in committed relationships. Booze is the common denominator of the hookup, but its presence typically diminishes the greater the bond between the man and the woman.
One of the effects of feminism is that the people who we might expect to do something about the problem are afraid to do something about the problem. Sociologists (Wilcox, Stanley, Regnerus, etc.) and pastors (Mohler, Moore, Driscoll, etc.) are too scared to hold women accountable for their poor decisions with men. They want to sort of accept feminism as a given, then blame men for the choices that women influenced by feminism freely make. It is often the poor decisions of the mothers that creates the daughters who grow up fatherless, and then pursue sex before marriage. It is the fatherless women who drink like fishes and give away sex for free to the hottest guys. Although Christian leaders used to shame single mothers by choice, now we refuse to shame them, and even reward them with money taken from taxpayers who are making much better decisions. You cannot blame bad men for being bad at being husbands and fathers. You have to blame the bad women who pass over marriage-ready men as “boring and judgmental”, and instead choose to make babies with bad men.
Women today – under the influence of feminism – have jettisoned religion and morality. They want to drink like men and have sex like men. Not by normal men, but by the men they perceive as the best: the handsome, irresponsible, athletes and artists who don’t respect God, and don’t make moral judgments. It’s *those* men who women are naturally attracted to. And we, as a society, have decided to stop teaching women that marriage is a priority, and that they need to focus their attention on men who are ready for marriage earlier, rather than later. Men with good grades, with good jobs, who attend church, who care for others, etc. A demonstrated ability in evidential apologetics is necessary to raising children whose faith will survive the test of secular higher education.
Before you say “but evangelical women are not lke secular women”, let me just say that you’re right, they’re not. They’re WORSE than secular women.
[…]80 percent of [teenagers who identify as “evangelical” or “born again”] think sex should be saved for marriage. But thinking is not the same as doing. Evangelical teens are actually more likely to have lost their virginity than either mainline Protestants or Catholics. They tend to lose their virginity at a slightly younger age—16.3, compared with 16.7 for the other two faiths. And they are much more likely to have had three or more sexual partners by age 17: Regnerus reports that 13.7 percent of evangelicals have, compared with 8.9 percent for mainline Protestants.
This study measures premarital sex prevalence, sources of sex education, and support for secular sex education among 151 newly married young adults surveyed at 9 Texas Southern Baptist churches. More than 70% of respondents reported having had premarital vaginal or oral sex, but more than 80% regretted premarital sex. The proportion of premarital sex exceeded 80% in 6 of 9 churches, among men and women married after age 25 and women married before age 21.
You will never hear a Christian pastor or leader speak about these numbers. And that is because these numbers indict Christian women, who are the gatekeepers and decision-makers about sex. No Christian pastor or leader is courageous enough to discuss this. Liberal feminist pastors like Driscoll, Mohler, Moore, etc. and the CMBW leaders seem to be content to let “50 Shades of Grey” women do as they desire, and then just blame men for not marrying women who are unfit for marriage. The only place you find the right view is on Christian men’s rights blogs, (like this one), where the authors still believe that the moral demands of the Bible apply equally to men and to women. I think this is one of the bigger reasons why men don’t attend church, but no pastor or Christian leader I know is aware of it.
CNS News reports on a new Harvard study that was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
A new study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and published online in JAMA Internal Medicine found that women who attended religious services more than once a week were more than 30% less likely to die during a 16-year-follow-up than women who never attended.
The study also found that compared with women who never attended religious services, women who attended more than once per week had a decreased risk of both cardiovascular mortality (27%) and cancer mortality (21%).
“Our results suggest that there may be something important about religious service attendance beyond solitary spirituality,” said Tyler VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study. “Part of the benefit seems to be that attending religious services increases social support, discourages smoking, decreases depression, and helps people develop a more optimistic or hopeful outlook on life.”
[…]Most of the women in the study were Protestant or Catholic. The baseline age of the participants was 60 years or older – and “therefore the study cannot be generalized to men or young adults.”
Now, note: this is not an apologetics argument, it’s just something interesting to get a discussion started. Obviously, we don’t believe things just because they make us happier or healthier. I would raise this to get a discussion started about whether a secular life that suppresses questions of meaning and purpose can really be satisfying at all. My goal is truth, though. Not life enhancement. We have to keep the focus on truth.