- The Iona Institute - https://ionainstitute.ie -

The West is sinking deeper into moral individualism

A new worldwide poll survey [1] shows how much social attitudes across a whole range of issues differ by country. It also demonstrates, unsurprisingly, that Western countries are moving in a more liberal direction all the time, although a sizable enough minority of people with more traditionalist views remains in most of those countries.

Starting with the issue of abortion, we see that the most liberal society in the world is Sweden, where 74pc of people thinking abortion is always, or nearly always justified, which is incredible when you think about it. It means, de facto, that for three-quarters of Swedes the embryo is of basically no moral status whatever.

At the other end of the scale are countries like Egypt, Nigeria, China and South Korea where only 1pc to 3pc of people think abortion is always, or almost always justified. The Chinese and South Korean results are a bit surprising, because abortion is widespread in both of those countries. On the other hand, they must think that abortion is only justifiable in certain circumstances.

In Britain, which is now one of the most socially liberal countries on the planet, 47pc said abortion is always, or nearly always justifiable. This is up from 14pc forty years ago.

We see the same movement in Britain and other Western countries on issues like divorce, homosexuality, euthanasia and casual sex.

Swedes are also ultra-liberal on divorce. Seventy-nine percent say it is always, or nearly always justified. In Britain, the figure is 63pc, in Italy it is 40pc, whereas in South Korea it is just 11pc.

Do Swedes really mean what they say? Because if they do, it means that when someone divorces them, it is almost always justified, in their opinion. It’s doubtful that is truly what they think.

There are significant regional differences within the UK. For example, only 25pc of respondents in Northern Ireland think that abortion is always or nearly always justifiable, while the percentage is almost double that in Scotland (49pc) and England (48pc).

France has the highest percentage of respondents (19pc) who believe that suicide is justifiable, followed by the United Kingdom and Germany, both at 18pc.

With regards to the moral permissibility of casual sex, the most liberal countries in the world are Australia (48pc), Spain (46pc), Canada (45pc) and the UK (41pc).

The World Values Survey [1] registered significant differences not only between different countries but also between religious and non-religious respondents in the same country.

The percentage of British people who find casual sex acceptable is 53pc among the non-religious and 27pc among the religious. Thirty-five percent of religious people would accept euthanasia, compared to 56pc of non-religious, while the survey found no difference with regard to the death penalty.

The non-religious are also more likely to find it justifiable to avoid paying a fare on public transport, and cheating on taxes.

Overall, the survey confirms that Western societies place huge store by personal autonomy, and this is getting more pronounced over time. Westerners want huge free to divorce when they please, have abortions when they please, and increasingly to resort to euthanasia when they please. The harmful effects to children (born or unborn), the elderly and infirm, to other adults, and ultimately to themselves, are barely considered.