Red State Values – Counterproductive or Just Self-Defeating?

According to a just-published study in the American Journal of Sociology, the reason why divorce rates are higher in religiously conservative “red” states than in more liberal “blue” states is precisely because of those religious values.  That’s right, ultra-religious protestant values undermine the stability of marriage, contrary to what all those ultra-religious types profess about the sanctity of marriage.

Why?  The answer lies in the fact that such belief systems pressure young people to avoid sexual encounters before marriage; to avoid “artificial” or “anti-life” birth control measures, often endorsing only abstinence-only birth control; and usually to have large families.  The result is early marriage under higher economic stress by young people who often do not know who or what they are, and this is reflected in a long-standing and continuing divorce rate higher than that in states where the culture is less religiously dominated.

Not only that, but because the religious cultures permeate all aspects of the regions in which they are predominant, even non-believers in those areas are influenced through various effects, such as local and state laws, educational curricula, and social interactions.  In addition, also according to the study, “If you live in a marriage market where everybody marries young, you postpone marriage at your own risk. The best catches… are going to go first.”

The problem these religious types face is that what they believe about sex and young people, and how they should behave, is totally at odds with human behavior, and at a time when the age gap between physical/sexual maturity and economic/social maturity is the largest ever in human history, the only way the vast majority of young people can deal with that gap over time is either early marriage or sex without marriage, and when effective contraception is against religious values, the results are usually early marriage, with more than the normal rate of “premature” first births.  That puts a high percentage of such early marriages at risk from the beginning,

Having spent the last twenty years in exactly one of those cultures, I have seen exactly that scenario play out time and time again, and it continues to amuse me, if ironically [since I’m long since past any real amazement], that people here deny the fact that the divorce rate is higher and that their beliefs are the principal reason for the family instability that they so decry.

But then, as I’ve often observed, true believers often pay no attention to reality, especially where religion is concerned.


5 thoughts on “Red State Values – Counterproductive or Just Self-Defeating?”

  1. John Prigent says:

    Hmmmm. Interesting theory. I met my wife on a Church-organised youth club weekend away and courted her after church each Sunday afterwards. We were married about 15 months later. That was over 50 years ago and we’re still married. Two of our friends at the same church were also courting and are also still married after 50 years. So are we the ‘exceptions that prove the rule’, or the living proof that the theory leaves something out of account? Having genuine personal ethics might be part of it?

    1. The study is, first, based only on American states, and, second, on what one might call the social imposition of “fundamentalist” beliefs. From what I’ve observed, there’s a significant difference between religion and its relation to government and society between the U.S. and the U.K.

      1. Ryan Jackson says:

        I’d also point out that the response that “I’ve been successful” is an anecdote.

        You have, which I’m happy to hear. Many others have too. Mr. Modesitt’s point, and the statistics in general are not stating such things are impossible or do not occur. Merely that there is a higher divorce rate in these areas and that such a set up does put unfair and unrealistic pressure on many young people.

        For your anecdote I can give the opposite. I met a woman in highschool, dated for years, waited to marry, etc. Then three years into the marriage had a messy divorce where she ran off with my best man. We had tried so hard to have that “perfect” relationship that we missed stuff, rushed when we should have taken a better measure and destroyed ourselves.

        My current (second) marriage is very successful, we didn’t “wait” we took time and moved in first before we got married. Going strong 5 years later (I know, still not amazing length), have a son, and while we fight we work on ourselves and recognized the commitment we made.

        Both your story and mine are anecdotes that would seem to counter each other. Which is the problem with such stories and the reason it’s better to stick with what the actual survey and study results show.

  2. Alan says:

    Only to address the end point, ‘But then, as I’ve often observed, true believers often pay no attention to reality, especially where religion is concerned.’, people know what they know.

    It’s a true-ism I’ve remarked upon before. And holds true as a generalization across many subjects. People’s beliefs, even when confronted with facts they are capable of verifying themselves, are rather difficult to shake. Especially when ‘big’ topics are considered. The evil’s of nuclear power, government, education and gun control just to name a few things.

  3. Wine Guy says:

    Most people make their decisions based on their gut reaction and then find the rational reasons afterwards.

    I used to think I made rational decisions and then a collegiate course in Game Theory (best class I’ve ever taken about how decisions are made, BTW) changed how I thought about the whole thing.

    Fallacious thinking pervades everyone’s decision-making processes. It is impossible to get rid of. People think Chiropractic manipulation cures cancer even in face of zero scientific based proof. People are sure that the moonlanding never happened. People are sure that god (in one incarnation or another) exists. Parents are sure that their kids never have sex (until they’re caught and then its the other kid’s fault) just as kids are sure that their parents only had sex enough times to exactly produce the requisite number of children.

    I am just as deluded as the next person. I give people who have military experience more credit for common sense and hard work than they deserve, I think that anyone (especially myself) can manage to do most any task if I practice and work hard enough – if you’ve seen me ballroom dance, you’d laugh at this statement.

    The biggest issue I have with religion and its effects on people’s decision processes is that most of them have something to say about nearly every aspect of life. Unfortunately, some political movements are like that as well: Environmentalism, Progressivism, and the like.

    As a side note, IMHO, if Republicans were actually serious about being conservatives, then they’d agree that free market choices extend not only to business but women’s health issues, gay rights, etc. But they can’t because they’re beholden to the activist Christian groups.

    Did I mention that I’m deluded? I’d like to be a libertarian, but I can’t give up the social issues I like (women’s reproductive rights, gay rights) or the fiscal issues I like (lower taxes, smaller federal government, and expanded local powers at the expense of states’ powers).

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