Darrel Ray, raised a fundamentalist Christian in Topeka, Kan., shed a heavy cloak of guilt surrounding sex after he left the church in the late 1970s, and wondered if his experience reflected that of others.
Today, he has finished research that he said bore out his hypotheses -- that religion and good sex don't mix. In an online survey of 14,500 people who had come from a religious background, he discovered that once they had abandoned their churches, their sex lives improved.
In his survey, "Sex and Secularism," which he publicized last week, Ray drew a direct correlation between guilt and sexual behavior. Not surprising, but he also learned that guilt eventually subsides.
"We find guilt is a pretty big thing," said Ray, the author of,
"The God Virus: How God Infects Our Lives and Culture."
Atheists, he concluded, had the best sex of all. "They can speak with some authority," he said. "They were raised in very secular homes."
All his respondents -- over 18 and all sexual orientations -- had abandoned their churches and described themselves as agnostic or without a religious belief.
Once they left religion, more than 50 percent saw improvements in their sex lives, 29.6 percent saw no change and 2.2 percent said it was worse, according to his survey.
Those who had grown up in the most conservative churches -- based on their teachings on sex and invocation of guilt -- reported the highest satisfaction levels after leaving religion behind.
All of the people who were questioned were found to have sex around the same number of times a week. They also became sexually active at similar ages.
Those who had been raised Mormon with their strict views about sex, showed the highest rating among those who had sexual guilt with an average score of 8.19 out of 10. Others with similar responses were Jehovah's Witness, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist and Baptist.
Catholics, on the other hand, rated their guilt at 6.34 and Lutherans came in at 5.88. Atheists and agnostics were the lowest in guilt at 4.71 and 4.81.
People who had abandoned their beliefs said their sex lives were "much improved" and rated their new experiences on average as 7.81 out of 10.
Ray, 60, is an independent researcher who has worked as an organizational psychologist in corporations for 30 years. Before that, he spent a decade as a clinical psychologist.
"For decades I have heard that people felt their sex life was better once they left religion --- any religion -- but no one seemed to have examined this scientifically," he said.
He and his assistant, Kansas University psychology student Amanda Brown, conducted an online survey that drew 2,500 responses an hour. He only surveyed those who had said they were once religious, not those who today practiced their faith.