By a long way, greed is seen as the deadliest of the cardinal sins – but gluttony and sloth are Britain’s biggest confessed vices

Confession, it may seem, is in decline. In a radio programme on Monday Andrew Marr discussed the history of confession with writer John Cornwell, who says confession – in its catholic sense – is now the custom of the few.

In a more popular sense, however, it is also on the rise. “The urge to show all, and tell all, for millions of us, is irresistible,” Marr said. From social media, to radio phone-ins, to “the moral cage fight of the Jeremy Kyle Show”, we are engaging in it on mass.

The question naturally lends itself, then: which sins are we confessing for, and which, of all, is worst?

Only in November did Boris Johnson invoke the spirit of the 1980s, calling for the “Gordon Gekkos of London” to display greed, “a valuable spur to economic activity”.

But to people in Britain, greed is by far the deadliest sin: 43% say the excessive desire for material wealth is the worst of the seven capital vices.


Wrath, or anger, is seen as worst by 18%; sloth (laziness) by 11%; and envy – often cited as underpinning the desire for equality – by 7%.

It is gluttony and sloth, though, that Britain suffers most. 25% say they display overindulgence the most, and another 25% say the same of laziness.


Pride is the third most prevalent sin, although it ranks first among those aged over 60 (25% say they display it most compared to 19% overall).

While in a historical slump, clergymen across England say they have noticed a relative upturn in the numbers taking part in confession, which many of them attribute to a ‘papal bounce’ following the election of Pope Francis. Confession apps have even been developed, with one claiming to offer “a personalized examination of conscience for each user.”

See the full poll results

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