Though most Americans express concern that morality is on the decline in the country, most also don’t believe that laws are an effective way to help preserve morality, according to a LifeWay Research study published earlier this month.
The study found that a significant majority — 81 percent — said they are “concerned about declining moral behavior in our nation,” and about half (51 percent) of Americans believe that too many laws related to morality have been taken away.
But 63 percent also said that “implementing laws to encourage people to act morally is not effective.”
Indeed, when asked which factor is most important in deciding whether something is moral or immoral, only 7 percent said “whether there is a law against” the action is the most important.
The largest proportion of survey participants (48 percent) said that there were no specific factors determining morality for them, and that “what is right and wrong does not change.”
Twenty percent said “whether a person gets hurt” is the most important factor in determining moral standards.
By what or whom are Americans most influenced in their moral standards?
The largest proportion (39 percent) said their parents were most influential in setting their moral standards.
A little more than a quarter (26 percent) pointed to religious beliefs as being most influential in shaping their internal moral compass.
Not surprisingly, evangelical Americans were most likely to cite their faith (64 percent), even more so than their parents (22 percent).
“For those with evangelical beliefs, the Bible is the ultimate authority,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “It trumps everything. So it’s going to be the source for how they determine right from wrong.”
“However, for Americans there is no most influential source of morality embraced by a majority.”