America: Who decides right and wrong? You? God? reliance is a strong belief among Americans. It is almost universally held, as I described yesterday. Following Ralph Waldo Emerson’s advice to “trust thyself,” most Americans say they rely on themselves most of the time and they prefer it that way.

So, who shall decide right and wrong? Since almost all Americans believe in self reliance, we might expect most to agree that it’s up to each person to decide. Trust thyself. Decide for yourself. But that’s not true. Only a third of Americans agree that what is right and wrong is up to each person to decide, according to my March survey of values.

If it’s not up to the individual, on what should right and wrong be based? The majority of Americans say “God’s law.” But this belief is not as universally held as is the belief in self reliance. Older Americans, for example, are much more likely than younger Americans to agree that right and wrong should be based on “God’s law.”

Here, in fact, we see multiple divides in beliefs about “God’s law” as the basis of right and wrong. Southerners, political conservatives, and conservative Christians strongly tend to agree that this is the basis of right and wrong. Westerners, political liberals, and mainline Christians (along with members of other religions and the unaffiliated) tend to disagree.

What do you believe?

Is right and wrong up to you? Should it be based on God’s law?

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