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I was right!

Well, let me rephrase that…

What I suspected regarding sex, porn and masturbation (and previously posted here, here and here) has been confirmed in several respects by a recent study by Dr. Darrel W. Ray, director of The Institute for Performance Culture. Of course, nothing is ever conclusive in science and there will need to be much more research done to further understand the nuances in the study but here are their key findings:

Key findings:
1. Sex improves dramatically after leaving religion.
2. Sexual guilt has little staying power after leaving religion.
3. Those raised most religious show no difference from those raised least religious in their sexual behavior.
4. Those raised most religious experience far more guilt but have just as much sex.
5. Religious parents are far worse at educating their children on matters of sex.
6. Religious guilt differs in measurable amounts according to denomination.

Mormonism produces the most sex related guilt than any other religion.  Former Mormons ranked 8.19 on a scale of 1-10.  Here is the question they were asked:

How would you rate what you were taught: How guilty you felt about sex and its implications on yourself?”

When you apply that to the key findings, you realize that Mormons don’t behave any differently than anyone else when it comes to sexuality. They just feel worse about it.

As a Mormon I always believed that people who leave the church are forever wracked with guilt  and unhappiness, but are just never able to muster the  courage and discipline required to live as good of a life as the Mormons.  How ironic that the opposite is true. Those left behind are most likely wallowing in guilt and unhappiness with something so key to their nature, sexuality. I know the study doesn’t exactly say this.  It implies it and I have only my experience to go by.

The researcher is pretty good at admitting weaknesses and areas that need further study, but if I try putting on my Mormon glasses (they are rose-colored) and try to imagine the rationale I’d come up with to refute these claims, here’s what I’d probably say to myself:

Dadsprimalscream, these people are “former Mormons” and atheists who participated in this study.  They obviously never really had a testimony of the “fulness of the gospel” like I do and so these people are not like me or my Bishop or my Relief Society who are enduring to the end in righteousness and truth. People who leave the church are obviously the wicked and people who couldn’t hack it, so that’s why their behavior turns out to be exactly like that in the secular world. Those who follow the standards of the church don’t feel guilty and therefore they never leave it. Furthermore, he study was completed by atheists so they are clearly biased.

Except that… Those who leave religion, like myself, DID try it while they were in it and it didn’t work. Mormons follow the same pattern as other restrictive religions.  There doesn’t appear to be anything “special” about it other than being better at guilt. And those who leave religion end up similar to folks who never had a religion. Guilt is conditional… on religion, not on behavior.

Also, the people who leave religion to seem to be the ones who tried hardest and who have invested those most time into soul-searching.

There are themes of intense searching, bible reading, efforts to conform and find the promises of their religion, only to fail time and again. Ironically, the intense searching, bible reading and attempts to understand led many to recognize there were many things they were not being told and much was hidden or poorly explained.

There’s a lot I want to say on this topic, but instead I am just going to paste below some quotes from the study and let others comment and draw their own conclusions.

  • The more sexually restrictive a religion is the more it uses guilt.
  • Conservative religions teach guilt and proscribe many behaviors such as sex before marriage, masturbation, oral sex and sex outside of marriage, and use religious based approaches to sex education with emphasis on abstinence only, failing to teach about birth control, condom use and abortion.
  • Biology seems to trump religion despite the millions of dollars and hours devoted to teaching religious children how to behave within their
    religious restrictions.  Other general studies of sexuality show that 95% all adults have had premarital sex by the time they marry including, we believe, most ministers who tout abstinence only.
  • The religious kids were learning from sexual experience more than the less religious!
  • Most religions preach incessantly against pornography, yet it is the religious
    children in this sample that used it more.
  • It appears that the things religions preach against most – sexual experimentation, pornography and the internet – are what religious kids may use the most, while failing to talk to their parents.
  • Non-religious kids seem to be following the religious proscriptions better than the religious ones.
  • For the most religious, getting religion out of their lives seemed to make a huge difference in their sex life.
  • Those from the most guilt based religions would show the greatest drop in guilt and biggest increase in sexual satisfaction.
  • If porn is as bad as religions say it is, they aren’t doing a very good job of keeping it out of the hands of children and adolescents, 20% or more of both groups said they were using porn by 12 years old. For all the billboards and sermons against porn, there seems to be little return on the investment.
  • We were most interested in religion’s effect on porn use. If religion’s
    proscriptions are effective, we should see a clear difference between those who are most and least religious in the teen years when they are getting strong messages from their religion about sex. Looking only at men, we can see that there is very little difference between the groups. This suggests that the effect of religion is negligible for men.

  • The moral of this story, if you want a good sex life, don’t get involved with a highly religious person. Many in our sample seem to have taken that path. Of those that do have highly religious spouses, the majority have sexual problems in the relationship.
  • The main benefit that people express is the ability to just enjoy sex without guilt.
    Over and over people said, they are much happier and fulfilled not only in their sex life, but in the rest of their life as well since leaving religion.
  • Guilt messages have remarkably little measurable effect on actual behavior. As in other surveys, our results show that religion has a slight effect in delaying the onset of sexual activity.
  • Religious parents are perceived to be poorer at sex education compared to less religious parents, though neither are particularly good at it.
  • Religion simply ignores biology and creates psychological states that interfere
    with appropriate sexual expression and development. Teaching guilt and shame around things that are perfectly natural. Religion impacts how people see their bodies and express their sexuality whether gay, lesbian or straight. Religions have nothing to say about our biology. They are in large measure clueless about hormones, brain development, attraction factors, body image formation and many other things.
  • If parents and schools spent as much time teaching kids about safe and enjoyable sex as they do teaching about safe driving, there would be fewer
    unwanted pregnancies, less disease, fewer abortions and far less guilt and shame that lead people to make poor decisions about partners and behavior.
  • Eliminate guilt and shame around sex, and religions have very little to work with.
  • Religions cannot claim that their ideas and principles actually impact
    behavior or make people happier.
  • We can also see that religion creates guilt and shame around the most basic sexual act, masturbation, but has no effect on its practice.
  • Condemning children for masturbating, telling them they will go to hell or suffer in this life for doing it, is child abuse pure and simple.
  • Religion uses sex for purposes of propagation not the happiness of its adherents.
  • There is ample evidence in this survey, that one of the best things one can do to
    improve your sex life is leave religion, especially if you were in a conservative religion.
  • We have seen that stigmas, shame and guilt do not work in preventing or stopping behavior, but they do make people feel sexually miserable.
  • 95% of Americans have sex before marriage. Your minister probably had sex before marriage but he tells you not to. Protect yourself, use a condom.
  • Adolescents and young adults are in a critical time trying to
    establish their sexual identity. Religion intentionally plays upon the doubts and fears of youth to infect them with medieval ideas of sexuality.

Update: Here’s another article that confirms my suspicions and another HERE