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Porn and Doubt: Why Porn Hurts Christians’ Faith

Last Updated: November 27, 2023

Watching pornography may lead you to doubt your faith. This is what a 2017 sociological study concluded, and many Covenant Eyes members have expressed the same thing. Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between pornography and doubt, and why it affects your faith so strongly.

Why Does Porn Cause Doubt?

For some, the reasons are so obvious it goes without saying. But for others, pornography might seem unrelated to faith. Why do many people who watch pornography experience religious doubts? In their article, Seeing Is (Not) Believing: How Viewing Pornography Shapes the Religious Lives of Young Americans, researchers Samuel Perry and George Hayward list the potential reasons that have been identified in academic literature.  

Pornography violates religious morals.

Most Christians embrace the Bible’s teaching on pornography. And what does the Bible say? Clearly, Christians are instructed to avoid pornography. Jesus even used hyperbole, saying it was better to pluck your eye out than stumble through lust. So then, when a Christian watches pornography, it means they’re directly engaged in something Jesus said to avoid at all costs. And this puts a serious strain on your faith.

Pornography hurts your relationship with God.

We’ve written elsewhere about how porn makes you feel far from God. If you repeatedly engage in activity that God forbids, it’s going to strain that relationship. And the further from God you feel, the more likely you are to doubt your faith.  

Pornography detracts from spiritual interest.

Perry and Hayward looked at a study conducted at a Christian university which found that students who watched porn were less interested in spiritual things. We know that porn affects the brain in powerful ways. And when someone’s mind is filled with pornography, there’s little room left for spiritual things. A Christian may begin doubting their faith simply because it no longer holds their interest compared to porn.

Pornography brings cognitive dissonance to Christians.

One particularly fascinating aspect of Perry and Hayward’s study is “cognitive dissonance.” Cognitive dissonance is the idea that the things someone believes do not match with the reality of their experience. Christians believe that porn is a sin, but many struggle to stop watching anyway. This creates a deep dissonance that needs to be resolved. Unless the Christian can successfully quit porn, the dissonance continues, sometimes manifesting in scrupulosity.

Cognitive dissonance naturally leads to doubts. If you’re struggling with porn, you may doubt your own faith, or you may doubt that God can save them from porn addiction.  

Porn Causes Doubt, Especially Among Younger People

A porn habit will affect the faith of any Christian, but it has the most impact on younger people. Perry and Hayward found that the younger the believer, the more negatively porn affected their faith. Many interlinking sociological and psychological factors contribute to this. Younger people are more flexible in their faith; they are still developing their sense of independence and establishing influential relationships that shape their beliefs. But as time goes on, their beliefs and habits tend to solidify.

The cognitive dissonance felt from watching porn tends to resolve itself through self-justification or compartmentalization.  Rather than wrestling with ongoing guilt and doubt, Christians may simply resign themselves to the struggle. They may decide that since other Christians watch porn too, it must not be that bad. Or they may rethink their Christian faith in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with porn. For whatever reason, the older a person, the less likely they are to struggle with doubt because of porn.  

What If I’m Doubting?

If this article describes you or someone you care about, I want to offer hope. The story doesn’t have to end with doubt. At Covenant Eyes, we hear stories every day of people who come to a deeper and more meaningful faith through their journey away from porn. Here are a couple of key things to remember.

There’s something better than porn.

The power of porn can make you doubt your faith. You might know that porn is bad. But sometimes it seems like all there is.  

A relationship with God is so much deeper, richer, and more satisfying than the fleeting pleasure of porn. When you battle against temptation and cling to God, it makes your faith stronger and more meaningful (James 1:1-4). Your doubts don’t have to win; there’s something better than porn.

Pornography doesn’t define you.

When someone—especially a Christian—struggles with porn, it’s easy for that to consume their identity. But the message of the Christian faith is that those who believe in Jesus receive a new identity. There is no condemnation for porn.

This truth should liberate you from feelings of doubt and despair. When you confess your sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive them (1 John 1:9). Even if you’re addicted, this isn’t your identity. Never doubt that you are a beloved child of God.

Shame has no power over you.

Many Christians live in deep shame because of their pornography habits. Because of shame, they hide their struggles instead of confessing them and seeking help. Sadly, Christians haven’t always done a great job of encouraging openness and honesty about porn.  The secrecy and shame of porn make it even more powerful.

 But a Christian can overcome this power. We no longer have to fear being caught—Jesus already knows. And because Jesus took away the guilt and shame of our sin on the cross, we are free to be open about our struggles. Hebrews 3:13 says that we need daily encouragement to break free from the lies of sin. There’s no shame in asking for help—it’s exactly what the Bible tells us to do!

You can be free.

When you’re struggling, porn might seem a lot more certain than your faith. But you can break free from pornography. It doesn’t have to win. You can join thousands upon thousands of other Christians who have learned to escape the power of porn.

Need help getting started? Check out our blog post on the 6 essential steps to stop watching porn.

  1. Mike

    After decades of porn addiction, I finally quit 6 months ago. I struggle with doubt about God’s forgiveness. How can God forgive me after rebelling against him for so long?

    • Keith Rose

      Thanks for sharing your comment, and praise God for your victory over pornography! The mercy and grace of God are truly amazing. Whether it’s pornography or any other sin, when we grasp how serious it demonstrates just how remarkable God’s forgiveness is. The reason God can forgive you is that, if you put your faith in Jesus, God doesn’t see your guilt, only Jesus’s righteousness. Here’s an old article written by a pastor who explains this in more detail: https://www.covenanteyes.com/2010/05/19/i-have-a-solution-a-gospel-for-those-who-struggle-with-lust/

      Blessings,

      Keith

  2. Jon W Sheldon

    This was very helpful. My faith is extremely important to me – partly cuz I have a calling to set captives free, by the power/grace of Jesus Christ. So seeing the title of this article piqued my attention as I am motivated by anything that will have an impact on my faith…and I have been asking my weekly mens’ purity group to pray for my transformation for a number of months – with an emphasis on praying for my FAITH, as I know that is crucial to my transformation away from self and self-worship to a lifestyle of purity, love, and Christ-worship — giving strong platform for fulfilling my calling (especially in the area of freeing other men from sexual addiction). Helpful to know porn affects young people’s faith/doubt most, because it was at the age of 13 when my addiction started. Now it makes sense more why it has been so hard for me to shake. I am now 67 years old and am encouraged with hope from this article, especially Keith Rose’s reference to Hebrews 3:13 – both as a sober warning to not let porn/lust continue (even if only mentally) lest my heart get hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and by the hope gained from encouraging one-another towards godliness and love, like Mr. Rose did for me here. Will you please make sure he gets this and ask him to email me? Also, for anyone reading this, please pray for my complete transformation so that I may fulfill my call from the Lord to set captives free. Thank you

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