Mohammed Kahar is accused of preparing to travel to Syria to fight for Islamic State, and using social media to promote their "holy war".
The 37-year-old married Muslim claims his internet activities, which saw him watch a beheading video, were purely for religious research.
He has denied having any intention of leaving the UK to fight, and having an interest in violence or killing.
He told jurors during his trial at Newcastle Crown Court: "I know how it looks but this is not who I am".
Dad-of-six Kahar, of Burnville Road, Sunderland, denies 11 terrorism offences including preparation of terrorist acts, funding arrangement, support for a proscribed organisation, collection of information and dissemination of terrorist publications.
Under cross examination from prosecutor Anne Whyte QC, Kahar told jurors from the witness box that he had accessed a video of journalist James Foley being beheaded.
He said: "I wanted to know why, how do they justify it. Most of the time, before beheading people, they would give a quote or say why they are doing it.
"That is why I wanted to see it, how they justify it. It was on the news, all over social media, you wouldn't think twice just to press the button."
He denied he had an unhealthy interest in justifying the actions of IS and added: "I was looking for references, I was looking at what Islam has to say about beheading."
Kahar also told jurors he made claims about wanting to join IS simply to draw the terror group's supporters into conversation - but had no intention of going to Syria.
He said: "I haven't prepared to go to Syria, haven't taken steps, I have taken no steps whatsoever.
"If I was really serious about going to Syria I wouldn't have bought a house, I wouldn't have bought a car, wouldn't talk about buying another business."
Kahar, who works as a chef, added: "If I was believing in these kind of things, if I was really interested in things, I would have done something about it.
"All I do is think about my job, how to satisfy my customers.
"I know how it looks but this is not who I am."
The court heard that Kahar had a collection of publications, documents, videos and had sent messages to contacts about Jihad and Islamic State.
He explained: "I just wanted to know exactly what IS is all about, how people are living there.
"What I am saying is I don't support violence, I don't support killing.
"If they're going to kill another Muslim that is against Islam, you cannot kill another Muslim."
The trial continues.