The study, Sigalow said, showed religion is influential for most believers and it “didn’t matter if you were conservative Protestant, mainline Protestant or Catholic.”
But she was surprised by some of the findings. Sigalow didn’t find women to be more religious than men — a trend, she said, that is often brought up in discussions, in part because it goes against previous research.
The study also showed that having more than a high school diploma had a positive effect on marriage decisions. Respondents with education beyond high school were twice as likely to say religion influenced their marital decisions as those without a high school diploma.
Sigalow's analysis of the study showed that marriage between individuals with similar religions creates a more stable, satisfying and successful marriage, which, she said, is why believers often might search for someone of the same faith.
For Binyamin Jolkovsky, an Orthodox Jew from New York City and founder of JewishWorldReview.com, marrying outside of his religion was never an option.
“I believe those of the same faith should marry each other,” Jolkovsky said. “Not because those who marry outside of their faith are bigoted but that shared sense of who they are is going to impact the person and make the marriage work in an easier way.”
Jolkovsky met his wife through a matchmaker, who was less “Fiddler on the Roof” and more “mutual friend,” as he put it. He said it was never an option to marry someone outside of the Jewish faith, and his marriage has been “100 percent” more successful because of it.
“Personality and looks obviously come first, but shared values are key to a successful marriage,” Jolkovsky said. “There are certain givens and expectations in a relationship. There are certain ways you want to raise your kids in a relationship. Some of the major and explosive issues come from religious beliefs.”
But interfaith marriage is increasing, according to Naomi Schaefer Riley’s recent book "Till Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America," released earlier this year. Riley's research showed 42 percent of marriages in America are between interfaith couples.
Though marrying someone outside of one’s religion isn’t a sign of abandoning the faith, wedding someone with similar beliefs offers easier solutions, Jolkovsky said. He added that even though some religions have varying degrees of belief — some worshippers are more traditional, while others are more lax — differences on core values in a religion can often lead to divergence and divorce.
“When you’re in the same faith," he said, “it allows for smoother sailing.”
Building a family
As Jones' marriage went on, she and her husband sat down to discuss having kids — including how many to have. After having two planned kids, they had another unexpectedly.
Though religion didn't play a large part in their decision of quantity, God and his desires were always in the back of her mind.
"You want to please God," Jones said. “There’s some decisions we make that fall into the realm where God gives you a little bit (of help). Having children is sort of a natural course.”
Sigalow’s study surveyed couples who already had at least one child in the house and found those who placed more importance on religion were 2.7 percent more likely to decide how many kids to have based on their faith than were those who placed less importance on religion.
The research showed that religions with strong doctrines around childbearing — like Mormonism and conservative Protestantism — also offer social rewards for those who follow the traditions. Women in these religions tend to have high fertility rates, which Sigalow’s research identified as an incentive-based response.
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