Survey Finds Most Believe Moral Absolutes Are Few

From Associated Press

In an age of relativity in science and religion, most Americans believe there are few moral absolutes about what is right or wrong, saying it usually depends on the situation.

In other words, the view is that justification for snitching an apple or loaf of bread might be conditioned by the degree of need for food, or lying necessitated to protect someone’s well-being or life.

Such “situation ethics,” a sometimes controversial notion in the churches, is affirmed by 69% of U.S. adults, according to a recent report by the Princeton Religion Research Center in Princeton, N.J.

Others disagree. But even though most affirm the moral relativity principle, the large majority--70%--still say it is important to do what God or Scripture tells them is right.

At the same time, of the 91% saying religion is very important in their lives, 63% reject the concept of moral absolutes, contending such standards are subject to the situation.


That and other findings are based on telephone interviews by the Gallup organization with a representative nationwide sample of 2,104 adults.

On a related question, people are more divided about how they determine truth.

Forty-three percent say their own experience is the most reliable guide to truth, while 34% say they rely instead on the Bible or religious leaders.

Sixteen percent see teachings of their parents or other authoritative figures as the arbiters of truth, while only 7% rely on science, and only 6% on the media, such as television, newspapers and books.

Biblical literalism, the belief that the Bible should be taken as literally God’s word in all instances, has declined in this country, and is affirmed by only 32% of adults.