So much has been said and written over the last couple of decades about religious inter-marriage.
It’s been one of the most discussed and debated issues in the Jewish world because of the threat posed to Jewish continuity if too many Jews have children who are not raised Jewish.
In New York, of course, many Catholics marry Protestants, Jews and people of little or no faith, posing all sorts of questions and challenges for families that want their sons and daughters married by the parish priest.
There are so many “minority” religions in town these days that all sorts of inter-marriage combos are now taking place.
But I don’t believe I’ve seen a reference to the relative success of inter-marriages, compared to single-religion marriages, until a recent story in the Washington Post. It noted that the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001 — a massive study that I thought had been picked dry at this point — found that “people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.”
I would imagine that this finding has been reported, but that I missed it. Still interesting.
The Post article by Naomi Schaefer Riley notes that in our tolerant, inclusive society, inter-marriage can seem almost hip:
The belief among young couples that love will conquer all is not exactly new. But today some young Americans seem to even pride themselves on marrying someone very different from themselves. One woman I spoke to who was raised as a Catholic recalled her thoughts on dating when she went off to college a few years ago: “To limit yourself to only people of your own religion seemed bigoted. . . . There is a whole world of people that I don’t know.” To write them off as potential partners before she even met them “seemed rude,” she said.
Her language is revealing. It’s as if our society’s institutional rules about nondiscrimination in hiring an employee or admitting someone to college have morphed into rules for screening romantic partners.
But for even the most tolerant people, Riley notes, raising children in a foreign faith can push all sorts of buttons that one is not even aware of.
Even among those who have tough conversations, says Joshua Coleman, a psychologist and co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonpartisan research organization, religion can become a serious point of contention later on. One parent may agree to raise the children in the other’s faith, he says, but then that faith “becomes repellent” to him or her. Coleman doesn’t think that people get married with the intention of deceiving their spouse; “they just have no idea how powerfully unconscious religion can be.”