Ethics & Religion
March 9, 2017
Why Have "Religious
By Mike McManus
Why has the
percentage of people with no religious affiliation tripled from 8% of
the population in 1992 to 25% at present? What happened around 1992 to
set off a meteoric rise in "Religious Nones?"
Dr. Anthony Horvath has the answer: "It can't be the Internet, as its
time was still to come." Rather, he says the answer is that "Since 1970,
marriage rates have dropped precipitously as divorce rates skyrocketed.
The cultural respect for marriage as an institution was severely
undermined by the `sexual revolution' of the 1960s."
He notes that the 1990s was almost the exact time that the first
children born under the "no fault divorce paradigm would themselves come
to age, graduate from high school, go to college and begin thinking
about finding a mate."
What most impacted these youth was their experience of growing up in
home without a father. Horvath, director of an apologetics organization,
Athanatos Christian Ministries, asks a profound question: "How can you
accept that God is a loving father when all you have known in your own
family is brokenness?"
The Pew Research Center recently posed an alternative thesis for the
"rise of those who claim no religion at all" - President Obama's
Administration. When he took office, those who identified as atheists or
agnostics along with those who said their religion was "nothing in
particular," totaled 16% of the U.S. adult population. When Obama left
office eight years later, the non-religious in America made up nearly a
quarter of the population, Pew notes.
However, Pew is wrong. The trend started eight years before Obama. As
Horvath notes, in 1992 only 8% of Americans were "Religious Nones." That
figure tripled by the time Obama left office.
Horvath puts his finger on missing fathers: "Studies show that the
biggest factor in successfully transmitting the faith to the next
generation is strong families that are grounded in the faith. The
influence of the father, in particular, is profound."
Divorce is one reason fathers are missing in millions of homes. In 1969
when California Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the first "No Fault Divorce
Law," there were 639,000 divorces. No Fault swept virtually all states
in six years, pushing divorces up to 1,036,000 by 1975. Since 1975, half
of all marriages have ended in divorce.
However, divorce is not the only factor behind disappearing fathers.
Soaring cohabitation may be a bigger factor. In 1960 only 430,000
unmarried couples were living together, but a stunning 8.3 million were
cohabiting in 2015, only 1.3 million of whom married. What happened to
the other 7 million? Mostly they broke up. On average, cohabitation ends
after only 15 months.
One result: Census reports that the number of never-married Americans
has more than quadrupled from 8.7 million in 1970 to 41.3 million in
2014. Thus, as my wife and I noted in our book, Living Together:
Myths, Risks & Answers, cohabitation "is an invisible cancer at the
front end" of marriage, diverting tens of millions from getting married
And cohabiting couples are just as likely as married couples to have
children: 39% of cohabiting couples in 2015 had kids vs. 40% of married
A final factor in the rise of fatherlessness is that fewer adults are
getting married. There were more weddings in 1970 (2,159,000) than in
2015 (2,077,000). If the same percentage of people were marrying now as
45 years ago, there would be 1.3 million more marriages a year.
What can be done to strengthen fatherhood?
Horvath asserts, "First, the church has to pour resources into
stabilizing marriage, equipping mothers and fathers to lead happy,
healthy families. Second, the church needs to understand that fathers,
in particular, have a disproportionate effect. They must be helped to be
the pastors of their families.
"Finally, fathers have to be grounded in Biblical knowledge." He quotes
Malachi 2:15-16: "Did he not make (the man and woman) one, with a
portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was God seeking? Godly
offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be
faithless to the wife of your youth."
"I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel..."
Churches can also cut citywide divorce and cohabitation rates. My wife
and I have helped 10,000 churches in 230 cities create "Community
Marriage Policies" to help them better prepare, enrich and restore
marriages. Result: divorce rates fell 17.5% and cohabitation by
Marriage can be restored, giving children a mother and father for a
Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus,
President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous
columns go to
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