Where Are Morals Heading?
FOR centuries the Bible was unquestioned as the standard of morality in many lands. While not everyone lived up to its lofty principles, the Bible did give the society that recognized it a common moral language, a touchstone for judging conduct. But Jesuit university president Joseph O’Hare lamented: “We’ve had a traditional set of standards that have been challenged and found wanting or no longer fashionable. Now there don’t seem to be any moral landmarks at all.”
What caused Bible-based morality to fall from grace? One potent factor was the widespread acceptance of the theory of evolution. The book American Values: Opposing Viewpoints says: “For all of known civilization, people believed in two worlds: one that you could see, and one that was invisible. . . . The invisible world provided the basis for meaning and value . . . It was the source of cohesion for their society. However, about the middle of the last century, people began to be told that there was no invisible world. It did not exist and never had.” Especially from that time on, there were unprecedented attacks on the Bible and its morality. The so-called higher criticism of the Bible and the publishing of Darwin’s Origin of Species were among these philosophical attacks.a
Evolution thus diminished the Bible’s authority in the minds of many. As an article in Harvard Magazine put it, the Bible was now seen as no more than “a lovely allegory.” The impact on morality was devastating. Evolution became what well-known scientist Fred Hoyle called “an open charter for any form of opportunistic behaviour.”
Of course, evolution is just a part of the picture. Two world wars further fueled a widespread disillusionment with religion. The industrial revolution brought about great social—and moral—changes. Moreover, the rapid growth of the powerful mass media has made it possible to expose people to decadent morals on a large scale.
Everything Is Relative?
Little wonder, then, that many people have no moral reference point. They are adrift like a ship without a rudder. Many, for example, ride the popular current of moral relativism, the view that “ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them.” According to this philosophy, there are no moral absolutes—everything is relative. ‘What’s wrong for you may be right for somebody else,’ relativists assert. Because their moral compass points in just about any direction, they are quick to validate virtually any sort of behavior as acceptable.
Thus, an act that formerly would have been described as “sinful” or “wrong” is now simply “stupid.” The action may be excused as being “sick” but not condemned as “immoral.” One is reminded of the days of the ancient prophet Isaiah when there were those “saying that good is bad and bad is good, . . . putting darkness for light and light for darkness.”—Isaiah 5:20.
Another moral current is blame shifting. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve, in turn, blamed the serpent. Today’s offenders likewise play the game of evading responsibility, and they are often helped to do so by the legal and psychiatric professions. An article in U.S.News & World Report chided the psychiatric community for “inventing new diseases that cast offenders in the role of helpless victims.” For example, the American Psychiatric Association reportedly gave serious consideration to labeling rapists as victims of a disease fancifully termed “paraphilic rapism.” Some felt this would have amounted to a legal license to rape with impunity. “Women raised such a fuss that rapism was quickly found not to be a disease after all.”
This is not to deny the obvious fact that childhood traumas can have an adverse effect on one as an adult. But it is erroneous to claim that the past excuses violent or immoral adult behavior.
Youths—No Moral Compass
The world’s moral confusion has left its mark particularly on impressionable youths. Researcher Robert Coles of Harvard University found that there is no one underlying set of assumptions that guides the moral life of American children. They are guided by a variety of moral compasses and value systems. Almost 60 percent of a group of school-age youths polled said they were guided by what gets them ahead or what makes them feel good.
At times the schools contribute to such moral confusion. Consider an influential program labeled “values clarification,” which was instituted a few years ago in U.S. schools. Its basic teachings? Children should be free to choose their own moral values.
The moral emptiness of such a stance is apparent from the experience of one New York City school student who decided to turn in a purse she found that contained $1,000 in cash. What was the response of her fellow students in a moral-values class? She was teased and chided for doing so! Worse yet, not one teacher or school official praised her honest conduct. One teacher excused this deafening silence by saying: “If I come from a position of what is right and wrong, then I am not their counselor.”
Can the Churches Halt Moral Decay?
Not surprisingly, the world’s lamentable moral state has caused a backlash. Many now clamor for a return to traditional values, meaning for some a return to religion. However, the churches have a poor record in providing moral leadership. The General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.) admitted: “We are facing a crisis terrible in its proportions and implications.” The nature of this crisis? “Between 10 and 23 percent of clergy nationwide have engaged in sexualized behavior or sexual contact with parishioners, clients, employees, etc.”
Widespread disillusionment with religion thus prevails. The president of the U.S. Business and Industrial Council summed it up when he declared: “Religious institutions have failed to transmit their historic values, and in many cases, have become part of the [moral] problem, promoting liberation theology and non-judgmental views of human behavior.”
It is clear, then, that the uninstructed human conscience is not sufficient to guide mankind. Today’s morals are drifting toward nothing less than total moral collapse. We need a guide that comes from someone higher than ourselves.—Compare Proverbs 14:12; Jeremiah 10:23.
Such a guide exists. It is accessible to all who want it.
a Convincing evidence in favor of creation is given in the publication Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Blurb on page 5]
Belief in evolution was a factor in causing Bible-based morality to fall from grace
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‘Between 10 and 23 percent of the clergy have engaged in sexual contact with parishioners, clients, employees, etc.’
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The clergy have promoted a moral system based on human wisdom instead of the Bible