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But Christians are hardly exempt from wider mating market dynamics.

Sex has become cheap — that is, not hard to get — because it’s much less risky and consequential in the era of birth control.

In step, many Christians’ expectations about marriage have dimmed. Many Orthodox Jews and Mormons have eschewed the wider mating market, while Christians in their 20s and 30s have not. Sex often follows, though sometimes after a longer period of time — a pattern that confuses them more than most, because premarital sex remains actively discouraged, but impossible to effectively prevent, in the church. Online dating treats human beings as rank-able commodities and speeds up our ability to circulate through them.

Whereas only 37 percent of the least religious never-married adults in the 2014 Relationships in America survey said they would prefer instead to be married, 56 percent of the most religious never-married adults said the same. These Christians’ narratives are seldom radically different from nonreligious Americans. Moreover, plenty of American Christians have taken breaks from the faith, been burned, returned and then struggle to navigate new relationships in a manner distinctive from their previous mating-market experiences. It can be navigated for noble purposes, but its baseline principles can’t really be reformed.

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The church, by which I mean institutionalized Christianity in the United States, is increasingly alone in its formal privileging of marriage and family.It’s able to poke holes in the “sacred canopy” over the erotic instinct, to borrow the late Peter Berger’s term.Perhaps the increasing lack of religious affiliation among young adults is partly a consequence of widening trends in nonmarital sexual behavior among young Americans, in the wake of the expansion of pornography and other tech-enhanced sexual behaviors.We overestimate how effectively scientific arguments secularize people. PETA asks them to consider vegan bake sales instead.It’s not science that’s secularizing Americans — it’s sex. Follow Acts of Faith on Twitter or sign up for our newsletter.

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