August 11, 2005
Barely a third of all Americans believe in absolute standards of right and wrong, and far fewer hold to a biblical worldview, a new poll says.
The poll by The Barna Group, a Christian research organization, shows that only 35 percent of Americans believe in absolute standards of morality -- that is, believe that right and wrong do not change with time or circumstances.
Thirty-two percent of Americans say that morality depends on the situation and the circumstance, while 33 percent say they do not know if morality is absolute or relative. The poll involved interviews with 1,002 adults in July.
Moral relativity is often reflected in such statements as "that might be true for you, but it's not true for me" and "who are you to judge?"
"The fact that only 35 percent of all Americans believe in moral absolutes provides some frightening insight into our culture and the future of this country," Craig Vincent Mitchell, instructor of Christian ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, told Baptist Press.
"This statistic translated means that most people are willing to do whatever they can get away with. ... With so many rejecting the idea of moral absolutes, it is only a matter of time until our society collapses. A moral society is a happier society and a more successful one. An immoral society is one that destroys itself and its citizens."
But despite the outward rejection of moral absolutes, people still believe in absolutes "when it involves them or what belongs to them," Mitchell said.
"It is also interesting to note that most people who reject moral absolutes believe that Hitler was evil," he said. "No one believes that Kenneth Lay did the right thing for his employees or investors when he was the CEO of Enron. In other words, what people say or profess is often one thing, but what they really believe is another."
Polls consistently show that a majority of Americans consider themselves to be Christians. But despite that, only five percent of Americans hold to a biblical worldview, the Barna poll showed.
Barna defines a biblical worldview as believing that: moral absolutes exist; the source of truth is the Bible; the Bible is "accurate in all of the principles it teaches"; salvation is by grace alone; Jesus lived a sinless life; believers have a duty to witness; Satan is real and not just a symbol; God is the "all-knowing, all-powerful maker of the universe who still rules that creation today."
"Our studies consistently show that churches base their sense of success on indicators such as attendance, congregant satisfaction, dollars raised and built-out square footage," Christian researcher George Barna said in an analysis on his website. "None of those factors relates to the kind of radical shift in thinking and behavior that Jesus Christ died on the cross to facilitate. As long as we measure success on the basis of popularity and efficiency, we will continue to see a nation filled with people who can recite Bible stories but fail to live according to Bible principles."
Mitchell said that despite what some say, America's rejection of moral absolutes will not make it "more difficult to preach the Gospel." Deep down, all people know that God exists and that they are sinful, he said.
"What all this means is that we need to preach the whole Gospel clearly so that men can respond to the truth," Mitchell said. "We first need to give the bad news, that all men are doomed to an endless eternity in hell because of their sin. Then we need to give the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Preaching only about the love of God gives no one reason to come to Christ, because they believe that if God is so loving then He will not send anyone to hell.
"People may deny the existence of moral absolutes, but deep down, when they are alone, they will admit the truth to themselves. Many is the atheist who denies the existence of God, but still fears Him."