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Looking at interfaith marriages

Looking at interfaith marriages

In the 1960s, about 20 percent of married couples were in interfaith unions; now 45% of married couples are likely to be of different religions. Many of the obvious questions, such as how to raise the children and how to celebrate holidays are frequently not discussed by the couples before their marriages.

Naomi Schaffer Riley writes in a New York Times Op-Ed:.

Remarkably, less than half of the interfaith couples in my survey said they’d discussed, before marrying, what faith they planned to raise their kids in. Almost four in five respondents (in both same-faith and interfaith marriages) thought having “the same values” was more important than having the same religion in making a marriage work.

The sentiment is understandable, even admirable, but often unrealistic. I found that interfaith couples were less satisfied than same-faith couples by a statistically significant margin — and that the more religiously active spouse (as measured by attendance at religious services) tended to be the unhappier one.

Certain faith pairings seem more likely to result in divorce. While roughly a third of all evangelicals’ marriages end in divorce, that figure climbs to nearly half for marriages between evangelicals and non-evangelicals. It is especially high (61 percent) for evangelicals married to someone with no religion. (My definition of interfaith marriage did not include couples from different evangelical, or different mainline, denominations.)

Is this trend a good thing or not?

Religious leaders I interviewed — and not only Jewish ones — were broadly worried about interfaith marriage. “We have an appalling number of evangelical pastors who will not preach and teach on the issue of interfaith marriage, but who will perform marriages for anyone who comes in,” Russell D. Moore, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, told me.

Jihad Turk, of the Islamic Center of Southern California, blamed interfaith marriage in part for declines in mosque attendance. L. Whitney Clayton, a Mormon elder, lamented that intra-faith marriage was hard to promote to those who don’t attend services regularly.

But the rise in interfaith marriage also has a significant upside. The political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, in their book “American Grace,” showed that the more Americans got to know people of another faith, the more they liked them. My research showed that marrying someone of another faith tended to improve one’s view of that faith.


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Re JC Fisher: I too found that particular paragraph interesting. In my case it is because many (not all) evangelicals make such a point of being so strongly in favor of “traditional marriage” and opposed to, what they might believe to be, a non-traditional marriage (same-sex marriage being the most prominent example).

-Cullin R. Schooley


Certain faith pairings seem more likely to result in divorce. While roughly a third of all evangelicals’ marriages end in divorce, that figure climbs to nearly half for marriages between evangelicals and non-evangelicals.

{raises hand}

I made that mistake (marrying an evangelical). I think evangelicals are especially like to think of marriage of being a certain way, having certain {cough *gender role* cough} characteristics. “Color outside the lines”, and one may encounter a rigidity . . . a rigidity that leads to their calling their divorce attorney. [I pray for all the best, for my ex]

JC Fisher

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