The following is a good example of how information is simplified and consequently misinterpreted as it is passed along even by the most reputable of sources. It shows the importance of going to the source, and looking at the broader context.Andrew Sullivan says that “[t]here's a significant correlation between consumption of online porn and Christianism.” To back up that claim, he gives us the following excerpt from the New Scientist article:
Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year's presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama. Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don't explicitly restrict gay marriage...But the study by Professor Benjamin Edelman that the New Scientist goes a little deeper than that. Specifically, Edelman controls the data set for income, age, education, and marital status and comes up with a slightly altered ranking according to each state’s “difference in subscribers per thousand home broadband users relative to subscription rates predicted based on demographics”. In this new list, McCain’s lead over Obama among top online-porn prescribing states decreases to seven to three, while the two are tied at five each. In short, take out the effects of demographics, and the political significance of online-porn subscription becomes less evident.
States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement "I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage," bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. A similar difference emerged for the statement "AIDS might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behaviour."
But what about the positive correlation between online subscription and Christianist views? After all, “[s]tates where a majority of residents agreed with the statement "I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage," bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed”, didn’t they? Not quite. It is obvious that this figure from Edelman’s study is merely a statistical hypothesis (albeit a highly robust one), that is, the “difference, in subscriptions per thousand broadband households, between a hypothetical state where all residents disagree with the quote versus one where all residents agree with the statement.” There’s definitely a positive correlation, but its dimensions are exaggerated by the simplification in the New Scientist article.
More important, there is more to porn than online websites. A table in Edelman’s study shows that in 2006 “adult entertainment” on the Internet brought in 2,841 million in “adult entertainment” retail sales. That’s a lot of money, but it was still only one-fifth of the 12,815 million for all “adult entertainment” retail sales. If stores and clubs that provide adult entertainment as well as porn-friendly shelf space in otherwise respectable establishments are, as I suspect, harder to come by in conservative states, then it stands to reason that some of that business is going to flow to online providers. Without more information, there is no way on knowing whether Christianists are more lustful than their less literal-minded bretheren, heathens, and, to quote Barack Hussein Obama, “non-believers.”
Christianists like porn. Now it’s reassuring to know that they are human, just like the rest of us. But does that make them hypocrites? Not necessarily. It certainly makes them sinners (in their own eyes—I could give a hoot), but that’s what they have churches for, I suppose.