If having some consensus on major cultural and moral issues is the thread that holds a country together, we seem to be coming apart at the seams.

A Pew Research Center study released Monday showed generations are deeply divided over everything from gay marriage and religion to what is described as a sense of entitlement and even manners.

Apparently, we all see this very well. Nearly 80 percent of those polled see a “major” difference in the point of view between younger people age 18-29 and middle age people and older people. That is the largest gap since 1969 when about 74 percent of the people surveyed saw large differences.

Of course, today, there are not major events that drive divisiveness in our country as the Vietnam War, civil rights marches and women’s rights issues did in the 1960s. That we have these divides without the major events should be cause for concern. More and more, the young and the old are divided around “lifestyles” more than the “issues.” Those lifestyle attitudes seem among the things one is least likely to change their attitude about whether they are young or old.

Some of the major differences between young and old, parents and children, center around religion and lifestyle choices, according to the survey. Not surprisingly, young people were more tolerant of gay marriage and other lifestyle choices. Those 65 years and older, some two thirds said religion is very important to them. For people 18 to 29, religion was very important to only 44 percent of them.

Importantly, the major differences centered around social values and morality. Some 47 percent noted those seem to be the biggest rifts.

The implications of the generation gap may be larger than we think. People can generally agreed to disagree about issues, but that polite disagreement seems more difficult to achieve when it’s related to a value rooted in emotions.

Such a large gap between young and old on social issues and morality could create a kind of “understanding deficit” in our country. If understanding another’s point of view without accepting it is an asset to build a civil society, the value of our “understanding asset” may be declining.

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