The Modern Morality Morass: Some Thoughts

A few days ago I sent out an email broadcast of the following article from the New York Times:

September 12, 2011
If it feels right. . .

During the summer of 2008, the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith led a research team that conducted in-depth interviews with 230 young adults from across America. The interviews were part of a larger study that Smith, Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson, Patricia Snell Herzog and others have been conducting on the state of America’s youth.

Smith and company asked about the young people’s moral lives, and the results are depressing.

It’s not so much that these young Americans are living lives of sin and debauchery, at least no more than you’d expect from 18- to 23-year-olds. What’s disheartening is how bad they are at thinking and talking about moral issues.

cont’d. . .

Today, I received a reply from my cousin Nancy, a nurse:

Chuck Colson is promoting a six part video called “Doing the Right Thing” that addresses these issues. Trouble is, the churchgoers who will see it (there was a 170 church simulcast this past weekend) are the ones who need it least. But even Christian young people pick up a lot of their values from the media and general culture.

I took a medical ethics course many years ago at Madonna College, taught from a Catholic perspective. I was really impressed by the deep thinking that had gone into elucidating Catholic ethics and the effort to achieve logical consistency. I’ve also thought you really have to admire early Jews and Christians who could pass on a strong faith and values despite living in antagonistic cultures. Sort of ironic that the only people thinking rationally about morals these days are religious people whom some would accuse of irrationality.


To which I replied:

I’m not a practicing Catholic despite my sixteen years of education in Catholic institutions, including eight with the Jesuits. I am not a religious person. But neither am I anti-religious as are most “Progressives” and much of their ilk. But I will say this, one is hard pressed to find a more rigorously developed moral philosophy than that of the Catholics. It is, to a large extent,  a formal extension of Jewish moral teachings with Aristotelian philosophy thrown into the mix for good measure. Unfortunately, for the most part, people are not too terribly concerned with rigor — except for the postmortem variety. At which point it is conveniently less difficult to excuse one’s own shortcomings. :)


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