Americans’ moral beliefs



Gallup has released its latest study of Americans’ moral beliefs.

Gallup’s Values and Beliefs poll has been taken each year since 2001, so that it is possible to track changes.

Some two-thirds of Americans see nothing wrong with sex between unmarried couples (69%), homosexual relations (63%), and having a baby outside of wedlock (62%).

Despite this sexual revolution, the vast majority of Americans still strongly disapprove of adultery, with only 9% considering it “OK,” a number that has changed little over the years.

Only 43% consider abortion to be moral, a number that has also been stable since 2001.

For the numbers on these and many other issues, as well as data about the values that have changed, go here.

The summary report, excerpted after the jump, observes that no issues have shown change in a conservative direction.

While it is true that most Americans consider themselves conservative politically, conservatives too are mostly liberal when it comes to morality.


Painting:  Moses with the 10 Commandments by Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Flushing a friend

White_toiletI have long complained about contemporary funerals.  But I have learned about yet another way of honoring the death of a loved one.

A man is going to baseball stadiums around the country.  While the game is going on, he goes to the men’s room and flushes some of the ashes of his late friend down a toilet.

Thus he honors his friend, a baseball fan and a plumber, making him one with the cathedrals of the game.  Or something.

[Read more…]

Believing, behaving, belonging

41d5clt3VoL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_The Pew Study of religious belief in former Communist countries that we blogged about recently cites a scholar who breaks down religious involvement into three factors:  “Believing. Behaving. Belonging.”

A religion entails believing in certain things.  “Behaving” refers not so much to moral behavior–though acting in accord with what one’s religion teachers is surely an important factor–but to religious behavior, such as attending church, praying, etc.  “Belonging” refers to membership in a religious community, as in belonging to a church and holding to a particular religious identity.

The major insight from this breakdown is that people around the world often approach their religion in at least one of these ways, but not always in all three of them.

In the former Communist countries, people “believe” and “belong,” but they do not “behave.”  That is, they affirm Christian teachings and consider membership in a church extremely important, but they hardly ever actually go to church or practice other religious “behavior.”

In Scandinavia, as I have been learning, despite the presence of intensely Christian individuals who do all three, the majority of people do not “believe” (the rates of atheism and agnosticism are very high), nor do they “behave” (seldom attending religious services).  But they do “belong,” as rates of church membership–church tax and all–remains very high.

In East Asian Buddhism, many people do not believe in their religion, nor do they belong to a religious community.  But they do “behave” in accord with the religion, going to the temple and performing the rituals and sacrifices.

Many Americans “believe” but neither “belong” to a church nor “behave” by attending one.

Liberal Christians “belong” and “behave” in their mainline denominations without actually “believing.”

Some say that these can be put into an order according to which people can be drawn into the church, though opinions differ on what the order is.  Might “belonging” eventually lead to “belief”?  Or does “belief” lead to “belonging”?  (See Roger Olsen’s  discussion.)

What are some other applications? How can this breakdown help us in reaching the “unchurched” and in discipling the “churched”?  Or is this merely a sociological account of religion that has little to do with actual faith? [Read more…]

Treating pets like children

Lazy_corgi_(5624163644)Young adults are not having children, much.  But they are having pets in great number.  And they are apparently channeling their parental instincts into their pets.

We can now hear 30-something men and women calling dogs or cats “my children,” “fur-babies,” “kids,” “girls,” “boys,” or “sons and daughters” and themselves their pet’s “mommy” or “daddy.”

I have known elderly people who do this, and I have a great tolerance for it.  But young adults?  Millennials?  Pets not as companions but as children substitutes?

My fellow Patheos blogger G. Shane Morris, writing in The Federalist, discusses this phenomenon, taking a hard line against certain members of his generation. [Read more…]

The little nation that defeated the Soviets


Simo Häyhä, the “White Death”

A nation is defined by its history and its people’s common experiences.  That is especially true of nations whose citizens, for the most part, share a specific ethnic identity.  In Finland, where I spent some time recently, history is a living force.

For some 500 years, Finland was part of Sweden, a region in the East where members of the Finnish tribe dwelt.  Finland was Swedish during the 17th century when that kingdom was a world power, as the Swedish kings saved Lutheranism during the Thirty Years’ War and dominated much of Northern Europe.  To this day, Finland has a Swedish-speaking minority.

But then, in 1809, Sweden lost a war with Russia.  Finland, on Russia’s border, was ceded to the Czar, who made it an autonomous Grand Duchy under his authority.  So Finland went into its Russian phase, though it resisted assimilation.

When the Communist Revolution broke out, Finland saw its chance.  It declared independence and established itself as a free republic.  This happened in 1917, so that this year Finland is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The Communists had their own problems in 1917 so basically let Finland go.  Some Finns, however, were on the Bolshevik side, so the new nation fought a bloody civil war, with the “Whites” defeating the “Reds.”

But in 1939, Stalin resolved to take Finland back.  Soviet troops poured over the Finnish border.  In this conflict, known as the “Winter War,” the Soviets outnumbered the Finns three to one, with 30 times more airplanes and 100 times more tanks.

I was told that the president of Finland then was a devout Christian.  He called upon all Finns to pray.  And they did. [Read more…]

Repealing chivalrous laws

318px-John_Everett_Millais_The_Black_BrunswickerThe Oklahoma state legislature, supposedly a conservative lot, has repealed the criminal seduction law, which forbade seducing a virgin by promising to marry her.  Also repealed was a law  forbidding slandering a woman’s virtue.

The state senator who pushed these repeals, a woman, thought the laws were funny.  She also said they were “obsolete, antiquated, inappropriate for our modern society.”

The Daily Oklahoman, supposedly a conservative newspaper, also thought these laws, designed to protect women, were funny.  But when the reporter, in the spirit of fun, quoted advocates of the law from 100 years ago, those gentlemen came across as noble and chivalrous in their zealous concern for wronged women.

I’m not saying we should or should not have such laws.  But the notion that chronology determines whether or not an idea is right or wrong or a law is appropriate or not is surely fallacious.  Yes, women now must be treated just like men, and the Victorian exaltation of womanhood is now considered sexist.  But women are still exploited sexually, and the problem of slandering a woman’s reputation has become even worse in the age of social media.  At any rate, mocking those chivalrous laws designed to protect women just shows the coarsening of our age.

Painting:  “The Black Brunswicker,” by John Everett Millais (1860), Public Domain, [Read more…]