Divorce and the Irreligious Child

A new study has found that there is a link between divorce and the religious choices children make.  According to the Public Religion Research Institute, children of divorced parents were “significantly more likely” to become irreligious adults.

This research reflects the findings of our own study.  We spent roughly a year interviewing college age atheists.  We asked them to tell us about their journey to unbelief.  We published those results in a 2013 article in The Atlantic titled, “Listening to Young Atheists:  Lessons for a Stronger Christianity.”  Among the many other things we learned, it soon became clear that most of these students came from broken homes.  What is the connection?

Andrew Root of Lutheran Seminary offered this explanation:

“Everything in a divorce gets divided.  Literally everything.  Parents’ friends get divided.  Relatives get divided.  Everyone takes sides.  Even religion takes sides.  The church gets divided.  Dad leaves Mom’s faith, or vice versa.  Negotiating those worlds becomes difficult.”

Again, this reflects our own experience.  Students spoke of religious division among their divorced parents.  Dads were usually the irreligious ones, or, more likely, uncommitted church goers.  Moms were generally more committed to the spiritual training of their children.  Regardless, once the family was divided, children were left between spiritual worlds and their religious lives suffered.

In a time when almost everyone is seeking political solutions to spiritual problems, a study like this offers strong evidence that the problems in this country start in the home.  How much different might this country be if, say, media execs had been taught the difference between things of eternal value and things of no value?  What if the 700 thousand mothers who kill their unborn children each year had been taught that all human life is created in the image of God?  What if Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had been taught reverence for the things of God instead of an insatiable lust for wealth and power?

The effect on this country, to say nothing of their own personal lives, would be colossal.