Decaying Moral Values

Moral breakdown is a phenomenon in which a major degradation or complete loss of moral values takes place within a particular society. The abruptness of such kind of degradation may vary depending on the situation and the events that take place within the given society over a certain time. Moral Breakdown may be caused by the changes in the political and/or cultural changes of the society, conflict or a natural disaster.

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.
— C.S. Lewis, 1898-1963

Picking up a newspaper can be a scary way to start the morning: terrorist bombings, guns in classrooms, Terri Schiavo, Enron, politicians lying to constituents and journalists misleading us all. Our gut reaction is to fling open a window and scream, “I’m not going to take it anymore.”

We want it to end. We want people to blame.

It is widely believed that modern society is in sharp decline. Among the ills cited are skyrocketing rates of crime, divorce, teenage sex, teenage births and drug abuse; war (especially in the 20th century); and a general decline in personal morality and religiosity. There is also concern that modern science and technology is leading to a widening of the gap in living conditions and educational opportunities between prosperous first-world nations and impoverished third-world nations. Such concerns are raised by both the secular left and the religious right right.

Religious fundamentalists frequently pin the blame on modern science in general, and on evolution in particular.

Some examples of decline

There definitely are some aspects of society today that most observers agree represent decline, or at least areas that need further study and assistance:

1. Out-of-wedlock births and single-parent households. In the U.S., the percentage of children born out of wedlock has risen from just 10.7% in 1970 to 41% in 2013.

2. Internet fraud and “addiction”. At least 60% of email is now spam, much of which is utterly fraudulent. Many youth and young adults devote huge amounts of time to Internet-based distractions. Internet porn is also an issue. Many employers in the U.S. and elsewhere prohibit employees from viewing porn on the job, since such material is widely regarded as sexist and time-wasting. A 2016 study found that divorce rates double when one of the partners starts watching porn.

3. Crime. It is widely believed that crime, from minor burglary to serious violent offenses, is spiraling out of control.

4. Teenage sex, birth and abortion. It is widely believed that teenage sex and birth rates are exploding out of control.

5. College campus “hookup” culture. Many decry a broadening “hookup” culture on college campuses.

6. Abortions

7. Teenage alcohol, cigarette and drug use.

8. Endless Wars and Proxy Wars waged by powerful, wealthy countries.

“Society’s decline of moral values” seems to sum it all up, but the tag offers no hints for resolution. We’re desperate for stronger families and for civility in treating each other the way we want to be treated.

Yet amid our fevered search for answers, we notice a curious thing — that nearly everyone is struggling over the same concerns. Doesn’t that imply that we once had common values to begin with? And probably still do?

Then why does everything that we, as a society, hold dear appear to be vaporizing with each rising sun?

Being selfish is far easier. History proves the point: the near annihilation of American Indians, the Salem witch trials, slavery, Japanese internment camps and McCarthy Era blacklists — all marring the reputation of a country that calls itself the “land of the free” and all within a short span of a few hundred years. Based upon that historical view, Jost says, “I’d argue society is getting better.” The tone of his voice, however, indicates the answer is far from simple. “Every culture and era have had important questions,” he says. “The questions we face are different in their complexity, but not more difficult.”

The complexity of life does make drawing a line between good and evil difficult. When does life begin and end? What about stem-cell research, cloning, performance-enhancing drugs, Internet strategies?

“One reason ethics is so hard,” Jost says, “is that the situations we face are constantly changing. We now have life-and-death decisions we never faced before. Knowing someone might have a genetic marker for a terrible disease, for instance — what happens if insurance companies get that information?”

“Even though threats to civil liberties and threats from terrorism are hardly unique to our day and age, so many options today have such an important impact on what’s at the heart of ethics,” says assistant professor of philosophy Julian Wuerth. “Biotechnology, for example, opens a staggering range of ethical dilemmas.”

Although the medical, biological and genetic implications are overwhelming, technology has raised other moral concerns, as well: Internet porn, e-mail scams, computer viruses and hackers stealing vital information. Furthermore, technology has not only presented people with more opportunities to get into trouble, but with more time to do so.

“Overcoming obstacles to survive was often an all-consuming challenge 140 yeas ago,” Wuerth continues. “With the ease of making ends meet comes a new slew of temptations and a greater ease to succumb to inclinations. Spare time is the workshop of the devil, as they say.”

The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people. — G. K. Chesterton, 1874-193

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
— Hannah Arendt, political theorist, 1906-75

Moral responsibility in a rapidly declining society

Moral codes have been a part of different societies and civilizations since the beginning of time. The Greeks worshipped the gods of Mount Olympus, while England has been ruled for centuries by different religious monarchs, and the Africans have rich tribal traditions involving unique customs. With moral codes in place, the majority of these civilizations’ problems dealt primarily with outside groups seeking to invade these countries for power. However, it is different in America. America does not suffer from antagonizing outward forces bringing war to our lands. Instead, the United States in general suffers internally from a lack of strong moral conviction of any sort. As a whole, moral behaviors and actions are steadily losing their value as advertising becomes more sensual, immorality becomes the norm, and values such as honesty and integrity no longer play an important role in our daily lives. Although many people turn their head to the rapidly declining moral society, the problem needs to be recognized and faced head on with immediate action.

Partial Solutions

A. One of the first ways to face this problem is with reform in the government philosophy. A common belief today is that the government should stay completely distant from endorsing any religion at all.

By the government allowing no religious actions in public places, it is forcing a religion onto the people; a religion known as atheism. You cannot separate the government from moral issues. It has been said, that “The President has a moral role, whether he likes it or not”

B. Another step we could take in shaping a moral society would be to get actors, singers, and other celebrities to champion the cause of moral change. It has been proven that when celebrities endorse a cause, the cause will gain widespread recognition

C. Those that influence youth, greater than celebrities and other such people are parents and educators. It would be wise for parents and educators to educate children in moral behavior through both word and action.

If parents teach the youth early, the values and morals learned will stay with the kids forever, and it will determine the quality of their future. Educators as well give a lot of influence for what the youth turn out to be. As required by law, youth around the country go to schools five days a week, and are put into the hands of these educators for usually about six hours per day. During these six hours, the students listen to and learn from the learned educators.

E. The last and most important champion of moral reform, are the individuals themselves. A quote reads, “There is a desire on the part of most people…not to just cultivate our own garden, and to live in a comfortable family life, but also to participate in shaping the courses that govern our collective thought: and to have a say in the collective destiny”