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. oneSTARman

    A THOUSAND Times WORSE Than HITLER – A Man Probably Considered one of the Most Evil Monsters in HISTORY is Responsible for the Deaths of SIX MILLION. If we allow the Climate Apocalypse to Continue by the End of this Century YOU an I will Be Responsible for Famine and Drought and Flood Waters and Pestilence and Heat and Storm that could Kill SIX BILLION.

    February 27, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  2. mary

    Procrastination , overeating & spending too much time on media have moved from bad habits to sin ?
    ( which in dogma has consequences in terms of heaven or hell )
    Either someone is taking liberties with our definitions / language OR
    They are wrapped wayyyyyyy too tight !


    February 27, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Aydin

      These sound like gluttony and sloth to me. Didn't the Christians have these down as deadly sins for a good long time?

      February 27, 2013 at 7:29 am |
  3. lol??

    No snaky lyin' dustball educratists needed for a modern myth. Can't quit can, ya?? Too much invested.......Tweak it some more.

    "Jhn 11:43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth."

    February 27, 2013 at 2:08 am |
  4. mike hunt

    "spending too much time on media."
    I dont remember reading about this sin in the bible.

    February 26, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Aydin

      No, but it fits both gluttony and sloth. If people are going to choose religion over psychology in understanding behavior, we might as take full advantage of the system and see if avoiding these sins can act as a motivator.

      February 27, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  5. some schmuck

    Sin is nothing more than the imaginary disease necessary to sell you the imaginary cure that is religion.

    February 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
    • mike hunt

      unless you get herpes, then its a real disease.

      February 26, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ mike

      Unless you get it from a priest, then it's a blessing from god.

      February 26, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  6. dmx01

    I never sin, because I don't believe there is such a thing.

    February 19, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  7. Keith

    There is no such thing as sin as taught by Christian Fundamentalist Churches.

    February 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm |

    ................ GODisIMAGINARY.com (please visit) .......
    ******************** and THANK GOODNESS because ..
    .... he emanates from the EVILbible.com (please visit)

    February 16, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • mike hunt

      your imaginary

      February 26, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  9. bambi

    I don't really think that God gives a hoot about so called "offensive content" on the internet. Narrow minded moderators aren't God even though they want everyone to think they are. I think it's offensive when they violate people's right to free speech and expression by acting like they're Gods of the internet and won't allow honest debate because honesty is offensive. According to some people, worldly facts are evil, but discrimination is o.k. It's really pathetic.

    February 15, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  10. bambi

    I'm tempted to tell narcissists that they're not perfect and that they're going to hell. Rebellion comes in real handy when you catch liars in the act of lying.

    February 15, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
  11. Reality Check

    My biggest "sin" is knowing that God doesn't exist.

    February 15, 2013 at 7:03 am |

      ................ GODisIMAGINARY.com (please visit) .......
      ******************** and THANK GOODNESS because ..
      .... he emanates from the EVILbible.com (please visit)

      February 16, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  12. Bunsen Honeydew

    Wow. Now literally as we speak, I am putting off getting started on the day's work, while eating a large slice of chocolate cake, and reading CNN.com online.

    February 14, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • mike hunt

      burn in hell

      February 26, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • CrossCountry

      feels good doesn't it?

      February 27, 2013 at 1:49 am |
  13. chaseb

    Yes, because the bible said thou shalt not partake in more media than allowed. Media Is the devil bobby!!!

    Just the fact that it could ever be considered a sin means that religion is manipulated by man. It is not like God has updated the bible to version 2.0 now has he?

    February 11, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Josh

      It is not media itself that is sinful I am presuming, but the sloth/laziness that comes with staring at a screen for 10-16 hours a day.

      February 14, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • mary

      Actually god might be on 3.0 but Not sharing with humans who will just slow down his service .

      February 27, 2013 at 7:28 am |

    I-SLUM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI PATION, I dream about you Martha, you know? You're on a bed and there's a glaze over you with pi neapple rings. And you have my ni apple in your mouth. Then, somehow you're in a pen and hundreds of little piglets are sucking at your teats. But after that you seem quite normal my love Martha, eating a crapy really big pulled pork sandwich in front of a window. Outside of the window are dozens of starving Arabs. Then you're laughing as hundreds of young Aisha s run through the streets of Mecca starting fires while singing Mohammad is Dead. You sing with them and command the muezzin to call out the azan backward because you yourself have just told my dogh that it must be so from this day on.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
  15. What is God?

    Sorry that wasn't meant to be a reply to you personaly I'm just tired.

    February 10, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Spinoza: substance

      February 10, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • What is God?

      That's good. I like it..so far. Still picking through it. I was going with the definition of "God" as "existence" but of course that depends on if "existence" exists. It might not, you never know. Apparantly on a quantum level it sort of doesn't.

      February 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  16. Francisco Decastro

    They should have asked about masturbation.. That is the same as procrastination. It's just another word.

    February 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      February 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • CrossCountry


      I just spewed my coffee. BEST word evah.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
  17. donner

    A little p-ssy, more p-ssy, a ton of p-ssy.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  18. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Let us start from the beginning:

    From a friend who is a Catholic Professor of Theology–

    "Baptism does not erase original sin since the sin does not exist. The old "laundry of the soul," approach to Baptism is no longer accepted."

    Regarding the "sins" of gluttony/overeating and laziness in the 21st century: Acts of simple stupidity with the penance of heart trouble, stroke, and/or lack of education and poor job skills resulting in unemployment. And Hell and Purgatory are not in the picture since neither exist.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The above is a public service announcement from your local egotist.

      February 10, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Constantine16621990

      Jesus christ was born in hell!

      February 10, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  19. rogercao4

    Everyday we christians are faced with challenges and problems that either make us better or make us worse. Today in America there is no clear vision for the faith, as there are way too many independent Christian sects. What happened to one bread and one body?? We are a family who should stick together and back each other up instead of letting others control what we think. Too many people are waiting around for someone else to take charge and lead a new crusade. Well thats not how this all works out. We as the ordinary practicing Christians must show it by the actions that we do. If we solved all the problems of the world in one day, then the next would bring even more challenges to test us. It isn't necessarily about fixing and making the world a better place, don't get me wrong. We have such a brief stay on Earth and this time is used to unlock your heart and give yourself humbly to God. To seek what love and truth really is. As a Catholic growing up through high school it has been tough because many other people including Christian brothers and sisters prejudge me or act rudely to me. I have to show them first who I am and then prove to them that being a Christian is more than a status. It is who we are and as a Catholic, I am a loving, diciplined, hard working, honest, selfless, persevering man. The true three pillars of Americas society is not procrastinating, over eating, and lazziness because these are small habits in the bigger scheme. What the three pillars of America is Individualism, Hedonism, and Minimalism. America has lost the true meaning of what it is to be free. I really wish that networks would actually interview a large pool of people throughout America of what they think, rather than make up controlled lists. That way the media would have something better to talk about. The media should really take initiative to educate rather react and report. Here's to the fourth branch of the United States.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

      -Denis Diderot

      February 10, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • donner

      I'm afraid common sense and reality is replacing your mindset. In 100 years, no one will know what you refer to.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • sam stone

      "We are a family who should stick together and back each other up instead of letting others control what we think."

      Aren't you doing the same thing?

      February 11, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Reality Check

      There have always been multiple sects, groups, or whatever. There were multiple groups of Jews in Jesus's time, there were many different sects of people believing all sorts of things before and after Jesus's death. The people in power won and squashed most of the others, giving the appearance of "one".

      February 15, 2013 at 7:02 am |

      ................ GODisIMAGINARY.com (please visit) .......
      ******************** and THANK GOODNESS because ..
      .... he emanates from the EVILbible.com (please visit)

      February 16, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  20. AlphaMaryYankee

    The biggest sin that humans in general commit is the act of choosing to be stupid.
    Second to that is failing to take the time to discern for themselves.
    Third is lacking manners.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • What is God?

      Ok. I'm starting with...I'd like God to exist. Pro-theism. Now, I looked up "sin" in Wikepedia and it's anything that offends God..so that be atheistic standards is impossible.
      If I go with theism I'm stuck with my original question..."What" is God?
      I hate to start with that question but it's a good one.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Science

      Better one what is time ?

      February 11, 2013 at 8:16 am |
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About this blog

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.