There is no doubt that a culture war is raging in America, reports indicate. And the conflicts are largely about attitudes toward God and religion.
The Culture and Media Institute conducted a national survey depicting who is on what side of the culture war and how the war is faring.
A total of 2,000 American citizens were surveyed in December 2006. The survey found that 94 percent of Americans fit into one of three value groups - Orthodox, Progressive, and Independent.
Thirty-one percent of the public is Orthodox - America's most religiously observant people who consider deep religious faith to be the most essential ingredient for living a good and moral life. Progressives - those who advocate a secularized approach to private and public life and reject the notion that living a moral life requires deep religious beliefs - accounted for 17 percent of the public. And 46 percent of the public are Independents - those whose guiding principle is neither religious revelation nor secular ideology. Independents view religious beliefs as just one of many ingredients needed to live a moral life.
With that, a major finding in the study showed that the majority of Americans, from the Orthodox to the Independents, say they believe the moral values in America are weaker than they were 20 years ago. Overall, 74 percent said so. Nearly half went further to say moral values today are much weaker.
Most Americans attribute the media to the moral decline. The National Cultural Values Survey found that 68 percent of Americans say the media - entertainment and news - are having a detrimental effect on moral values in America. Moreover, 74 percent who believe moral values are weaker consider the media to be the second greatest influence on moral values after parents and families.
Crumbling personal and societal sexual moral standards may also account for the significant moral decline. Survey results revealed that 16 percent say sex between unmarried adults is never wrong; 49 percent more say it depends on the situation; and 65 percent say they will excuse sex outside marriage. Additionally, 45 percent say divorce should be legal for any reason at any time.
Only 67 percent believe premarital sex among high school kids is always wrong. On the controversial issue of gays and lesbians, only 49 percent think homosexuality is wrong. While 14 percent say homosexuality is right, 26 percent say it depends on the situation.
Also, 51 percent describe themselves as "pro-choice" and eight percent believe abortion is "morally right."
Another major finding is that America is losing its fear of God.
"America no longer enjoys cultural consensus on God, religion, and what constitutes right and wrong," stated the report.
According to the survey, 87 percent of Americans say they believe in God and 52 percent say they believe the Bible is God's authoritative word. But only 36 percent believe people should live by God's principles; 15 percent say they will live by their own principles even if they conflict with God's principles; and 45 percent prefer to combine God's teachings and their own values.
More specifically, 53 percent are willing to tolerate physician-assisted suicide; 28 percent are willing to exclude religious principles from government simply because the principles are religious in origin and an additional 35 percent will exclude religious principles from government on certain issues; and regular churchgoing has dipped below 50 percent among American adults.
"Based on the survey data, departure from God's morality is the cause of America's widely perceived cultural decline," stated the report. "Reversing America's moral decline will require a renewed acceptance of Orthodox values, which implies increased acceptance of God's authority."
And with media's large influence, the Culture and Media Institute suggests that Americans who care about America's moral condition "should insist that the media strive to more fairly represent all views, including those of the Orthodox."
Moral standards may be in greater shades of grey among America's youth. The survey found that 66 percent of Americans believe that young people have a weaker sense of right and wrong than young people of 20 years ago. Even people aged 18-24 years agree, with 51 percent saying so. As for the students themselves, only 39 percent agree to the significant moral decline among the youth.
Despite the moral decline, Americans still believe in the classical virtues.
The survey found that 87 percent said they would do what is right even if they are embarrassed in front of their friends, believe in being grateful no matter their circumstances, and say they will help a neighbor or acquaintance in need even if they know the favor will not be returned.
Overall, commitment to charity is very high. But Orthodox Americans are more likely to believe in giving no matter their personal circumstances than the other two value groups. Sixty-two percent of Orthodox, 37 percent of Independents and 35 percent of Progressives hold that belief.
Other findings showed that 51 percent say lying is always wrong under any circumstances; 53 percent believe in keeping promises no matter what but 46 percent can excuse the failure to keep their word in situations where it's "too difficult or inconvenient;" 31 percent say they are willing to break the law and only 65 percent say it's always wrong to do so; 57 percent say they would come clean if they were ever unfaithful to their spouses and 34 percent say they would be willing to deceive their spouses; and 25 percent accept adult use of illegal drugs.
The Culture and Media Institute is a division of the Media Research Center and was founded in October 2006 to expose media campaigns against traditional values and help restore America's culture.