"What we saw was when it came to these sexual issues, people influenced by religion believed one thing but did another," lead researcher and psychologist Dr Richard de Visser told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"We found it very interesting that people make such a strong distinction between what they think they should do and what they're prepared to do," Dr de Visser formerly of Latrobe University in Melbourne said.
Dr de Visser was part of a research team that carried out Australia's largest ever social survey to glean the first snapshot of the links between religion, sexual beliefs and actual behaviour.
The survey, which will be presented to a World Congress for Sexual Health in Sydney this week found that, generally, those with the strongest beliefs were less likely to either support or go through with abortions, sex before marriage, cheating or the watching X-rated films.
They also were less likely to support homosexuality or report homosexual behaviour, said Dr de Visser, now based at the University of Sussex in the UK.
People with less strict religious beliefs - those who attended a service less than monthly - held similar beliefs to those who went more often.
But when it came to behaviour they were in line with people who had no religious beliefs at all, he said.
The religious groups included protestants, Catholics, Muslims and Buddhists; Buddhists showing the most "relaxed" sexual attitudes and behaviour overall.
Religion 'rules sex belief, not actions' (Sydney Morning Herald, 18/4/07
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
1st World Congress for Sexual Health, Sydney
18 Apr 2007