How to Tell a Convincing Lie.
Sunday morning. Flip through the TV channels and all you see are infomercials and Godfomercials. It’s bad enough when the Televangelists stick to the scriptures. Their mission has become increasingly about painting a lurid picture of what the world has become without their particular brand of Old-Time Religion (Patent pending. Spread it on your crops and watch ‘em grow!) This is not the problem. There is more religion around than there ever was in the “good old days”. Back in the days that the preachers are glorifying, the only religion in the house was what the parents brought in, a bible, a cross, some spooky disembodied praying hands perhaps. Now, I’ve got snake oil salesmen falling all over themselves to reach me through my television. Lots of them have toll free numbers where I can contribute to their pet charities, and the army of production staff, accountants and phone room slaves that keep the whole scam going.
How then, do the preachers make it look like lack of religious belief has anything to do with modern social problems? By telling half-truths and promoting erroneous conclusions of course! One of their favorite soap box speeches is a complaint about the divorce rate in which they kindly tell their audience what to conclude from it all. The first problem with this argument is that divorce statistics are a mess. For example, ask around, and you will be told that anywhere from 1 in 4, to 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce. The general belief is that this has been true for two decades at least. Compare that to statistics collected by the National Center for Health Statistics (NHCS) that state in 1988, the divorce rate in the Northeast was 3.5 per 1000 inhabitants. In order to reconcile these two figures, we would have to believe that a maximum of 14 people per 1000 were married for the first time that year. One also has the problem that a marriage can last 10-20 years and still end in divorce, therefore qualifying as an unsuccessful marriage. Then there are second, third, and fourth marriages to consider. Should we count the divorce rate of subsequent marriages in the same way as the first marriage? At least one of those partners found the institution (paradigm) of marriage unsuitable already, so are we double-counting their behavior pattern? Here is a broader study of the social issues affecting marriage and divorce. It is by no means complete, and it is also written in support of a pet theory, but it is much less simplistic than the picture painted by the Bible Belters.
The second problem is that the statistics themselves do not present a complete picture. The preacher will tell you that in 18-something, only 1 marriage in 300 ended in divorce. How many ended prematurely from disease and mortality in wars like the US Civil War? How many were held together for the sake of the children? How many were hell on earth, a partnership in name only, continued only because of a slavish devotion to public opinion that dictated that marriage was forever? How many husbands or wives left home without the courtesy of divorce? How many horrible marriages ended in murder instead of divorce? These numbers are unobtainable, but the scenarios need to be considered as part of the mix.
Third and last, divorce is not a problem. It is a solution to a problem. It might or might not be the best solution, but who am I to second-guess someone else’s decision? The attitudes of those who would pass moral judgment on someone else’s situation without knowing all the facts of that situation are prejudiced. The prejudice is created by those who would legislate a false morality. This has never worked, but the control freaks keep trying, and seem to have no trouble convincing large numbers of people that it could work.