Are Religious People More Likely to Seek Online Porn?

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Are Religious People More Likely to Seek Online Porn?


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"Conservative states are more likely to search for sex and porn online."  So declares a recent headline in The Washington Post.  Is this true?

 

Cara C. MacInnis and Gordon Hodson are researchers at Brock University in Ontario, Canada.  They claim that people who live in more religious and more politically conservative states are more likely to look for sexual content online.  To make their case, they used Gallup surveys to identify states for religiosity and political conservatism.  Then they used Google Trends to see which states had the most Internet searches for "sex," "porn," and similar terms.  They concluded that the more conservative a state, the more likely its people are to conduct Google searches for sex terms. 

 

The Plague of Pornography by Jim DenisonThey detailed their findings on a chart which identifies states by red if they voted for Romney and blue if they voted for Obama in 2012.  Looking over their chart and its related documentation, two issues occurred to me.  First, MacInnis and Hodson identified 15 states as significantly above average for Google searches for sex terms.  Of the 15, only five are red; 10 are blue.  By contrast, twenty-five states are significantly below average, of which 13 are red, 12 are blue.  I'm not sure this data supports The Washington Post's headline.

 

Second, MacInnis and Hodson note in their research abstract that Google Trends "calculates within-state search volumes for search terms."  In other words, they identified a state's population as more or less likely to search for sexual terms based on the number of searches originating in that state.  Did they account for population differences in drawing their conclusions?  Or is it a coincidence that of the 15 states with above-average search volumes for sexual terms, 13 are among the 15 most populated states in the U.S.?

 

Here's another study of conservative and liberal states that didn't get nearly as much media attention.  The Chronicle of Philanthropy charted states by their generosity in giving to charitable causes.  Their study shows that 17 of the most generous states, in relative terms, voted for Romney in 2012, while 15 of the 17 least generous states voted for Obama's re-election.  People in Mississippi, 91 percent of whom believe in God, give 4.99 percent of their income to charity.  Residents of New Hampshire, where less than a third say they believe in God, donate 1.74 percent.

 

How to Change Our Culture by Jim DenisonAm I trying to say that Democrats are less charitable than Republicans, or that religious people are more caring than those who are not religious?  Not at all.  Rather, I'm suggesting that demographic surveys can be interpreted to reinforce the biases of those who interpret them.

 

And I want to make two other points.  One: the plague of pornography is killing marriages and corrupting minds across our culture.  Any search for Internet sexual content, especially by Christians, is tragic.  Two: followers of Jesus should be sacrificially gracious to others, because we have received sacrificial grace from our Lord.

 

To change our culture for Christ, let's be the kind of godly, generous people we want others to be.  And let's remember with Brother Lawrence that "the greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it is upon divine grace."

 

 

Publication date: October 15, 2014

 

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