After the latest school shootings, a young student from that school asked on air: “Why did this happen?” People have many answers and of course there are multiple factors involved. I want to cite something that is not often brought up: In today’s world, God and goodness are rarely talked about in public. We as a nation have lost our moral compass.
At its founding, this nation leaned heavily on God. Most leaders were individuals of belief who read and regularly referred to the Bible. Many references to God appeared in official documents . . . and even our money was to bear ‘In God We Trust’. No particular religion was intended but there was an understanding that a Supreme Being, God, gave us our world and the mandate to act morally. In the past, daily prayers, especially at meals and bedtime, were said—and even family Bible reading was common.
During the 20th Century, little by little, we became a secular society. God was referred to less and less, and eventually in 1962, prayer was banned in public schools.
I understand that the Bill of Rights guarantees the freedom of religion and a separation of church and state is called for, but that was not meant to imply freedom from religion; rather, no one religion can have control over government affairs. Unfortunately in the minds of many, over time it came to suggest religion and religious pursuits were either suspect or irrelevant.
In recent years, regular religious activities have lessened and society has coarsened. As a people we’ve become more and more irreverent. There is no longer a clear moral order and without societal help that supports moral order, it is so much harder to raise children.
All religions have some undesirable elements and that is because they are human institutions, designed by and run by humans—humans are flawed. There is a distinction to be made between religion/religions and God. While religions try to point to ‘the good’, God represents all that IS Good and desirable: love, justice, truth . . . empathy and compassion . . . qualities that form the moral foundation of humanity.
If religions do their job as they should, they teach of right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood—and about making choices guided by the 10 Commandments or its equivalent All religions hold some version of those basic moral values. If a child is not guided to integrate those values from an early age, the child is left with a big hole. They may seek dangerous ways to fill that hole.
To become literate, a person must go through a formal process involving the learning of letter names and sounds, combining them to make words, recognizing that combinations have specific meaning. Without going through the process of learning those basic ‘building blocks’, a person will not be able to read and write, he/she will be illiterate.
Similarly, to become a morally responsible person a child must go through a process of differentiating right from wrong, good from bad, truth from falsehood. That happens in early religious training. Without a formal process aided by a religion, the setting of a moral foundation falls entirely on the parents and home. Few are the homes prepared to take up teaching either literacy or moral order. Schools provide the formal training for literacy and religions provide training in moral decision making. Without societal support of moral principals, the parental job becomes much harder.
I believe the absence of integrated social references to God, values, and moral training is a critical factor in our present social unrest and pervasive violence. We have indeed lost our moral compass.