Mixed-Religion Marriages: Another Crumbling Diversity Front
June 08, 2010, 07:43 AM
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Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,

And the Catholics hate the Protestants,

And the Hindus hate the Moslems,

And everybody hates the Jews.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,

It's National Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week.

Be nice to people who

Are inferior to you.

It's only for a week, so have no fear.

Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!

(From National Brotherhood Week, written and sung by Tom Lehrer. Performance here. Full lyrics here.)

==

In The Myth of Diversity, his classic, essay-length take-down of our elites' obsession, Jared Taylor wrote:

An occasional glance at a newspaper is all it takes to learn that diversity of the kind that is supposed to benefit the United States is a problem wherever it is found. Every large-scale and intractable blood-letting, be it in the Middle East, Ireland, Burundi, or the former Yugoslavia is due to "diversity," that is to say, people who differ from each other trying to live in the same territory.

Most of the time, the reasons for discord are not even as salient as race. They can be religion, language, or ethnicity. From time to time, Americans have fought each other for these reasons, but race is the deepest, most constant source of antipathy. Unlike language or religion, race cannot change. Differences between men that are written deep into their bodies will always be a source of friction.

And indeed, even in today's compulsively tolerant United States, religion can be a deal-breaker. Writer Naomi Schaefer Riley had an interesting article on one aspect of this in Sunday's Washington Post (Interfaith marriages are rising fast, but they're failing fast too, June 6, 2010).

Here's the basic idea:

According to calculations based on the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, 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.

In a paper published in 1993, Evelyn Lehrer, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that if members of two mainline Christian denominations marry, they have a one in five chance of being divorced in five years. A Catholic and a member of an evangelical denomination have a one in three chance. And a Jew and a Christian who marry have a greater than 40 percent chance of being divorced in five years.

More recent research concludes that even differing degrees of religious belief and observance can cause trouble. For instance, in a 2009 paper, scholars Margaret Vaaler, Christopher Ellison and Daniel Powers of the University of Texas at Austin found higher rates of divorce when a husband attends religious services more frequently than his wife, as well as when a wife is more theologically conservative than her husband.

[I don't know if there's any relation between Tom Lehrer and Evelyn Lehrer!]

Interestingly, Harvard professor Robert Putnam, who accidentally and reluctantly made skepticism about diversity academically acceptable, is indirectly quoted by Riley to the effect that "the more Americans get to know people of other faiths, the more they seem to like them."

Riley reconciles Putnam with Lehrer and with Vaaler et al thus:

In some ways, more interfaith marriage is good for civic life. Such unions bring extended families from diverse backgrounds into close contact. There is nothing like marriage between different groups to make society more integrated and more tolerant.... But the effects on the marriages themselves can be tragic.
To my mind, all this simply reinforces Brenda Walker's condensed wisdom on human nature and interrelations: "The truth is that we all prefer to be around others who speak our language, share our values and understand our jokes. Human community is based upon similarities, not differences."