More Frequent Porn-Watching Can Boost Religiosity, Researcher Finds June 1, 2016

More Frequent Porn-Watching Can Boost Religiosity, Researcher Finds

Religious people can finally watch a ton of porn and feel pious about it. A little porn won’t do, but a lot of it might really deepen their commitment to religion.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Sex Research, Sociologist Samuel L. Perry of the University of Oklahoma writes that, on the whole, the correlation between pornography use and religiosity runs as most of us probably expect:

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While scholars typically assume that greater religiosity leads to less frequent pornography use, none have empirically examined whether the reverse could be true: that greater pornography use may lead to lower levels of religiosity over time. I tested for this possibility using two waves of the nationally representative Portraits of American Life Study (PALS). Persons who viewed pornography at all at Wave 1 reported more religious doubt, lower religious salience, and lower prayer frequency at Wave 2 compared to those who never viewed porn. Considering the effect of porn-viewing frequency, viewing porn more often at Wave 1 corresponded to increases in religious doubt and declining religious salience at Wave 2.

But increase the level of porn consumption, and something interesting occurs:

[T]he effect of earlier pornography use on later religious service attendance and prayer was curvilinear: Religious service attendance and prayer decline to a point and then increase at higher levels of pornography viewing. Testing for interactions revealed that all effects appear to hold regardless of gender. Findings suggest that viewing pornography may lead to declines in some dimensions of religiosity but at more extreme levels may actually stimulate, or at least be conducive to, greater religiosity along other dimensions.

Why would that be so? Perry has a few ideas:

Research on moral psychology suggests that persons often fashion their moral values to justify their impulses and dispositions rather than the reverse …, and thus persons who enjoy regularly viewing pornography may have successfully rationalized the practice to experience no moral conflict and thus no related guilt or religious withdrawal. …

For an alternative explanation, studies of addiction suggest that those who feel helpless in their addiction often elicit supernatural help. … It could very well be that persons who use pornography at the most extreme levels (i.e., use levels that might be characteristic of a compulsion or addiction) are actually pushed toward religion over time rather than pulled away from it.

Another possible explanation could be that, while relatively moderate levels of porn use could have a secularizing effect on otherwise average people, more extreme levels of porn use may be reflective of certain personality types who are particularly drawn to religion.

Future studies are needed to explain the effect. I can’t participate in them because I’m not religious, but in the interest of science, I’ll keep doing my darndest to find Jesus with frequent visits to, um, research sites.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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