Are people today morally superior to previous generations?


Fact Box

  • ‘Morality’ is defined as “character or virtue; concern with the distinction between good and evil or right conduct; the right principles of human conduct; The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct.”
  • A 2022 Gallup poll reveals “a record-high 50% of Americans rate the overall state of moral values in the U.S. as ‘poor,’ and another 37% say it is ‘only fair.’ Just 1% think the state of moral values is ‘excellent’ and 12% ‘good.’” Republicans’ negative assessment of the nation’s moral values amounted to 72%, whereas Democrats ranked America’s moral state as being only 36% poor. 
  • A 2018 study by Barna Group found that 'one-quarter of Gen Z (24%) strongly agrees that what is morally right and wrong changes over time based on society. There is a wide generational divide on this point: Twice as many Gen Z than Boomers (12%) believe this.'
  • Historically, the generation born between 1901-1927 and lived through the Great Depression and World War II has been coined ‘The Greatest Generation.’ Responsibility, loyalty in marriage and to family, respect, and possessing strong work ethics are all qualities attributed to this generation. People still alive from this generation are either in their 90s or are centenarians.

Jes (Yes)

Looking at the generations leading up to Generation X, it will become clear how people today are morally superior to those previous generations. Since the advent of the internet, which has resulted in the globalization of the economy and has made people more aware of news and events around the world, the last 50 years have brought about enlightenment regarding differing moral standards worldwide. This has caused recent generations to rethink their home-grown values. 

Recent generations, such as the newest generation, Alpha, have embraced societal causes that further diversity, inclusion, and equality. Proponents of this new morality support social, racial, and economic justice, prison reform, and democratic principles. The proliferation of social media has contributed enormously to the change in morality across most generations. With immediate social media and online journalistic coverage of catastrophic and important news and events, global citizens are able to decide on an individual level what their moral stance on the issue is, and are easily able to speak up about or contribute to the causes that speak to them most. 

Prior to the latter half of the 20th century, it was incredibly easy to automatically designate ideas, people groups, and laws as being either black or white, wrong or right. But now, the incorporation of new ideas and the replacement of old traditions with tolerance and equity have made space for even the most outdated among us to 'get with the times,' because they are changing, and change is good.

Elisa (No)

While Generations Y and Z largely pride themselves on justice and equality, the reality is America has been on the moral decline for many decades. In fact, despite this self-perception of moral superiority, many studies show that millennials are no more tolerant than previous generations. This is largely due to the deep political divide in America, where the lines between right and wrong are more blurry than ever before. Americans are in a state of confusion about their morals, and with the ever-increasing political chasm, this does not seem like it will get any better. 

This modern generation is one of the least religious, and the religious decline in America has arguably directly influenced moral decline. While previous generations have been criticized for being uptight and pious, identity politics and postmodernism (the rejection of absolute truth and the belief that the self is one's highest power and moral authority) have become America's new religion, which has resulted in confusion, chaos, and division. Instead of turning to God or religious institutions to fix the issues in this country, many Americans have a 'cult-like worship' of many politicians.

Americans today are honest about this moral chaos, with half of Americans admitting their morals are poor. Plus, recent polls show views on morals in America have been decreasing over the past seven years. Today, moral relativism is a widely held view that 'destroys peace, justice, and virtue.' While the scientific experts may not be able to figure out why crime is up throughout the US or why polls say Americans are ruder than ever, it might be time to turn back to society’s once agreed-upon ethical standards and unified understanding of moral duty that provided the foundation of the US for centuries.

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