Decline in Morality

A new Gallup poll describes what many of us have been predicting for a long time - a steady decline in morality in America. 45% of those surveyed described morality in the U.S. as "poor" and only 15% could call it "excellent or good." The survey also said that 76% believe morality is getting worse, while only 14% said it was improving.

CNN's Jack Cafferty reported on the poll and asked the audience, "So what's wrong with us?"

I don't know what's more sad, reading the actual poll numbers, or hearing commentators wonder why morality is declining. Predictably, they will point to a wide variety of issues: failing education systems, breakdowns in the family, dishonesty in business, and drug and alcohol abuse. Yet, these feel good, psychology 101 answers all skirt the real issue, the loss of religion in America.

Since the beginning of Western thinking, religion and morality were inextricably intertwined. From Plato to Aquinas, philosophers have wrestled with the relationship between the two. In a discussion of morality, to ignore religion is to ignore the verb of a sentence.

Is it mere coincidence that morality has slipped hand in hand with church attendance? According to a separate Gallup poll, only 41.6% of Americans reported that they attended church at least once a week or almost every week in 2009 (around 123 million Americans). A sad, but telling statistic for where America's morality lies.

By comparison, movie theater attendance jumped nearly 16% in 2009 according to the NY Times. If you want to see where America's priorities lie, look at the culture. Between sports, music, and television, religion has taken a backseat to entertainment. One can only hope that Americans will reconnect the dots between morality and religion. For as a scholar once said (and this quote is usually incorrectly attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville), "America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."

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