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CS Lewis says Christian marriages are maintained by God? Well, He’s doing a piss-poor job, then.

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A friend of mine, KLH, posted this quotation, attributed to CS Lewis, on his Facebook wall:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling… Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go… But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriage) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God… “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

– C.S. Lewis

For those interested, I was able to find the source for this on page 63 of The Complete CS Lewis Signature Classics, within the Mere Christianity section, Harper Collins, 2002.

Here is my response:

Interesting quotation. Do you think that’s really true? I ask because, according to the Associated Press, the highest divorce rates are in the Bible Belt (as cited in the link below). This is from ReligiousTolerance.org:

“Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significantly higher than for other faith groups, and much higher than Atheists and Agnostics experience.”

http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm

These figures are a little old (10ish years), but then again so is that quote from CS Lewis.

Some of the reasons for this are likely related to the younger age at which conservatives tend to get married (increasing the likelihood that they are not ready and rushing into a decision they will regret), and because of the idea that sex should be reserved for marriage (who wants to wait until they are 25 to have sex? (See above link for sources). In reality, 95% of Americans admit to having premarital sex; that may actually be even higher because conservative Christians, who don’t tend to be very willing to talk about their sex lives with random telephone pollsters, may be lying).

Source: Most Americans have premarital sex, study finds (2006)
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-12-19-premarital-sex_x.htm

Also, teen pregnancy rates are highest in the South and among conservative Christians, because of pushes for abstinence-only education:

Source: See page 13 (2010 study of 2005-6 data)
http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends.pdf

“Purity rings,” celibacy pledges, etc have been shown to delay sex in teens by only 3-4 months versus teaching how to use condoms and safe-sex practices, and in those cases, teens are more likely to get pregnant because they don’t tend to use protection if they’re not taught how. This article from TIME says that teens are just as likely to have sex regardless of whether they make a virginity pledge or not, and those who do make one are significantly less-likely to use protection:

Source: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1868990,00.html

It seems that the idea that Christian marriages are maintained by God, as CS Lewis suggests here, is really pretty skewed. If God is helping to maintain Christian marriages, he is actually doing a *worse* job at it than non-Christians are doing on their own!

If you’re interested in this topic, I highly recommend you check out this 1-hour talk from the Skepticon conference by researcher Darrel Ray, based on his brand-new book, “Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality.”

Here’s the book:

http://www.amazon.com/Sex-God-Religion-Distorts-Sexuality/dp/0970950543/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1326552466&sr=8-2

and here’s the video of the talk:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83P6epN1e9w

Here is the 46-page PDF study on which the book is based, which includes TONS of fascinating charts, graphs, and hard data that he and his research partner collected and put together for the book:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&ved=0CFAQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.niobium.fr%2Fdotclear%2Fpublic%2Fhumeur%2FSexandSecularismTheReport.pdf&ei=EZYRT9LHOYmXiAL1pom4DQ&usg=AFQjCNFpJGfz9XBp9YdAADYfxclLCp81vw&sig2=_1rzT2lozdT2MuqCYcUWVQ

His response:

I quote it because it’s interesting, but not because I’ve experienced it. Even if it is true, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s rarely lived out.

I think this is an odd thing to say. It’s pretty clear from the data that CS Lewis was wrong, as far as his central point that “this quieter love [i.e. love to and from God] enables them [Christians couples] to keep the promise [of marriage].” The opposite seems to be true, in fact, according to the data. But rather than say, “I guess CS Lewis was wrong,” he went for a less-fallacious twist on No True Scotsman by admitting that Christian couples likely don’t actually practice what they preach. Just thought that was interesting.

[Correction: Darrel Ray has informed me that the PDF study linked above is only the basis of one chapter of the book, not the basis of the whole book, which has many other chapters as well. Thanks, Darrel!]

Until next time,

Dave

mail@davemuscato.com

(573) 424-0420 cell/text

Dave Muscato is Vice President of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A junior at Mizzou majoring in economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com.

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Helpful resources:

Godisimaginary.com
Iron Chariots Wiki
Skeptics’ Annotated Bible / Skeptics’ Annotated Qur’an
AtheismResource.com
TalkOrigins.org

YouTubers: Evid3nc3Thunderf00tTheAmazingAtheistThe Atheist ExperienceEdward Current,NonStampCollectorMr. DeityRichard DawkinsQualiaSoup

Blogs: Greta ChristinaPZ MyersThe Friendly AtheistWWJTD?Debunking ChristianitySkepChick

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About Danielle Muscato

Danielle Muscato is a civil rights activist, writer, and public speaker. She has appeared on or been quoted in Rolling Stone, People, Time, The New York Times, SPIN, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard Magazine, and on MTV News, VH1, NPR, MSNBC, ABC, "The Real Story" with Gretchen Carlson, The O'Reilly Factor, Huffington Post Live, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Raw Story, CNN, CBS, and Howard Stern Danielle is the former Director of Public Relations for American Atheists. She is also a board member of MU SASHA (University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists & Agnostics). Her website is http://www.DanielleMuscato.com. Follow her on Google+ Follow her on Twitter @daniellemuscato Subscribe to her on YouTube at www.youtube.com/davemuscato

2 comments on “CS Lewis says Christian marriages are maintained by God? Well, He’s doing a piss-poor job, then.

  1. Dylan
    May 30, 2012

    Hey Dave,

    First off, I appreciate all the time and work you and others put into this blog, and so I strive to not waste yours or anyone’s time with my scattered comments here and there. That being said, it’s been quite a while since I’ve noticed any further activity on many of the posts that I have taken the time to comment on. I realize that could just be coincidental, but I wanted to find out, if possible, whether my random presence as a reader and infrequent commenter had somehow become unappreciated at some point and I just had not been made aware of it yet. If that’s the case, please let me know ASAP so that I may not be an unnecessary nuisance to anyone.

    Now, about this post. It seems to me that the title of this post is hugely misleading and thoroughly misrepresents what C.S. Lewis wrote in the above quote. Your reference to the slew of statistical data is interesting. However, it only serves as evidence against the straw-man you have somehow twisted together from the quote.

    “It’s pretty clear from the data that CS Lewis was wrong, as far as his central point that “this quieter love [i.e. love to and from God] enables them [Christians couples] to keep the promise [of marriage].”

    I’ve read the quote very carefully several times, and I can’t find any mention of anything resembling the phrase “love to and from God” in reference to “this quiter love. In fact, the predominant elements mentioned by Lewis as composing “this quiter love” are entirely the responsibility of the couple (“It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit”). He then goes on to say that the deep unity is “reinforced” by grace. This brief mention of God’s involvement in the unity is far from justifying your interpretation of it: that “Christian marriages are maintained by God”. Clearly, the principle of the quote is that the grace of God is available for the strengthening (reinforcing) of a marriage, but only wherein both individuals stay committed to each other through the faculty of their wills.

    Understanding the quote in this (in my opinion more accurate) way, coupled with the statistics you referenced, we can now see that the dilemma probably has less to do with God doing a “piss-poor job” maintaining marriages, and more to do with Christian couples doing a “piss-poor job” of either committing their wills to each other whilst the feeling of love fades or asking for and receiving the grace of God. Suddenly, the response by your friend (KLH) seems far less like a “less-fallacious twist on No True Scotsman and more like reality.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on this. 

    • MU SASHA Administrator
      May 30, 2012

      Dylan, hey! I am so sorry for not getting back to you about these – things have been pretty crazy around here. As you may have noticed, our group slows down a lot during the summer, and we don’t post to the blog as often. Tony (our group president) and I both have internships for ~2.5 months this summer out of state, and I’m actually preparing to leave for mine on Saturday. We VERY much appreciate your interaction and perspective, and I want you to know that we don’t even remotely want you to feel skirted. I am crazy-busy the next few days packing and taking care of a bunch of last-minute stuff here in Columbia, but I will definitely make time to respond to your comments ASAP. Thank you again for all of your feedback – there is nothing we value more than the truth, and honest criticism is NEVER something we would not want to hear. Thank you again, and talk to you soon!

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This entry was posted on January 14, 2012 by in Author: Dave Muscato and tagged , , , , .
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