Wednesday, April 03, 2013

"Til Faith Do Us Part"

That's the title of a new study of interfaith marriages, by Naomi Schaefer Riley.  You can buy it from Oxford, or read a Times review by Stanley Fish.  (We did the latter.)

Back in the 1950s, our mother was forbidden to date Roman Catholic boys, on the grounds that religious differences would ultimately destroy any possible marriage.  This, at least, was the announced purpose of the prohibition; such were the times that, as Mom once hinted, the real goal may have been to keep her away from Italians.

Seems that something like 45% of US marriages over the last decade were between people of different religious faiths.  We're not sure whether marriages between sects of a single religion count toward that figure.  Is it Lutheran-Presbyterian, Shaiva-Vaishnava, or just Christian-Hindu?

In any case, this fact jumps out at us, from Fish's review:
Riley’s data show that “inter political party marriages are far less common than interfaith marriages.” Why, she asks, “do Americans seem so much more reluctant to marry outside of their political affiliation than their faith?”, and she answers that they may be “unaware or unwilling to acknowledge that religion can be a serious dividing in a marriage.” Because debating political differences is part of the culture in a way that debating religious differences is not, two people entering into a relationship are likely to be more concerned with the former than the latter.
It is a profoundly revealing sign of the times that our political convictions are now more emotionally fraught than our religious ones.

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