Thursday, March 8, 2007

Most Americans think culture is becoming more immoral, and they view the media — both entertainment and news — as prime culprits, according to a new survey.

If the media continue to “singularly promote” secular values while undermining orthodox faith and values, it will be very difficult to reverse America’s moral decline, said the National Cultural Values Survey, released yesterday by the Culture and Media Institute (CMI) of the Media Research Center.

“Americans who care about the nation’s moral condition should insist that the media strive to more fairly represent all views, including those of the orthodox,” the report stated.

The survey of 2,000 American adults shows that the nation’s culture war is grounded in disagreements over religious issues, such as God’s role in life and whether religious belief is essential for a good and moral life, CMI Director Robert H. Knight said.

About 31 percent of Americans, regardless of political stripe, are “orthodox” — faithful Bible-believers who strive to live by “God’s teachings and principles,” see “a clear set of right and wrong behaviors” in every issue and believe government should be allowed to follow religious principles.

Seventeen percent of Americans, again regardless of political affiliation, are at the “progressive” end of the religious spectrum — many believe in God, but they strongly disagree that religion is “the most important factor” in forming their values or that religion is “the most essential ingredient” of a good, moral life. Progressives don’t want the government to follow religious principles and don’t believe that people “should always live by God’s teachings and principles.”

The largest group of Americans — 46 percent who described themselves as “independents” — do not fully identify with either of the other groups. However, they tend to align with the orthodox regarding belief in God, sexual morality and spiritual issues. They reject, for instance, progressive efforts to replace “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” — but side with progressives about using personal principles, not “God’s teachings,” to make certain moral decisions.

The culture war, according to the CMI report, occurs because the “morally absolutist” orthodox Americans are fighting to uphold values such as honesty, personal responsibility, sexual restraint and “classical character virtues.”

Progressives, with their secular views and “situational ethics,” collide with the orthodox over some of these issues, and both groups work to attract independents to their side, the report stated. This makes independents the main battlefield in the culture war, it added.

Surprisingly, all three religious groups are likely to see the media as negative influences on America’s moral culture.

Separately, author and Hoover Institution fellow Dinesh D’Souza argues in his new book, “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11,” that the “cultural left” in America is the primary cause of Islamic anger toward America.

The cultural left, which includes members of both major political parties and their allies in the press, academia and the nonprofit sector, has “fostered a decadent American culture that angers and repulses traditional societies, especially those in the Islamic world, that are being overwhelmed with this culture,” Mr. D’Souza writes on his Web site.

“What angers religious Muslims is not the American Constitution but the scandalous sexual mores they see on American movies and television,” he writes. “What disgusts them are not free elections but the sights of hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other and taking marriage vows. The person that horrifies them the most is not [free market philosopher] John Locke but Hillary Clinton.”

One solution, Mr. D’Souza says, is for cultural conservatives to join with Muslims and others in condemning the global moral degeneracy that is produced by liberal values and work to halt the spread of such things.

“As conservatives, we should export our America … and stop exporting the cultural left’s America,” he says.

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