Monday, July 02, 2007

Atheists are the most faithful to their spouses? In a number of previous posts, I showed that atheists and confident believers have the best behavior, while the uncertain fare the worst. (There have been one or two exceptions.) Cheating on your spouse shows the same pattern. The numbers below are the percent of married people who cheated on their partner in the past year, according to General Social Survey data:

Percent cheating on spouse in past year by belief in God:

Do not believe 2.5
No way to find out 4.0
Some higher power 3.6
Sometimes believe 4.0
Believes but has doubts 3.9
Knows 3.1

Keep in mind that these differences are small, but these results conform to the emerging picture that people with confident beliefs, whatever they are, act in more constructive ways. Data from the GSS are demonstrating that atheists, as a group, are not maladjusted like religious folks believe.


Tim said...

The root, causal variable may be that people that adopt structured beliefs per the existence of God will also tend to also adopt structured beliefs regarding marriage.

Have you controlled for income and education? Intuitively, I would guess that a high income attorney who goes to Church is actually less likely to commit adultery than an atheist in the same position.

But I'm only guessing.

agnostic said...

A simple explanation: atheists tend to be geeks -- usually not very attractive, socially inept, off-putting haughtiness, and get married much later in life (for all sorts of reasons).

Thus, few others are interested enough in them to tempt them to stray from their spouse.

You'd have to run an experiment on college campuses, where a red-hot babe pretended she was interested in the guy and made a clear advance ("do you want to come to my apartment tonight?"). In experiments like this, almost all guys say yes, except if their girlfriend is in town, and even then they apologize ("gee, I'd love to, but...").

You'd collect info on relationship status and religious beliefs after they signed up, but before the babe encounter. Then see whether willingness to stray was correlated with religious beliefs.

Ha, you could also test professors who are known to be married or committed to girlfriends: have a hot coed make a pass at them and see if willingness to stray was related to religious beliefs.

Rob said...


I think those studies were even better than that. Most of the guys who said no asked for a rain check.