By Chris Talgo

The founding of the United States remains a unique experience in world history. America, unlike any other nation, was created upon a certain set of values. Many of the principles promoting freedom and justice were shrouded in religious undertones. The historical record is rife with references to Judeo Christian doctrine by the Founding Fathers.

For generations, Americans upheld these values and beliefs. A moral code based on the principles of the Founding Era manifested in the culture and societal institutions. During this period, the United States became the land of opportunity. Americans fought injustice and tyranny at home and abroad. The very origin of American exceptionalism can be traced back to this moral foundation.

According to Justin Haskins, executive editor and research fellow at The Heartland Institute, this moral foundation has begun to fracture.

Throughout the history of Western Civilization, many—perhaps even most—people may have privately chosen not to believe in God and/or the teachings of churches, but nearly everyone agreed in the importance of having a moral standard established by religion so that, at the very least, conduct could be judged fairly and somewhat consistently. The lack of such a standard today has effectively made the media, the only institution powerful enough to quickly engage with the whole populace, America’s new supreme moral law-giver, an incredibly dangerous development precisely because the media is incapable of applying its own shifting standards equally.

In contemporary America, religion has taken a backseat to the modern media machine. In this new environment, the media dictates the narratives it so chooses. On a massive scale, Americans are bombarded with information and entertainment in an unceasing manner.

The tone of this unfettered barrage is becoming more depraved and less virtuous. In 2017, the American culture is as coarse as sandpaper. America has entered into a state of moral decay. Traditional institutions are losing prominence in the culture. What does all of this bode for the future of America?

The Founding Fathers routinely explained that a free, peaceful society can only exist when that society’s population is deeply concerned with virtue, which they understood to be shaped by religious institutions.

George Washington wrote, “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.”

Patrick Henry said, “A vitiated [impious] state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.”

Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.”

Without a clear standard of morality, virtue is impossible, and without virtue, freedom will inevitably fade away, because rather than respect the rights of our neighbors, people will use the institutions of society—chief among them, the media—to destroy those with whom they don’t agree on one or more issues.

Without a revival of virtue and a new emphasis placed on attaining a clearly defined moral standard or set of standards, the American ideal of individual liberty will not survive another century, and perhaps the country won’t survive, either.

Only time will tell whether American exceptionalism endures or retreats.

Virtue in America
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