Moral Decay or Misplaced Nostalgia?
Theists who want to show that a lessening of theistic belief leads to moral decay often use history as an example. Many of the theists I've talked to about this are my age or older and many of them wax nostalgic about "good ole days", when youngsters respected elders, adult magazines weren't seen on newsstands and alcohol sales were prohibited on Sunday. They argue that in the "good ole days" when most people went to church on Sundays, there was an "air" of respect and thus there was less crime and general badness.
How many here, really think this is accurate? Were the good ole days, really that good? Let's try to look at this objectively. First off, I think their examples of history make up too short of a perid to judge. Most only go back 50 to 100 years, some refer to certain decades affectionately such as the "Fabulous 50's", my mom believed that all of the world's problems started with the 60's and those "horrible hippies".
If you go back further in history and look at human civilization as a whole, comparing the Sumerians with the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans, you would see that moral trends often operate like a pendulum swing. External factors such as catastrophic weather changes, famine ,war and social/political change are what affects morality.
Of course the biggest difference we have with most theists is that we take a different view of morality and it's purpose than they do. Most theists believe morality to be objective, the "rules being the rules, just because they're the rules", many atheists maintain that morality serves the purpose of making social/political animals such as humans operate properly and are thus a product of natural selection, subject to change as the needs of social/political animals change. I see no compromise here, so we just have to once again, agree to differ and part ways.
It's a funny thing that you never hear an African American wax nostalgic about the Fabulous 50's. I lived in the 60's and 70's and can wax nostalgic with the rest of them, particularly about music ( yet you'll never hear me say that there's no good music today, that's just not accurate, anyone who says that is either very stuck in their ways or just hasn't listened to enough modern music), but I don't beleive that anyone back then was more or less "moral" than they are today. Crime rates go up, because population goes up, society gets more complex as people move in with differing cultural values.. When a society ceases to be homogenous, the old guard will usually see this as "moral decay".
"Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings."