Another thing that I think characterized 2017 beyond the extreme levels of division present in our society right now is a similarly troubling decline in they believe in right and wrong. Of course, this has always been here, and CS Lewis even wrote about it in The Abolition of Man a few generations ago, but I feel like it is more prevalent right now for a few main reasons.
First, to kind of relate this back to what I talked about on Monday, we get into our specific camps, and our side must be right while the other side must be wrong. Critical thinking has gone out the window, and we believe what our side says. Before you automatically began pointing fingers at the left or the right, from everything I can tell, this is not a one-sided issue but is rather bipartisan. We’re not so much interested in the legitimate pursuit of actual virtue, but we’re much more interested in reinforcing the narrative of our particular side. Right and wrong don’t seem to matter if our side wins which is incredibly sad.
Second, there is an overall decline in the belief that they can be an absolute truth, so without absolute truth, there can of course be no you are right or wrong. If morality is fluid, then right and wrong are similarly fluid. In 2016, Barna did a study on American beliefs about objective morality, and younger generations are the most susceptible to this trend. 74% of millennials agreed or strongly agreed that, “Whatever is right for your life for works best for you is the only truth you can now.” 70% of them agreed or strongly agreed that, “Every culture must determine what is acceptable morality for its people.” Interestingly, 56% of millennials also believed that, “The Bible provides us with moral truths which are the same for all people in all situations, without exception.”
Besides that overlap where some people are simultaneously believing in objective and subjective truth, the trend is troubling overall. Very large percentages of the people who are soon going to be shaping our culture and holding influential positions across all realms of our society don’t believe that truth is objective. It is hard to make laws about what is right or wrong if it might be true that something is wrong for you but right for me. Unless something is actually right or wrong in and of itself, it is really hard to come up with a justification for enforcing violations of certain codes of conduct.
If truth is not something that is objective, then we really have no way to know anything beyond our direct observation, and the extent to which we can trust even that certainly should be up for debate if we are throwing away all objective truth. This trend is nothing new, but it seems like 2017 has been an acceleration of this trend. People simply don’t care anymore what is right or wrong, but they only care about what they want. If they wanted, it must be the right thing. If the subjectivity continues, it will be very hard for the rule of law itself to actually remain a rule.