A sociologist from the University of Notre Dame published a study gauging the moral thinking of 18-23 year olds. The results are depressing and for this father of five, they’re scary.
David Brooks of the New York Times summarized the study, saying that moral thinking to a large extent was considered a relative matter or not considered at all, even regarding issues such as cheating on a partner or drunken driving. Brooks writes that “when asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all.”
Two-thirds?! That’s a cultural disaster.
Disturbingly, many said that morality is a “matter of individual taste.” The perceived absence of an objective morality is, I believe, devastating for our culture. Without a common morality how can a discussion about morality actually occur? Through the imposition of secularism, we’ve created a Babel of morality. A whole generation has come to believe not in truth, but truth with pronouns with “my truth” and “your truth” holding equal weight. And the only sin worthy of castigation in secular America is to impose “your truth” on “my truth.”
Pontius Pilate, of course, famously wondered “What is truth?” but many in this coming generation don’t even have to bother to ask Pilate’s question. They don’t see the need to ask because “truth” for so many has become so abundant it’s meaningless. When every whim and mood carries with it a new truth as valid as the last situationally inspired truth, why bother searching?
Dennis Prager writes:
One key reason is what secularism does to moral standards. If moral standards are not rooted in God, they do not objectively exist. Good and evil are no more real than “yummy” and “yucky.” They are simply a matter of personal preference. One of the foremost liberal philosophers, Richard Rorty, an atheist, acknowledged that for the secular liberal, “There is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?’”
With the death of Judeo-Christian God-based standards, people have simply substituted feelings for those standards. Millions of American young people have been raised by parents and schools with “How do you feel about it?” as the only guide to what they ought to do. The heart has replaced God and the Bible as a moral guide. And now, as Brooks points out, we see the results. A vast number of American young people do not even ask whether an action is right or wrong. The question would strike them as foreign. Why? Because the question suggests that there is a right and wrong outside of themselves. And just as there is no God higher than them, there is no morality higher than them, either.
The Church could do more speaking to this issue, that’s for sure. Our Catholic schools could absolutely do more. But in the end, much of this is a parenting problem.
Parents need to stop punting on their responsibility. Stop trying to be our children’s friends. Children need guides not buddies. We must “Train up a child in the way he should go” and “bring them up in the discipline and correction of the Lord.”
Parents today face a difficult task of attempting to raise “right and wrong” kids in a “whatever” world. In many ways, this socially accepted moral relativism is scarier than outright persecution because violence can only take your life. This corruption of the eternal things is dangerous to the soul.