President Trump ran for office on the slogan. Watercooler conversation often turns to the increasing number of violent acts reported on an almost daily basis. Corruption in politics, business, and every other part of life seems to be the status quo. We long for the “good old days.”
First of all, I have my doubts about how good the old days really were. One of the weaknesses of humanity is the tendency to be self-serving and to cross boundaries if we think we can get away with it. Crime has existed as long as we have a history of mankind.
Even so, things do seem to be getting increasingly bad. The peeks I have taken at the math suggest that, even if reporting standards were different in the past, the amount of violence and lawlessness really does look like it is seriously on the rise.
I found this quote in a speech I was reading recently:
“Gibbons, Toynbee, Durant, and other noted historians have analyzed the reasons for the fall of the mighty civilizations. The repetition is monotonous. In summarizing cause and effect, an American educator lists six common reasons why each civilization fell:
‘1. They lost their religious convictions and flouted basic morality.
‘2. They became obsessed with sex.
‘3. They debased their money of its intrinsic value and let inflation run rampant.
‘4. Honest work ceased to be a virtue.
‘5. Respect for law disintegrated and violence became an accepted method of achieving individual and group desires.
‘6. Finally, citizens were no longer willing to be soldiers and fight for the defense of their nation and their heritage.’ (Dr. Kenneth McFarland speech, “Bicentennial America’s Opportunity,” given at Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, at the National Convention of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.)”
Religious or not, there are points to consider:
- Religious and Moral Moorings: I am not about to suggest that Atheists are the downfall of America! In fact, many people who have consciously denied the existence of a higher being have high moral codes. The choice to deny a higher being seems to cause the consideration of the good of others and care of the planet. That is what religion does for the rest of us. We live for a higher purpose and seek to help and serve. I fear the greatest danger are those who believe in God but figure it’s not a big deal to worry about him — it’s very easy to slip into narcissism when there’s no sense of responsibility.
- Obsession with Sex: I suppose this follows the focus on self and personal comforts. Unfortunately, obsession with sex twists the mind. We begin to define ourselves and others by their physical appeal and their sexual preference. Personal value is no longer determined by human virtue but on one’s ability to please another. Worse, we begin to believe that things of a sexual nature are so innate and so powerful that they cannot be controlled.
- Debasing the Value of Money and Rampant Inflation: I am not an economist, so I’m not going to say much about our monetary system and our economy. I do see credibility here.
- Honest Work Becoming a Dishonor: We have a welfare system that, to some, works to keep those who use it stuck in poverty and dependent upon the government. Search “make millions” on the internet. Look at the number of gambling opportunities that exist on the internet and in real life. Having money is a sign of success. How you got it hardly seems to matter anymore.
- Violence Becomes an Acceptable Method of Resolving Conflict: Turn on the news. Watch the stories about preparing schools for gun violence, count the number murders. I see people yelling at each other on my way to and from work all too often. We no longer seek to get along, we seek to enforce our vision of what is right.
- Citizens are no Longer Willing to Become Soldiers and Defend Their Country: Military service seems to be viewed more as a way to get a job if you don’t have any other skills. Instead of honoring our fallen dead as heroes, in our most recent military conflicts, we have claimed we are honoring them while using their deaths as political fodder to beg the government to stop all wars.
So, if you are still reading, you can see that the argument can be made that we have fallen into fatal decline. I’m certain others can argue the opposite — perception is a powerful tool of the mind.
For argument’s sake, let’s say that we have fallen into such a decline. The answer would seem to go back to step one and get everyone involved in religion. Honestly, I am a devoutly religious person myself, but I say the answer is no.
- Religion cannot be forced. Sure, you can make the penalties stiff for not participating in religious observances, but that doesn’t convince the heart or change the mind.
- We would spend an inordinate amount of time arguing about which religion everyone should be forced into. I mean, we are all aware of the wide variety of religious choices available, and not all religions are compatible with each other so it would be best if everyone followed the same set of ideologies.
- An irreligious populace of a free will society would not accept this sort of restriction.
However, I don’t think all is lost.
We can agree on a moral code. There are certain truths that are pretty much universal:
- Life is precious.
- The way we enter and the way we leave life matters. No one should be allowed to tamper with this without penalty. (Yes, I know we still need to agree on when life begins, etc., but this is already a long post.)
- Self-service is short-sighted. Therefore, we need to live so as to honor the greater good.
- We need to respect the personal boundaries of others, and they should respect ours.
This is too general to be a guiding document, but it makes an argument for holding ourselves to living by basic virtues and encouraging others to follow our example — regardless of our religion persuasion:
- positive attitude
- hard work
The secret is that we have to live these ideals ourselves. We have to hold to them when giving in would be harder. Even when we think we have the right, we cannot demand these out of anyone — we can only encourage their growth.