Moral Decay or Misplaced Nostalgia?

Marty Hamrick
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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."


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O tempora, O mores

I've not read the book, but Pinker seems to have done a lot of research into the marked decline of violence over the ages.

This article mainly discusses the long term, but I believe he also found that violence has decreased in recent times too.

http://reason.com/archives/2012/01/11/the-decline-of-violence/singlepage

 

The good old days:

 

http://www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2011/08/civil-disorder-and-looting-hits-britain-0

extracts:

The Recorder of Bradford, Frank Beverley, recorded in his law court in 1951 inveighing on the crimes that could be traced to poor parenting:

          Parents at this time, unfortunately, do not take sufficient care in bringing up their children. They expect someone else to be responsible.

Back to 1932, and a guide to the work of boys' clubs lamented:

The passing of parental authority, defiance of pre-war conventions, the absence of restraint, the wildness of extremes, the confusion of unrelated liberties, the wholesale drift away from churches

The Times of 1898, sorrowing that fathers no longer saw fit to save a "scapegrace" son from prison "by loyally and sounding whipping him," and quoting a horrified magistrate's view that:

it is melancholy to find that some parents are not ashamed to confess that children of seven or eight years old are entirely beyond their control

Back to 1900, and the Contemporary Review is fretting about how the "garbage" infecting music hall programmes "glorifies immorality", while in his 1905 work "Manchester Boys", Charles Russell draws a direct link between murders enacted on stage and later "instances of violence on the part of young men, in the back streets of the city.

Back to 1840s and the Industrial Revolution. Professor Pearson meticulously notes the widespread moral panic about the collapse of ancient, rural moral codes in the face of rapid urbanisation, the rise of working mothers and the spread of child labour (feared because it put money in the pockets of impressionable youths). "Hooligan" records an 1842 House of Commons debate, which heard how the "morals of children are tenfold worse than formerly".

 

 And more:

http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=408989

 

 

I can't be arsed looking it up, but there was certainly great mayhem and violence in the 18th century too, what with slums, footpads, pickpockets and highwaymen.

Hogarth saw society as being in serious moral decline, there have been regular riots and public drunkenness in England for centuries.

No doubt the ancient Egyptians were also going on about moral decay.

 

 

Personally, I can only remember back to the 70's and things don't seem much different to me.


A_Nony_Mouse
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definitely nostalgia

I am 67 this month. All my life I have heard about deteriorating education in the US. If that were true we would have none at all by now.

 

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Beyond Saving
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 A_Nony_Mouse wrote:I am 67

 

A_Nony_Mouse wrote:

I am 67 this month. All my life I have heard about deteriorating education in the US. If that were true we would have none at all by now.

 

Have you talked to an 18 year old recently? Some of them are pretty damn stupid... but then again if I am honest I was extremely stupid when I was 18 and no doubt when I am 67 if I look back at my life honestly I would probably think I am stupid now. When I was 18 I thought I was smart, and I was in a book sense, but I had absolutely no common sense.  

 

As far as morality, I think it is highly overrated. Moral standards do seem to ebb and flow through generations varying from the puritanical to the hedonist and everything in between. I don't think what morality the majority of the population has is any more relevant than what type of music is most popular at the moment. It would be nice if people didn't feel a need to use the violence of police power to force their morality onto others, but most people seem to be driven towards imposing their morality on others. Ironic considering I don't think a single living person could honestly claim that their personal morality has never changed. 

It was morality that burned the books of the ancient sages, and morality that halted the free inquiry of the Golden Age and substituted for it the credulous imbecility of the Age of Faith. It was a fixed moral code and a fixed theology which robbed the human race of a thousand years by wasting them upon alchemy, heretic-burning, witchcraft and sacerdotalism.-H.L. Mencken


Marty Hamrick
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I like this bit of moral

I like this bit of moral justice from George Carlin :" I have the right to do anything I want, and if you don't like it, you have the right to kill me."

"Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings."


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One way to look at humanity

One way to look at humanity is to remember the Roman empire, there too old people thought how the young become immoral and there too were ribald and scatologic writings and jokes scribbled on the walls of public toilets. Some things never change.

More than a decline of morality it all sounds like old people's lament for losing control and influence in the society, on which they try to hold. Competition of younger generations replaces them and they take it personally. And many of them get a culture shock from all these different cultures and from technology itself. 

Just the fact that young people can keep step with all the new technology and software means they have to be very smart, no matter what education does. They also have to filter through lots of information. They can not possibly believe it all. Every year we are confronted by many corruption scandals and professional or moral failures of the highest authorities. That certainly makes many of the young think. I have met some young people who were immoral, that is, greedy, selfish and power-hungry and proud of it, but just a couple of them. 

I agree with you Beyond, I also haven't seen a smart 18-years old any time recently, but that's probably because it's a little wild suburb and a cheap rent here. Also, the smart ones migrate to larger university cities. I plan to move there and see for myself if there is any other place with smart people besides the net.

 

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harleysportster
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Beyond Saving

Beyond Saving wrote:

 

A_Nony_Mouse wrote:

I am 67 this month. All my life I have heard about deteriorating education in the US. If that were true we would have none at all by now.

 

Have you talked to an 18 year old recently? Some of them are pretty damn stupid... but then again if I am honest I was extremely stupid when I was 18 and no doubt when I am 67 if I look back at my life honestly I would probably think I am stupid now. When I was 18 I thought I was smart, and I was in a book sense, but I had absolutely no common sense.  

 

As far as morality, I think it is highly overrated. Moral standards do seem to ebb and flow through generations varying from the puritanical to the hedonist and everything in between. I don't think what morality the majority of the population has is any more relevant than what type of music is most popular at the moment. It would be nice if people didn't feel a need to use the violence of police power to force their morality onto others, but most people seem to be driven towards imposing their morality on others. Ironic considering I don't think a single living person could honestly claim that their personal morality has never changed. 

 

Well put Beyond. Most 19 and 20 year olds that I work with are stupid. But then again, so was I at that age. Like you said, my personal morality has changed many times over the years. I too, dislike people that desire to force their morality on others through the law and such. 

Morality is very subjective IMO.

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


A_Nony_Mouse
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.

Beyond Saving wrote:
A_Nony_Mouse wrote:

I am 67 this month. All my life I have heard about deteriorating education in the US. If that were true we would have none at all by now.

Have you talked to an 18 year old recently? Some of them are pretty damn stupid...

When I was 18 most of them were pretty damned stupid. Education cannot cure stupid.

Quote:
but then again if I am honest I was extremely stupid when I was 18 and no doubt when I am 67 if I look back at my life honestly I would probably think I am stupid now. When I was 18 I thought I was smart, and I was in a book sense, but I had absolutely no common sense.

I am not talking philosophy here. I am talking fact. I have literally three generations counting my parents declaring the standard of education has declined. Yes, I did not know how many pecks in a bushel. My son cannot do arithmetic by hand much less in his head but he does program math functions correctly. For anything interesting in real life he starts with a spreadsheet. Years ago I pointed out the calculator app would do it easier but he didn't see it. OK, he is high end but a calculator is no different from pencil and paper as far as understanding math goes. Both are algorithms. The calculator has fewer errors.

But most complaints are mundane like history. I read one long and presumably not satirical article about the US Civil war getting only one page in some new history book. The problem with history is there are a fixed number of hours to teach it but there is more of it every year. After the civil rights movement the bearing of the civil war on "modern" society became a footnote to fixed hours to teach history. Geography is barely taught, nothing like in my day. Between 1941 when it took three years to get across the English Channel and 1991 when it took less than a year to get the US in position to liberate Kuwait the importance of geography changed drastically.
How about teaching foreign languages? In college as a physics major I was told to take German or else. In the 70s people were teaching their children Japanese, in the 80s Chinese. All around the world everyone decided to teach their children English. Abolishing foreign language requirements is the rational approach at this point. The world chose English despite our worst efforts.

Quote:
As far as morality, I think it is highly overrated. Moral standards do seem to ebb and flow through generations varying from the puritanical to the hedonist and everything in between. I don't think what morality the majority of the population has is any more relevant than what type of music is most popular at the moment. It would be nice if people didn't feel a need to use the violence of police power to force their morality onto others, but most people seem to be driven towards imposing their morality on others. Ironic considering I don't think a single living person could honestly claim that their personal morality has never changed.

The only rational definition of decay is change. One cannot say decay without not only defining but establishing perfection. The idea that a person can declare moral decay without defining moral perfection is absurd but it is also the premise for such declarations. If you wish to attack them compare their perfection to contradictory ideas of perfection.

 

Jews stole the land. The owners want it back. That is all anyone needs to know about Israel. That is all there is to know about Israel.

www.ussliberty.org

www.giwersworld.org/made-in-alexandria/index.html

www.giwersworld.org/00_files/zion-hit-points.phtml