A friend emailed a copy of a January 17, 2010 article in The Sun News, a paper out of Myrtle Beach, SC, that trumpeted a Barna survey allegedly showing that “born again” Christians suffer the highest rates of divorce and atheists/agnostics the lowest. At first I thought this must simply be agitprop. A few minutes on the internet, however, produced several websites corroborating the sources, surveys and statistics. See for example here . However, at least one purported Christian website here stated that evangelicals had a lower rate of divorce than the national average and lower than atheists and agnostics. Before this, I was unaware of the Barna distinction between “born again” Christians and evangelicals, and with exceedingly few exceptions, was unaware of people calling themselves “born again” outside evangelical circles. My curiosity piqued and smelling mischief in the gloating newspaper article, I did a little research. What I found demonstrated that biblical Christianity makes a difference in peoples’ lives and that newspapers generally cannot be trusted in matters regarding Christianity. In other words, nothing new.
This South Carolina paper and these websites weren’t telling the entire truth, not even close. Digging further revealed that Barna himself reports that evangelicals have among the lowest divorce rates (26%) and people of non-Christian denominations have the highest rates (38%). Agnostics and atheists are within the statistical margin of error of the national average of approximately 33% divorce rate. However, far fewer agnostics and atheists (65%) marry than the national average (74%). “Born again” Christians average a 78% marriage rate, the highest in that poll.
The Barna surveys appear odd when it comes to “born again” Christians. As stated, evangelicals had about the lowest divorce rates in the survey. What the skeptics and mockers seem to be fixating on is a class Barna identified as “born again” non-evangelicals, whose divorce rate was 33%, statistically indistinguishable from the national average and above the atheist/agnostic rate of 30% (of those that married). Some skeptics proclaim that this proves Christianity makes little difference in lives. One site even went so far as to list this survey as evidence that God doesn’t exist.
So, who are these non-evangelical, born again Christians that give the mockers such joy and comfort? This is where it gets interesting and where the mockers engage in gross intellectual dishonesty.