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An ongoing series of five-minute short posts while I’m writing a book on the secular/religious mixed marriage.

If you’re in a mixed-belief marriage of any kind, here’s an arresting thought: you probably wouldn’t have been had you married in the 1950s.

Mixed belief marriages in the U.S. have more than doubled in number since then, up from 20 to 45 percent. The main reason is that we’re less segregated by religion.

0579herz[1]It was much more common in the past for people to grow up in religiously uniform neighborhoods created by immigration patterns and social and economic stratification. If you grew up Baptist in Birmingham in the 1950s, you could get well into your twenties before you met a non-Baptist…if then. Same for a Catholic in South Boston, or an Orthodox Jew in Borough Park, Brooklyn. Your pool of potential mates is drawn from the people you know, obviously, so most people married within their own faith.

It’s more common now for kids to grow up in neighborhoods and schools that are religiously mixed to a greater degree. Greater physical and social mobility and more people going to college means more of us are cheek-and-jowl with all kinds of difference. The pool of potential mates now includes more people of different religions and none, so mixed-belief marriages inevitably go up in number.

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.