Now that the 2012 election is nearing and potential candidates who have committed ethics slip-ups are trying to get vetted by, say, the tea party, it’s fun to see the Righteousness Crew do their thing. There’s Newt Gingrich, toying with running, explaining away his adultery (not to mention his divorces) by citing Patriotism as his justification (If you love your country enough, how can you be asked to be faithful to a mere mortal?). At least G.O.P. senator John Ensign had the decency to resign today, and not put us all through that tortuous game of moral fact-twisting. It’s actually fun to watch the Righteousness Crew at work; religious conservatives so often present themselves as so very holy. But let’s get real: Let me point out what the facts say, now and for as long as I’ve been studying this (which is about 25 years) about Who Cheats and Who Doesn’t.
There’s no difference between the religious cheaters and the nonreligious cheaters. Every study except those funded by religious groups says so. Here’s one, a study of born- again Christians. They are more likely to marry, according to the Barna Group’s recent marriage study of 5017 adults selected from across the continental U.S. (84 percent next to 74 percent among people aligned with nonChristian faiths, and 65 percent among agnostics and atheists) but they’re just as likely to divorce as everyone else. And born-again Christians who are not evangelical (meaning, those who meet less stringent criteria among the born-again sect than do evangelical born-agains) are indistinguishable from the national average: 33 per cent have been married and divorced. Moreover, when evangelicals and non-evangelical born-again Christians are combined into a class of born-again adults, their divorce number is statistically identical to that of non-born again adults: 32 per cent vs. 33 percent!
So, as you listen to the various machinations of the Righteousness Crew, those Family Values people who wear their sanctimoniousness on their sleeve (and pants), remember one thing: God has nothing to do with it. Whether you believe in God or not, whether you go to church daily or are just a despicable heathen with nary a thought of church on Easter, you share similar habits with all God’s children with regard to sex, marriage and divorce.