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Americans reveal their 3 favorite sins
Eve couldn't stay away from the apple, but a new survey reveals that most Americans struggle with three other temptations.
February 8th, 2013
10:25 AM ET

Americans reveal their 3 favorite sins

By John Blake, CNN

 “Lead me not into temptation. I can find it all by myself.”

That line, taken from the country music song “Lead Me Not,” evokes smiles because it underscores a truth: The struggle against temptation is universal.

A new survey, however, gets specific about the type of temptations most Americans battle against, and shows that men and women seem to wrestle with different vices.

“Temptations and America’s Favorite Sins,” a survey conducted by the Barna Group, a Christian research firm, concludes that the moral struggles that vex most Americans aren’t the salacious acts that drive the plotlines of reality television shows. Most Americans are too worn down or distracted to get snared by those vices, the survey concludes.

The top three sins seducing most Americans: procrastination, overeating and spending too much time on media.

“You would think it would be sex, drugs and rock and roll,” said Todd Hunter, pastor and author of “Our Favorite Sins,” whose book was consulted in conjunction with the survey.

The survey said that 60% of Americans admitted that they’re tempted to worry too much or procrastinate; 55% said they’re tempted to overeat, and 41% said they’re tempted by sloth, or laziness.

The sex, drugs and rock and roll-like vices fell dead last in the temptation categories: 11% of Americans said they were tempted by drug abuse; 9% were tempted by sexually inappropriate contact.

Even young people put sex and drugs way down on their list, according to the survey, which broke down temptations by gender and age. It  found that 21% of millennials (born between 1984 and 2002) considered sexually inappropriate behavior their chief temptation. It was the lowest percentage attributed to any vice by millennials. Their top two temptations were worrying too much and procrastination.

The battleground for temptation has also shifted – it’s gone digital, according to David Kinnman, president of Barna Group, which based its survey on 1,021 online interviews with a representative sample of white, African-American and Latinos.

“Temptation has gone virtual, ’’ Kinnman said. “Nearly half of Americans admit to being tempted to use too much media and one in nine admits to expressing their anger digitally.”

Temptation also seems to affect men and women differently – more women said they’re tempted by gossip and overeating, and only 8% of women admitted to being tempted by online pornography versus 28% of  men.

Many Americans who admit to being tempted aren’t putting up a big fight. The study said that 59% of Americans admit that they don’t do anything to avoid temptation and half can’t explain why they give into temptation.

Many Americans still can’t explain what sin is, Hunter said. Worrying, for example, is not considered one of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth). Yet survey respondents listed it as one of their top temptations.

“There’s no agreement on what sin is,” Hunter said. “It’s one of the aspects of the world we live in. It’s becoming more relativistic. It’s hard to talk about sin when everyone disagrees about what it is.”

Hunter knows a little bit about temptation. One of his is chocolate. He once shot up to 330 pounds because he overate. He said all temptations start with a desire for something good: tasty food, rest, intimacy. They become “disordered” when they enslave people and spread pain through their lives.

“Disordered desires imprison us,” he wrote in “Our Favorite Sins.” “In the end they give us nothing – not one lasting shred of goodness, freedom, joy, or love.”

Hunter’s advice for staying clear of temptation: fasting, praying and staying out of places and relationships that lead you toward temptation.

For those who aren’t religious, Hunter recommends thinking about sports. He cites the practice habits of superstars like NBA legend Michael Jordan. They practice progress, repeating athletic exercises every day until their body complies.

Little victories lead to big things, Hunter said. In his book, he quoted the legendary college basketball coach John Wooden:

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. So don’t look for the quick, big improvement. Seek the small improvements one day at a time – that’s the only way progress happens – and when that kind of progress happens, it lasts.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Christianity • Church • Faith • Internet • Media • News media • Sex • Trends

soundoff (1,295 Responses)
  1. The Number one sin is...

    DIVORCE

    February 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Funny how that didn't come out of this survey.

      I wonder just how accurate this survey really is.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach you . . .

      Sin? It was celebration day for me!

      People in bad relationships should continue to be miserable for the rest of their lives? They should provide really bad relationship examples for their children? Thanks idiotic.

      Divorce is no sin.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Till Death do us part!

      There are a few things in life that are sacred and must remain as such. Marriage is one of them.

      February 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "Divorce is no sin."

      no, it isn't but cheating on a partner after promising fidelity to him/her is wrong.

      February 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach you . . .

      Exactly, TV guy! Wherever divorce was banned, infidelity became far more prevalent, religious or not.

      It just adds to the misery.

      February 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  2. EaglesQuestions

    I'm inclined to wonder if it really is "sloth,"
    or just that many Americans tend to overwork themselves, and when our willpower runs out, we scold ourselves for being lazy?

    February 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  3. Scott

    As per usual the religion haters are going bananas.

    Scott

    February 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Cyle

      we are all religion haters, some of us just go one religion further

      February 8, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Bet

      That reminds me – I have a few overripe bananas. Time to make banana bread.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Scott

      Yup, took the bait just like I knew Cyle would ;-)

      Scott

      February 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Scott

      The bait was "I say something incredibly stupid again", and those atheists trash me on it. Oh I am so verry cleaver!

      February 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Cyle

      yup – you get a gold star, Scotty

      now put those paint chips down and go back to your crayons.
      try not to eat ALL the glue this time, kiddo.

      February 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  4. JakeF

    Did "Douglas" just address and sign a post to himself? Nice tough there. Most people give different names to the voices in their heads.

    February 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  5. According to an atheist there are no such thing called sin
    February 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Clyde

      Those tools live in a fools paradise.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • sam stone

      Wow, Clyde.....calling people fools. Very effective.....

      February 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Chuckles

      It depends what you mean by "sin". Are there actions taken on earth that will damn you to hell? No. In common parlance however the term "sin" can apply to really anything bad, either for you and/or for another person. The three sins listed above, procrastination, overeating and media aren't sins in the bible, but we use the term sin because it's made its way into the common lexicon.

      So, is there sin? Yes and No.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Cyle

      correct

      there's legal / illegal based on the laws of your society
      there's moral / amoral based on the culture of your peers
      there's right / wrong also based on culture
      there's fair / unfair which is based on your perception of the situation
      (even a dog can tell the difference between fair and unfair)

      "sin" would require that one of the 2800 gods invented by humans was real

      February 8, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Bet

      Yep, you finally got one right.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach you . . .

      Sin by definition is a theological concept, not a secular one. If you do not believe in god, you cannot sin. You can do bad, but there is no sin without god.

      February 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  6. Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

    Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?
    After reading this, scan below at some of the extreme fundamental posts by regulars like Douglas
    and truth be told.
    =================================================

    Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3:

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    John Adams, POTUS #2:

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights:

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    Thomas Paine:

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

    February 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  7. Scott

    The photo is outstanding! Yup, that's where it all started.

    Scott

    February 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Cyle

      with a talking snake...

      funny, harry potter started in a similar way, and for a similar reason

      February 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
  8. Dr Bip

    Procrastination is a sin???? Lighten up, people.

    February 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Jesus

      Procrastination IS a sin. It is the Sin of Sloth. The Sin of doing nothing when something can be done.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Cyle

      so procratination is just like praying then?
      doing nothing to when you could actually be doing something

      February 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
  9. Ax

    Unless you have some place to be, nothing good happens after midnight if you're out and about.

    February 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  10. truth be told

    Sin is not cute. Sin has the capacity to destroy a person or take down a nation. Sin is horrible and three sins that threaten America the most are atheism, ho mose xuality and tolerance.

    February 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Judith

      Bigotry or prejudice in any form is more than a problem; it is a deep-seated evil within our society.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Peter

      "three sins that threaten America the most are atheism, ho mose xuality and tolerance."

      What? These are three three things that will take down the USA?

      How about religious hysteria.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • John

      Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7)

      February 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • truth be told

      Hiding sin behind the label of bigotry or prejudice is a serious problem.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Mike

      Sins are crimes against gods. Gods do not exist. Ergo it is not NECESSARILY true that sins are bad. But often they are because our religious constructs are based loosely on ancient morality which is largely still true, even if we know better in a lot of areas.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Douglas

      truth be told,

      Keep up the good work defending the faith against the onslaught of fornicators masquerading
      as victims of discrimination.

      Satan comes as a messenger of light...keep shining a high beam spotlight on him!

      Best,
      Douglas

      February 8, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Cyle

      I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these. – Isaiah 45:7

      well if he didn't create evil in the first place we wouldn't be in this mess.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Truth be told –

      Tolerance is a sin? Well folks, there you have it.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Damocles

      Awww, that's so cute, tbt has a cheerleader.

      Gimme an H!! Gimme an A!! Gimme a T!! Gimme an E!! RAH RAH RAH!!

      February 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Matthew

      Matthew 7:1

      “Judge not, that you be not judged.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Dr Bip

      Tolerance is only a sin because it does not go far enough in admitting that we white Christian straight middle class people have absolutely no right to determine who is worthy and who is unworthy. It's a surprise people can tolerate us.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Cyle

      Don't imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. – Matthew 10:34

      February 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Michael

      God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Cyle

      Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. – 1 Timothy 6:1-2

      February 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • sam stone

      "sin" is a bad joke

      February 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • truth be told

      When you tolerate a sin tolerance becomes a sin. There is no place to compromise with sin, sin is disgusting, atheism is disgusting, ho mose xuality is disgusting, those that promote tolerance for sin are disgusting.

      February 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  11. rabidatheist

    I a bit offended by the depiction of a python for the illustration of sin. I have a pet python, and he is the most docile pet you can have, and he certainly cannot SPEAK.

    February 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • M.E.

      I highly doubt he tries to eat apples either.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Snakes are scary

      February 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Scott

      I'm sure you'll get over it.

      Scott

      February 8, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  12. Douglas

    We will not permit another generation of boys to be traumatized by gay men acting under the color of authority as priests or scoutmasters.

    We will fight you in the schools, in the courts, in the churches and in the streets.

    Reject the temptation of fornication with children!

    This is the sin above all other sins for which there is no forgiveness.

    As Jesus said in Matthew 18:16,

    "And everyone who commits an offense against one of these little ones who believe in me, it were profitable for him that a donkey's millstone would be hung around his neck and he be sunk in the depths of the sea.”

    In other words...you are going down fast!

    February 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • midwest rail

      More delusional tripe from The Disingenuous One.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Douglas

      midwest rail –

      repent and be saved while there is time!

      February 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Hans

      I see you post this same trash all over, it's only showing you are a closet gay with such strong homophobic tendencies.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Douglas

      Wrong...

      Hans, I'm AIDS free!

      Now...how about you?

      February 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Every time Douglas posts, my gaydar goes off big-time!

      Douglas, seriously, your extreme obsession about gays and gay lifestyle is a really classic example of a closet-case you is to respressed to accept what he is.

      You need to come out to yourself first.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Damocles

      @doug

      So you and tbt practice safe loving. No shame in that.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • .

      Douglas = Pervert Alert

      This troll is not a christian.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Every time Douglas posts, my gaydar goes off big-time!

      Ooops, kind of mangled one line. It's "who is too repressed to accept what he is."

      February 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Douglas

      Ha!

      That's like saying the Je wishAnti-Defamation League is really closet pro-Nazi...

      Get a life!

      February 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • sam stone

      the closet a bit confining, doogie?

      February 8, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Akira

      His name is Philip Douglas, he also posts here as December, he is a known liar, and what you all suspect is closer to the mark than you think.
      He STILL doesn't know the difference between a gay person and a pedophile; this has been pointed out to him a million times, but he persists in hiding behind the Bible to promote hate and bigotry. He is no Christian.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Akira

      That's fantastic, so this shmoe preaches love with one handle and then hate with another. His real name should be Harvey Dent. Get this man a coin, pronto!

      February 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Akira

      Just out of straight up curiosity, can you post my first name and my location? I wanna see how good you are.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • ¤Virgo¤

      Douglas,
      Matthew 7
      (NIV)

      7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

      3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

      Start living them.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Douglas' Translator

      What Douglas really means is, "I'm faaaabulous!!!"

      February 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • December

      I've never posted as Douglas. I don't get the accusation. I've never been to Colorado Springs. Oh well.

      February 8, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  13. POD

    As I advised my children when they were growing up......Don't go with stupid people....to stupid places.....to do stupid things.

    February 8, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Lincoln'sGhost

      Especially church.

      February 8, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
  14. Mohammad A Dar

    Americans are seduced by one and one only sin: lock 'n load baby, all other sins are secondary.

    February 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Islam: the religion that goes BANG!!!

      How did your bomb vest fitting session go?

      February 8, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Damocles

      Lock and load is a sin? Weird.

      February 8, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      @Islam......it was disappointing, they made vest for some 300# pig.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      @Democles – sorry my bad, they just okayed concealed guns in churches. I stand corrected Sir!!

      February 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  15. Cyle

    Heck, I'm a fan of all seven. ~ Malcolm Reynolds

    February 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  16. December

    So God tempts no one? Right?

    But he does test our faith, which brings us closer to Himself.

    And our spiritual enemies tryto lure us away from God and His ways.

    So what are we asking God when we say "and lead us not into temptation."?

    February 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • LOL!

      You can't be tempted by something that doesn't exist.

      February 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Cyle

      cause if you're bad then santa woln't leave you any presents, the easter bunny won't lay eggs, and the tooth fary won't leave a dollar under your pillow when you lose a tooth.

      the sun god Helios won't drive his golden chariot across the sky, Thor won't make it rain, and Aphrodite won't make people pretty any more.

      February 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Jim

      @lol?

      Please look at your reply again, and ask yourself why you are on this blog everyday.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Ummm

      Jim, wrong lol.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • james

      Dec.; need to read James 1:12-15; especially vs.13

      February 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • December

      Thanks James.

      February 8, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Bet

      I'm tempted by chocolate, but then, chocolate exists. And it's delicious!

      February 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • james

      you're welcome If you check back here and just know there are not too many of us here since the atheists seem to love coming to the belief page for some strange reason but it will help with the separating of the sheep and goats (Matt.25:31-33) and just know their days are few but keep up the good work.and if you read the rest of that chapter(vs.34-46) look forward to the hope. j

      February 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • December

      Thanks, James.

      Yea, I've met a lot of the residents here. They hate me, pretty much.

      I still think that is a weird line "Lead us not into temptation" – when God doesn't do that.

      February 8, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • james

      they will only hate us if we are doing what we know what is right, see John15:18,19 also 1 Pet.4:3,4 and Mark 13:13. I hope these help

      February 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • james

      Dec, if you have any more questions go to jw.org to learn what the Bible really teaches. I have found this very helpful. j

      February 8, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  17. Freeman

    Sorry, but I am not buying into the whole guilt trip Christianity loves to do on people. If I want to overeat, spend lots of time on media, and procrastinate, I do them without the slightest guilt or remorse.

    Guilt is one of Christianity's ways of controlling the feeble-minded. The other is fear. You were born guilty, and you are going to burn if you don't obey – bullshit. Those are con-man tactics, the tools of the dishonest and the unintelligent. A real God wouldn't do that.

    Don't fall for the grift of religion.

    February 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • December

      I used to feel guilty when I overindulged. And it wasn't because of Christianity. It was my fault. I control how I feel, not Christianity. No program or belief system can make feel guilty unless I let them. But, thanks to God I am overcoming my enslavement to my desires and feelings. I was actually more feeble-minded before I turned my life to Jesus Christ. Weird, hu?

      February 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • HZD

      Sorry, but did the Real God tell you that or something? How do you know what he would or wouldn't do?

      February 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • treblemaker

      Man makes plans-and God laughs. You're next.

      February 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Freeman

      And treblemaker goes for the "fear" tactic.

      February 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
  18. Tammy

    I'm sorry, but I don't remember anything in the bible that says, "Thou shalt not Facebook". Not to mention, if I check FB on the treadmill or while walking, how is it sloth or laziness?

    February 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  19. American

    1. Gluttony
    2. Lust
    3. Greed

    February 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Bingo. Followed by sloth, envy, wrath

      February 8, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Weird how this 'survey' came up with

      1. Sloth
      2. Gluttony
      3. Facebooking

      I wonder what they were trying to prove.

      February 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  20. Reality

    Sins or the continuing evolution of h-omosapiens ?

    February 8, 2013 at 11:57 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.