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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Jes SunDial Article #3

Hey all! Do me a favor if you get the chance. Read over my article for the sundial. Look for spelling, grammer, and most of all LOGICAL problems (not so much disagreement, though it is welcome). Ok, this is not a final draft, just a test run. The article is due Tuesday morning.

My love,


REVISED: Thanks Tim! (and thanks to my Dad too!)

The Misplaced Blame of Secularist Influence

Commentator Bill O’Reilly, from Fox Television’s “The O’Reilly Factor” reported in March of 2004 that over 78% of Americans believed that moral values were on the decline, and described the moral compass of America as “fair to downright poor”. O’Reilly’s main target for the decline of morality was secularist influence on American culture.

I believe the blame on secularist influence is misplaced.

I am not a stranger to the claim that the major pitfalls of American morality are due to secularist influence on society. Furthermore, as secularist influences come from people who hold a secularist set of values and beliefs, I take this claim to mean that those of us who are secularist are responsible for this downfall. In other words, “hide your children, the Atheists are coming”.

I find this idea strange and confusing, for two reasons.

First and foremost, while I often hear people complain of the downfall of American society and morality, I have found in my own experience that this downfall has been greatly embellished. Though it cannot be denied that there are some problems in America today, certainly it cannot be contested that America has made great strides in promoting a more fair and equitable society within the last few decades. This is progress I would think both spiritualists and secularists could agree on as being morally valuable.

I appreciate the appeal to the “good old days” of the 1940s and 1950s. Life seemed stable and enriching back then. However, America in the 1940s and 1950s promoted ideas that were sexist and racist. Women were chained to the lives their husbands let them have, and were socialized to appreciate dehumanization and oppression. Women were shunned for wanting to live lives away from children and independent from men. People of races other than white were systematically abused and unprotected by the states in which they lived. Today, women and people of all races are well on the path to equal rights and opportunities. Though Americans are not yet completely equal, among the legislatures, inequality and discrimination are actively eliminated. I for one have no desire to return to these “good old days.”

I do not deny there is some departure from traditional Christian values evident in media and entertainment. There may be an increase in accessibility to fantasy violence, explicit sexuality, and offensive language in America as of late. The spiritualists often cite this increased accessibility as the catalyst of immoral behavior in society. However, any sort of loss of morality in America, and any sort of increase in violence, may be due to other factors besides the television and videogame industry. I believe when we look at an aggregate gain in morality we will find that a system of values allowing all people a chance to enjoy a life once reserved for white men seems a small price to pay for more exposure to sex, swearing, and fantasy violence. Additionally, secular icons like Britney Spears, video games like “Star Fox Assault,” and four letter words may not be so immoral or socially destructive as the spiritualist would suggest.

The second reason I believe the spiritualists have severely misplace blame, if indeed there is blame to place, is the inability secularists have to influence the progression of American morality.

The spiritualist prescribes elimination of secularist influence on American society as a way to right American moral wrongs. This could only be done if a majority of those determining the laws, rules and regulations were individuals who prescribe to Christian dogma. Currently the spiritualists have their whish. According to exit statistics from the last presidential election, 90% of those who voted were Theist, and 83% belonged to some Christian denomination. Of those Christian voters, 40% attended church occasionally, and 41% attended weekly. There is no shortage of Christian influence on the formation of society in America.

Secularists, whom I take to mean Atheists, Agnostics and non-believers, make up only 7% of America’s population. As such the spiritualist have given secularists credit for having unrealistic power, given there are few organizations devoted to secularist solidarity, there is no unified secularist belief system. Moreover most secularists, Atheists included, share a morality that is quite similar to Christianity. In general secularists believe acts like lying, stealing, cheating, murder, rape, fraud, and for some, even abortion, are morally reprehensible. Christianity has no monopoly on those values, and one does not have to be a Theist to promote them.

Nor do secularists have a monopoly on committing acts predominantly held to be immoral by spiritualists. One third of the women in America over the age of 45 have had an abortion. Of those, 31% are Catholic, and 37% are Protestant.

These numbers present an interesting problem for the spiritualist. If indeed, there is a belief system to blame for the alleged downfall of American society, wouldn’t it make more sense to blame the vastly predominant one? I am lead to believe spiritualists use the secularists as a scapegoat for the alleged problems they themselves have created. The numbers alone suggest that the shape of America’s morality has little if anything to do with the influence of secularist people, and more to do with those who promote spiritual beliefs.

Whatever the case may be I believe that the problems America does have are far too complex to be the result of any particular belief system. America’s problems can in part be attributed to intellectual laziness and shortsightedness shared by individuals on both sides of the religious coin.


Blogger Brenna said...

Hey Jes,
I find it interesting that your opener is from 2004. It may help your point to mention that precisely since such as supposed rash of immorality is a statistical lie, it was actually useful to conservatives in 2004 for obvious reasons- i.e. that's how they won the election. Getting people all riled up about gay married terrorists brought conservatives to the polls in droves never before seen- to restore the moral fabric of America.

Now, seeing as how all that stuff is a lie, including not only the moral depravity stuff, but the war/terror stuff as well, doesn't it seem a bit like the massive fear scenario that conservative "moral"-toting authorities are pushing, about all of us going to a literal hell in a handbasket is a bit... hmmm- immoral? That's perhaps it's not only immoral to lie in such a big way, but also immoral to treat one's constituents like gullible stooges as a campaign strategy?
This is what confuses me about the "moral" majority.
I'm off the soapbox now.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Bernie said...

I think people mistake morality with social order or they dogmatically measure morality through social order. Socialized concepts of morality can be used as a means of social control; supporting social order. This is an important theme in Michel Foucault's writings. So when there is less social order, some people might think there is less morality.

And why not blame it on the secularists?(sarcastically) Anyone who has read Dostoevsky should know:
"If there is no God, then everything is permited."-Ivan Karamazov


1:42 AM  
Blogger jes said...

Thanks guys! Brenna, wherever I am comfortable in my own intelect, you nudge me.

6:45 AM  

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