How Do Americans Define Sin?

Ellison Research recently put out results from a study they did on Americans concept of sin. Sin was defined as “something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective.” You might call this the conscience? These findings shouldn’t be too surprising but one thing that does spring forth from this study. Our need for Jesus Christ is great! Click on the links below. It is quite an interesting study. Below is an excerpt:

The findings are from a study independently designed, funded, and conducted by Ellison Research among a representative sample of over 1,000 American adults. Ellison Research is a full-service marketing research firm.

People who believe there is such a thing as “sin” were asked whether they would personally define each of thirty different behaviors as sinful.

The behaviors a majority of all Americans describe as sinful are:

Adultery 81%
Racism 74%
Using “hard” drugs such as cocaine, heroine, meth, LSD, etc. 65%
Not saying anything if a cashier gives you too much change back 63%
Having an abortion 56%
Homosexual activity or sex 52%
Not reporting some income on your tax returns 52%

A number of other behaviors are considered sinful by a significant portion of all Americans, although not a majority. These are:

Reading or watching pornography 50%
Gossip 47%
Swearing 46%
Sex before marriage 45%
Homosexual thoughts 44%
Sexual thoughts about someone you are not married to 43%
Doing things as a consumer that harm the environment 41%
Smoking marijuana 41%
Getting drunk 41%
Not taking proper care of your body 35%

Then there are behaviors that fewer than one-third of all Americans see as sinful:

Gambling 30%
Telling a “little white lie” to avoid hurting someone’s feelings 29%
Using tobacco 23%
Not attending church or religious worship services on a regular basis 18%
Playing the lottery 18%
Watching an R-rated movie 18%
Being significantly overweight 17%
Not giving 10% of your income to a church or charity 16%
Drinking any alcohol 14%
Working on Sunday/the Sabbath 14%
Spanking your child when he/she misbehaves 7%
Making a lot of money 4%
Dancing 4%

Another intriguing excerpt:

Protestants are more likely than Roman Catholics to include most of the thirty different behaviors as sin – sometimes dramatically so. The biggest differences include gambling (50% of Protestant churchgoers define this as sinful, compared to just 15% of Catholics), failing to tithe 10% or more of one’s income (32% to 9%), getting drunk (63% to 28%), gossip (70% to 45%), and homosexual activity or sex (72% to 49%). Catholics and Protestants are equally likely (or unlikely) to list as sin having an abortion, spanking, and making a lot of money, while Catholics are more likely than Protestants to believe that failing to attend church is a sin (39% to 23%).

Evangelical Christians are far more likely than almost any other group to include numerous behaviors under the definition of sin, and the difference between evangelicals and other Americans is often quite large. For instance, 90% of evangelicals believe getting drunk is sinful behavior, compared to 35% of all other Americans, and 92% believe sex before marriage is sinful, versus 39% of all other Americans. Still, evangelicals do not consider all types of behavior sinful – only a minority believe it is a sin to work on the Sabbath, not attend church, drink alcohol, dance, play the lottery, watch an R-rated movie, or not tithe 10% of their income to church or charity.

Click here for the whole thing.

The Christian Post has also laid some thoughts on the new study.

(HT: Ed Stetzer)

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One thought on “How Do Americans Define Sin?

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