Health

What This New Study Reveals About Religion and Porn Addiction

May 12th 2017

By:
Mike Rothschild

A new study from Brigham Young University (BYU) has shed light on the psychological relationship between pornography and religion.

The results "confirmed a building school of research which indicates that the effects of pornography on individuals vary based on moral and religious beliefs," wrote relationship expert Dr. David Ley in Psychology Today. Ley added, "seeing oneself as addicted to porn is far more damaging than actually using pornography."

The study surveyed 686 unmarried adults, asking how frequently they view pornography, their religious affiliation, and what they saw as the relationship effects caused by their porn viewing. It found that people who identified as highly religious, and who also watched porn, tended to view themselves as having a pornography addiction - no matter how much or how little they watched it.

Because of that perceived addiction, religious porn watchers saw themselves as "damaged goods," unable to sustain relationships and less likely to pursue them.

It also afflicts them with a kind of relationship anxiety, which, according to the study, "adds support to the idea that religious individuals either have a higher propensity for developing a pornography compulsion, or simply misattribute their pornography use to be an addiction, due to the guilt and shame accompanying sexual expression."

“The way the person is thinking about [pornography use] influences the way they are thinking of themselves in regards to potential long-term relationships,” BYU researcher Nathan D. Leonhardt, one of the study's authors, told Salt Lake City TV station KUTV.

The disconnect in perception between any kind of pornography use and religious belief is something that's been born out in a number of studies.

These studies show that a religious upbringing can warp one's view of pornography, even if seen in small doses. Essentially, no matter how little a self-described believer views pornography, they believe they are addicted to it, and it damages their relationships as a result. "One study at a Christian college found that 60 percent of Christian males seeking help for porn-related problems viewed themselves as addicted to pornography, although only 5 percent of those men met any of the criteria related to addictive disorders," Ley wrote in Psychology Today.

With the advent of copious free pornography on the internet, its viewing has skyrocketed, particularly among young men. This increase has led to a number of states to dub pornography a "public health crisis." South Dakota and Virginia have both claimed that porn leads to a "lessening desire" in young men to get married, while Utah's declaration claims it to be "evil, degrading, addictive and harmful.”

More research is showing that if there is indeed a pornography crisis, it's hitting young religious men particularly hard, combining with the upbringing to create a perfect storm of shame and secrecy.

Even Ley seems to agree. "If you are religious, you probably shouldn’t watch porn," he wrote, adding, "it is likely to lead to you feeling that you’re addicted, and then developing shame around your identity and your porn use."

But as he told KUTV, Leonhardt's conclusion is not so black and white.

Citing positive comments he's gotten, the researcher says that "while [users] still may recognize that pornography is a problem, [the study] has helped them feel more comfortable in their interpersonal relationships and not viewing themselves as damaged goods."

Beyond that, he views the study as a way to better differentiate people who are using pornography in a truly unhealthy and damaging way from those whose upbringing is contributing to a misplaced feeling of being addicted to it.

"Hopefully, this is a chance to increase discussion and understanding surrounding the topic," he said, "and to help people better understand what some people may be going through and some of the ways we can reach out to help these people who are really struggling.”