New Book Examines the Rise of Interfaith Marriage, for Better or for Worse

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Til Faith Do Us Part is an exploration of the promise and peril of interfaith marriage today. It is not only reading for interfaith couples or anyone considering interfaith marriage, but for all those interested in learning more about this understudied phenomenon and the impact it is having on America.

As interfaith marriage becomes more common (42% of American marriages are mixed) and public attitudes change, the challenges are no longer about fitting in, according to journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley, herself a partner in a religiously mixed marriage. Instead, they are much more subtle, and result in marriages that are less happy than others and may end in divorce. Yet, “our obsession with tolerance at all costs makes discussing the problems of interfaith marriage taboo. That needs to change,” she says. In her new book, ‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America (Oxford University Press, April 2013), Riley explores the promise and peril in mixed-faith marriage, and its significance for the future of the institutions of marriage and religion.

Til Faith Do Us Part draws from an Interfaith Marriage Survey commissioned by Riley, a nationally representative sample of almost 2,500 men and women including an oversample of interfaith couples, and interviews with close to 200 members of the clergy, marriage counselors, and interfaith couples. Some key findings include:

•Interfaith marriages are generally more unhappy and more unstable with particularly high divorce rates when certain religious combinations are involved.
•Marriages between people of two different faiths are becoming more common in every area of the country, and for men and women regardless of education or income level.
•Jews are the most likely and Mormons the least likely to marry members of other faiths.
•Muslims in America are marrying outside their faith at a rate comparable to many other religious groups, which is leading to the rapid assimilation of that community.

Riley illustrates her findings with stories from some of the couples she interviewed— Catholic/Jewish, Evangelical Christian/Muslim, Druze/Catholic—and her own experience as a Jewish woman married to a man who grew up Jehovah’s Witness.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a former Wall Street Journal editor and writer whose work focuses on higher education, religion, philanthropy, and culture. She is the author of God on the Quad and The Faculty Lounges.

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‘Til Faith Do Us Part:
How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America
by Naomi Schaefer Riley
Oxford University Press
$24.95 | hardcover
April 2013

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Kelly Hughes and Justyna Zajac