What Americans think is right and wrong

A Gallup poll surveyed what Americans find morally acceptable and unacceptable.  From The Atlantic:

What do we learn from this?

I’ll start:  Pornography comes out as worse than abortion, sex outside of marriage, and the death penalty.  Nearly two out of three Americans consider pornography to be immoral?  So how come that’s such a profitable industry?   Contrary to Plato, to know the good is not the same as to do the good.  That is, immorality is not due to ignorance that something is immoral, nor to a belief that the bad behavior is actually good.  Furthermore, we have fallen so far that sometimes our knowledge that something is immoral can make it more desirable and, perversely, more pleasurable.  C. S. Lewis writes about the “tang” of transgression.  (Lord, have mercy!)

What else?

HT:  Matthew Cantirino

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.frankgantz.com Frank Gantz

    It’s interesting that suicide is high on the list of unacceptability…unless a doctor assists.

  • http://www.frankgantz.com Frank Gantz

    It’s interesting that suicide is high on the list of unacceptability…unless a doctor assists.

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Rev. Charles Lehmann

    The percentage point difference is pretty irrelevant in this survey. What is far more interesting is to divide the second number by the first.

    Look at abortion. In a sample of 100 Americans, 51 think that abortion is morally wrong and 38 percent find that it is morally acceptable. A 13 point difference seems small. But the reality is 51 is 134% of 38. This means that the number of people in the US who morally oppose abortion is 34% higher than the number of people in the US who support it for moral reasons.

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Rev. Charles Lehmann

    The percentage point difference is pretty irrelevant in this survey. What is far more interesting is to divide the second number by the first.

    Look at abortion. In a sample of 100 Americans, 51 think that abortion is morally wrong and 38 percent find that it is morally acceptable. A 13 point difference seems small. But the reality is 51 is 134% of 38. This means that the number of people in the US who morally oppose abortion is 34% higher than the number of people in the US who support it for moral reasons.

  • http://derekjohnsonmuses.com Derek Johnson

    Suprising to all the people who tell us that the mass acceptance of homosexuality is inevitable. 54% say morally wrong, not exactly what the lifestyle left displays.

  • http://derekjohnsonmuses.com Derek Johnson

    Suprising to all the people who tell us that the mass acceptance of homosexuality is inevitable. 54% say morally wrong, not exactly what the lifestyle left displays.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    It shows that the law is still written on the heart. Nearly everyone admits that adultery is wrong. What is more, you can see that this wrongness is not reducible to the breaking of a merely private arrangement or betrayal of a merely personal trust. After all, nearly the same proportion condemns polygamy, and faithful polygamists would be keeping their own private arrangements. With such a strong and common moral foundation, it shouldn’t be too hard to remind people that successive polygamy (more commonly called serial monogamy) is also wrong.

    I’d wager that pornography comes out so badly because women disproportionately disapproved compared to men. Men, after all, have more need to rationalize on this issue, so they probably have done so in order to justify themselves. Women have less need, so they probably haven’t rationalized and therefore still remember why it’s wrong.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    It shows that the law is still written on the heart. Nearly everyone admits that adultery is wrong. What is more, you can see that this wrongness is not reducible to the breaking of a merely private arrangement or betrayal of a merely personal trust. After all, nearly the same proportion condemns polygamy, and faithful polygamists would be keeping their own private arrangements. With such a strong and common moral foundation, it shouldn’t be too hard to remind people that successive polygamy (more commonly called serial monogamy) is also wrong.

    I’d wager that pornography comes out so badly because women disproportionately disapproved compared to men. Men, after all, have more need to rationalize on this issue, so they probably have done so in order to justify themselves. Women have less need, so they probably haven’t rationalized and therefore still remember why it’s wrong.

  • John C

    Take another look at the figures Derek — 54% find relations between gays or lesbians morally acceptable. The punishers and straighteners have lost this one.

  • John C

    Take another look at the figures Derek — 54% find relations between gays or lesbians morally acceptable. The punishers and straighteners have lost this one.

  • Michael B.

    @John C

    “54% find relations between gays or lesbians morally acceptable”

    There are another important question here, which is not only is something immoral, but should it be illegal. Of the 42% who think homosexuality is morally unacceptable, how many of them actually think homosexuality should be made illegal? Same question for adultery. Or abortion. Or pornography.

  • Michael B.

    @John C

    “54% find relations between gays or lesbians morally acceptable”

    There are another important question here, which is not only is something immoral, but should it be illegal. Of the 42% who think homosexuality is morally unacceptable, how many of them actually think homosexuality should be made illegal? Same question for adultery. Or abortion. Or pornography.

  • formerly just steve
  • formerly just steve
  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Good point, Michael! Morally wrong does not necessarily equtate to legally wrong (and that is a good thing!).

    For example, I find only 4 things on that list that should be illegal, but 6 more that I think is immoral. And no, I’m not going to tell…

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Good point, Michael! Morally wrong does not necessarily equtate to legally wrong (and that is a good thing!).

    For example, I find only 4 things on that list that should be illegal, but 6 more that I think is immoral. And no, I’m not going to tell…

  • Bob

    I don’t get why they asked about polygamy.

    This is practiced by how many Americans?

  • Bob

    I don’t get why they asked about polygamy.

    This is practiced by how many Americans?

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    I’d find 14 things on the list to be immoral but only 7 ought to be formally illegal.

    The enforcement mechanism for most immoral behavior ought to primarily be the community shaming and shunning people and in some case using the threat of force outside the purview of the law.

    The legal system ought to be a last resort when community shaming, shunning and threatening are unable to resolve a disruption to the peace and established order of a community.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    I’d find 14 things on the list to be immoral but only 7 ought to be formally illegal.

    The enforcement mechanism for most immoral behavior ought to primarily be the community shaming and shunning people and in some case using the threat of force outside the purview of the law.

    The legal system ought to be a last resort when community shaming, shunning and threatening are unable to resolve a disruption to the peace and established order of a community.

  • fws

    derek @ 3 and john @ 5
    You are both wrong. I think that North Carolina shows us that around 70% are against gay marriage and even civil unions.
    The polls leading up to the vote was about 50/50. My interpretation:
    The left has persuaded the right to feel like bigots if they say what they REALLY think. But they express what they really think in the voting booth!

    Matt @ 4

    there is nowhere in the Bible that says that the Law is written in the hearts of men. Read romans 2:15 again Matt!

    It says that the Law is written in the minds (Reason) of all men. It is the “work” of the Law that is written in the hearts of all men. What is that work? Hatred for God. This is why the Confessions narrowly define Natural Law against St Thomas.

    Reason=Natural Law according to our Confessions Matt. And this is not a nitpick. They use this Reason/Heart distinction as the springboard for their entire arguments against the Scholastic.

  • fws

    derek @ 3 and john @ 5
    You are both wrong. I think that North Carolina shows us that around 70% are against gay marriage and even civil unions.
    The polls leading up to the vote was about 50/50. My interpretation:
    The left has persuaded the right to feel like bigots if they say what they REALLY think. But they express what they really think in the voting booth!

    Matt @ 4

    there is nowhere in the Bible that says that the Law is written in the hearts of men. Read romans 2:15 again Matt!

    It says that the Law is written in the minds (Reason) of all men. It is the “work” of the Law that is written in the hearts of all men. What is that work? Hatred for God. This is why the Confessions narrowly define Natural Law against St Thomas.

    Reason=Natural Law according to our Confessions Matt. And this is not a nitpick. They use this Reason/Heart distinction as the springboard for their entire arguments against the Scholastic.

  • fws

    matt @ 4

    I think you are exactly right on your spin on the pornography number.

  • fws

    matt @ 4

    I think you are exactly right on your spin on the pornography number.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    I wonder how many people favor square circles given the support for same-sex “marriage”.

    A marriage is by definition a sexual union between a man and a woman. The government’s role in it is all legal formalization and tinkering on the institution created by God in the Garden of Eden.

    Now the patriarchs had multiple marriages at the same time but they still had the same sort of marriage as has always existed. The wives of Jacob weren’t married to each other and they were each individually married to Jacob.

    The only innovation in marriage is to limit a man to one marriage at a time given the more equal gender balance in modern times.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    I wonder how many people favor square circles given the support for same-sex “marriage”.

    A marriage is by definition a sexual union between a man and a woman. The government’s role in it is all legal formalization and tinkering on the institution created by God in the Garden of Eden.

    Now the patriarchs had multiple marriages at the same time but they still had the same sort of marriage as has always existed. The wives of Jacob weren’t married to each other and they were each individually married to Jacob.

    The only innovation in marriage is to limit a man to one marriage at a time given the more equal gender balance in modern times.

  • fws

    sal @ 13

    <blockquote. marriage is by definition a sexual union between a man and a woman.

    Nope.

    1) sexual union between a man and a prostitute IS “one flesh union”. However: It is NOT “marriage”. I cor 6. Nor does society say that sex between man and woman equals a marriage.

    2) The Lutheran Confessions, Large Catechism , Commandment 4 defines matrimony as the sanctioned rulership of a husband and wife over their household. Marriage=government.
    There you will read that the purpose of that government is to raise children to be useful in the other two governments of church and society. In commandment 6 you will see that other purposes are for companionship and also to protect marriage .

    3) In the Large Catechism , commandment 6, you will learn that Marriage is also defined as the only biblical thing we can call ” sexual self-control.”

    How? If you are married, Luther explains, you are given , in marriage your own ration of sex. This reduces your urge to go after the ration of sex that is the property of some other man.

    You MUST be roman catholic Sal. If I am wrong and you are Lutheran, then read the Large Catechism online, and come back if you disagree with the dual definition I find there. http://www.bookofconcord.org

  • fws

    sal @ 13

    <blockquote. marriage is by definition a sexual union between a man and a woman.

    Nope.

    1) sexual union between a man and a prostitute IS “one flesh union”. However: It is NOT “marriage”. I cor 6. Nor does society say that sex between man and woman equals a marriage.

    2) The Lutheran Confessions, Large Catechism , Commandment 4 defines matrimony as the sanctioned rulership of a husband and wife over their household. Marriage=government.
    There you will read that the purpose of that government is to raise children to be useful in the other two governments of church and society. In commandment 6 you will see that other purposes are for companionship and also to protect marriage .

    3) In the Large Catechism , commandment 6, you will learn that Marriage is also defined as the only biblical thing we can call ” sexual self-control.”

    How? If you are married, Luther explains, you are given , in marriage your own ration of sex. This reduces your urge to go after the ration of sex that is the property of some other man.

    You MUST be roman catholic Sal. If I am wrong and you are Lutheran, then read the Large Catechism online, and come back if you disagree with the dual definition I find there. http://www.bookofconcord.org

  • http://andrewboll.com Andrew Boll

    What I find really strange is that those polled are nearly split on the issue of “Doctor-assisted suicide,” but they overwhelmingly condemned suicide as immoral. What’s going on there? So it’s okay as long as you consult your physician? Weird…

  • http://andrewboll.com Andrew Boll

    What I find really strange is that those polled are nearly split on the issue of “Doctor-assisted suicide,” but they overwhelmingly condemned suicide as immoral. What’s going on there? So it’s okay as long as you consult your physician? Weird…

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  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    It tells us that we are living in a nation that is not “Christian” anymore, if ever.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    It tells us that we are living in a nation that is not “Christian” anymore, if ever.

  • SAL

    #14

    Where exactly do the confessions or the Bible indicate that a man who has congress with a prostitute is not married to her in the sense that Adam was to Eve (that is becoming one flesh)?

    I’d also suggest you’re blurring the two concepts of father in the confessions. The father of office and the father of blood. A father of office need not be a biological father. A father of blood is typically a biological father who has entered a union with the mother. They are one flesh just as Adam and Eve were.

  • SAL

    #14

    Where exactly do the confessions or the Bible indicate that a man who has congress with a prostitute is not married to her in the sense that Adam was to Eve (that is becoming one flesh)?

    I’d also suggest you’re blurring the two concepts of father in the confessions. The father of office and the father of blood. A father of office need not be a biological father. A father of blood is typically a biological father who has entered a union with the mother. They are one flesh just as Adam and Eve were.

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  • DonS

    Divorce is more morally acceptable than wearing animal fur? That one struck me.

    Sal @ 10: I also find 14 things on the list to be immoral, but only 6 should be illegal, counting suicide, which is iffy, since it really cannot be enforced if the “criminal” is successful. However, if the person is unsuccessful in their attempt, its illegality might give the state more options in committing them for effective treatment.

  • DonS

    Divorce is more morally acceptable than wearing animal fur? That one struck me.

    Sal @ 10: I also find 14 things on the list to be immoral, but only 6 should be illegal, counting suicide, which is iffy, since it really cannot be enforced if the “criminal” is successful. However, if the person is unsuccessful in their attempt, its illegality might give the state more options in committing them for effective treatment.

  • John C

    There is less moral ambiguity if the state make suicide a capital offence, Don.

  • John C

    There is less moral ambiguity if the state make suicide a capital offence, Don.

  • fws

    John @19

    The laws do not exist to make morality unambiguous. Imagine where that logic would take us! And , according to the Bible, that is unnecessary. The Law of God is written in the Reason of all men. Rom 2:15.

    The laws exist for only one purpose: it is that sinful men ignore the law in their conscience/Reason. Why? Our hearts, 100% of the time (!) , desire to do the opposite of what that Divinely Revealed Law of God that is our Reason is demanding of us.

    So the Law exists as a club. As a blunt instrument to make you and I do what we don’t really want to do.

    So also we read in Romans 2:15 that the “work of the Law ” is written in our hearts. And what is that work? We hate God. We resent him as a tyrant. Why? We do all that is right and our Reason still accuses us and naggs at us. Why? The Law demands not only the outward act as civil law does. The Law of God demands that what we do flows freely from a willing heart.
    And Reason also knows that NOone can do this! No Law can make our hearts feel anything but anger towards God.

  • fws

    John @19

    The laws do not exist to make morality unambiguous. Imagine where that logic would take us! And , according to the Bible, that is unnecessary. The Law of God is written in the Reason of all men. Rom 2:15.

    The laws exist for only one purpose: it is that sinful men ignore the law in their conscience/Reason. Why? Our hearts, 100% of the time (!) , desire to do the opposite of what that Divinely Revealed Law of God that is our Reason is demanding of us.

    So the Law exists as a club. As a blunt instrument to make you and I do what we don’t really want to do.

    So also we read in Romans 2:15 that the “work of the Law ” is written in our hearts. And what is that work? We hate God. We resent him as a tyrant. Why? We do all that is right and our Reason still accuses us and naggs at us. Why? The Law demands not only the outward act as civil law does. The Law of God demands that what we do flows freely from a willing heart.
    And Reason also knows that NOone can do this! No Law can make our hearts feel anything but anger towards God.

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  • John C

    Look at 19 again Frank — it’s just a joke.
    A wee one but a joke never the less.

  • John C

    Look at 19 again Frank — it’s just a joke.
    A wee one but a joke never the less.

  • fws

    busted.

    shortest book in the world?

    400 year of german humor.

  • fws

    busted.

    shortest book in the world?

    400 year of german humor.

  • fws

    meaning I am busted. not you John.

  • fws

    meaning I am busted. not you John.

  • benjamin

    @ john c, very poetic but very true. in my opinion. The Noble Qur’an 3:104

    Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islâm), enjoining Al-Ma’rûf (i.e. Islâmic Monotheism and all that Islâm orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islâm has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful.

    The Noble Qur’an 3:110

    You [true believers in Islâmic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad SAW and his Sunnah (legal ways, etc.)] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’rûf (i.e. Islâmic Monotheism and all that Islâm has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islâm has forbidden), and you believe in Allâh[]. And had the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) believed, it would have been better for them; among them are some who have faith, but most of them are Al-Fâsiqûn (disobedient to Allâh – and rebellious against Allâh’s Command).

  • benjamin

    @ john c, very poetic but very true. in my opinion. The Noble Qur’an 3:104

    Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islâm), enjoining Al-Ma’rûf (i.e. Islâmic Monotheism and all that Islâm orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islâm has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful.

    The Noble Qur’an 3:110

    You [true believers in Islâmic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad SAW and his Sunnah (legal ways, etc.)] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’rûf (i.e. Islâmic Monotheism and all that Islâm has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islâm has forbidden), and you believe in Allâh[]. And had the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) believed, it would have been better for them; among them are some who have faith, but most of them are Al-Fâsiqûn (disobedient to Allâh – and rebellious against Allâh’s Command).

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  • Ashley B.

    I’m sorry, but there is just no way this is an accurate survey. It must be extremely biased, because there is no way that two thirds of Americans think that porn is immoral. Especially since studies have found that literally every man and almost all American women have watched it. Although those may have been biased too, I guess we’ll never know.
    Also, of course there isn’t such huge divide on abortion. Why do you think it’s been such a difficult debate?!?
    And seriously, almost 40% of the people who took this survey think pre-marital sex is wrong. There is no way that is representative of the American population.

  • Ashley B.

    I’m sorry, but there is just no way this is an accurate survey. It must be extremely biased, because there is no way that two thirds of Americans think that porn is immoral. Especially since studies have found that literally every man and almost all American women have watched it. Although those may have been biased too, I guess we’ll never know.
    Also, of course there isn’t such huge divide on abortion. Why do you think it’s been such a difficult debate?!?
    And seriously, almost 40% of the people who took this survey think pre-marital sex is wrong. There is no way that is representative of the American population.


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