Morality by Popular Opinion-Can it Succeed?
Will morality by popular opinion work? The founding fathers of the United States did not believe so.
Few people have ever heard of a man named Sir William Blackstone. I personally learned about the man while taking an Ethics course during study at Wright State University.
His input was integral to the forming of the United States constitution. The following commentary by Donald R. May describes Sir Blackstone’s important contribution to the formation of United States Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
“The laws of the United States of America are based on moral laws that come from God and not from men. In writing our founding documents and our laws, our Founding Fathers relied heavily on the Bible and Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1771). Blackstone’s legal philosophy stated in his Commentaries was embodied in our Declaration.
“Morals are the foundation of our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our laws. Morals are the first line of defense for our society. Morals make most laws unnecessary. When morals fade away, a civilization regresses with a breakdown of family and social structure. The numbers of laws, police, courts, and jails must be increased to replace the absent morals”.
Commentary by Katherine Green Robertson
Freedom from Morality Makes Us Less Free-JUL 4, 2016
A recent poll conducted by Dr. George Barna systematically explored America’s “shift in values.”
Predictably, those polled value comfort, happiness, and acceptance, but they also claim to value independence, control, and freedom.
These same respondents—including six out of seven “born again Christians”—professed a “personalized moral code,” that is, that they believe moral choices should be based on their own feelings.
Only 10% of respondents said that they believe in absolute moral truth.
Tragically, many of those polled seem to miss the direct link between freedom and the foundational morality of America—the cornerstone of our republic.
John Adams wrote to his cousin, “Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.”
The Founders knew that no president, nor any number of laws, could ensure the preservation of liberty; that, even in its genius, the Constitution would not be good enough to withstand a national loss of morality. Why?
Because the Constitution established a government that was hands off in order to maximize freedom.
The Founders knew that if the American people did not possess moral character, that if they were irresponsible with their freedom and did not police themselves, then more laws and regulations would be required. They understood that when government grows, freedom shrinks.
Many Americans who say that they desire freedom mean freedom from morality. “Don’t tread on me” has been misshaped into “anything goes,” but this has not led to true freedom.
In fact, an absence of morality weakens our basic freedoms of speech, religion, and enterprise and produces societal problems like the breakdown of the family (which leads to poverty and government dependency), increased crime and addiction (leading to incarceration), and a lack of integrity in business (which leads to costlier regulations)—all losses of freedom.
“Society cannot exist,” Edmund Burke wrote, “unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free.”
The Constitution and our first laws were the embodiment, not the source, of the morality of the Founders. Yet our loathing of absolute morality, combined with the increasing role of government, now leaves us actually looking to laws for adjudging right behavior.
Consider the latest Planned Parenthood debacle: because a loophole in federal law meant that the selling of babies’ body parts was technically legal, this grotesque practice was defended and ultimately undisturbed. Even in Alabama, the supposed heart of the Bible Belt, state leaders have defended poor choices, without regard to morality, by saying that “no laws were broken.”
Undoubtedly, devaluing morality has cost us, not just culturally, but in actual dollars.
Taxpayers spend billions of dollars on prisons and corrections as we protest virtue and morality in the public square.
Government spends billions of taxpayer dollars attempting to care for the poor in ways that rob individuals of purpose and dignity and interfere with community-based benevolence.
We sink billions of dollars into public schools that are essentially asked to make up for the problems caused by the family breakdown, but then refuse to allow them to teach morality or character. Even a century ago, Theodore Roosevelt understood that “to educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
Our desires for independence and control cannot logically lead us to desire freedom from morality, truth, and virtue. As Patrick Henry put it, “A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles”.
Morality by Popular Opinion?
Is Morality Determined by Its Popularity?
by Avery Foley on October 13, 2017
Everybody’s Doing It
This new study from the Karolinska Institutet, a medical university in Sweden, found that participants’ view of “selfish and altruistic behaviors changes depending on how common they are.”
The principal investigator for the Swedish study commented,
The fact that a behavior is common doesn’t automatically mean that it’s right—this idea is based on flawed logic that confuses facts with moral values.
This researcher is right: popularity doesn’t equal morality. Yet the idea that the majority determines what’s right and wrong, or that it’s up to the individual, permeates our society. In this view, there are no moral absolutes, just changing tides of public opinion. What’s right today might be wrong next year and vice versa. It leads to shifting sands and a world where everyone does what’s right in his or her own eyes (Judges 21:25) or in the eyes of others.
A More Sure Foundation
Opinions on morality change constantly, often depending on the situation or “what’s in it for me.” But, as believers, we have a firm, unchanging foundation for our morality. When we start with God’s Word, we aren’t prisoners to the changing tide of public opinion. We can stand our ground, knowing what is right and wrong. The principles in God’s Word are timeless and apply to all Christians, in all times, and can be used in all situations.
When a person or a society looks to the Holy Bible as the United States founders attempted to do, they are looking for guidance from a standard above themselves and their imperfections. When one is governed by their own sense of morality, they become a god unto themselves. They judge what is right or wrong based on their personal feelings. Does any of this sound familiar?
1 Now the snake was the most cunning animal that the Lord God had made. The snake asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden?”
2 “We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden,” the woman answered,
3 “except the tree in the middle of it. God told us not to eat the fruit of that tree or even touch it; if we do, we will die.”
4 The snake replied, “That’s not true; you will not die.
5 God said that because he knows that when you eat it, you will be like God and know what is good and what is bad.”
6 The woman saw how beautiful the tree was and how good its fruit would be to eat, and she thought how wonderful it would be to become wise. So, she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, and he also ate it. (GNT)
The desire to be like God and to be able to determine what is good and what is bad is what led to the fall of humankind in the first place. In verse 6 we read that this appealed to the woman Eve. And it still appeals to many humans today.
A person doesn’t have to look very far or for very long to see the disastrous effects of moral relativism and morality by popular opinion.