In a fascinating new study published in June, researchers from two universities in Canada wanted to understand how Americans felt about recent scientific findings which revealed that a higher percentage of people in “more religious” states consumed more internet porn than those who lived in less religious states.
The study, brilliantly titled “Surfing for Sexual Sin: Relations Between Religiousness and Viewing Sexual Content Online” concluded that participants who self-identified as “more religious” see internet porn as “bad and harmful” and are “less willing to accept research highlighting that ‘surfing for sin’ may be particularly prevalent in religious communities,” even if they are adult entertainment consumers, themselves.
Psychology professors Cara C. MacInnis from the University of Calgary, and Gordon Hodson from Brock University set out to examine the “relationship between religiousness and viewing sexual content online among adult web users.”
In the first part of the study, they asked 208 Americans how religious they are and surveyed their reactions to the following statement: “A recent study demonstrated that searching for sexual content online (using Google) is more prevalent in more religious U.S. states than in less religious U.S. states.”
The findings showed that the self-described “more religious” participants were less willing to accept the findings as true, “consistent with tendencies to reject research findings contrary to personal opinions.”
If “more religious” Americans didn’t seem to agree that “higher religiosity is associated with increased searching for sexual content online,” researchers wondered, what factors did participants think influenced “online sexual content viewing, if not religion?”
In the second part of the study, researchers surveyed 252 Americans, again asking them to rate how religious they considered themselves to be.
They concluded that “more religious individuals were more likely to believe that moral values, race, and finances (not religion) impact the extent to which sexual content is viewed online.” Those individuals also viewed internet porn as more problematic than racism and gun violence. And, of course, they ” reported less viewing of sexual content online overall.”
The study is particularly timely because of the recent rise in popularity of books, such as this and organizations such as Faithful and True, Pure Life Ministries and XXX Church that offer therapy or advice to those seeking to kick off their habit. (In 2013, The Huffington Post reported that porn sites had more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.)
These new findings can help therapists and clinicians when “treating highly religious clients who may be highly concerned about others, and particularly themselves, viewing online sexual content,” the study concludes. “Understanding public beliefs surrounding online sexual material is important, especially among those relatively higher in religiousness, a unique population that may consume but also express disdain for online pornography.”