The evolution of morals in modern society
You don’t have to be religious to see the signs: association with religious institutions is declining at a rapid rate in the United States. Religiously unaffiliated Americans are on a huge rise, surging from 8 percent in 2003 to over 19.8 percent based on a Pew poll from Oct., 2012.
According to a study done by the Public Religion Research Institute in Feb. 2014, nearly one third of this attrition can be attributed to the Millennials disconnecting with church teachings over perceived discrimination towards the LBGT community.
The statistic sends a profound message and raises an important question: Is our culture slowly graduating from moral absolutism?
Moral absolutism is a belief that certain actions are right and wrong, regardless of circumstance. Oftentimes this is associated with religion, wherein a deity imposes an unchanging system of morality, e.g., the Ten Commandments.
This disconnect over discrimination within the faith raises a question: is it moral to condemn or believe innocent people are sinners, not for actually committing a socially foul act, (such as murder, rape, theft, or adultery), but for being sexually predisposed to another gender?
If it is not moral to accuse those people of sin, which most non-theists agree that it is not, then Biblical view accepted by the vast majority of Judeo-Christian religions is now aligned against a new perception of morality, one that does not discriminate against sexual, social, or racial groups.
An example of this moral rift: a recent study conducted by William D’Antonio at the Catholic University of America concluded a whopping 86 percent of 1,442 Catholic survey respondents could disagree with the Church’s stance on homosexuality and still remain loyal to the faith.
The majority of Christian religions, including the Roman Catholic Church, believe the Bible is the authoritative, inerrant word of God; scripture was written by divine inspiration and contains absolutely no flaws.
If that is the accepted dogma of the faith, why is this 86 percent of surveyed respondents saying that it’s fine to disagree with the Church’s stance on homosexuality? Did God have a temporary lapse of judgment when writing Leviticus (81:22, 20:13), Romans (1:18-32), 1 Corithians (6:9-11), and Timothy (1:8-10)?
This example alludes to people’s sense of morality transcending their God’s divine moral commands. I hypothesize that this conclusion is one of the prominent reasons why the younger generation is so detached from faith: morality is evolving to include those who used to be discriminated against, and due to constraints against changing their dogma, religions cannot change with it.
What choices do religious moralists have if they disagree with their religion’s message? Either throw in the spiritual towel, concede with the standing belief and follow the current model, adopt allegorical translation of Scripture over belief in an inerrant, perfect text (isolating them from most contemporary faiths), or try “not thinking about it.”
I am very excited to see how the new culture of “Nones,” those who are unaffiliated with religion, choose to respond to these moral choices. I believe this advent of dissociated thinkers is moral evolution, wherein mankind realizes morality is much more than a directive imposed by a supernatural being, but a natural sequence of how we live and thrive together as a species, promoting cooperation and peace.