An unwelcome reminder? teofilo, Flickr CC

Of Porn and Prayer

Is the rise in pornography consumption reducing religiosity? In their Social Forces article, Samuel Perry and George Hayward try to find out. The researchers analyzed longitudinal data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, collected from 12- to 24-year-olds between 2003 and 2008, to see whether porn watchers grew less religious over time, and, indeed, they report that viewing pornography is associated with decreased levels of religious service attendance, lower importance of religion in daily life, lower prayer frequency, lessened closeness to God, and increased religious doubts. The findings hold for men and women, and are more pronounced among younger adolescents than among youth aged 18 and older.

The authors speculate that cognitive dissonance may underlie the association between pornography consumption and decreased religious behavior—that is, trying to reconcile behavior that religious texts and institutions forbid may cause mental stress. And the stress may be heightened in younger adolescents, who are more likely to be under closer control of parents and religious communities. While it’s not possible to say that viewing pornography directly causes a decline in religiosity, increased pornography consumption may contribute to a broader “secularizing” trend among young Americans.

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