two major divisions within a single religion (e.g. Protestant and Catholic), or
two denominations within a single division of a religion (e.g. Southern
Baptist and Assemblies of God)
Couples treat their religious faiths differently:
to some individuals, religion has no impact at all;
some are barely active in their religion;
some take their religion very seriously; it forms a major part of their life.
to some, their belief goes beyond conventional religion and becomes a close intimate
relationship with a god.
People have different beliefs concerning faith groups which are not their own:
some value religious diversity and see great merit in other religions;
some believe that their religion is the only completely true faith;
some believe that other faith groups are seriously flawed;
others believe that other religions are are evil, perhaps forms of Satanism.
All of these factors, and more, influence the impact that religious differences will
have in an inter-faith marriage. Thus, it is very difficult to make meaningful general
statements that apply to all or even most inter-faith marriages.
Numbers of inter-faith marriages:
Estimates of the total number of inter-faith/intra-faith marriages appear to be
hopelessly inaccurate. A book review in Psychology Today estimated that there are
only 500,000 inter-faith households in the United States. Yet:
In mid 2010, the Washington Post reported that:
"According to the General Social Survey, 15 percent of U.S. households were mixed-faith in 1988. That number rose to 25 percent by 2006, and the increase shows no signs of slowing.
The American Religious Identification Survey, 200111 reported that 27 percent of Jews, 23 percent of Catholics, 39 percent of Buddhists, 18 percent of Baptists, 21 percent of Muslims and 12 percent of Mormons were then married to a spouse with a different religious identification.
If you want to see what the future holds, note this: Less than a quarter of the 18- to 23-year-old respondents in the National Study of Youth and Religion think it's important to marry someone of the same faith."10
An informal survey among Washington Post readers showed that 62% believed that "... it's important to marry someone of the same religion." 36% said it was not important. Since the Washington Post is a liberal news source, a larger percentage of the general population would probably feel it is important to be of the same religion.
It is estimated that "Inter-marriage
for Jews rose steadily from 3% in 1965 to 17% in the mid-eighties." 7
Another guess is that 18 million (25%) of the Roman Catholics in the U.S. marry outside their faith.
Estimates for Manitoba, Canada is 40%; for Britain it is 75%. 4
A series of studies in Northern Ireland (a rather special location for intra-faith
relationships) gave rates varying from 2 to 25%, depending upon the exact location and
In Nepal, where Christians form less than 1% of the population, 53% of the marriages held in one church were inter-faith. 6
One writer commented that "Inter-faith marriages between Protestants and Catholics were once frowned upon, but today are accepted by 80% of the population." 7
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America reports that about 67% of
marriages conducted in the archdiocese are inter-faith or intra-faith. 8
Orthodox Christian perspective:
Emmanuel Clapsis, an Christian Orthodox priest, claims that "the percentage of
Greek Orthodox [members] marrying other Christians has been inching upward for decades and
will probably continue to move higher..." He sees a number of factors which
influence the rate of his church's members marrying outside of their religion. These are
probably true for all denominations and religions:
The number of eligible marriage partners in the neighborhood who are of the same faith
group. The fewer the possible partners, the more likely the individual is to look outside
of their faith group for a spouse.
The presence of ethnic or social class barriers which impede the mixing of young people
across religious lines. For example:
increasing enrollment at colleges and universities puts more young people of different
faiths away from home and into social contact.
movement from ethnic neighborhoods into the more heterogeneous suburbs lowers barriers to inter-faith dating.
Where religious, parochial or separate schools are increasing in enrollment, (e.g.
Ontario) youth have more social contacts within their faith and are more likely to date
persons of the same religion. If such schools are in decline: e.g.
in Newfoundland where 5 separate religious school systems have recently been converted
into a singular secular institution.
in Quebec which is expected to convert its Roman Catholic and Protestant systems into
secular French and English schools.
the reverse effect will probably occur.
religiously motivated home schooling, which is rapidly gaining adherents in North
America often drastically limits the social contacts of youth outside their faith.
The number of opportunities for single individuals to meet and mix with others within
same faith group. Some denominations have very active youth groups; others do not.
The commitment of parents to religion: As secular influences gain strength and church
attendance rates fall, young people are being increasingly raised in homes that have
little religious commitment. The latter has been shown to increase the rate of inter-faith
The commitment of youth to religion: With the decline in attendance at Sunday-school
classes, the gradual drop in church attendance, religion is probably decreasing slowly in
significance among youth. However, with the increase in the percentage of conservative
Christian youth, religion is increasing in importance.
The children of religiously mixed marriages are more likely to have inter-faith
marriages themselves. So, the rate will naturally increase with time.
As increasing value and tolerance is given to religious diversity, people
are liable to be more willing to consider a mixed-faith marriage.
The "strength of ethnic identification seems to inhibit" religiously
mixed marriages. As more Americans enter the cultural "melting pot," the
inter-faith marriage rate may increase.
Roman Catholic perspective
James Davidson, a sociologist at Purdue University has studied inter-faith
marriages in the Roman Catholic church. He writes that the intermarriage rate is
today "at least twice what it was in the pre-Vatican [II] era."
He attributes this to a number of influences:
Younger adults today have less attachment to the Church.
The total of Church-approved marriages is in decline (382,861 in 1970 vs.
293,434 in 1995). This is in spite of the increase in number of Catholics
during the same period.
There was a decline of 23% in church-sanctioned weddings between 1975 and
Interfaith couples are choosing civil ceremonies in record numbers. There
are far more interfaith marriages outside the church than within. "A
report given by the interchurch and interfaith committee at the 1996
Clergy-Laity Congress stated that a failure to reach out to the interfaith
couples in our churches would "be [like] closing our doors to the very
children, adults and families who are the church's future." 8
The LDS Restoration movement is made up of denominations, sects, and small faith groups who trace their origins back to the original Church of Christ that Joseph Smith's founded in 1830. There are currently on the order of 100 denominations that trace their spiritual ancestry back to that church.
In what is by far the largest denomination, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, if both the husband and wife are members of the church, they can be married in the Temple and have their marriage sealed for all eternity. That is, they believe that their marriage will survive their deaths. If they have led righteous lives, accepted Jesus' teachings, and met all of the ordinances, they can spend eternity in the Celestial Kingdom -- the highest level of Heaven.
In the largest fundamentalist wing of the LDS Restoration movement, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the wife may be able to attain the Celestial Kingdom. However, she requires an invitation from her husband. This options is not available if one spouse is a non-Mormon.
Stressors in inter-faith marriages:
Stressors often begin before the marriage itself, when parents realize
that a serious relationship is developing between their child and a friend of another
religion. The next hurdle is often at the time of the engagement. Organization of the
marriage ceremony and reception can be a "disaster of the Hindenberg class,"
as some members of the extended families may feel that the couple is being unfaithful to
the traditions in which they were raised. Frequently, religious groups rules place roadblocks in the
couple's path as they plan their ceremony.
Simply dealing with the spouses' different faiths on a week-to-week basis
can be a point of contention: whether to attend church, circle, mosque, synagogue, or
temple of the one partner or the other; or to alternate attendance, or to attend a
compromise denomination, or to back away from religious observance entirely.
When the couple has children they may have to decide whether the child will be baptized. They have to decide in which faith the
child will be trained and educated. A partner might find it very difficult to handle
having their child taught what are, in their opinion, untruths. If this decision is left
until children arrive, this unresolved religious conflict can cause chaos.
Different faith groups advocate varying beliefs and practices concerning
family size, abortion, birth control, artificial insemination, diet, food preparation,
sexual abstinence, the sharing of power between the spouses, the sharing of decision
making with the children, etc. Some parents are affiliated with faith groups that advocate corporal punishment as the preferred method of discipline; other groups regard spanking and hitting children with an implement to be child abuse. All of these factors can cause friction and may have to be