By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
A new study has found that regardless of whether one is religiously affiliated or not, the Ten Commandments are still highly regarded as a code for moral living.
In a 2018 national study on “Honesty in the Digital Age in the U.S.” found that more than 90 percent of respondents said that the commandments about murder, stealing, and lying are important principles to live by. In comparison, only 49 percent of respondents said that it was necessary to “keep the Sabbath Day holy.”
The study, produced by Deseret News and conducted online via YouGov, also offered a comparison to 2017 responses from the United Kingdom and found that while at least half of Americans think it is still important to live each of the Ten Commandments, only six of the ten are seen as still important in the U.K.
Across the board, each individual commandment received higher support among female respondents than males, with the prohibitions on stealing, murder, and adultery receiving the highest support.
While Evangelical Protestants polled the highest in terms of offering the most support for the Ten Commandments – with Mormons coming in a close second – U.S. Catholics were on par with the national average, ranking slightly above the national average on several specific commandments, including support for honoring the Sabbath day and the commandment not to have false idols.
Among Catholics, however, remembering to keep the Sabbath Day Holy – commonly known as “Sunday obligation” – received the lowest support among the Ten Commandments, with only 59 percent of respondents saying that it is important.
By contrast, 95 percent of Catholics responded that it was wrong to steal, 94 percent of Catholics said it was wrong to commit murder, and 90 percent of Catholics said it was important to heed the commandment to honor one’s father and mother.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Ten Commandments, “sum up and proclaim God’s law,” and “they teach us the true humanity of man.”
“Since they express man’s fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations,” the Catechism continues. “They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human heart.”
In 2017, a series of false reports spread that Pope Francis had said in a homily that God had told him to revise the Ten Commandments.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke dismissed those reports at the time as “absurd.”
On the broader themes of honesty and lying within the survey, the majority of respondents said most lies are never okay, with 87 percent saying that it is wrong to lie to one’s spouse or partner about an affair and 84 percent said it was wrong to cheat on one’s taxes.
Yet despite a national consensus that lying is wrong, the study also found that in the past 12 years, Americans – particularly young people – have become more comfortable with dishonesty.
“It is revealing that Americans are more accepting of certain lies than they once were, especially as social media makes it easier for people to mislead others, whether to do harm or simply make themselves look good,” said Allison Pond in a statement in response to the survey.
“With Easter and Passover approaching, we wanted to examine how Americans viewed the Ten Commandments today and, in particular, how they felt about lying,” said Pond, who is editor of the Deseret News In-depth team and a former Pew Research Center staffer.
The study included 1,523 U.S. interviews of a nationally representative panel with a general population margin of error estimated to be at plus or minus 3.1 percent.