Roger Friedland finds an interesting correlation between the two kinds of belief and examines its possible causes and implications:
We found that belief in God has no impact on young people’s sex lives. College virgins are no more likely to believe in God than non-virgins. Even those who took a virginity pledge are not sexually different from those who didn’t, except they have had a little more oral experience.
Researchers have been looking in the wrong place. God is not working in people’s underpants. But God, it turns out, does matter to young people’s love lives. A student’s belief in God is strongly associated with whether he or she conjoins sex and love. When compared to those who don’t believe in anything beyond the physical world, young people who definitely believe in God are twice as likely to make love, as opposed to just having sex. Those who believe in God, and even more so a loving God, it turns out, are much more likely to have romantic sex and to find it difficult to separate out sex and love. If you want a lover, one of the best places to look is among those who believe in God.
Why does belief in God promote the making of love? There are various possibilities. The first is that our monotheisms make love into a sacred value. People who believe in God learn to value love. The second is that religion makes sex into a guilty pleasure. The religious need to love to justify their sex. But I think there is third reason, one that points to love as a structure of faith central to the making of our world. A relation with the divine is one in which you acknowledge your lack of sovereignty and self-control; admit that you are not your own basis, your own source; and depend on an other for your being whom you will never really understand or control. Religiosity and real romance are parallel orders of experience.
Whether religious faith is a template for loving or loving is the ground out of which we imagined our one God, romantic love is a historical achievement, one of the critical ways we moderns constitute ourselves as individuals. The desire to give oneself to another, to be entrusted with another’s being, to hear the call and respond, is a font from which social solidarity, equality, and justice all derive. Love is an unlikely, even impossible, life course, but nonetheless an essential driver of much that is great in our world. Love is the prerequisite of our kind of history. When we no longer believe in it, we cripple our capacity to make it.
We need to be less concerned with how and when our sons and daughters cover their genitals, and much more with whether they can uncover their hearts. That it has become easier for a lot of young women to put a man’s penis in their mouths than to hold his hand is the real obscenity. God’s presence in our underpants is the least of our worries.