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Religion still important to people having marital affairs, research finds

01 April 2021

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RELIGION remains important for one in three people who are having an extra-marital affair, a survey of 3650 members of the married dating site Ashley Madison suggests.

The survey was sent out to members in 19 countries who were on record as willing to take part in research. Sixty-six per cent declared a religious affiliation; 17 per cent identified as atheist or agnostic. Religion was important to 51 per cent of declared Protestants/Anglicans, and 45 per cent of declared Roman Catholics, “despite their extramarital affairs being incongruous with religious doctrines”, the survey says.

When questioned about the nature of adultery — the website is for people seeking an extra-marital affair — 33 per cent believed that it was a sin. Forty-nine per cent agreed that marriage was a sacred bond, and 28 per cent that there should be sexual exclusivity with a spouse. Of the 56 per cent who professed to pray, 16 per cent of men and 13 per cent of women said that they would like their infidelity to be forgiven.

Asked about particular religious doctrines, 91 per cent approved the idea of sex before marriage. Only two per cent believed that sex was only for procreation, and six per cent that female pleasure should be discouraged.

A majority (54 per cent) did not believe that teaching on exclusivity with a spouse should be revised. Forty-nine per cent would approve revision on regarding adultery as a sin, and 54 per cent on marriage as a sacred bond.

That leads the Ashley Madison website to suggest: “The fact that married daters are differentiating between the way they live in their marriages, what they consider acceptable, and what they believe religion should teach is an evident incongruity between what they ‘do’ and what they ‘say’.”

Two in five adulterers (39 per cent) have confessed an infidelity, but are shown to be more likely to speak to a friend than to seek reconciliation from a religious leader. Eighty-six per cent of men forgave their wives for an affair, and 85 per cent of wives forgave their husbands.

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