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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More "dubious" distinctions

1. The Pew Research Center reported recently that Maine has one of the highest divorce rates in the country. Refreshingly, Pew has no opinion about the reasons for this, claiming to see no correlation with other relevant data such as age at marriage. Other folks have no compunctions, citing Maine's high working-class population, high poverty levels, tolerant attitudes and less religion (see No. 2), low percentage of college education, and the fact that divorce is relatively easy to get. A mess of reasons sounds about right - if there were just one reason for a phenomenon, we'd have nothing to gossip about.

One guess for the state with the highest rate.

2. Maine is also right up there in religion, or lack of it, tied for fourth in the country (with Washington, after Vermont, New Hampshire and Wyoming) for the highest percentage of people who say they have no religion. Phone polls conducted by researchers at Trinity College say so. (By the way, can you imagine being called to the phone, during dinner of course, and asked if you believe in God? Would your response be different if your burger was burned? If you had a bad day? If you just won the lottery?) There are absolutely no data that could explain this and I haven't seen anyone try.

My guess? You don't need religion so much when some of the most beautiful places in the world are all around you.

One last speculation: does any of this have anything to do with Question 1 on the Maine ballot this November? Earlier this year, Maine became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage, but opponents got enough signatures to try to repeal the law by referendum. Well, it's no accident that in Vermont now and New Hampshire as of 1/1/10 same-sex marriage is legal. Vermont and New Hampshire also have divorce rates well above average. To keep pace with its distinguished neighbors, Maine really must vote No on Question 1 and preserve the evil reputation of northern New England in the minds of Mississippi Baptists and Minnesota Calvinists and the Catholics of southern California.

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