Study: Protestants Struggle Most With Temptation of Eating Too Much

The most common temptation that Protestants admit to is eating too much, according to a Barna study.

Compared with Catholics (44 percent) and the rest of the American public (55 percent), Protestants (66 percent) are most likely to say they are often or sometimes tempted by eating too much.

On other temptations, Protestants struggle on a similar level as other American adults. Fifty-eight percent of Protestants (vs. 60 percent all adults) say they are tempted by worrying or being anxious; 57 percent of Protestants (vs. 60 percent all adults) say they struggle with procrastinating; 42 percent (vs. 44 percent all adults) say spending too much time on media is often or sometimes a temptation; and 40 percent (vs. 41 percent all adults) list being lazy or "not working as hard as you should" as a struggle.

A little over a third of both Protestants and all adults say they're tempted by spending more money than they can afford.

Other common temptations include gossiping (26 percent of all adults vs. 22 percent of Protestants), feeling jealous (24 percent vs. 20 percent), viewing pornography (18 percent vs. 14 percent), lying or cheating (12 percent), abusing alcohol or drugs (11 percent vs. 3 percent), and "going off" on someone via text or email (11 percent vs. 12 percent).

On the temptation of doing something sexually inappropriate with someone, 9 percent of all adults and 5 percent of Protestants say they struggle with that often or sometimes.

Barna Group conducted its research in conjunction with a book project from Todd Hunter, an Anglican bishop, titled Our Favorite Sins. The book is designed to help readers understand the nature of temptation and sin.

Kyle Idleman, author of Not a Fan, says while the study is helpful and accurately reflects the temptations of U.S. culture, he believes one great sin was left off the list: idolatry.

"Really it's the one sin that all these other sins come from. All of our 'favorite sins' have a way of revealing our 'favorite god.' Ultimately every time we give into one of those temptations we are choosing a false god. Idolatry is the number one sin in Scripture and that hasn't changed. But now instead of bowing down to carved statues and golden images we do our bowing with our credit cards, our search engines, our calendars. Our temples have become websites, restaurants, and sports stadiums," he said in a statement to The Christian Post.

Barna also looked at reasons why people "give in" to temptations. Few (only 1 percent) blamed their human or sinful nature. Half simply said they are "not really sure" and 20 percent said "to escape or get away from 'real life'" or "because I enjoy it."

Less than 10 percent said they gave in "to feel less pain" or "to satisfy people's expectations." Two percent said "to take a shortcut to success" and another 1 percent admitted to "not enough willpower."

When it comes to trying to resist temptation, more than half of Americans say they don't do anything specific to avoid a tempting situation. Millennials are less likely than older generations to try to avoid temptation. A majority of Protestants and Catholics, meanwhile, say they make the attempt to avoid temptations.

Prayer (18 percent) proved to be the most common way people said they resist temptation. Twelve percent used reason and reminders, 10 percent just said "no" or stayed away from it, 8 percent focused on something else, and 7 percent considered the consequences. Only 4 percent took preventative measures and three percent recalled or read Scripture.

David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, pointed out a concern among millennials who were more likely than other age groups to admit to being tempted.

"Given their stage of life, are they simply more likely to be confronted by tempting situations than are older generations? Or is it that younger adults are more comfortable admitting to them in the context of a survey?" Kinnaman said in the study.

"The bigger concern is if Millennials are beginning to accept these emotions as normal and not inherently wrong-as a result of media influence, normative peer behavior and shifting values. Whatever the case, a distinct moral perspective seems to be emerging among younger adults when compared to older generations. Millions of Millennials do not see temptation as something to be avoided, but rather a relatively benign feature of modern life."

Results are based on an OmniPoll which included 1,021 online interviews with adults in the United States. The sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.

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