LOS ANGELES—From our perch, it has always seemed as if the more religious a person was, the more likely it was that they would claim to be addicted to porn, almost as if they wanted to be. Our perception was purely anecdotal, based on innumerable instances of public confession as well as myriad articles on the "problem" suffered by people of faith who felt compelled to express their desperation about an affliction they felt helpless to control. Indeed, at times it has seemed as if there was an army of religious porn addicts stalking the land like walking dead. But the allegedly vast scope of this supposed epidemic left us with a few questions, such as, "Who the fuck are they kidding?" and, 'What the hell was in that Kool-Aid?"
We were skeptics, to be sure, but without the research to back up our skepticism. Now, however, thanks to a new psychological study from Case Western Reserve University—whose lead author, Joshua Grubbs, is a doctoral student in psychology who "attended a conservative university as an undergraduate, became interested in the topic after observing fellow students in distress because they thought something was terribly wrong with them after watching online pornography," according to health24.com—there is research that shows a direct correlation between religiosity and perceptions of porn addiction.
The authors of the research note that it was "limited to a series of samples in the US, primarily reflecting Christian religious affiliations," and add, "As such, it is yet to be determined if our findings are generalizable to other religious and cultural settings. We also noted sporadic gender differences in our studies on key variables. It is possible that such differences, although not consistent across studies, are indicative of greater differences between men and women regarding pornography use and moral disapproval."
Limitations aside, the results strongly indicate a powerful predilection in religious people—okay, Christians—to believe they are addicted to porn no matter how much porn they watch or whether it negatively impacts their lives.
"We found that the relationship between religiosity and perceived addiction to internet pornography was mediated by moral disapproval of pornography use, and religiosity demonstrated a substantial indirect effect on perceived addiction," wrote the authors. "These findings... supported our hypotheses that religiosity would be robustly and indirectly predictive of perceived addiction to internet pornography through moral disapproval of Internet pornography use."
The research conducted by Grubbs and colleagues—from Bowling Green State University, the University of North Texas and the Mesa, Arizona public schools—was actually broken up into three different studies that "surveyed people about their strength of faith, religious practices and online viewing habits. Respondents also completed a survey to measure their perception of addiction," noted Health24.com.
"Two studies involved a general student population of men and women (with an average age of 19) from non-secular (331 participants) and religious (97 participants) higher education institutions. A third study captured the views of an online adult population of individuals 18 and older (208 participants), with an average age of 32," reported the site.
"In sum," concluded the researchers, "the present study indicated that religiosity and moral disapproval of pornography use were robust predictors of perceived addiction to Internet pornography while being unrelated to actual levels of use among pornography consumers."
While the analysis of the research represents a dry read, its findings, if they are accepted by the religious communities represented therein, should offer tremendous insight, and perhaps help, for the thousands of people who misdiagnose themselves as being addicted to pornography. More problematically, however, the study's findings regarding the role of moral disapproval as a determining factor in the perception of porn addiction indicates a conscious effort on the part of religious leaders to inculcate in their followers a negative knee-jerk reaction to viewing porn, and what better way to do that than to lead the flock to believe that any viewing is synonymous with addiction.
Titled "Transgression as Addiction: Religiosity and Moral Disapproval as Predictors of Perceived Addiction to Pornography," the research is available for purchase here.