"What do you believe is the greatest contributing factor to the perceived moral decline in the United States?"
He's asking for opinions so I'm sure he'd appreciate people hopping on over to give theirs. Mine, well, got just a bit too wordy. Hard to believe, eh? So I thought that I'd post it here and link him back to it.
I think that our fall from morality began with the Reformation. Yes, I know that this pivotal point in history pre-dates our country but since this is a question of morality I think it makes sense.
Stay with me on this before starting to scream.
The Reformation created Protestantism which is founded on the rather strange notion that there is no objective truth. Sure, most Protestants will say that the Bible is the foundation upon which their faith is built but that begs the question of whose interpretation one is to believe, Luther's, Wesley's or Zwingli's and on and on? Of course, most Protestants will say that the Spirit speaks to them directly, which may be true, but that still doesn't explain how one faith can believe baptism at birth is necessary and the next that it is completely useless. If this idea of each person standing as their own infallible interpreter of truth were plausible then there would be no disagreement on any issue of faith in the Protestant world. But we know there is because in the Protestant world there is no objective truth. The truth is a rather slippery thing.
I'm not trying to bash Protestants here but just looking to the roots of our moral decline. America is a Protestant country and because of this we cannot say there is an American religion, just a loose confederation of quasi-Christian beliefs. Yes, we were founded loosely on some Christian moral principles but we were founded just as surely on the humanist principles of the enlightenment.
I would say that the morality that existed or exists in this country at any given time is not because of anything special about our religious belief because that is too scattered and unstructured. We can't chalk it up to Baptists, Presbyterians or Pentecostals; none have ever dominated at any more than a regional level.
And the Catholic Church hasn't had anymore ability to affect the conversation than the rest; just another voice in the crowd.
Our founders were no more religious than most of the people of their time. In some cases they were less. Many seem to have a Masonic understanding of faith; there is a creator but his nature isn't that important as long as we recognize his existence and the rules he established, if they can be agreed upon. I've read an awful lot about the founders in my life and I've seldom found any that claim a real connection to a particular faith beyond social and family considerations. I get the feeling that they're about average in their faith compared to most at the time and not much better than many today.
I don't think that in terms of morality or faith America is much different than the rest of the Western world. We just run a little behind.
We were wilderness long after Europe was settled and fairly sophisticated. The wilderness experience breeds faith because people must have it to survive. Urbanity seems to destroy faith because people in cities begin to believe that man can provide for himself without so much help from God. The wolf is not, quite literally, so often at the door.
Europe lost it's moral footing years ago, at the time of the Reformation, rejecting objective truth with the notion of self government in moral affairs, a notion which carried over into our founders ideas of secular government, dooming us from the beginning. Europe saw slow and steady decline from that point onward, reaching it's crescendo in the violence surrounding the rejection of God and truth known as the French Revolution, which ironically was partially sparked by the revolution here in America.
Now we're finally catching up. I think that our loss of morality goes hand in hand with our Protestant and rationalist roots, urbanization and material wealth.
And Europe is about to fall. We'll follow right behind them. This story repeats itself all through history, Rome being the most glaring example. When the going gets easy we push God aside and since He has given us free will He'll do as we ask. We'll be humbled soon and then watch the morality return.
This isn't an American problem, it's a human problem. When we deny objective truth we open the door to believing anything. This was the effect of the Reformation and it is still haunting us today.
I would have to say that any morality we posses we posses because of our roots in the past. For most Christian's it is because sometime, long ago in Europe and Asia your forefathers were Catholic. And long ago all governments in Christendom were Catholic. Everything true that we know about our faith and the spiritual reality that surrounds us comes from Catholicism, whether Eastern or Western. This is a cold and hard historic fact.
The Reformation rendered this ages old reliance on the Church moot, casting the people and their governments adrift on the seas of individual rights and ideas, fostering the Enlightenment and all the errors that followed.
I would have to say that the world is suffering moral decline directly proportional to its distance from the truth and that truth is found in the Roman Catholic Church. Until we return to her and accept her teachings we will flounder in this humanist world we have created, descending ever deeper into sin and closer to our destruction.