Many Christians are in a flap about the allegedly declining morality of young people today. Secularism is the whipping boy of course, even though evidence is never cited in support of a causal link.
One of the lessons from a Pew survey from 2010, though, seems to be that you should first look back to the young people of your own generation before you judge the young people of today. On two issues in particular – pornography and required participation in prayer in public schools – the views of young people today are barely distinguishable from young people in previous generations. The fact is, young people tend to think a certain way about these things, and they usually get more conservative with age.
Another important lesson is that young people today still hold to the idea of moral absolutes. Consider the data in the following table from the survey. Notice how more young people have pro-morality, pro-church views than people over 65. Notice also that 67% of religiously unaffiliated young people still believe that there are absolute standards of right and wrong.
The final lesson from the Pew survey is this one: 71% of young people have an “absolutely certain belief in God”. So, unless there are data suggesting otherwise, it’s likely that 3 out of every 4 school shooters in America are absolutely certain that God exists.
I strongly suspect that the alleged decline in morality that worries conservative Christians has nothing to do with things like crime (which is decreasing). Instead, it has to do with the perception that homosexuality, abortion, and evolution are immoral (conservatives often make the mistake of describing evolution as a moral worldview, when it is isn’t – it’s a scientific theory about our history on this planet).
The Pew survey certainly indicates that young people are more accepting of homosexuality, which frankly indicates an increasing level of morality.
However, young people’s views on abortion are about the same as those of older people, with the exception of people over 65. In fact, the survey points out that young people have traditionally been more opposed to abortion than middle-aged people, but a recent conservative shift among the middle-aged has brought this group more in line with the already conservative stance of young people.
In summary, Christians who (like so many generations before them) bemoan the declining morality of young people, really ought to look at the data.