Why are People So Mean Today: are Liberals Becoming Libertines?

I’m an easygoing kind of guy. I write articles relating to the Bible; some are just reflections on my life experiences and some are in-depth studies on subjects not usually discussed in church, and some others compare our modern world in relation to biblical principles. Usually, I just state the thoughts or facts and let the reader decide how to use them. Contrary to some church leader’s opinions, I believe it is not my job, as a Christian, to coerce or command readers to one position or another; it is my job to present food for thought and let the reader make up her or his own mind. That is, after all, the whole idea of free will – to make our own decisions.

I have a rather conservative philosophy, in relation to morality and religion, as I believe God to be conservative. ‘Conservative’ means “one that adheres to traditional methods or views; a cautious or discreet person,”1 so since Jehovah established the methods of the world and he is unobtrusively perceptive and sympathetic, I would say he is definitely conservative. Being ‘liberal’ means “one who not strict in observance of traditional or established ways.”2 In politics, liberals lean to the left of the moral line of conformity and reasoning, while conservatives lean to the right. Dead center on this line are the moderates, but I doubt there is truly anyone standing directly in the middle.

While discussing religion and politics, a pastor once told me that God was neither conservative nor liberal. When I challenged his idea, he offered up the scripture at Joshua 1:7 to prove his point that God’s law is not to the right or left. This verse says: “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go.”3 I offered my own opinion that God’s law is conservative and this particular verse indicates God’s instructions to Joshua, while leading the Israelites after Moses’ death, that he should not deviate from the full law, neither taking away from it, nor adding to it. If they followed God’s law fully, they would be successful. If they must keep the law in its fullness, that is a conservative position, so I still think I’m right.

Although I was, sort of, a ‘hippie’ during my earlier youth, I have been conservative since becoming an adult, and had many liberal friends and we always got along pretty good. That was over 50 years ago. Today, my liberal friends are very few. I still have the same conservative opinions and attitude, and I am polite, respectful, and friendly to everyone, so if it is not I who changed, what could the reason be? Maybe it is the current liberal position on the moral line of conformity and reasoning. Maybe many liberals have moved further to the left.

Mean People

A recent experience gave me the idea for this article. I moved from the South to the Pacific Northwest back in 1990, but occasionally, over the years, I kept in contact with several friends by phone or email. I talked on the phone to one of my liberal friends recently and I could hardly believe the hate that was expressed concerning the current president running our country. I can understand non-approval of governing authorities, because at any point in time, about one-half of our country voted for the “other person.” Generally though, in the past, even those who voted for the loser would be respectful of the current leader and the office they held, so I wasn’t expecting the hateful and crude attacks. Even more surprising was that my friend fully expected me to be supportive of this attitude.

I have been writing magazine articles since the 1970s and I have seen the changes first-hand in the comments and feedback that readers mailed to me over those years – and in email, more recently. The favorable feedback hasn’t changed, only the unfavorable. What used to be polite differences of opinion are now blatant attacks peppered with profanities and, sometimes, even violent threats.

People are saying some very nasty things. Not all, of course, but a large percent of negative feedback is more than ‘a bit’ on the vengeful side. On this website, The Outlaw Bible Student, I have to frequently delete vulgar and overly hateful comments, as I don’t want our Christian educational website to become a political platform for vicious or vindictive people. I do have ‘suggested rules’ concerning comments on the website under “The Fine Print” in the menu bar. They state that disagreeing with the author or someone’s comment is encouraged, but please do not make personal attacks or leave inappropriate remarks. In other words, just be respectful.

If you were an adult, 25 or more years ago, you probably have noticed this change, also. Everyone has had the experience of being in a car at a red light and having the person in line behind you toot their horn, almost at the same time the light changes to green. But now, you may also get an obscene gesture directed at you, and possibly a vocal obscenity, too. Obscene gestures, and worse, on the highway are a common sight in today’s world. Rudeness and nasty attitudes in the aisles and checkout lanes of retail stores are commonplace. Here in the United States we used to be, basically, a polite and moral nation – what happened? Why are so many people mean, today?

Wrong Choices and the Causes

The main reason people are moving more to the left of the liberal-conservative line is that they are making the wrong choices. Justin Martyr (circa 150 AD), writing of God, said, “in the beginning he made the human race with the power of thought and of choosing the truth and doing right, so that all men are without excuse before God; for they have been born rational and contemplative.”4 So, God made us in his own image, with the attributes of free-will and reason, not with only instincts like the animals. We can observe and learn and make up our own mind about what is right and wrong and then make the correct decision.

In order to use free-will and make those good choices, Jesus gave us only two commandments we should obey. He said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

There are several reasons why some people lose their love for God and their neighbor, causing many liberal citizens to move more to the left. One of the major reasons is the added stress our modern world produces. Just as I was putting the finishing touches on this article, a new study from the American Psychiatric Association appeared which indicates that later generations’ stress levels have raised several points higher just within the last year, and for women more than men.5

Added stress reduces our tolerance for many things that go wrong and, because of this, we get angry. A psychologist at the University of Central Lanchashire in United Kingdom, Sandi Mann, wrote “the things that make us angry tend to fall into a small range of categories; things that frustrate us and stop us reaching our goals, unmet expectations, [and] perceived injustice or abuse. Our tolerance for all of these is likely to be low when our stress levels are high, and we feel entitled not only to feel angry, but to express that anger when we feel that these rights have been violated.”6

Feeling angry makes us challenge our own self-worth. If we do not feel particularly positive about ourselves, this insecurity causes a lot of cruelty in the world. When we insult or criticize others, this says a lot more about how we feel about ourselves, than how we feel about others.7 David Wolpe, a Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, said, “angry people are poor communicators and even worse listeners. Their empathy is foreshortened, and they have trouble imagining the other’s point of view. It makes people less healthy, and when both parties are angry, fewer are likely to find middle ground.”8

We can also attribute much of the problem to many of the current news organizations and talk shows. “Unfortunately, mainstream media have made a fortune teaching people the wrong ways to talk to each other . . . . People understandably conclude rage is the political vernacular, that this is how public ideas are talked about,” wrote journalism ethics professor Edward Wasserman.9 And there are new cultural stresses added by government agencies and some organizations, all heaped upon the already stressed public; things like gay marriage, transgenderism, abortion, immigration, gun control, and much, much more.

The New Liberal – the Libertine

Add all this to another modern lifestyle change and it completes the portrait of liberalism today – an increase in sexual immorality. In fact, it is the modern freethinking nature, unrestrained by convention or morality, that tips a liberal over the fence into becoming a ‘libertine’. Look at the modern movies, video games, music, public protests, and everyday conversations of modern liberals and you know exactly what I mean. But this new attitude is nothing new; it had resurfaced many times before.

King Solomon wrote about the repetitious character of humankind and indicated that whatever psychological and emotional satisfaction they searched for, they were re-doing only that which had already been done before. The more humans pride themselves on development, the more they remain the same.10 King Solomon said:

All things are wearisome; more than one can express;
The eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been, is what will be,
And what has been done, is what will be done;
There is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:8–9)

The word “libertine” was originally coined by John Calvin (1509–1564) and soon became to signify one devoid of most moral or sexual restraints which, to them, are seen as unnecessary or undesirable, especially one who ignores or rejects accepted morals and forms of behavior sanctified by the larger society.11 They demand physical pleasures and immediate gratification. These type of people were described in the Bible, long before their practices got its label.12 And besides being mentioned in Calvin’s time, the label is also found in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet (circa 1600 AD), when Ophelia refers to her brother Laertes as “a puff’d and reckless libertine.”

Ophelia and brother Laertes (Hamlet)

I shall the effect of this good lesson keep,
As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother,
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede. (Act 1, Scene3)13


Times change and times repeat; people are again leaning too far to the left and the whole of society is becoming chaotic. As a Christian, you already know that it is Satan who causes the chaos in this world; it is he that wants you to lose your love of God. It is he that wants you stressed and angry. It is he that encourages violence and sexual immorality. Those on the far left have already, pretty much, lost God (or never found him) and are easily manipulated by Satan. Do not let him push you to the left on the morality line of conformity and reasoning – keep your Christian perspective and keep your love for God alive. Always keep in mind the insight given at 1 Peter 5:8: “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.”

If Satan gets a bit too close, remember that he flees from those who resist him. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he said, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him’” (Matthew 4:10, NET). Let us imitate Christ.

Like I said in the first paragraph of this article, it is my job to present food for thought and let the reader make up her or his own mind. That is what I have done. I pray that everyone makes the right choices.

Copyright © 2018, Dr. Ray Hermann

(Leave comments at the end, after References & Notes.)

References & Notes

1. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Wester, Inc., 2003).

2. Ibid.

3. Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), ©1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

4. Justin Martyr was an early Christian apologist.
Bromling, Brad, “Justin Martyr: An Apologetic Hero,” (Apologetics Press, retrieved 4 May 2018), http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=377

5. Welch, Ashley, “Americans are more anxious than a year ago, survey finds,” (CBS News, 7 May 2018), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/americans-are-more-anxious-than-a-year-ago-survey-finds/

6. Mann, Sandi, “Why Are We All So Angry These Days?” (HuffPost UK, 26 March 2013), https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sandi-mann/why-are-we-all-so-angry-these-days_b_2540474.html

7. Heflick, Nathan A., “Why Are People Mean? Part 1,” (Psychology Today, 29 June 2013), https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-big-questions/201306/why-are-people-mean-part-1

8. Wolpe, David, “Why Americans Are So Angry About Everything,” (Time, 5 January 2016), http://time.com/4166326/why-americans-are-so-angry-about-everything/

9. Wolchover, Natalie, “Why Is Everyone on the Internet So Angry?” (Scientific American, 25 July 2012), https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-is-everyone-on-the-internet-so-angry/

10. Schultz, Carl, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), Ecclesiastes.

11. “Libertine,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 21 April 2018), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertine

12. Hermann, Ray, “Sun Worship, Sex in the Bible, and Church Steeples: A Brief History of Pagan Rituals and Traditions Carried into the Christian Church,” (The Outlaw Bible Student, 19 March 2018), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/sun-worship-sex-in-the-bible-and-church-steeples-a-brief-history-of-pagan-rituals-and-traditions-carried-into-the-christian-church/

13. Shakespeare, William, “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,” Act 1, Scene 3 — The Plays and Sonnets of William Shakespeare, Volume Two, (Great Books of the Western World [vol.27], Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.), p. 35.

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12 thoughts on “Why are People So Mean Today: are Liberals Becoming Libertines?”

  1. Thank you for this article. It reminded me that God always wins. There’s a prayer that goes, “Glory to God… as it was in the beginning, is now, and EVER shall be.” And I watched a speaker discuss tithing and he said, “I read the back of the book; I know who wins.” These all give me comfort because it is we, backing away in shocked silence or struggling countertalk, who are called immoral, intolerant, and mean. I feel like our own country needs missionaries but it’d be dangerous work.

    Before this article, I’d been wishing that time and circumstance would hurry up and show me that God wins. Now I think we each have to ensure God wins right here, in one’s own heart and mind, and with one’s own daily choices.

    I remember reading with surprise the middle school faith formation textbook teaching about early Christianity. It said something like Christians were not expected to be suicidal and live their lives exposed to the dangers of being discovered and, theoretically or literally, fed to the lions. I thought that you had to be a defiant martyr, but I guess not. You keep up the practice. You teach your children well. You live right. You carefully and thoughtfully invite others. If you get caught, you can take the quiet approach Jesus took when he was arrested.

    I think part of the answer is to limit social media, news, and comments reading, and responding to mean diatribes.

    The thing is, nobody is truly Godless—

    • Thank you for your constructive comment and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      That was very well put when you said, “we each have to ensure God wins right here, in one’s own heart and mind, and with one’s own daily choices.” And you are also correct in that we must not only copy Christ’s teachings, but copy his actions (sometimes take the quiet approach), too.

  2. I heard of a libertine, just didn’t know what it meant. Now I do. Seems I’ve been seeing them for a long time, just didn’t know it.

  3. I have noticed the difference in people too and not only in the youngsters but with older people. I think they are all democrats which are most of the people I work with. If I try to be say different from their position they get really mad and say bad things. I try to keep my distance from them. They take all the pleasure of the work place away.

    • Thanks for the comment. Like you, I see plenty of mean people in job-related positions, and from the email I receive, it is actually a problem throughout the western world. Although I haven’t yet received messages from Asia or the Middle East, I suspect it would be the same there, too.

  4. As you mentioned in your article “What used to be polite differences of opinion are now blatant attacks peppered with profanities and, sometimes, even violent threats.”

    I don’t understand how some of the “friends” I had (before Trump became president) appear to have now “lost their mind”. I keep wondering if CNN and MSNBC have discovered some “mind control” technique. I used to love watching both of these TV channels 24/7 when they were actually reporting news. Now it’s 24/7 bias against Trump… like some kind of sickness.

    This problem continues throughout my social media. Every now and then, I will look at the FaceBook page of an ex-friend who is still a Trump hater. No longer do I view intelligent postings (pre-Trump victory), now it’s only chit-chat (laced with vulgarity) with other haters about how much they hate Trump. Could there be something in the water that they drink? 🙂

    Every now and then, a Trump hater (I don’t even know) will trash my FB page with hateful comments calling me vulgar names. Judging from the times that they post, these people are not at a job somewhere, so I’m assuming that they receive government aide or live with their parents. Perhaps both.

    • Thank you for your well-written comment. You may be right about cable channels using some sort of control technique to turn viewers into hate groups. There isn’t anything that would surprise me in this world today. Maybe you were only joking, but it is something to think about. And, as you stated, social media is just as bad.

    • Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

      I try to keep this passage in mind when I interact with the more libertine people that pass through my life, be it online or face to face, and pray for their salvation. Some are not as successful when wrestling with the powers as others and succumb to the forces that assail the flesh.

      Something my father told me a long time ago also helps, and he wasn’t even a believer. “Bad people don’t go to hell, they’re already there.” So that begs the question as to whether they suffer because they’re mean, or mean because they suffer. Food for thought.

      • Thank you for your comment. You are correct; remembering Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:12 helps put the problem in the correct perspective.

        It seems your dad had a realistic outlook on society, no doubt because he was a keen observer. Whether they suffer because they are mean, or they are mean because they suffer, it is a vicious circle in which to be stuck — hell on earth seems a fitting description.


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