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Churchgoing youth less likely to watch porn: study

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

CALGARY, Alberta, July 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — A five-year study of pornography viewing among adolescents and young adults has found that youth who go to church watch less porn.

The study, entitled “How Does Religious Attendance Shape Trajectories of Pornography Use Across Adolescence?,” shows that porn use increases dramatically as youth grow into adulthood, but a significantly lower increase in porn use is seen among youth who attend religious services.

The study, published in the June issue of the Journal of Adolescence, surveyed pornography usage of adolescents to young adults from ages 13 to 24. 

Researchers concluded, "Pornography consumption is weaker at higher levels of religious attendance, particularly among boys, and religious attendance also weakens age-based increases in pornography consumption for both boys and girls. Overall, pornography use increases across adolescence into young adulthood, but immersion in a religious community can help weaken these increases."

University of Calgary Ph.D student Kyler Rasmussen, the study's lead author, concluded, "We can see that religious attendance is a factor in shaping the trajectories of pornography viewing in adolescents. ... Some might see it as a vindication of the role of religion, in that it can shape the behavior of young adolescents in a positive way."

Study co-author Alex Bierman speculated on why religion helps steer adolescents away from pornography. "People in religious communities learn that there are expected patterns of behavior," the UC associate professor of sociology said. "It may be the notion of a divine significant other who watches over them, and there may also be a social support component…within a moral community."

"It's a breath of fresh air to see statistics that young people who attend church are less likely to look at porn than those who don't go to church," Noah Filipiak, founding pastor of Crossroads Church in Lansing, Michigan, told LifeSiteNews. "The Church and the Scriptures are where we learn that God designed sex to be within the intimate one-flesh union of marriage. In this, we learn that sex requires lifelong commitment because of the dignity and value God has given every human."

"Away from the church, young people are conditioned to objectify and consume other humans via porn without any voice of truth teaching them this isn't the way God created us to see one another," Filipiak concluded. "Porn destroys life, while Jesus brings life.  Let's pray that the model of sex given to us in Scripture continues to be a light to young people today!"

"While religion often teaches about respecting the inherent dignity of our fellow man, pornography infringes on that human dignity," National Center on Sexual Exploitation Executive Director Dawn Hawkins explained to LifeSiteNews. "It makes sense that religious young adults are less likely to watch porn if they are taking these messages to heart."

Hawkins quickly added, "However, it is important to not assume those involved in church are immune to the harms of pornography. Recent research revealed that more than half of Christian youth pastors have had at least one teen come to them for help dealing with porn in the past 12 months. It is important that churches discuss the harms of pornography openly and that they offer resources and counseling to those struggling with pornography."

"For anyone currently working to recover from pornography, or who is looking for resources on how to address this issue with their children or partners, I would encourage you to check this out."

Jason Huxley, founder and director of Guilty Pleasure, told LifeSiteNews, "Research released earlier this year in conjunction with Josh McDowell Ministries suggested similar to this study, where they found those with religious beliefs tended to view less pornography." Huxley mused, "Is that because they admit it less due to religious pressure or have a different set of standards they live to? I'm not sure."

"In our experience, we've always found that those with religious beliefs tended to find themselves more addicted to pornography, struggling to quit viewing," Huxley said, "and we've wondered if that's because of shame, brought on by feelings of guilt and separation when those who the community thinks probably shouldn't be looking find themselves looking more than ever."

Huxley concluded, "Regardless of religious beliefs, people are finding porn damaging to their relationships and lives and are seeking ways to quit."

The University of Calgary study data came from the National Study of Youth and Religion, itself a study by faculty at the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which was a telephone survey of 3,290 youth and their parents, investigating the role of spirituality in the lives of adolescents.

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