Beliefnet
Mark D. Roberts

In my last post I noted new survey results released by Ellison Research of Phoenix, Arizona. Ellison studied American views of sin (or something rather like sin, at any rate; see my last post for the distinction). I’m not going to go over the results here. You can find them at the Ellison Research website. Rather, I want to note a few things I found interesting in the study results.
The List of Possible Sins, According to Ellison Research

Adultery
Racism
Using “hard” drugs such as cocaine, heroine, meth, LSD, etc.
Not saying anything if a cashier gives you too much change back
Having an abortion
Homosexual activity or sex
Not reporting some income on your tax returns
Reading or watching pornography
Gossip
Swearing
Sex before marriage
Homosexual thoughts
Sexual thoughts about someone you are not married to
Smoking marijuana
Doing things as a consumer that harm the environment
Getting drunk
Not taking proper care of your body
Gambling
Telling a “little white lie” to avoid hurting someone’s feelings
Using tobacco
Not attending church or religious worship services on a regular basis
Watching an R-rated movie
Playing the lottery
Being significantly overweight
Not giving 10% of your income to a church or charity
Drinking any alcohol
Working on Sunday/the Sabbath
Spanking your child when he/she misbehaves
Making a lot of money
Dancing

See anything missing? What about worshiping something other than God? Idolatry? Dishonoring your parents? Murder? Stealing? Lying? Coveting? By my tally, not even half of the Ten Commandments make it onto Ellison’s list. I wonder how this skews their results.
The Top Eight Sins, According to Americans

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%

These, by the way, are the only sins that made it above 50%. Everything else didn’t rank as sinful. Note that 13% of those who answered didn’t think anything was sinful, because they rejected the concept. Even so, it’s striking to reverse the statistics:

19% of Americans do not think adultery is a sin.
26% of Americans do not think racism is a sin.
35% of Americans do not think hard drug use is a sin.
37% of Americans do not think it’s a sin to steal from a store if
a cashier makes an error in your favor
etc. etc. etc.

The Bottom Eight Sins According to Americans

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%

Of course Ellison didn’t specify whether we’re talking about all dancing, or dancing poorly.
I find it interesting, but not surprising, that working on Sunday/the Sabbath ranks so low. 86% of Americans do not think it’s wrong to break the Sabbath, even though keeping the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. It’s not hard to think of what this says about our workaholic/shopaholic culture.
Who Believes in Sin and Who Doesn’t
It’s no surprise to learn that 100% of Evangelical Christians believe in sin (even the watered down version of the Ellison study). I was surprised to see a significant disparity between Blacks (97% believe in sin) and Hispanics (80% believe in sin). I noted with interested the difference between political conservatives (94%) and liberals (77%). The gap between Republicans (93%), Democrates (85%), and Independents (86%) is less pronounced. I was surprised to see a relatively small gap between people over 55 (88%) and people under 30 (83%).
What Many People Do Not Believe is Sin
I was struck by the behaviors that people who believe in sin don’t consider to be sinful. Among those who think that sin exists, the percentages noted do not regard the following as sinful:

37% Watching or reading pornography
40% Gossip
42% Sex before marriage
44% Sexual thoughts about somebody you’re not married to
46% Getting drunk
52% Not taking care of your body
69% Not attending church or religious services on a regular basis
73% Working on Sunday/the Sabbath

When you add the 13% of Americans who don’t believe in sin, this means that every one of these activities is considered to be “not sin” by a majority of Americans. This is striking because the Bible teaches that every one of these activities is sin.
Enough for now. I’d be interested in your observations. You can check the Ellison Research results here.

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