Dennis Prager / September 20, 2011

Why Young Americans Can’t Think Morally

Last week, David Brooks of The New York Times wrote a column on an academic study concerning the nearly complete lack of a moral vocabulary among most American young people. Below are some excerpts from Brooks’ summary of the study of Americans aged 18 to 23. (It was led by “the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith.”)

“Smith and company asked about the young people’s moral lives, and the results are depressing …

“When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all …

Last week, David Brooks of The New York Times wrote a column on an academic study concerning the nearly complete lack of a moral vocabulary among most American young people. Below are some excerpts from Brooks’ summary of the study of Americans aged 18 to 23. (It was led by “the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith.”)

“Smith and company asked about the young people’s moral lives, and the results are depressing …

"When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all …

"Moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner …

"The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste …

"As one put it, ‘I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong …

"Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.”

Ever since I attended college, I have been convinced that either “studies” confirm what common sense suggests or that they are mistaken. I realized this when I was presented with study after study showing that boys and girls were not inherently different from one another, and they acted differently only because of sexist upbringings.

This latest study cited by David Brooks confirms what conservatives have known for a generation: Moral standards have been replaced by feelings. Of course, those on the left believe this only when a writer at a major liberal newspaper cites an “eminent sociologist.”

What is disconcerting about Brooks’ piece is that nowhere in what is an important column does he mention the reason for this disturbing trend – namely, secularism.

The intellectual class and the left still believe that secularism is an unalloyed blessing. They are wrong. Secularism is good for government. But it is terrible for society (though still preferable to bad religion) and for the individual.

One key reason is what secularism does to moral standards. If moral standards are not rooted in God, they do not objectively exist. Good and evil are no more real than “yummy” and “yucky.” They are simply a matter of personal preference. One of the foremost liberal philosophers, Richard Rorty, an atheist, acknowledged that for the secular liberal, “There is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?’”

With the death of Judeo-Christian-God-based standards, people have simply substituted feelings for those standards. Millions of American young people have been raised by parents and schools with “How do you feel about it?” as the only guide to what they ought to do. The heart has replaced God and the Bible as a moral guide.

And now, as Brooks points out, we see the results. A vast number of American young people do not even ask whether an action is right or wrong. The question would strike them as foreign. Why? Because the question suggests that there is a right and wrong outside of themselves. And just as there is no God higher than them, there is no morality higher than them, either.

Forty years ago, I began writing and lecturing about this problem. It was then that I began asking students if they would save their dog or a stranger first if both were drowning. The majority always voted against the stranger – because, they explained, they loved their dog and they didn’t love the stranger.

They followed their feelings.

Without God and Judeo-Christian religions, what else is there?

COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2022 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.