America’s Changing Moral Standards

Generations past – through the first half of the 20th century – seemed to live by a general consensus on what was right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, moral or immoral. Obviously, in every time period there have always existed those on the edge of society who rejected the basic standards and morality of the majority. However, in the past, that type of individual would have generally remained in the background, unwilling to be recognized or blatantly reject the accepted norms. The reality of current society appears to be the polar opposite of that scenario. Not only has basic morality that used to be the norm been replaced by ambiguous standards that are tantamount to a lack of morality, but also those who in the past remained on the shadowy edges of society now appear to be in the mainstream. Any who would dare to question this new reality are labeled “politically incorrect” at best, or ignorant and unenlightened at worst.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

The primary reason for this shift appears to be the belief that morality itself is not something that is absolute, but instead must evolve as a society grows and changes. That conviction was given a voice in 1948 when Alfred Kinsey, the widely acknowledged “father of the sexual revolution,” published his unprecedented report on human sexuality, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (followed in 1953 by his companion book on females). Kinsey’s theme of “free love” was reinforced by a well-timed media blitz, and the American public was receptive. Kinsey facilitated, with the fraudulent data of his studies, the abandonment of absolutes in the social or judicial reasoning of America’s Judeo-Christian moral system. As Kinsey biographer James H. Jones stated in Alfred Kinsey: A Public/Private Life, “Kinsey loathed Victorian morality. He wanted to undermine traditional morality, to soften the rules of restraint, and to help people develop positive attitudes toward their sexual needs and desire. Kinsey was a crypto-reformer who spent his every waking hour attempting to change the sexual mores and sex offender laws of the United States.” It has further been stated, “For Kinsey, no sexual behavior was bizarre, deviant, or antisocial. The ends justified the means. Adultery could be considered no more immoral than having dessert after dinner. Thus, Kinsey opened Pandora’s box to the coarsening, degradation, and abuse of sexuality that have become the hallmarks of the modern world.” (Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, 2005)Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Believing that morality naturally changes as a society progresses may seem the intelligent point of view – if you make a narrow analysis of the issue. For example, most would agree that the treatment of minorities in this country in past decades, particularly African Americans, was certainly immoral – and now we have progressed to a new level of moral consciousness in regards to civil rights. Nonetheless, I would argue that just because a policy is accepted by the majority (i.e. segregation) does not make it morally acceptable. In this case, the shameful history of this country in relation to race relations was never the moral high ground. The same can not be said in regards to other moral issues. Despite the denials of many, American common law was constructed on biblical principles to protect and order society’s most important building blocks – marriage and family.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Abstaining from sex without the benefit of marriage, avoiding sexual depravity, dressing modestly instead of provocatively, having a sense of civility, avoiding obscenity, treating women with respect, being honest, truly valuing the family unit, having respect for parents – these qualities, as well as others like them – exemplify the moral high ground. It is my belief that morality is an absolute – there is no gray area. Even if a majority of the population determines an action, a belief, or a concept to be acceptable or even desirable, that does not change the reality of an absolute truth. Ancient people accepted as fact that the earth was flat, but that did not change the absolute truth – the earth is a sphere. Modern doctors and scientists have been forced to correct erroneous beliefs – that they “knew” to be true – regularly over the centuries. Try to reject the truth of gravity and you will soon discover that your belief is not essential for it to function.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

The same standard should hold true with morals. Will we someday reach the “enlightened” state when we realize that it is actually a good thing to murder people that we don’t like, or have offended us? Or at some grand day in the future will we finally accept the benefits of stealing something of value if we really want it? When can we at last share our wife with our neighbor, without feeling guilty? Can we ever envision a day when having sex with a child is acceptable? If you believe that none of these things should ever be tolerated, do you consider yourself ignorant? Why not? It is because you believe there are absolute moral lines that must be drawn to distinguish humans from the lower animals. We can – and must – make intelligent choices. Humans should not act on every physical impulse with impunity as if we were merely controlled by instinct.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

While the vast majority of Americans still believe murder, stealing, and pedophilia to be abhorrent, they have seemingly embraced other acts previously considered immoral. Once a society starts down the slippery slope of lowering standards in one area of morality, where is the line drawn? Or can the downhill spiral even be halted? How wise is it to allow those who were formally considered outsiders due to their immoral actions, or those who have now acquiesced to their viewpoint, to gain control of the entertainment industry, the media, the fashion trade, advertising, and other outlets that promote their agenda?

It is actually unclear whether the majority of people genuinely believes this new view of morals to be a good thing or are simply afraid to be labeled insensitive, uninformed, or ignorant. Unfortunately, history is full of examples where a majority of a population allowed themselves to be influenced by an immoral minority due, in large part, to a fear of seeming different. None of those examples had a happy ending.�¯�¿�½

In conclusion, it must be acknowledged that Americans – by their very nature – desire freedom. This extends to what has been called “moral freedom” – the idea that individuals should determine for themselves what it means to lead a good and virtuous life. Although I believe whole-heartedly that morality is not an ever changing set of guidelines but instead a set of unshakable standards that transcends all generations, I also oppose efforts by government to impose morality on any population. In fact, those who are truly motivated by moral veracity do not need a set of laws to be in place in order to follow their conscience. Personal morality cannot be legislated, nor can it be feigned. Even though standards of morality in America have changed, those who still attempt to live by a consistent moral code should not allow the actions of any individuals or groups to influence their course of life, even if they become the majority.

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