What's fueling Bible Belt divorces
Southerners tend to run to the altar earlier, but also more often to divorce court, experts say.
August 25th, 2011
12:22 PM ET

What's fueling Bible Belt divorces

By Katia Hetter, Special to CNN

(CNN) - While the Bible Belt is known for its devotion to traditional values, Southerners don't do so well on one key family value: They are more likely to get divorced than people living in the Northeast.

Southern men and women had higher rates of divorce in 2009 than their counterparts in other parts of the country: 10.2 per 1,000 for men and 11.1 per 1,000 for women, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday.

By comparison, men and women in the Northeast had the lowest rates of divorce, 7.2 and 7.5 per 1,000, which is also lower than the national divorce rate of 9.2 for men and 9.7 for women.

"In the South, there are higher rates of marriage and higher rates of divorce for men and women," said Diana Elliott, a family demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau and co-author of the new report. "In the Northeast, you have people who are delaying first marriages, and consequently there are lower rates of marriage and lower rates of divorce."

Read the full story here from CNN's Defining America
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. pseudobliss

    I grew up in the South. The way I see it, these divorces are because so many southerners get married far too early in life. They are married as teenagers or just post teen before they really understand life and their own personalities. If they'd stop getting married so young and allowed themselves to develop first, they'd stop having all these divorces.

    September 2, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Heather

      I definitely see what you're talking about (southern kids getting married while they're still too young). But there's another interesting trend I've seen too. Young adults – not just borderline kids – believe that getting married it the celebrity thing to do. Get married, pop out a baby, divorce, and relive the teenage years in the post-divorce bliss. What's the point of getting married? Is marriage even relevant in today's world of instant gratification?

      September 5, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • M Pope

      I 100percent agree!

      September 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • M Pope

      Totally agree! So right.....

      September 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  2. FutureGeneration

    No lasting, healthy relationships can be built on fear. Fears of parental disapproval or stigma lead to making unrealistic choices. A healthy relationship is based on mutual attraction, mutual concessions, and a mutual goal that is above their individual egos. Most young couples don't have any problems with attraction, but when push comes to shove if people don't know themselves it will be very difficult to compromise with each other or rise above their egos together. For a successful relationship it is important to be mature enough to know who you are before bringing a whole other person into your life. That is why marriages between older, more educated people tend to be less likely to end in divorce. At that point people are ready to make the personal sacrifices necessary to commit to another person. Couples need similarity, compromise, and a common goal to have a lasting successful marriage. True love is feeling another person's needs as your own, and until you can understand your own needs you won't be able to understand someone else's.

    August 28, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • dee

      I absolutely agree. I think many who stay married for a long time also possess traits that other's don't have. No matter how mature, there still requires a need to simply WANT to be married and to CHOOSE to work through all of the trials and tribulations. That is one of my favorite parts of my marriage. I love the challenge. I don't always like our arguments and I don't like being hurt anymore than anyone else does, but I understand marriage is certainly a give and take and sometimes taking hurts as bad as giving. Neither one of them are 100% happy hoopla instances.

      My husband has always teased that marriage licenses should have expiration and renewals dates. And of the 2 of us, he struggles a lot more with the concept of marriage. He always says we should have dated more, whereas I think dating too much is not necessary. It's one of our biggest differences. I am happy with who I chose to be with while he is constantly searching for some perfection (but he does this with work, hobbies, friends and even aspects of our kids). So I have learned it's not really whether marriage is working on it's own. It really comes down to how we both look at all facets of our own lives and at our lives together. It's a personal choice to be married and make the most of it.

      August 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  3. Mensaboy

    My wife and I have been in a relationship in the South for more than 40 years. Marriage means commitment and continuous hard work to stay together. There will always be ups and downs, joy and tragedies. Too many people want to walk away rather than work out the differences. Marriage is a contract between a man, a woman and God. It is not between and man, a woman, and a better opportunity.

    August 28, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • dee

      Amen to that, Mensaboy! Congrats on 40 years of hard work! We are going on 20.

      August 29, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  4. The Original

    I agree with Right-T-C-. Women are also too greedy and power-hungry. They look down on men. Moreover, too many of them were not virgins before marriage and have no idea how to honor husbands.

    August 27, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      I agree with you Original about the south. I have lived just about every place including the crew compartment of a U.S. Navy destroyer. I was born in Appalachia, went to school in Chicago, worked in southern Illinois (more like Memphis than Chicago), Been In California for 30 years. Was stationed in Hawaii and we spent a lot of time in Yokosuka and Subic .. and the southern people are as good as any (no better/no worse). Marriage is not a 50/50 situation, it is a 90/90 situation interspersed by 110/110. .. what you have know about life is that the only people who will be standing with you when you take your last breath are your kids and (if you play your cards right) your spouse. The rest of the world will not know you were here. (your own parents will be gone and only your mother would care). (Oddly enough a buddy of mine came back from a near-death and he said his mother was waiting for him so I should not have called 911 ..) Your mother will be waiting for you! Wow. Isn't that so?

      August 27, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • The Original

      You are an American soldier? Thank you very much for your service and sacrifice. You saved our whole region. For near-death experience, books called "90 Minutes in Heaven" and "Heaven Is Real" are recommended.

      August 27, 2011 at 2:20 am |
    • dee

      LOL, Original. Waaayyy, too generalized. That is sooo old school!

      August 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  5. RightTurnClyde

    Marriage is not easy. So many adult males today are not men. They are still boys and they remain boys through most of their lives. Anybody can get married, but it is something bigger than the sum of the parts. If cannot man up to it then you will run into trouble (sure as God made little green apples). maybe you do have to 30-ish and a little bit seasoned. You definitely have to be committed to your objectives AND you have to be the servant of your objectives (in marriage). Marriage is not for sissies.

    August 27, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  6. The Original

    My experience in the South: I never met such beautiful, compassionate, well-disciplined humans elsewhere. American Christians were truly great there.

    August 27, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  7. Karin

    My experience, for me, since I live here in the south - bible belt... They are all a bunch of hypocrites! They drink a ton. Are prejudice. Carry a lot of hate. All except for Sunday Morning!

    August 27, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  8. Reality

    Getting se-xually involved before you can afford it emotionally and financially is the main cause of divorce. Apparently, this happens more in the South but it holds for all geographical areas.


    From the CDC- 2001

    "Results—One fifth of first marriages end within 5 years and one third end
    within 10 years. First marriages of teenagers disrupt faster than the first marriages
    of women who were ages 20 years and older at marriage."

    August 27, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • AGuest9

      Actually, marriage is the main cause of divorce. Do you realy believe that people get married just to have s3x?

      August 27, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  9. Casey

    Oigh... typical CNN misleading and faith bashing. Read the statistics carefully: The information is not given as a percentage of married couples. It is given as a value per 1000 men/women. There could be much higher rates of marriage... this is their usual disingenuous "reporting". Never miss a chance to use the word "Bible" in a negative light.

    August 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      CNN is disingenuous and very transparent in their dislike for Christianity and the bible. They go easier on Muslim because of the hit called on the Danish cartoonist. They are afraid of Muslims but the see Christians as a willing target. Their negative posture is obvious (and not genuine and false)

      August 27, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • TheyNotHim

      CNN isn't painting the bible in a negative light. They don't need to. Xtians are doing a great job of that on their own by trying to shove their hate down our throats...bible burning party!

      September 5, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  10. Steve Brinkhoff

    Hypocrites. God said "I hate divorce." Jesus said, "No divorce", then he said, "No divorce except for marital unfaithfulness." Paul said, "No divorce."

    Seems pretty clear to me. Same thing with health insurance – Any Christian who goes to a doctor is a hypocrite.

    They cherry-pick the verses that feel good and ignore the inconvenient ones.

    August 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      None of this is so. It's just imagined malarkey.

      August 27, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • J.W

      How is going to the doctor hypocritical? That makes no sense.

      August 27, 2011 at 2:01 am |
  11. Beverly

    The increase of cohabitation of a man and woman is a forerunner and is more common today then people who are married. Marriage is declining.....there are more people living together today then married people. FACT

    August 26, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  12. Andrea

    How about he was gay....or is that just me?

    August 26, 2011 at 7:36 am |
  13. Nicole

    "What's fueling Bible Belt divorces" The way they crazily interpret the bible!!

    August 26, 2011 at 7:25 am |
    • CJP

      Nicole is absolutely right. If they correctly interpreted the bible, they would see that divorce is wrong and that they need to show some more character and perseverance instead of being like the rest of people that have no respect for God's Word.

      August 26, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      Nicole is absolutely right. If they correctly interpreted the bible, they would see that divorce is wrong and that they need to show some more character and perseverance instead of being like the rest of people that have no respect for God's Word.

      Who wrote god's word? I think it is appropriate to at least say it is their word.

      August 26, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  14. John Richardson

    More sanctimonious hypocrisy from the Bible Belt.

    August 26, 2011 at 7:07 am |
  15. Free

    Think of it as like buying a car. When you're young there isn't as much thought in buying a car that will be practical in the long run. You buy mostly to have an impressive ride that will bring you the freedom and thrills and, let's face it, how many younger people are in the mindset of choosing things for the long term? An older person, however, who has ridden in and even drove a few makes before, may be more inclined to think of what's practical for themselves in the long term, not necessarily what they 'want' now.

    Honestly, when you're young the idea of having the same job, or of laying roots in the same place long term would likely be very depressing, so why wouldn't it be the same thing for relationships? I say, leave the young to experience adventure and build the experience necessary to know what they want in a long term partnership.

    August 26, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  16. Bo

    =========@Christopher11:19=============== Hi Chistopher, could you claerify that post a little more, please. I don't intend to be offensive, I'm just not certain just what you mean. Thank You.

    August 25, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • HappyMeal

      Slavery continues in most nations outside of USA.

      August 26, 2011 at 7:08 am |
  17. Eric

    They tried – it's called the Civil War. And they lost and were forced to give up slavery, which they justified with the Bible. Ever her of Southern Baptists? They only changed their pro-slavery stance in the 1990's. Oh dear!

    August 25, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • The Beagle

      I invite everyone who has an interest in what the Bible teaches about slavery to join the discussion on my blog:


      I am a lapsed evangelical but comments of evangelical Christians are especially welcome.

      September 10, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
  18. Christopher Hitchens

    Get the state and church out of people's lives and you'll see more happy unions.

    August 25, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Beverly

      If religion and marriage was the not the issue, more would marry. But since that make this an obtacle or the main reason for a happy marriage it still makes problems in a marriage. You can still be of the same faith but disagree and get divorced or you can have a marriage without god and get along perfectly. There is always someone to tell you or say what should be right in a marriage. But we will always have controversy over this issue because it has everything to do with god..........and thats marriage.

      August 26, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Daytader4

      If you are THE Christopher Hitchens, please let me take this opportunity to thank you for your years-long efforts on behalf of rational thinkers ..... amongst which, I would like to think, I am included. Best regards, Daytrader4@aol.com

      August 26, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  19. HappyMeal

    How about living-together and parting? It should be included in the census, too. For a man and a woman, it's same as marriage.

    August 25, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  20. HappyMeal

    Americans hate the Bible Belt people. The Bible Belt should get independence and flee from perverts.

    August 25, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Eric

      They tried – it's called the Civil War. And they lost and were forced to give up slavery, which they justified with the Bible. Ever her of Southern Baptists? They only changed their pro-slavery stance in the 1990's. Oh dear! Are you aware that the group who voted in the highest numbers for Adolph Hitler were Evangelical pastors? Makes you wonder, doesn't it.....

      August 25, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • HappyMeal

      Eric, all the Northerners and Canada were Christian. Read "Uncle Tom's Cabin," you illegal immigrant. Hitler massacred Christians who hid the Jews and were taken down by the British and American Christians. Germans were NEVER Evangelical even in 19th century.

      August 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Civiloutside

      Muffling historical point: Hitler was elected in the 20th century.

      August 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Launch Time

      "The Bible Belt should get independence and flee from perverts"

      I would like to see them flee to Orion's Belt.

      August 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • The Original

      @Civil-, German Church as a whole got sick liberal at the end of 19th century and never recovered since then to this day. Chinese communist churches have better "Christian" doctrines than German churches.

      August 27, 2011 at 1:00 am |
1 2
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.