The new im-morality (Barna report)

This is how I spin the the latest Barna report:

  • The older you get, the more mature you become (“The younger generation was more than twice as likely as all other adults to engage in behaviors considered morally inappropriate by traditional standards.”)
  • Common sins: cussing (28%) gambling (20%), pornography (19%), gossiping (12%), getting drunk (12%), or lying (11%). [Percentages reflect what people admit to having done in the last week. These percentages jump significantly if you look exclusively at the younger generation or men.]
  • Marriage reduces sexual immorality (1% vs. 21%).
  • Men are generally worse than women except when it comes to gossip.
  • Christians are more moral than atheists or agnostics (whew).

Among evangelicals, profanity (16%) and pornography (12%) were the most common transgressions. Fewer than 5% of evangelicals had engaged in gossip (4%), inappropriate sex (3%), gambling (2%), lying (1%) or drunkenness (less than one-half of one percent).

In contrast, among skeptics (atheists and agnostics) participation in the eight behaviors ranged from a low of 11% (retaliating) up to a high of 60% (using profanity). While evangelicals averaged 6% participation in each of the eight behaviors mentioned, skeptics averaged five times that level (29%). Other common acts among skeptics included exposure to pornography (50%), gossip (34%) and drunkenness (33%).

People associated with faiths other than Christianity were twice as likely as evangelicals to engage in the behaviors explored. They were most likely to use profanity (33%), view pornography (32%) and lie (18%).

Within the Christian community, there were few differences between Protestants and Catholics in relation to the moral behaviors tested. Catholics were somewhat more likely to gamble (25% vs. 18%) [bingo night tradition?] and to get drunk (16% vs. 7%).

[See also Barna’s generally politically liberal vs. politically conservative comparison.]

Based on telephone surveys a random sample of 1003 adults selected from across the continental United States, age 18 and older, in May 2008. I wonder how high the numbers would have jumped if we were counting more than just “in the last week.”

I’d also like to see the generational differences compared with a similar survey taken a couple of decades ago. Is America really becoming more immoral, or does the younger generation tend to be more immoral than the older across the ages? Also, I’d love to see if the same “moral” gap exists if we include other moral indicators like economic justice, environmental care, or racial/sexual prejudice. Maybe we could create a survey of positive moral behaviors – e.g. “Have you generously done something kind for someone else in the last week?”

I’d love to hear comments on how you would gage these or what other moral indicators should be included.

To find out how Barna gets his data and how he spins it, read the latest Barna report: “Young Adults and Liberals Struggle with Morality “]

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