“But honey, I need it…” a frustrated man might tell his wife as she wraps herself in the blanket. As it turns out, he might be right. A new study has found that sex makes men more likely to believe in God, meaning that a good lay might be the difference between paradise and eternal damnation. The cause behind this unintuitive phenomenon lies in a wonderful little thing called oxytocin, otherwise known as the “love hormone”.
Oxytocin is a naturally occurring chemical that is released by the pituitary gland in response to certain stimuli, with sex and physical intimacy chief among these. When our systems are flooded with oxytocin, we feel immense amounts of trust, closeness, bonding, and romantic attachment. Duke University researchers studying oxytocin have also determined that the so-called love hormone might foster a stronger relationship with the man upstairs, opening up our mental channels to larger-than-life concepts.
“Spirituality and meditation have each been linked to health and well-being in previous research,” social psychologist Patty Van Cappellen said. “We were interested in understanding biological factors that may enhance those spiritual experiences. Oxytocin appears to be part of the way our bodies support spiritual beliefs.”
The study focused on men, noting that oxytocin affects men and women differently. Participants were split into two groups: one group was given an oxytocin supplement while the other was given a placebo.
Researchers found that the group that was administered oxytocin reported feeling spiritually connected and were more likely to believe that their life had purpose. When the two groups were asked to meditate, the group hopped up on the love hormone was nearly bowled over by heartwarming emotions like love and gratitude.
“Spirituality is complex and affected by many factors,” Van Cappellen concluded. “However, oxytocin does seem to affect how we perceive the world and what we believe.”
This discovery comes at a time when religiosity is on the decline in many parts in the world. In the United States, the number of adults who believe in God fell from 92% to 89% over the last decade, and the number of adults who are “absolutely certain” that God exists shrank from 71% to 63%. Church attendance rates continue to fall and the number of people who identify as agnostic or atheist continue to rise.
Despite the numbers, America looks positively holy next to Iceland. A poll in the island nation found that literally no Icelander under the age of 25 believes that the world was created by God. Only 61.1 percent believe that God exists at all, and just 4.4 percent describe themselves as “religious.” Chief among atheist nations, though, is China, where nearly half of all citizens are atheists.
Is there an oxytocin shortage in Iceland and China, or do people in other countries simply have more sex? The answer lies in factors that have little to do with religion. China’s political system does not lend itself to a state religion, while Iceland experienced a strong shift toward humanism in the middle of the 20th century. In these cases, oxytocin might lead a non-believer to feel a different kind of euphoria, one that feels amazing in the moment but won’t put you any closer to saving your soul.
For those who want to maintain a connection to their spiritual side, though, the new findings surrounding oxytocin could prove beneficial. Sex is certainly a great way to increase your connection to the world around you, but if you’re single and not exactly swimming in dates, there are other options. Eating the right foods, going on a walk, and enjoying certain hobbies can also cause a release of oxytocin, which in turn increases your chances of believing in God.