Survey: Americans Don’t Think Divorce is Sinful (But Their Pastors Do)

This year has seen monumental changes to the institution of marriage in the United States, with the U.S. Supreme Court affirming a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Now, a new study sheds light on American citizens’ evolving views on marriage and religion; specifically, whether they view divorce as sinful.

LifeWay Research released the results of a new survey this August, and the responses indicate that decisive majorities of Americans view the divorce process as morally acceptable. The survey didn’t just ask U.S. citizens whether they think divorce is a sin, but also asked how they would feel about specific causes of divorce. And even in cases of adultery, many Americans said they wouldn’t consider divorce a sin under any circumstances.

According to LifeWay’s research, only 39% of respondents indicated that divorce is sinful when someone’s spouse commits adultery. A similar percentage (38%), said it would be sinful for a couple to divorce because they no longer love each other, while the same number of people said it would be sinful to divorce because one spouse abandoned the other. Just 37% said divorce involving domestic abuse would be sinful, and only 35% said it would be sinful to divorce because one partner is addicted to pornography.

Overall, 37% of Americans believe divorce is not a sin under any circumstances. But their pastors might disagree; 61% of protestant pastors said it would be sinful to divorce just because two partners stopped loving each other.

“About one in seven Americans are saying divorce is a sin in all of these cases, more than a third don’t think any of these would be a sin, and almost half believe some circumstances would be sinful, but not others,” says LifeWay Research Vice President Scott McConnel. “While most Protestant pastors view the sinfulness of divorce differently based on the reason for the divorce, this sensitivity is lost on their members.”

On the West Coast, 51% of respondents said none of the provided reasons would make a divorce sinful. Nationwide, the country has seen a radical shift in beliefs concerning marriage in recent years, as a majority of Americans now approve of gay marriage.

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