Must I Believe in God to Successfully Battle Pornography Addiction?

There’s a group who I really worry about when it comes to tackling the beast of pornography addiction: Atheists. If you have ever spent more than 10 seconds researching pornography addiction beyond scientific journals, it’s almost impossible to find any first-person testimony that doesn’t heavily rely on a God for redemption from the “sin” of pornography addiction.

Please note, I do not want any of this to come off as religion bashing. If you end up offended, I apologize in advance. I think those who know me recognize I find religion fascinating and mean no harm when I have questions.

I think the message may be getting lost that it is possible to overcome pornography addiction without the help of a higher power.

Defining my spirituality was important during recovery, because I’d never done it before other than to say I was a “non-practicing atheist.” I just never gave religion much thought. It has been at the center of most of the great wars in history and seems like something designed to divide people, and only bring them together if they were like-minded.

I never really appreciated the difference between spirituality and religion. When I finally had time to think about it and deeply reflect, I recognized I’m one of the most faith-filled people I know. I have this almost naïve instinct to believe everything is going to turn out OK. Even if I don’t understand why something is happening the way it is now, one day it will be clear. I take comfort in that concept, but I also recognize it’s not a provable fact.

I also realized that I felt like there is some form of energy out there that serves as a stabilizer. Our world is chaotic, but that’s nothing compared to how the universe operates as a whole. Some kind of balancing energy keeps things in check. We may one day understand it, but we don’t now.

In my book (currently discounted on Amazon) I talk a lot about how there have been many times in my life I’ve stood in front of a crowd with no idea what I was going to say and suddenly could belt out a well-delivered 30-minute speech. Where did this ability come from? I called it “The Universe.”

Suffice to say, I have a spiritual side. I do not, however, have a religious side. I’ve never heard anybody describe their higher power the way I describe mine, and if somebody does read this and it sounds like exactly what like you believe, I don’t want to get together and sing songs about it. My higher power doesn’t need to be worshipped. It doesn’t love. It doesn’t hate. It just is. Us getting together to cheer it on would be a waste of time.

I honestly am envious of people who subscribe to the same God. I assume there is a sense of community in believing the same thing. I just know that we don’t have the same higher power and there isn’t any book written by your higher power that can convince me that you’re right and I’m wrong. I’m actually not interested in who’s right or wrong.

Which Addictions are Sins?

I appreciate those people who very much believe that God has helped them with their pornography addiction problem. If you’re able to syphon off some of the commitment you have to your religion to keep you away from porn, I say more power to you.

If you go through the WordPress search engine, you’ll be besieged with first-person accounts of God delivering people from porn addiction. Try the same thing for cigarette addiction. God hasn’t transformed anyone in that department.

Why porn and not cigarettes?

I think it has to do with the idea that pornography is not an actual addiction. I believe that the religious see it as an affliction, which is different. Cigarette smoking is not seen as morally wrong, whereas porn is a gift from the Devil. I don’t think many people who go to church see cigarette smoking as a sin. It’s a poor choice, but not an affront to God.

Here’s the problem with that conclusion: It’s the same thing. While cigarettes will do additional negative things to your body, the actual addictive nature is exactly the same. The same brain mechanisms that provide dopamine, oxytocin, and the other pleasure-center chemicals are performing the same way whether it’s cigarettes, porn, gambling, drugs or any other addiction.

Want to experience addiction? Turn your fucking phone off and put it in a drawer. I know far too many people who wouldn’t last 10 minutes. We have a world of people addicted to their phone who don’t realize it. Is that the work of the Devil, Apple or is it just something that evolved and has no real religious connection?

We’ve seen porn addiction explode since the Internet was introduced. I would guess that there were probably similar spikes when every home suddenly had a VCR or when adult magazines like Playboy and Penthouse were suddenly available at every corner store. The next explosion will likely have something to do with virtual reality.

Addiction is a physical condition. That’s long been accepted by just about every medical professional. Recently pornography addiction was accepted by the World Health Organization as a diagnosable and treatable condition.

I also don’t see a lot of entries where people turn to God to take care of other physical maladies. God doesn’t perform open heart surgery if you’ve got heart disease or conduct chemotherapy sessions for those who have cancer. Both of those jobs are handled by professionals. Some may pray others get better, but for those with the physical issue, they are not told to seek the guidance of God, and go home.

Healing Without God

You can’t pray away a medical condition. Or, perhaps you can, but those are the very rare miracles. The worse the condition, the less likely you are to get your miracle. This suggests miracles are actually just anomalies on a sliding scale, but we can debate that another day.  As far as medical conditions go, I think pornography addiction is on the more mild side of the spectrum. I know that it was on par with my alcoholism mentally, but the booze did far more damage to me physically.

I understand that pornography addiction could be seen as a “pleasure of the flesh” which is forbidden by most religions, but isn’t that just semantics? Couldn’t we just go down a rabbit hole of dueling religious text passages at this point? I mean, there’s a strong argument for not eating shellfish in the Bible…trying to out-passage each other is a fool’s errand. We’d just both be cherry-picking to strengthen our position. And we wouldn’t reach a middle ground. You never reach a middle ground with religion, hence all of the wars.

Had I gone to the Internet immediately after accepting the fact I was a porn addict, I think that the number of first-person anecdotes about beating porn addiction that involved adherence to a specific God’s rules might have scared me off. I can’t pray to the God my parents dragged me to church to learn about for 17 years because I don’t believe in that God, but apparently he has the market cornered on porn addiction recovery.

That’s bad news for the non-Christians or atheists who are porn addicts and are seeking relief.

I came by these many blogs years into recovery and thankfully it wasn’t in the beginning because I may have felt like I had more of an uphill battle than recovery actually was.

The message needs to be presented that you don’t need to believe in anything that you don’t currently believe in to get better. If God helps, great, but much like driving from New York to Los Angeles, there are many routes to take and yours is no more important or valid than mine.

I figured out my spirituality about two years into recovery. It certainly helped in those first two years despite the fact I wasn’t cognizant of it at the time. But even if you believe in nothing, you can beat porn addiction. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.


12 thoughts on “Must I Believe in God to Successfully Battle Pornography Addiction?

  1. One of the most admirable traits of my Heavenly Father is that He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. He didn’t cure my porn addiction. He helped me overcome it. I asked for help from the powerful One who holds this massive universe together (astrophysicists call it “dark energy” rather than God) and He obliged. Not preaching, just telling my story. The main thing is if porn’s a problem in your life seek help ASAP wherever you can.

  2. Great article Josh. I leave you with a philosophical quote I read about the internet the other day. ‘ 15 years ago, the internet was an escape from the real world. Today, the real world is an escape from the internet.’
    My experience of religions to date is that their beliefs, values and principals lead many followers to be judgemental and hypocritical. I often have sober and good days without turning to God (my higher power). Those days cmoe about from being kind to myself, others and being in control of my emotions and the moment.

  3. I often find myself in a conundrum as a Christian who does believe that God’s presence was instrumental in my healing from sexual betrayal trauma, and my husband’s freedom from his porn and sex addiction. I say that because we both did enter Christian recovery programs, although my husband identified as an atheist. It was his choice. And he was instructed to pray whether he believed in God or not. Again his choice. But in his case, alongside the spiritual aspect, was a solid recovery program. And that is what I believe is most needed.

    In my experience in my partner’s recovery group, and here on WordPress, the women who heal the most are those who do the work to heal. And that may or may not include a belief in God. I actually wince at those who sit back and wait for God to wave a magic wand instead of being active in a recovery process. That’s not how it works. Or how God works. I am fairly certain that is transferable to the porn addict as well.

    A relationship with Jesus helps. It brings strength, hope, comfort, grace, perseverance, forgiveness. Which will help in healing wounds that caused, and are the result of, the addiction. But then there is still the addiction….. I like how Rollie explained it – “He didn’t cure my porn addiction. He helped me overcome it.”

    Yes, anyone can beat porn addiction and get better. But there is one thing you have to believe in – yourself.

    1. A relationship with Jesus can help if you believe in the power of Jesus. If you don’t, it’s not going to do any good…but that doesn’t mean you won’t recover. I agree there is no magic wand, which is probably why believing in Harry Potter and his writings don’t help.

      1. You made me laugh! Is that sacrilegious?!

        But absolutely, I agree that having a relationship with Jesus is not an indicator of a successful recovery. Doing the hard work is. That’s my conundrum…… I believe in the power of Jesus but also in a person’s responsibility for the success of their own recovery whatever that may look like and whatever their beliefs may be.

        I hope I don’t get zapped by lightning bolts for saying that.

  4. I have been in recovery groups where members have been abused by church leaders and figures. Human transgressions are not exclusive to non-believers. I agree that are a number of branches or roads to recovery. Being kind, compassionate and understanding are humane qualities not exclusive to faith. I have to connect with Christian faiths however I find their gospels contradictory.

    1. That’s exactly why I left specific passages of ANY religious books out of this. Nothing is more pathetic than two people shouting each other down quoting the Bible to prove their point. All it shows is that they worship different Gods.

  5. I agree with this article 100%. Yes, for some faith can make a difference but essentially we are dealing with a change in the brain – and we need understanding and practical strategies to deal with those changes.

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