“The aura of the theocratic death penalty for adultery still clings to America, even outside New England, and multiple divorces, which looks to the European like serial polygamy, is the moral solution to the problem of the itch.”—Anthony Burgess

That adultery is a sin often comes as a surprise to many Christians who although carrying the title know little about the Bible or its teachings on the subject. A survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago showed that 90% of the men and 94% of the women surveyed felt that extramarital sex was wrong. However, out of that same group 25%-37% of the men and 17% of the women had been unfaithful.[1] Obviously, there is a double standard in place or—blinders. To add more fuel to the morality fire an Associated Press survey showed that 22% of married men and 14% of married women have strayed at least once during their marriage. The poll also showed there is no appreciable difference in infidelity rates between women or men. Still, 90% of Americans believe that adultery is morally wrong.

Yet, the subject of adultery barely crosses the lips of the clergy who now ignore adult behavior of this type and maybe with good reason. A survey of Southern Baptist pastors by the Journal of Pastoral Care said that 14% of the pastors surveyed admitted to engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior. Nearly 50%-70% of the same pastors said they had counseled at least one woman who had intercourse with another minister.[2],[3] According to Newsweek Magazine, "Various surveys suggest that as many as 30% of male Protestant ministers have had sexual relationships with women other than their wives."

A survey of nearly 1,000 Protestant clergy by Leadership magazine found that 12% admitted to sexual intercourse outside marriage. Seventeen percent of the affairs occurred with people they were counseling, and 52% involved members, ministers or other leaders of their own congregation. An additional 18% disclosed that they had kissed, fondled or masturbated with someone other than their spouse. When asked what consequences they had suffered nearly a third reported no adverse outcomes.[4]

Three Protestant churches recently addressed issues involving sexual standards for their clergy. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church debated an amendment to its constitution, which required all church officials to be faithful in marriage and chaste if single, but so many congregations threatened to ignore the decree that delegates voted to drop the chastity requirement.[5] Recent studies reveal that 45-55% of married women and 50-60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their relationship.[6]

"In all walks of life, charismatic figures exude a powerful attraction to the opposite sex. Charismatic clergy have the added aura of representing God or channeling the Holy Spirit. That is why Billy Graham, for example, decided early in his ministry never to be alone with a woman other than his wife. Few others are so meticulous. A generation ago, philandering clergy usually lost their jobs. That still happens. In an age when tolerance for adultery seeps into politics and race relations, denominations are hesitant to set too high a standard for their own. What some Protestant denominations believe is that sexual behavior is either too personal to legislate or too trivial to condemn."[7]

Because of the secrecy involved, it is tough to get a handle on how many Americans have affairs. Estimates range from as low as 14% to as high as 70%. According to therapist and author, Peggy Vaughn, about 60% of men and 40% of women will have an affair at some point in their marriage. USA Today published a national study by the University of California, San Francisco showing that about 24% of men and 14% of women have had sex outside their marriages. Affairs affect one of every 2.7 couples, according to counselor Janis Abrahms Spring, author of After the Affair.

One study claims that 70% of married women and 54% of married men did not know of their spouses' extramarital activity. [8] Another study found that 2/3 of the wives whose husbands cheated had no idea of their infidelity because they failed to recognize the telltale signs. Experts say that a gut instinct is the most powerful indicator of a cheating lover. Adultery statistics state that 85% of woman who feel their lover is cheating are correct. Nearly 50% of men who feel their lover is cheating are right. The first clue is seldom obvious. Typically, it is a "feeling" that something is different.[9]

One clear element in the cheating game is that women are the victims more often than men as 80 to 85% of adultery victims are women between the ages of 25 and 50 years old. Interestingly, 10 to 20% of spousal cheating begins as an Internet affair in a chat room or game website.[10] The Internet is becoming a breeding ground for adultery, or at least experts who track the patterns of extramarital affairs say so. Another interesting statistic is rarely do people have one online affair. Over 90% of those involved in cyber affairs become addicted to them and continue them dropping one person for the next as soon as the drama and excitement wear down. Approximately 70% of time on-line activities stay confined to chat rooms or sending email; of these, the vast majorities are romantic in nature. Dr. Michael Adamse, PhD., co-author of Affairs of the Net: The Cybershrinks' Guide to Online Relationships[11]

In fact, the rate of cheating has stayed consistent, according to research expert Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Smith conducted the highly respected study “American Sexual Behavior,” a poll of 10,000 people over two decades. The study found that 22% of married men and 15% of married women have cheated at least once—similar to the results from the MSNBC.com/iVillage survey. Still, much of this depends on your definition of cheating. Nearly everybody considers sexual intercourse or oral sex to be cheating, but there are some other behaviors that fall into grayer areas.

Only 35% of unions survive an extramarital affair while 65% of marriages break up because of adultery. Studies also found that men are less forgiving of affairs than women. When a woman has a physical affair, she is risking her marriage more than a man who has a physical affair. Women are more forgiving.


[1] National Opinion Research Center, http://www.norc.uchicago.edu/

[2] Probe Ministries, Adultery in the Church, November 14,1998, http://www.probe.org/docs/c-adultery2.html

[3] Models Of Flock Disappointment From American Church History: Parallels With The Duping Of The Y2K Flocks, Americanwasteland.com, January 5, 2000, D. Marty Lasley, http://www.americanwasteland.com/y2kmodels.html

[4] Kenneth L. Woodward, Sex, Morality And The Protestant Minister, What Sexual Standards Should The Clergy Obey?, NEWSWEEK, July 28, 1997, http://www.newsweek.com/id/97987

[5] Sex, Morality And The Protestant Minister, Newsweek Magazine, Kenneth L. Woodward, July 28, 1997, http://www.newsweek.com/1997/07/27/sex-morality-and-the-protestant-...

[6] The New Affair Treatment Considerations, Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, Joan D. Atwooda and Limor Schwartz, 2002

[8] Religious Tolerance.Org, Religious Beliefs in the United States, General religious beliefs, http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_poll.htm

[9] The Truth About Infidelity, Who potentially commits infidelity?: Anyone!, http://www.infidelity-help.us.com/

[10] Mitchell Files Case History, Statistics on Cheating Spouses, 2001, http://shop.store.yahoo.com/eaglesnestpub/statoncheats.html

[11] Affairs of the net: The cybershrink's guide to online relationships, Michael Adamse, Health Communications, 2000

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Comment by Donald R Barbera on August 15, 2017 at 5:57pm
Roland-I certainly agree. Seeing that the unequal punishments in the Bible are almost always harsher or women. I think adultery made the top ten because even the writers didn't have anything to pad a 10 item list because the first five are worthless. Making it a sin is a religious twist. I'm on iPad right now so this type is tiny. I will come back later.
Comment by Roland Johnson on August 15, 2017 at 4:52pm

Thank you for this article; it is a subject that interests me. We must be careful to remember that Adultery in the religious sense does not necessarily involve deception, infidelity, cheating etc. It merely refers to the rather innocuous activity of sex with someone to whom you aren't married. This raises the question of "can one simply invent sins (that don't appear to have negative consequences)?". I discuss the origin of Adultery as a sin in my book Age of Wisdumb. Here is my summary:

"... the prohibition against adultery. Is this a basic moral rule at all? Worthy of being on God’s Top Ten list? Is the adulterous act actually the sin here? We discussed above how sexual taboo generally is manmade; surely the only moral breach lies in the partner betrayal and deceit that sometimes accompanies adultery. But these need not be present in a sexually enlightened community, and anyway can be separately singled out for castigation. So what is going on here? How did it make the top ten? There is no reason for Yahweh to make such a blunt rule, but every reason for mankind to do so. More specifically, men. More specifically, the older, married, ruling-class men who write these rules. The tribal elders who propagate such rules would normally have been married, several times over, with numerous concubines, leaving a shortage of females for the younger, single men of the tribe. The unrelieved sexual tension in such societies must have been immense. No wonder the tribes went on genocidal rampages to capture additional young women. The temptation for unfulfilled young women, living miserably in forced marriages, to sneak out for a dalliance with the sexually-frustrated young men of the tribe must have been irresistible. So put such acts on a par with murder.

It turns an act of love, not into a crime of passion, but a property crime.

Yes, the prohibition on adultery was a rule of possession by the tribal elders upon their wives, against the younger, less influential, mainly single men. A property crime, policed by guilt, punished by death; the ultimate legal chastity belt."

Taken from: https://www.amazon.com/Age-Wisdumb-Roland-D-Johnson/dp/0998903701

Comment by kathy: ky on August 10, 2017 at 9:21pm
Daniel, unless you studied computers and pads or are young enough to have grown up with them spelling errors are very common on these damn things. I don't think anyone pays much attention to them. I know I don't.
Comment by Daniel W on August 10, 2017 at 8:09pm

By the way, sorry about  my horrendous type-ridden comment.  When I post via tablet with touch pad, all bets about typos are off.  I could use autocorrect, but my experience is, that is worse, with many unwanted "corrections" that actually make things ridiculous.  Thank you all for being patient with my old - guy ineptitude with new tech.

Comment by Grinning Cat on August 10, 2017 at 4:58pm

(Ruth) "As a polyamorist, I don't assume monogamy values."

Likewise! It's not always easy, in a culture replete with assumptions of monogamy as an (imperfectly followed!) ideal. There's lots of "unnecessary monogamy tragedy" that could have been avoided if responsible nonmonogamy suits the partners involved.

(I see monogamy or not as an "orientation" as well as a relationship style.)

(And like others here, I reject the concept of "sin" as an imaginary crime against an imaginary being, orthogonal to the issues of trust and respect and consequences among actual fellow human beings.)

Comment by Donald R Barbera on August 10, 2017 at 4:19pm

Bertold that one stays with me because I've used it Chapter and Verse to question these true believers who hate, chat, gamble, drink, have sex before marriage and a host of other things. It is a showstopper. I don't have Big Brother looking over my shoulder but for someone that makes that claim and, yet, would condemn me for being normal, it is the perfect response to Bible beaters and Christians who are just members of the club.

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 10, 2017 at 1:26am

I like what Daniel wrote. 

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on August 9, 2017 at 10:50pm

But Hillary's emails!!! 

Perfect instance of motes and beams.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on August 9, 2017 at 10:45pm

Daniel, you hit some of the most important things in the implementation of morals, ethics and humanity. A promise is a promise no matter who it's made to or about what subject. When it comes to the interface between humans, morals can't be dictated, but they can be found unhealthy for the needs of the tribe. To ensure lineage adultery was found to be outside the tribal codes. Stealing would not be a good behavior in a small tribe.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on August 9, 2017 at 10:34pm

I based this entire essay on the idea Christians promote the idea that somehow they are above doing the same things as other people. "Sin" means absolutely nothing to me but as a rebuff for those who make the claims. However, when you preach it, you should live it. Period! Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. — Matthew 7:1-5 KJV   That comes from the Christian Rule Book, the Bible.


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