Are Moral Values Declining?

All of my life, I’ve heard that moral values are headed south.   Not only have they been declining, it has been said, they are on the cusp of total decadence.

It reminds me of driving to Central America with my wife years ago.  We were on the backroads.  We would ask people about the conditions and safety ahead.  The answer was always the same, “Right here, things are OK.   But, further on it is very dangerous.”  We’d go further on, get the same answer.

There is a set of people who like to say moral standards are falling.  Yet, there is no stardard measurement of “moral standards”.  No one can say they actually are getting worse or better.

For myself, I’d have to conclude many things I call morals have improved.  Integration, equality for women are a couple of improvements.  Steps to avoid environmental degregation is another.

We can predict with certainty that when people now 15 to 25 years old, who are abondoning many of the traditions about marriage and church, are 5o to 60 years old, they will be complaining about the morals of teenagers at that time.  It’s always been that way.

An interesting poll I read about said a majority of the general public does not believe morals are declining.  While I agree with this, I thought I was in the minority.

So, if you are among those wringing your hands about your perception moral standards are falling, relax.   So far as we know, they are not.

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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13 Responses to Are Moral Values Declining?

  1. entech says:

    This thought is probably as old as the proverbial hills, There are quotes attributed to Socrates, undoubtedly there will be Biblical anecdotes. The quote I like is from the Middle Ages and is probably as apocryphal as any.

    “The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.”

    From a sermon by Peter the Hermit in A.D. 1274

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      entech 2:13 I was hoping you would come up with such a quote. I’d guess Peter the Hermit did quite with the collection plate in A. D. 1274. You and I could make a little money preaching this message today, “Friends, we are living in troubled times….”

  2. Wanna B Sure says:

    When I was younger, (much), my Grandparents, my folks, an I got up early, listened to the news on the radio at 6 am, did the chores, sat on a M-Farmall tractor till noon. At Noon, ate dinner with the radio on again for farm and local news. Back to the tractor, or hay bailer, etc, till supper. Radio again, did chores, cleaned up, talked over the day, and went to bed. There was no bad news, and no problems in the world, except for WW II, then later Korea. Even in 57 when we got TV, not much bad news. Then later came cable TV with 24/7 news cycles. All of a sudden the world got much worse. Wonder why.

    • Avatar of Mac Mac says:

      The past couple weeks Ricky and I have been spending a fair amount of time with our grandkids, Bobby & Cindy who are two and four years old. They will grow up knowing nothing different than “Grandpa” and “Poppa” and hopefully recall idyllic summer afternoons with us; being spoiled rotten with juice-boxes and made-to-order snacks and lunches at their whim.

      Had this scenario played out 30 years ago, some well meaning soul peering over our backyard fence would have most certainly phoned social services to tend to these poor children.

  3. Bob says:

    But some things do change, like customs and character traits of cultures as a whole. A person could attribute that to a change in morals.
    For example, while agree with Jon L. that society is more equal as it concerns women and integration, I do seem to notice quirks in the culture. People don’t seem to say excuse me as often. I think the loss of small towns up and down the valley and the growth of the bigger towns, like Fargo and Grand Forks, means we lose a sense of civic mindedness that people in the fifties had. I could be wrong.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Bob 1:01 Thank you for the thoughful comment. You are correct that social change, in general, is a complex topic. And, it may well be some customs most of us see as desireable are not as common. But, on the specific topic of morals, we don’t have a universal agreement on how to measure it. Thus, my case is, we can’t really say morals are declining.

  4. Brad Campbell says:

    Interesting.

    In today’s perceived secular society it seems like almost anything now is permissible. You can see it in the youth today. My daughter’s (15 yrs) friends seem to think it is totally acceptable to wear revealing clothing, swear, disrespect parents and authority, lie, cheat and work?…..what is that?

    My one twin just asked me last night what time is church on Sunday……that is for you Jon…..:)

  5. Dan says:

    Jon,

    I attribute moral decline with increased teen violence, drug use, sexually transmitted diseases and pregancies. I also attribute it to spousal abuse, alcholism, abortion (genocide), sucide, organized crime, domestic terrorism, corruption, stealing, broken families… Maybe you’re in denial. Maybe you don’t care. But if infact morality has not declined & everything is rainbows and lolli pops then why am I frisked by TSA? Why do I have to lock the doors to my car & home, worry about unknow meth lab locations, be careful when I’m hunting that I don’t walk into a patrolled field that is filled with pot plants (this did happen to me once), see clips on youtube of teens beating each other up (one was bashed in the head and killed with a board & one just had convulsions), watch for bombs being placed in Times Square… Your optomistic view on our current state of morality does not jive with the facts. Perhaps you are a progressive who surrounds themselves with warm fuzzies and turns a blind eye to what is really going on around them. Reading your past blogs, I believe that you might be intelligent enough to see what is really going on in our struggling country. I would suggest that you read about the Roman Empire. Its leaders thought they were invincible and immune from collapse but many theorist specualte that their boastfullness and decline in morality led to its fall. Have you looked at the national debt lately. Do you feel that corruption had anything to do with our economic decline. Is corruption related to morality? Bernie Madof might not think so but I do.

    • entech says:

      “I attribute moral decline with increased teen violence, drug use, sexually transmitted diseases and pregancies.” etc. A small point, you are confusing cause and effect, theses things can be attributed to moral decline, they are not the cause.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Dan 4:59 4:30 Whether the topic is hell or moral decline, I just happen to like bench marks. Without them we’re just throwing darts at the wall and saying whereever they land is the absolute truth.

  6. Whatever says:

    “teen violence, drug use, sexually transmitted diseases and pregancies. I also attribute it to spousal abuse, alcholism, abortion (genocide), sucide, organized crime, domestic terrorism, corruption, stealing, broken families… ” Right Dan…These things have all just started just recently. Get a grip on reality dude.

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