February 17, 2016

"More of a guideline, really..." Angus Reid survey reveals Canadians' "Pirates of the Caribbean" view of morality

David MacKenzieRebel Columnist

In an interesting experiment that may not have hit everyone’s radar, Angus Reid recently published a Canadian morality survey.

Now, bear in mind that survey participants were confined to Angus Reid's online membership, so the survey may not even remotely reflect our nation’s context as a whole. But that doesn't mean we can't have some fun with it...

Angus Reid divides respondents into four categories -- Traditional Absolutists, Religious Moralists, Non-Religious Moralists, and Amoralists:

These four clashing worldviews should actually be a post-apocalyptic joy to behold. We should even thank Angus Reid for drawing attention to the percentages of Canadian citizens for whom morality is seemingly never a consideration at all, and pray that these respondents never achieve any political power or influence whatsoever. Thankfully, their ranks are rather small...

Not all of us are so amoral, of course; otherwise, throw a little less empathy in the mix and we might turn out to be a nation of sociopaths. Some of us, in fact, are true champions of public righteousness. For, according to the survey, Canada contains all manner of green ombudsmen — citizens for whom climate change is the lens through which all sinners are judged.

For instance, 38% of the 1,530 adult sample is convinced that buying a “gas-guzzling SUV“ is “always or usually morally wrong." With results like that, it becomes clearer why so much of the rest of the country considers the average Albertan such a social pariah. Clearly, the evil minions of Ram, Silverado, or King Ranch F-350 drivers must be publicly shamed, lest the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change excommunicate Canada from the recent Paris climate agreements!     

Strange moralizing reveals itself even further when the survey addresses the social taboos regarding buying a fur coat. Considering animal skins were the first God-given gift allocated to Adam and Eve, it’s perhaps not surprising that Bible-believing Canadians face a certain hostility from their sanctimonious cultural peers, even at 40 below.

This same group of faux-fur moralists, whom Angus Reid suggests might actually attend church “a few times a year," are also a major demographic reason why “keeping a handgun in the house” is seen as “always or usually morally wrong” by 55% of those surveyed. While Canadians are certainly not Americans in their public zeal for the right to bear arms, would keeping a rattlesnake in one’s home be deemed “immoral”, as opposed to just being risky, unconventional, or subject to certain legislation? Are we jumping to immoral conclusions by jumping to moralizing conclusions?

Perhaps the most obvious criticism of this Angus Reid poll should be the lack of a standard definition of “morality” among participants, although it's not unexpected, considering how many individuals are as consumed with puppies as they are with Penthouse pets. Is it a shock, therefore, that 20% fewer Canadians believe watching pornography is morally wrong compared with those who believe in the immorality of scientific testing on animals (62% to 42%)?  

Having been reminded by this same study, I must now confess my obvious complicity in evil, in not demanding that my parents apologize for spanking me. The fact that I should still remember these instances is, perhaps, a testimony to pain’s ability to write the moral lesson on my cerebral cortex, but then again, I’m clearly a deluded traditionalist. Fully 57% of Canadians, according to Angus Reid, now believe that spanking a child is “always or usually morally wrong."  

Insightful, as well, is their general analysis, which concludes that only 16% of those surveyed believe that there are moral absolutes at all. But who can blame them, really, now that Quebec can euthanize people without (a) a Supreme Court decision, or (b) actual Federal legislation governing such statist behaviours in the criminal code?

And while we are absolutely on the topic of non-absolutes, it is curious to note from the standpoint of general ethics that 41% of Canadians have seemingly taken their moral lead, not from the Bible or the Torah, but from Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” — that is, believing morality is now "more of a guideline, really."

All that being said, one potential bright-spot of the study suggest that the abortion issue has achieved some measure of public recognition. Fully 40% of Canadians now believe abortion is always or usually morally wrong. However, when one recognizes that, given the study’s margin of error, aborting a human life is no more wrong, these days, than buying a Suburban or a Hummer, one wonders whether the Bible or Al Gore’s Power Point has had a better publicity campaign.

In any case, I look forward to seeing radicalized Canadian moralizers picketing their local GM dealers this coming Earth Day!

Incidentally, Angus Reid states that half of all Christian evangelicals belong to a grouping they call “Traditional Absolutists." This is the only religious grouping identified by name. Are we to assume that no one else — no other religious (or non-religious) grouping is “absolutist” — whether Muslim, Roman Catholic, or Marxist? At times, I daresay I can "absolutely" identify a bias, but, coming from the likes of me, you knew that already. Didn’t you?  

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commented 2016-02-17 23:23:02 -0500
You don’t have to belong to a religion to have a conscience.
commented 2016-02-17 20:08:46 -0500
I’ve tried numerous times to explain to my atheist buddy that he behaves in a Christian manner even though he proffeses he ain’t. I’ve long held the belief that people who are anti murder, rape, adultery and theft/general criminal behaviour are closet Christians.