We are about to make sweeping generalizations, with no attempt to accommodate all shades of opinion. ( Shades of opinion are welcome in comment.)
Left and Right inhabit different universes of discourse. Completely different issues concern them.
The biggest issues on the American Left (in random order) are:
- Climate and the Environment
- Social Justice
To elaborate a little more:
The Left – internationally – holds man-made global warming to be an urgent threat to all life on earth, and tries in the name of saving the planet to force redistribution of wealth over the whole world, the redistributing agent being ideally a world government run according to Leftist values.
The one freedom the Left passionately advocates for is that of Each to seek sexual satisfaction of any kind, and for Each to choose a personal sexual identity, all personal choices connected with sex to be protected by law and subsidized financially, where required, by government.
The Left catalogues all Americans and all foreign nations according to a race analysis, according to which the white race is privileged and oppressive, and all institutions, led by government, have a moral duty to compensate non-whites and handicap whites.
All inequalities between sexes, races, and classes are considered by the Left to be unjust, the injustice being perpetrated by institutions and needing to be corrected by government using any means, including quotas for opportunity and advancement; adjustment of standards for inclusion and compensation; enforced limitations on the expression of dissenting opinion; the redistribution of wealth and power.
The Right does not concern itself with these issues unless compelled to, in which case its dismissive opinion of them is:
Man-made global warming is not true and would not be a bad thing if it were.
Sex is a private matter, only of public concern if it harms children.
Race is irrelevant to all political issues.
All justice is personal, having no meaning apart from the individual; standards must be upheld; power belongs to the powerful and cannot be bestowed; wealth is inescapably unequal in a free society, equality and liberty being mutually exclusive.
The biggest issues on the American Right (also in random order) are:
- Individual freedom
- The economy
- The Constitution
A little more:
The Right holds that individual freedom is the highest value. All innovation, all progress, depends on it. It requires absolute freedom of speech. The prime duty of government is to protect it.
Capitalism is the only system that lifts people out of poverty and secures prosperity. The Right wants the free market to be left to operate without government interference.
The government’s duty of protection requires a strong military to defend the nation from foreign attack; to maintain America’s superpower status of which the Right is proud; and specifically at this time to stop the advance of Islam and its terrorism.
The Constitution established the best possible system of government for a free society and the Right holds that it must be upheld and defended in its entirety.
The Left does not concern itself with these issues unless compelled to, in which case its dismissive opinion of them is:
The individual is less important than the collective, and individual interests are always subordinate to those of the collective.
Capitalism is evil, it values profits above people, it allows some to be rich while it keeps the many poor. The economy needs to be planned centrally by government for the equal good of all.
Wars should never be fought. Spending money on the military is a huge waste. America should not be the world’s policeman. It should not be a superower.
The Constitution is an outdated document. It says nothing about slavery. It stands in the way of an enlightened executive, such as President Obama’s, hampering his laudable efforts to change America into a more equal society.
Plainly, there is no common ground between Left and Right.
Dennis Prager writes at Townhall:
Just about all candidates for president regularly announce their intent to unite Americans, to “bring us together”.
It’s a gimmick.
If they are sincere, they are profoundly naive; if they are just muttering sweet nothings in order to seduce Americans to vote for them, they are manipulative.
In his acceptance speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, John Kerry, one of the most polarizing figures in modern American political history, said, “Maybe some just see us divided into those red states and blue states, but I see us as one America: red, white and blue.”
And President Barack Obama, who has disunited Americans by race, class and gender perhaps more than any president since the beginning of the 20th century, regularly campaigned on the theme of uniting Americans.
In his 2008 victory speech, President-elect Barack Obama said: “We have never been just a collection of … red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America.”
In their current campaigns for president, Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democrat Hillary Clinton regularly proclaim their intention to bring Americans together. He, one suspects, because he is naive, and she, because she will say pretzels come from Neptune if it will garner votes.
Bringing people together is actually the theme of John Kasich’s entire campaign.
One headline on the “Meet John” page of his website says, “BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER, LIFTING PEOPLE UP.”
Senator Rob Portman said of Kasich on Feb. 1, 2016, “I am endorsing John Kasich because I believe he is the person our country needs to bring Americans together.”
And Clinton, who, according to CNN, is tied with Trump for the most negatives in presidential polling for either Republicans or Democrats since 1984, also speaks repeatedly about her ability and desire to bring Americans together.
The “Hillary Clinton for President Supporters” Facebook page has even said, “We’re in the business of bringing people together.”
What’s more, on April 6, 2016, CNN posted a YouTube video titled: “Hillary Clinton — We need a president who can bring people together.”
Lanny Davis, who served as special counsel to former President Bill Clinton, wrote on The Hill website that “Clinton wants to bring us together”.
Beyond Kasich and Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders made this a major theme in one of his ads called “Together”, which begins with Sanders saying, “Our job is to bring people together.”
Even Trump, who divides Republicans – not to mention other Americans – like no Republican ever has, uses this mantra.
A January article on The Hill site quoted Trump saying, “I can really bring people together.”
Gov. Chris Christie introduced Trump on Super Tuesday, and a NJ.com column released that night was titled, “Christie on Super Tuesday: Trump is ‘bringing the country together’.”
For the record, Sen. Ted Cruz speaks about uniting Republicans, but not often about uniting all Americans.
All calls for unity by Democrats are particularly fraudulent. Dividing Americans by race, gender and class is how the left views America and how Democratic candidates seek to win elections.
But calls for unity are meaningless no matter who makes them, because no one who calls for unity tells you what they really mean. What they really mean is that they want to unite Americans around their values — and around their values only.
Would Clinton be willing to unite all Americans around recognizing the human rights of the unborn? Would she be willing to unite all Americans around support for widespread gun ownership?
Of course not.
She is willing to unite Americans provided they adopt her views.
Would Sanders like to “bring people together” in support of reducing corporate and individual income taxes in order to spur the economy?
Would Kasich be in favor of “bringing Americans together” by having them all support increasing the size of government and the national debt? One hopes not.
I first realized the dishonesty of just about all calls for unity during a 10-year period in which I engaged in weekly dialogues with clergy of all faiths. Protestant and Catholic clergymen and women would routinely call for Christian unity. When I asked Protestants if they would support such unity if it entailed them adopting the sacraments of the Catholic Church and recognizing the pope as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, the discussion ended. Similarly, when I asked Catholic priests if they would give up the sacraments and the papacy in order to achieve unity with Protestant Christians, all talk of unity stopped. And, of course, the same would hold true for both Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews who routinely call for Jewish unity.
Even more absurd are the calls of naive Christians and Jews to have all the “children of Abraham” – Jewish, Christian and Muslim – unite.
The calls themselves can even be dangerous. One would be hard-pressed to name a single free society that was ever united outside of wartime. The only truly united countries are totalitarian states.
So, why do presidential candidates repeat this nonsense every four years? Because Americans fall for it every four years.
But it’s time to grow up.
The gap between the left and right is unbridgeable. Their worldviews are mutually exclusive.
The Left is dangerously wrong.
… not the solution.
As if the world were not being rocked by a war of religion, Dennis Prager writes at Townhall that there is not enough religion in America:
The most profound thinkers in America are conservative. There are, of course, bright liberal and leftist thinkers, but I can’t think of one who approaches the depth and wisdom of the best conservative writers and thinkers. What liberal historian, for example, approaches the understanding of life and history that author Paul Johnson has exhibited in his many works of history? Who on the left matches psychiatrist/writer Theodore Dalrymple’s insight into the underclass? What left-wing columnists understand human nature, the state of mankind, or contemporary America as do George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Thomas Sowell, or many of the leading columnists at publications such as National Review, City Journal, Commentary Magazine or the Wall Street Journal?
I write this to make it clear that my admiration for the leading conservative writers, columnists and thinkers is deep and abiding.
Ours too. We have no quarrel with anything he has said so far (though we admire the Catholic writer, Paul Johnson, with a little less enthusiasm than he does).
There is, however, a “but.”
The vast majority of leading conservative writers, just like their liberal colleagues, have a secular outlook on life. With few exceptions, the conservative political and intellectual worlds are oblivious to the consequences of secularism. They are unaware of the disaster that godlessness in the West has led to.
Maybe because it is not “godlessness” that has led us to disaster, but godfulness – most obviously the godfulness of Islam.
Most leading Republicans and most of the wealthy donors to the Republican Party — in addition to virtually all libertarian politicians and think tank scholars — are either uninterested in the death of Judeo-Christian religions and values in America and the West, or they’re OK with it. They think that America can survive the death of God and religion, that fiscal and other forms of conservatism without social conservatism can preserve America.
First, to use the hyphenated term “Judeo-Christian” is to link two things together that are opposed to each other; an ideology of justice and an ideology of anti-justice.
Judaism’s highest value is justice, usually called “righteousness” in its bible. Unfortunately, many an instance of what the pious men of old considered to be “righteous” or “just”, is not easy to reconcile with the idea of justice that we, the heirs of the Enlightenment, understand it to be. But as an ideal it could not be bettered, or even matched – except by the ideal of freedom.
Christianity was a revolt against Judaism. It substituted love for justice as the highest ideal. It commanded “Resist not evil”. It preached forgiveness, self-sacrifice, self-abasement. It condemned “the sin” but “not the sinner” – absolving him of responsibility and rewarding him with love and forgiveness. Anti-justice. Anti-Judaism.
Our ideals – freedom, reason, justice – were bequeathed to us by the Enlightenment; that brilliant dawn that dispelled the terrifying intolerant rule of religion. Why do Christians pretend that Christianity does not have a cruel and bloody past?
Dennis Prager seems to think of those old religions as really nice, sensible, polite, well-dressed, well-spoken, well-washed, well-exercised, clean-cut, all-American, common-sensical codes of morals. They are not, and they never were.
It shows how effective the secular indoctrination in our schools and media has been, that even the majority of conservative thinkers are not only secular themselves, but seem to have no idea how much of the American civilization rests on religious foundations.
We wish we could believe him that “the majority of conservative thinkers are secular”. Maybe the majority of the best of them are, but there are dozens of opinion writers in the conservative ranks who write continually about God. This Christian Conservative website, Townhall, provides endless examples. (We read it every day and find sound conservative views in it too.)
They don’t seem to understand that the only solution to many – perhaps most – of the social problems ailing America and the West is some expression of Judeo-Christian faith.
Which expression would that be?
He finds one.
Do the inner-city kids who study the Bible and go to church each week lead wasted lives, join gangs, bear children out of wedlock or commit murder? …
Probably not most of them. Which is good, of course. But the implication that there is no way other than by religious instruction they they could be raised to live their lives well, is not defensible.
And why do secular conservatives think so many affluent and well-educated Americans have adopted left-wing dogmas, such as feminism, socialism, environmentalism and egalitarianism as their religions? Because people want to – have to – believe in something. And if it’s not God and Christianity or Judaism, it’s going to be some form of Leftism. Why are evangelical Protestants, theologically conservative Catholics, Orthodox Jews and practicing Mormons almost all conservative? Because they already have a religion and therefore don’t need the alternate gods of leftist faiths, and also because Judeo-Christian religions have different values than leftist religions.
We agree that “feminism, socialism, environmentalism and egalitarianism” are religions. But not that “if it’s not God and Christianity or Judaism, it’s going to be some form of Leftism”.
It doesn’t have to be. We are living proof that one can be an atheist and believe in all the values of conservatism: individual freedom, the rule of law, small government, a free market economy, strong defense, and the political wisdom of the Constitution. But freedom to us means freedom from the tyranny of any orthodoxy – which excludes every church. And we add reason to our high values – and that excludes every religion.
When these conservatives – people who revere the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence – read the founders’ assertion that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”, do they believe what the founders wrote? Or were they just echoing the irrational religious beliefs of their time, as people on the left believe?
Although on this point we might be in agreement with something the left believes, yes, we do think they were “just echoing the irrational religious beliefs of their time”. Well, not exactly echoing them – more modifying them. They were (at least some of them) skeptical men, men of the Enlightenment, who thought that though a god must have created the universe, he thereafter declined to have anything more to do with it (which is what “deism” means – and they described themselves as “deists”).
When these conservatives see the components of what I call the American Trinity – the words “liberty,” “In God We Trust” and “e pluribus unum” inscribed on every American coin – do they regard “In God We Trust” as no longer necessary?
President John Adams warned: “Because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion … our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Do secular conservatives think he was right or wrong?
Partly right, partly wrong. Moral, yes. Religious, not necessarily at all.
The problem is not that most leading conservative thinkers are secular; it is that they don’t seem to understand that a godless and Judeo-Christian-free America means the end of America, just as a godless and Judeo-Christian-free Europe has meant the end of Europe.
If Europe had not been marinaded in the self-destructive morality of Christianity for two millennia, would it now be letting in hordes of its worst enemies in the name of “compassion”? Would it be accepting the prospect of its subjugation by Islam without resistance? Would it let its young girls be turned into sex slaves by Muslim criminals without objecting for fear of hurting the Muslim criminals’ feelings? Would it be abandoning freedom of speech (an Enlightenment value) out of deference to a dogmatic, intolerant, savage religion?
No. Europe is dying of Religion, not of Reason.
And yes, America could too.
The wrecking legions of the Left marched through the institutions of the West decade after decade, until they dominated most of them: the media, trade unions, professional associations, the academy, the entertainment industry, the book publishing industry, the awards committees, the charities, the NGOs, local government, central government agencies, the parliaments; even to some extent the judiciaries; and finally the peak of power, the presidency of the United States.
Those institutions which they couldn’t take over – the police, the military – they so vilified as to bring them into almost universal disrepute.
Urgently now the Left needs to be accused, toppled, disarmed, and permanently disgraced.
Is there a chance of that happening?
There’s no chance in Europe, unless perhaps by civil war. There’s a remote chance in Britain. And what chance is there in America?
We quote from an article by Dennis Prager at Townhall:
Leftism is ruining America.
But almost no Republican ever — let alone repeatedly — says this.
The universities of this country have become a laughingstock. They have degenerated into anti-intellectual, anti-Western, anti-rational institutions with their ludicrous “safe spaces”, trigger warnings that infantilize students, and all the lies about the racism and a rape culture that allegedly pervade the campuses and American society.
What is responsible for that? Leftism.
According to Pew Research, 40 percent of millennials do not believe in the principal of freedom of speech if the speech might hurt the feelings of a member of a minority group.
What is responsible for that? Leftism.
Why did Islamic State rise in Iraq after that country had been pacified by American troops and the Sunni uprising? Because a leftist president, the left-wing Democratic Party, and the left-wing media demanded a complete American withdrawal from Iraq.
Why are race relations worse than in living memory despite the election and re-election of black president? Because of the left-wing lies about “systemic” racism. Because of the left-wing “Ferguson” lie, repeated regularly by the president of the United States, as if an innocent “unarmed black teenager” was killed by a white policeman because the teen was black and not because he was threatening the life of the officer. Because of the absurdity of “microaggressions”, those lists of often noble statements – such as “there is only one race, the human race” – that the left characterizes as racist.
Why is it harder to open and sustain a small business than at any time in American history? Because of the left and their endless regulations.
Why do we have the highest national debt in American history? Because the left keeps expanding the size of the government.
Why are more Americans on public assistance than ever before? Because left-wing policies are designed to get more and more Americans dependent on government.
Why are Americans increasingly separated into ethnic, racial and religious identities? Because of the left-wing belief in multiculturalism and the left’s neo-fascist emphasis on the importance of race.
Why are more Americans born to women without husbands than ever before? Because, ideologically, the left has determined that children do not need fathers, and because, policy-wise, the left has enabled mothers to depend on the state rather than the man who fathered her children.
Why is the American military weaker and less feared than at anytime in the last 50 years? Because the left doesn’t want America to be the strongest country in the world.
In addition to criticizing Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, Republicans need to tell the American people over and over that the only thing that can stop the further degradation of the United States of America is conservatism and the Republican Party. Because only conservatism and the Republican Party can stop the left.
Only a more conservative Republican Party can stop the left, we would say. Is there a chance of the Republican Party becoming more conservative?
Best of all would be a triumphant conservative Republican Party that keeps religion in a locked box somewhere far from the chambers of government and the corridors of power. But we regretfully accept that there’s little chance of that.
Dennis Prager talks plain good sense about the US-Iran nuclear “deal” in this video, published on August 3, 2015.
He speaks of evil being not dark, but bright. Which recalls the title of the book, Brighter than a Thousand Suns, by Robert Jungk, about the scientists who invented the atom bomb in the Manhattan Project. The title is a line from a verse in the Bhagavad Gita which one of the scientists, J. Robert Oppenheimer, quoted when the bomb was tested. As a desccription of an atomic explosion it is exaggerated of course, but frightening; and we all need to be frightened of the nuclear war that Obama has now made not just possible, but all too probable.
Prager’s best point, in our opinion, is that we are already at war with Iran. We have been for a long time.
We still think the best way to deal with Iran would be to bunker-bomb its nuclear facilities. And to keep doing so every time it rebuilds them.
Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Jew-hatred is not a result of the existence of Israel or of anything Israel does. The cause and result go the other way round. Israel is hated because Jews are hated.
We are not talking about the religion of Judaism. Strange to say, it’s very rare to hear even the most rabid anti-Semite attack the Jewish religion. (We ourselves do, in a rational way, because we attack religion as such, but we are not anti-Semites.) We are talking about hatred of the Jews as a people.
The root of anti-Semitism is, however, in religion.
First, the author of the Christian religion, St. Paul, spread his weird belief that the Jewish god had been born as a man. He picked an actual person, a Jew born in the time of Augustus Caesar; a religious fanatic who tried to lead a little insurgent band against Roman rule and was consequently executed. St. Paul claimed that the man lived on after his death as a co-divine being, and that the failure of the Jews to acknowledge this “truth” excluded them from the redemption from sin that belief in the god-man alone provided. His converts told a whopper in their novels (called the gospels) about the god-man – that the Jews had begged to be held guilty forever for killing him.
Next, some three hundred years later, the Romans, having themselves crucified the man as was their wont with insurrectionists, decided that he was indeed a god, the God that the Jews had first invented – or at least part of the God in some mystical way or other – and insisted on the wildly improbable story that blamed the crucifixion on the actual man’s fellow Jews.
For two thousand years Christianity (though not all Christians) held the Jews to be bad. Not their religion, which Christianity came round to adopting as the pre-history of the god-man, but the nation, the people, who were dispersed from their own land and scattered among other nations when their general mutiny against Roman rule failed. They were cast in the role of handy scapegoats for every ill that afflicted the peoples they lived among.
With the rise of Islam, the Jews who lived in the lands that Muslims conquered were maltreated for a different badness: they, like the Christians, would not accept the “truth” of Muhammad’s religion, so must suffer the consequences of their obstinacy and pay to stay alive, or die. When, in 1948, the Jews in their recovered homeland mustered an army which actually defeated six invading Arab armies, the Arabs felt deeply humiliated. Something had gone very wrong. Allah simply could not allow such a thing to happen. Islam had conquered that once-Jewish territory centuries earlier, and no one else was allowed to own it.
The Jews were allowed to re-establish a Jewish state in 1948 by the consent of the great powers which had taken custody of the region after they defeated the Islamic Ottoman empire in the war of 1914-1918. First some 80% of the ancient Jewish homeland had been allocated to an Arab emir for a new state called Transjordan (one of 21 Arab despotisms, some of them newly created at that time). Then they divided the remaining 20% between the Jews and some other Arabs. The Jewish people – what remained of it after six of its fifteen million had been systematically killed in Christian Europe – unhesitatingly took its portion. The Arabs wanted all of the 20% or nothing. So they got nothing. Hundreds of thousands of Jews, survivors of the attempted genocide, went home to Zion. Their patriotism is called Zionism. It is not more or less legitimate than the patriotism of any other people.
But it is the only patriotism that is reviled. The Jewish state is the only state whose legitimacy is continually called into question in forums of the Christian and Islamic worlds.
Dennis Prager, with whom we almost always agree on political issues though never on religion, writes at Townhall:
Whenever I have received a call from a listener to my radio show challenging Israel’s legitimacy, I have asked these people if they ever called a radio show to challenge any other country’s legitimacy. In particular, I ask, have they ever questioned the legitimacy of Pakistan?
The answer, of course, is always “no.” In fact, no caller ever understood why I even mentioned Pakistan.
There are two reasons for this.
First, of all the 200-plus countries in the world, only Israel’s legitimacy is challenged. So mentioning any other country seems strange to a caller. Second, almost no one outside of India and Pakistan knows anything about the founding of Pakistan.
Only months before the U.N. adopted a proposal to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state in 1947, India was partitioned into a Muslim and a Hindu state. The Hindu state was, of course, India. And the Muslim state became known as Pakistan. It comprises 310,000 square miles, about 40,000 square miles larger than Texas.
In both cases, the declaration of an independent state resulted in violence. As soon as the newly established state of Israel was declared in May 1948, it was invaded by six Arab armies. And the partition of India led to a terrible violence between Muslims and Hindus.
According to the final report of the United Nations Conciliation Commission from Dec. 28, 1949, the 1948 war of Israel’s independence created 726,000 Arabs refugees. Many sources put the figure at about 200,000 less. A roughly equal number of Jewish refugees — approximately 700,000 — were created when they were forcibly expelled from the Arab countries where they had lived for countless generations. In addition, approximately 10,000 Arabs were killed in the fighting that ensued after the Arab invasion of Israel.
Now let’s turn to the creation of Pakistan. According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, the creation of Pakistan resulted in 14 million refugees — Hindus fleeing Pakistan and Muslims fleeing India. Assuming a 50-50 split, the creation of Pakistan produced about seven million Hindu refugees — at least 10 times the number of Arab refugees that resulted from the war surrounding Israel’s creation. And the Mideast war, it should be recalled, was started by the Arab nations surrounding Israel. Were it not for the Arab rejection of Israel’s creation (and existence within any borders) and the subsequent Arab invasion, there would have been no Arab refugees.
And regarding deaths, the highest estimate of Arab deaths during the 1948 war following the partition of Palestine is 10,000. The number of deaths that resulted from the creation of Pakistan is around one million.
In addition, according to the Indian government, at least 86,000 women were raped. Most historians believe the number to be far higher. The number of women raped when Israel was established is close to zero. From all evidence I could find, the highest estimate was 12.
Given the spectacularly larger number of refugees and deaths caused by the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan, why does no one ever question the legitimacy of Pakistan’s existence?
This question is particularly valid given another fact: Never before in history was there a Pakistan. It was a completely new nation. Moreover, its creation was made possible solely because of Muslim invasion. It was Muslims who invaded India, and killed about 60 million Hindus during the thousand-year Muslim rule of India. The area now known as Pakistan was Hindu until the Muslims invaded it in A.D. 711.
On the other and, modern Israel is the third Jewish state in the geographic area known as Palestine. The first was destroyed in 586 B.C., the second in A.D. 70. And there was never a non-Jewish sovereign state in Palestine.
So, given all these facts, why is Israel’s legitimacy challenged, while the legitimacy of Pakistan, a state that had never before existed and whose creation resulted in the largest mass migration in recorded history, is never challenged?
The answer is so obvious that only those who graduated from college, and especially from graduate school, need to be told: Israel is the one Jewish state in the world. So, while there are 49 Muslim-majority countries and 22 Arab states, much of the world questions or outright only rejects the right of the one Jewish state, the size of New Jersey, to exist.
If you are a member of the Presbyterian Church, send these facts to the leaders of the Presbyterian Church USA who voted to boycott Israel. If you are a student in Middle Eastern Studies — or for that matter, almost any other humanities department — and your professor is anti-Israel, ask your professor why Pakistan is legitimate and Israel isn’t.
They won’t have a good answer. Their opposition to Israel isn’t based on moral considerations.
We usually agree with Dennis Prager on political issues.
We never agree with him about religion.
Today he writes at Townhall:
As one who loves America – not only because I am American, but even more so because I know (not believe, know) that the American experiment in forming a decent society has been the most successful in history – I write the following words in sadness: With few exceptions, every aspect of American life is in decline.
“Decay” is the word.
He writes of the “decline of the family”, with figures to prove it; and the “decline of education”, with a short list of examples of poor education that could be extended to a great length.
He goes on to assert that –
Most universities have become seminaries for the dissemination of Leftism. Moreover, aside from indoctrination, students usually learn little. One can earn a BA in English at UCLA, for example, without having read a single Shakespeare play.
Yes. Oh, but we have misquoted him in order to say yes, he is right.
What he actually writes is –
Most universities have become secular seminaries for the dissemination of Leftism. …
Why did he put in the word “secular”? Most of the universities of the West are powerhouses pumping out Leftists who will do all they can to destroy the civilization that sustains them. Their fault is not that they are “secular” but that they are Leftist, statist, collectivist. Their being secular, and not teaching some system of dogma that may not be questioned, would be the one thing about them that is good, were it not for the fact that Leftism too is a system of dogma that may not be questioned.
He continues in indignation – which we share – to deplore what the academies teach:
To the extent that American history is taught, beginning in high school and often earlier, American history is presented as the history of an immoral nation characterized by slavery, racism, colonialism, imperialism, economic exploitation, and militarism — not of a country that, more than any other, has been the beacon of freedom to mankind, and the country that has spent more treasure and spilled more blood to liberate other peoples than any other nation.
The End of Male and Female: Whatever one’s position on same-sex marriage, one must acknowledge that at the core of the argument for this redefinition of marriage is that gender doesn’t matter. Marriage is marriage, and gender means nothing, the argument goes. So, too, whether children are raised by mother and father or two mothers or two fathers doesn’t matter. A father has nothing unique to offer a child that a mother can’t provide and vice versa.
Why? Because – for the first time in recorded history – gender is regarded as meaningless. Indeed, increasingly gender doesn’t even exist; it’s merely a social construct imposed on children by parents and society based on the biological happenstance of their genitalia. When signing up for Facebook, one is offered nearly 60 options under “gender.” In various high schools across the country, boys are elected homecoming queen. A woman was recently kicked out of Planet Fitness for objecting to a man in the women’s locker room. She was accused of intolerance because the man said he felt that he was a woman.
Then he comes to –
The End of Right and Wrong: At least two generations of American young people have been taught that moral categories are nothing more than personal (or societal) preferences. Recently, an incredulous professor of philosophy wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times titled “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts.” In it he noted, “Without fail, every value claim is labeled an opinion” (italics in original). This extends to assessing the most glaring of evils.
And he gives Nazism as an example of “glaring evil” – which it was and is.
And that brings him to his dogma:
The End of Religion: There are no moral truths because there is no longer a religious basis for morality.
What is “a religious basis for morality”?
Christian love? Love everyone regardless of what they do? Hate the sin but reward the sinner with love and do not hold him responsible for his sin? ? Forgive everything and anything? “Resist not evil” (as Jesus Christ is reported to have said in his “Sermon on the Mount”)? And – through many centuries – a religion that burnt people to death who questioned the dogma?
Judaism’s expectation of divine vengeance? “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous god, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”? That as part of the revered “Ten Commandments” of the moral law in a religion that holds justice to be its highest value? And – for many centuries – a religion that punished people with pain and even death if they disobeyed the commandments in the dogma?
Islam’s “Kill the Infidel”? Keep women subjugated to the will of men? Burn people, stone them, amputate their limbs, and enslave them? And – to this very day – kill people who question the dogma?
Is it necessary to remind those who think religion is necessary to a moral life that there are – to this day – faiths which command that people’s lives be sacrificed to propitiate imaginary beings?
How is passionately believed religion helping the peoples of Africa? In Uganda, South Sudan, and the Congo where the fanatically Christian “Lord’s Resistance Army” feeds the earth with human blood? The Central African Republic where Muslims in the North recently slaughtered untold numbers of Christians, and now Christians from the South are slaughtering as many Muslims as they can? In Somalia, where aid workers trying to bring medicine and food to masses of sick and starving people are imprisoned and killed by devout Muslims? In Libya, where al-Qaeda is killing and maiming in the name of Allah? Under the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) in Syria and Iraq? In Iran ruled by pious old men? That list too could be continued to become very long.
More than the Enlightenment, it was the Bible – especially the Hebrew Bible (which was one reason America’s Christians were different from most European Christians) that guided the Founders’ and other Americans’ values. Not anymore …
No. Our firm understanding is that the Enlightenment gave birth to the United States of America. If some of the Founders cited the bible (whether the Jewish bible as Prager likes to believe, or the Christian which came round tentatively to tacking the Jewish bible on to its own canon), that in no way changes the historical fact that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are supremely documents of the Enightenment; which is to say of reason. Reason, all on its own, without anyone claiming to have heard a god speaking the idea to someone long ago, established a state on the foundation of individual freedom of both thought and action.
If you acknowledge that American society is in decay, it is your obligation to fight to undo it. If you can’t acknowledge that American society is in decay, you are providing proof that it is.
America is in decay. Leftism, the secular form of Christianity, is the name of the rot that is destroying it.
A writer by the name of Enza Ferreri has written an article against Reason. She probably doesn’t see that that is what she’s done. But that is what she’s done. She writes:
It’s all very simple. We can’t fight Islam in the West without fighting the enablers of Islam in the West, namely the Leftists.
So far, so good.
And, since the Left has many different and separate aspects, we have to fight against each one of them. Secularism, environmentalism, global warming alarmism, homosexualism, militant feminism, sexual relativism, multiculturalism, anti-Christianity, Islamophilia, post-nationalism, internationalism are just as important targets to attack as Marxist economics, the expropriation of the capitalist class (or, in its modern reincarnation, redistribution of wealth), and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The words we have put in bold mark the issues we dispute with Enza Ferreri.
We don’t know what “homosexualism” is, or “sexual relativism”.
We consider sexual choices to be private matters (unless they involve children). They are certainly not dangerous threats to the survival of the West.
But while we agree with the author on her other “targets”, we emphatically disagree with her when it comes to secularism and anti-Christianity.
Secularism is not the same as Leftism. Between the founding of the United States of America and the dawning in the 1960s of this Leftist age, there was a very long stretch of secularism, liberty, and prosperity.
But in those times and those countries where a church (in the widest sense) has been the ruling power, there has always been tyranny. What greater tyranny can there be than the imposition of an orthodoxy on every mind?
Communism and Nazism also impose orthodoxy, and punish dissent as cruelly as a theocracy. That is one of the reasons why we class these ideologies as religions. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China were not secular states; they were orthodoxies, as tyrannous as the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, or the newly declared Islamic State now.
The secular state, and only the secular state, is a free state. Secularism is freedom. Freedom is only possible in the secular state.
In a free, secular society, people are free to be Christians. But people are equally free to criticize Christianity.
Neglecting any of these fronts is like fighting a war leaving a battleground to the enemy, like fighting on the Western front and leaving totally undefended the Eastern one.
Secularism and atheism are certainly the first lines of important wars.
So she contends that the prime enemy in her war is freedom. That being so, she has no case to make against Islam or Marxism.
For all that she seems to be speaking for tolerance (being against Islamophilia) and reason (being against environmentalism, global warming alarmism, “militant feminism”); and against Islam (aka multiculturalism) and Marxism (redistribution etc.), she is actually speaking for her own choice of intolerant, irrational, orthodox tyranny.
A secularist West will always lose to Islam, because it will have enough compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence that are the remnants of its Christian heritage, but it will have lost the ideals, the passion and certainty of fighting for a just cause that were once part of Christianity and have disappeared with its erosion.
Her assumptions are arrogant to an extreme. Compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence are not the legacies of “a Christian heritage” but of enlightened reason.
It is pointless to try and fight one irrational belief, such as Islam or Marxism, by setting up another irrational belief, such as Christianity, in opposition to it. There is no better reason to believe in the Trinity than in Allah or the inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Two quotes here serve as epigrams. Robert Spencer wrote in his great work Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t: “People who are ashamed of their own culture will not defend it.” And Dennis Prager said during one of his radio broadcasts, “Only good religion can counter bad religion.”
We admire much that Robert Spencer and Denis Prager write. And we think Spencer makes a point here worth thinking about. But to Prager’s assertion we say, nonsense!
Some people claim that there won’t be a religious revival in Europe because we are past believing in God. That this is not true can be seen by the high – and increasing – number of Westerners who convert to Islam. Many of them give as a reason for their conversion the need for absolutes, boundaries and well-defined status. A journalist writing for The Spectator on this subject explained why she is Catholic:
But above all, I like the moral certainties. I don’t mind the dogma one bit. I would rather dogma and impossible ideals than confusion and compromise. In that sense, I do identify with those who choose Islam over the way of no faith, or a seemingly uncertain faith, like the woolly old C of E.
Confusion and compromise is inescapable. How can dogma – which is to say being incurably wrong – and “impossible ideals” be better than admitting the truth of scio nescio: I know that I do not know? It is as if the culture on which such persons as the quoted Catholic and the author of the article have been raised was never affected by Socratean doubt, the Enlightenment, the assumption of ignorance upon which all true science proceeds.
William Kilpatrick, in Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West – a book I thoroughly recommend reading -, writes: Brian Young’s friends said he was troubled by the decadence of Western society. David Courtrailler’s lawyer said, “For David, Islam ordered his life.” These are the sorts of reasons ordinary converts to Islam give. A common refrain from converts is that Islam provides a complete plan for life in contrast to the ruleless and clueless life offered by secular society. As Mary Fallot, a young French convert, explains, “Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it’s easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points.” If you look at the convert testimonials on Muslim websites, they echo this refrain: Islam brings “peace”, “order”, “discipline”, and a way of life that Christianity and other religions fail to offer.
Islam brings peace! He – and she – can say that with a straight face? While IS (ISIS, ISIL) is rampaging through Syria and Iraq mass-slaughtering, impaling, crucifying, decapitating, raping, enslaving; while Hamas is firing thousands of rockets into Israel; while civil war rages in Syria; while Yezidis, Kurds, Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, other Muslims are being daily killed and constantly persecuted by Muslims?
Astonishing that some women crave the “order” and “discipline” of subjugation; when the “discipline” is exerted by enslavement, beatings, whippings, stonings, legal discrimination.
Human beings will never be past the need for believing in something bigger than themselves, because that need is part of the human mind.
Where are there human beings who do not know that natural forces are “bigger than themselves”? Who among us does not know that we are mortal?
She continues in the same vein. We’ll not irritate our readers with all of it. She is a true believer. And what she believes is that Christianity is good and true.
We will skip to what she quotes as wisdom from a Catholic primate:
A clear direction was given by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy. As early as 30 September 2000, before 9/11, when very few in the West even thought of worrying about Islam, he delivered a very forward-looking speech, which included this premonition:
… Either Europe will become Christian again or it will become Muslim. What I see without future is the “culture of nothing”, of freedom without limits and without content, of skepticism boasted as intellectual achievement, which seems to be the attitude largely dominant among European peoples, all more or less rich of means and poor of truths. This “culture of nothingness” (sustained by hedonism and libertarian insatiability) will not be able to withstand the ideological onslaught of Islam, which will not be missing: only the rediscovery of the Christian event as the only salvation for man – and therefore only a strong resurrection of the ancient soul of Europe – will offer a different outcome to this inevitable confrontation.
The culture of reason is not a “culture of nothing”. It is a culture of rational humility; of admitting ignorance and trying to find the truth, even if one can never be certain one has found it. Skepticism is the only engine of discovery.
“Freedom without limits”? Freedom of action always has a limit. In a free society, everyone’s freedom is limited by everyone else’s under the rule of law. But indeed the freedom of the mind has no limits, nor should it have any.
Notice the snide swipe at riches and “hedonism”. Do you think that he, as a cardinal, pigs it in some hovel?
By “truths” he means the patent absurdities of Christian theological belief.
“Libertarian insatiability”. What the heck does that mean?
If the Western culture of reason, secularism, liberty, skepticism, science, cannot withstand the onslaught of Islam, it will be because that culture has been abandoned by people like Enza Ferreri.
She goes on to blame shrinking birthrates on secularism. Then she ends with this:
Militant atheists à la Richard Dawkins have not really given enough thought to the long-term consequences of their ideas, which we are beginning to see.
And of which we are reminded whenever, for example, we read in the news of doctors and missionaries who die of Ebola while assisting affected patients for Christian charities. Not many atheist charities are involved in that work.
How many cures for diseases have been found by scientists among whom atheists are in a huge majority? The medical researchers who eliminated smallpox; those who found how to detect the beginnings of cancer and treat it before it becomes lethal, and how to restore wholeness to lepers and replace a faulty heart or kidney …. the list could run on for hours … cure more people than all the martyrdom-seeking self-righteous preachy Christians out to save their imaginary souls by “assisting affected patients” have ever done or could do in a thousand years.
As a reminder to readers who have a strong stomach of what happened when the Christian Churches provided “order” and “discipline” to Europe and wherever else they could reach, we recommend The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual by Jonathan Kirsch, and our own post Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity by Jillian Becker, April 25, 2010. (Put the title in our search slot.)
Nothing IS (ISIS, ISIL) is doing now in the name of Islam is worse in type or degree than what those Christians did in the name of Christianity.
The world needs saving from religion.
Debate is out. Sooo 2008. No longer will an idea be discussed from several points of view with reasoned argument weighing pros and cons among listeners open to persuasion.
Instead there are to be “feelings” contests. Whoever can prove “I feel more intensely about this or that than you do”, will be the winner.
“I am more emotional than thou,” is the implied motto of the exercise.
Contestants who can shout loudest and cry longest stand the best chance of winning.
A good name for this new kind of competition would be “a Howl“. The contestants might be called “Howlers“. The graphic on their logo might be a wolf howling at the moon.
The object of the participants is to arrive at “the new truth”. (It is not entirely new: there is precedent in religion, and in the doctrine of Wagnerian/Nazi ideology, that “truth is what you feel”.)
The object for the audience is not to consider points of view and arrive at an opinion. The object is catharsis. Leave drained, and you’ve had a good night out.
The Atlantic reports – rather sympathetically – on a recent bout:
On March 24, 2014 at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) Championships at Indiana University, two Towson University students, Ameena Ruffin and Korey Johnson, became the first African-American women to win a national college debate tournament, for which the resolution asked whether the U.S. president’s war powers should be restricted. Rather than address the resolution straight on, Ruffin and Johnson, along with other teams of African-Americans, attacked its premise. The more pressing issue, they argued, is how the U.S. government is at war with poor black communities.
This US government? The Obama administration? With Eric Holder heading the Department of Justice and refusing to prosecute New Panthers who intimidated voters at a polling station, on the grounds that they are “his people”? Yep, that’s the one.
In the final round, Ruffin and Johnson squared off against Rashid Campbell and George Lee from the University of Oklahoma, two highly accomplished African-American debaters with distinctive dreadlocks and dashikis. Over four hours, the two teams engaged in a heated discussion of concepts like “nigga authenticity” and performed hip-hop and spoken-word poetry in the traditional timed format. At one point during Lee’s rebuttal, the clock ran out but he refused to yield the floor. “Fuck the time!” he yelled. His partner Campbell, who won the top speaker award at the National Debate Tournament two weeks later, had been unfairly targeted by the police at the debate venue just days before, and cited this personal trauma as evidence for his case against the government’s treatment of poor African-Americans.
This year wasn’t the first time this had happened. In the 2013 championship, two men from Emporia State University, Ryan Walsh and Elijah Smith, employed a similar style and became the first African-Americans to win two national debate tournaments. Many of their arguments, based on personal memoir and rap music, completely ignored the stated resolution, and instead asserted that the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students.
Tournament participants from all backgrounds say they have found some of these debate strategies offensive. Even so, the new style has received mainstream acceptance, sympathy, and awards.
Joe Leeson Schatz, Director of Speech and Debate at Binghamton University, is encouraged by the changes in debate style and community. “Finally, there’s a recognition in the academic space that the way argument has taken place in the past privileges certain types of people over others,” he said.
Such as those who can think rationally and express their thoughts cogently.
“Arguments don’t necessarily have to be backed up by professors or written papers. They can come from lived experience.”
And my pain is greater than your pain, so there – I win.
One thing is clear: In a community accustomed to hashing out every possible argument, this debate will continue. The uncontested benefit of the debate format is that everyone receives equal time to speak …
Wai-ait a mo! Isn’t timing to be fucked?
Answer: Now that’s just the sort of thing that must not be allowed. Demands for consistency will exclude whole classes of people. Not everyone can be consistent, you know? But everyone can feel …
So although timing is to be fucked, it’s a cool thing to hold on to …
… something that drew many minority students to debate in the first place, said Korey Johnson. “No matter how people feel about my argument, they have to listen to me for all of my speeches, everything I have to say, they can’t make me stop speaking,” she said.
Dennis Prager sees more clearly that there is extreme racism in all this. He writes at Townhall:
When Americans over the age of, let us say, 45, look at any of the iconic paintings of America’s Founders – the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the signing of the Constitution, George Washington crossing the Delaware, any of the individual portraits of the Founders – what do they see? They see great men founding a great country….
Increasingly only conservatives see pictures of greatness. More and more Americans – that includes the entire left and many universities attendees who were indoctrinated by left-wing professors – now see rich, white, self-interested males.
The left-wing trinity of race, gender and class has prevailed. The new dividing lines are no longer good and bad or excellent and mediocre, but white and non-white, male and female, and rich and poor. Instead of seeing great human beings in those paintings of the Founders, Americans have been taught to see rich, white, (meaning – by definition – selfish, bigoted, racist, sexist) males.
In colleges throughout America, students are taught to have disdain for the white race. I know this sounds incredible, or at least exaggerated. It is neither.
For example, from the day they enter college, many students are taught about white privilege – how innately advantaged white students (and all other whites are). Last week, the president of Western Washington University posed the question on the university’s website: “How do we make sure that in future years we are not as white as we are today?” …
Inner city young blacks who work hard in school are routinely chastised by other black youth for “acting white”.
Regarding white privilege, last year, three academics at the University of Rhode Island wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
The American Psychological Association’s educational goals for the psychology major include sociocultural and international awareness, with learning outcomes regarding mastery of concepts related to power and privilege. Other professional organizations, including the American Sociological Association, have developed similar learning goals for teaching in higher education. Instructors have been charged with teaching their white students to understand their own privileged positions in society relative to those of marginalized groups.
And be heartily ashamed of it. They should spend the rest of their student days repenting.
The key point here is that the word “values” never appears. Instead of asking what values made America’s Founders great, the left asks what race, gender and class privileges enabled those men to found America. Instead of asking what values does the white majority (or, for that matter, on some campuses, the Asian majority) live by in order to succeed, and how can we help inculcate those values among more less successful people of all racial and ethnic groups, the left asks what privileges do whites have that enable them to get into colleges and graduate at a higher rate than blacks and Latinos.
The undermining of the very concept of values was starkly made clear last month at a national inter-college debate tournament. ..
And he goes on to relate what happened at the March 24 CEDA Championships at Indiana University, quoting The Atlantic report, and comments:
In a national intercollegiate debate contest, a black debating team won by transforming the topic of the debate, one that had nothing to do with race, into a race question.
But to object to this, or to argue that a team might be disqualified for yelling “f— the time” when told it had gone over the time limit, or to ask what performing hip-hop has to do with the topic “whether the U.S. president’s war powers should be restricted” – is now deemed to act white.
This is another victory for the left. And another defeat for standards, for truth and for the values embodied by the men in the paintings of the Founders.
Well, we’d all better get used to it. If you want to go to a university, if you want to get a degree, remember: reason, logic, intellect are OUT. They are too white and male.
Howling is IN.
For regularly participating Howlers, training in opera singing is advised and might even become compulsory.
Scientists, mathematicians, logicians, engineers, lawyers, doctors, businessmen are advised to stay away.
If you’re placing bets, expect women to win more often than men – especially if the team is feminist, as complaining is their schtick.
Expect Leftists to beat Rightists invariably.
This is the way the world ends, not with a whimper but a howl.
The war 5
Among the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls there is one titled The War of the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness.
It is a perpetual war: Good against Evil.
It is fought in most of the world’s mythologies, and in almost all of them Good will win in the end. (The exception is that of the Norsemen. They foresaw the triumph of Evil.)
Dennis Prager, writing at Townhall, describes how the two sides of the conflict appear to him now:
In both personal and public life, you can know a great deal about a person or a group if you know what most bothers them – and what doesn’t bother them.
A news item this past week made this point with glaring clarity. It reported a meeting that the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights had on Friday. Before revealing the subject of that meeting, let’s review for a moment what is happening in the world …
North Korea continues to be an affront to the human species. That North Korea, whether or not it had nuclear weapons, is not a central concern is an indictment of humanity.
That the West, with the noble exception of Canada under Stephen Harper, is appeasing the dictators of Iran, is an indictment of the West.
Add to this list the U.N.’s and the world’s ignoring of the Chinese government’s continuing suppression of all dissent and its decades-long violent eradication of Tibet’s unique and ancient culture.
Then add the slaughter of millions in Congo over the last decade, the 100,000-plus killed in Syria just last year, most of them civilians killed by their own government, and the blowing up, burning alive, and throat-cutting of untold numbers of innocent people by violent Islamists on a daily basis.
In other words, if what bothers you most is evil – the deliberate infliction of cruelty on people by people – North Korea, Congo, China, Syria and radical Islam will bother you more than anything else on the world scene.
So, then, what was the subject of the meeting convened Friday by the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights?
The alleged racism of the name of the National Football League’s Washington team, the Redskins.
That’s right. All these horrific evils are happening as you read this, and … the United Nations had a meeting about the name Washington Redskins.
The U.N. is not alone in paying undue attention to the Redskins’ name. The left in the United States is nearly obsessed with it. President Barack Obama has spoken out against it. The Washington Post editorial board has demanded that the team drop the name. In the herd-like way that governs media, innumerable columnists and sports writers have written passionate columns against the name, and increasing numbers of sports writers have vowed to never again write or speak the name.
This left-wing obsession with a non-evil exemplifies the left’s moral universe. That universe is preoccupied with lesser evils while nearly always ignoring the greatest evils.
Preoccupation with real evil is the greatest difference between right and left. The right was preoccupied with fighting Communism while the left … was preoccupied with fighting anti-Communists.
The right today is preoccupied with fighting Islamism; the left is preoccupied with fighting “Islamophobia.”
One way of putting it is that the right is preoccupied with fighting evil and the left is preoccupied with fighting those who fight evil.
The right is preoccupied with defending Israel against those who wish to annihilate it. The left is preoccupied with Israeli apartments on the West Bank.
This difference was made manifest last week in the address given by the one world leader to exemplify the right’s preoccupation with evil, Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper. Talking about all the condemnations of Israel, Harper said:
“Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism. It is nothing short of sickening.”
Yes, but the writer does not go nearly far enough. The Left is not merely preoccupied with fighting those who fight evil, it is occupied with doing evil. The Left is in alliance with Islam. Its (bewilderingly unintelligent) intelligentsia invent a fake need to “save the planet” from “climate change” as an excuse to advance their own tyrannical rule, reduce population, and impoverish and destroy civilization.
And where are our warriors of the Right to stop them? Let’s see: there’s Stephen Harper and … Well, a few more names may spring to mind. And we do have the immense power of Reason on our side.
Which side is winning, would you say?
Why do believers ache to argue with atheists? Why does it bother them that others do not believe what they believe? Especially if they have radio shows and can propound their beliefs to their hearts’ content.
Although Dennis Prager is religious (an observing Jew), there was a time when we considered him intelligent – which is a way of saying, he agreed by and large with our political views. Not so lately. And today he has produced an article which has us laughing aloud.
He calls it a response to Richard Dawkins, to statements the scientist made in an interview with CNN. He also intends to make a general answer to atheism. His theme is that “God” is necessary to humankind, because without belief in such a being we would not know good from bad.
We greatly respect Richard Dawkins as a proponent of atheism who is listened to by millions. He has probably convinced many believers that they were wrong. We enormously enjoy his highly readable books on evolution. We do, however, have our reservations about him. We disagree with his ill-thought-out political views – fuzzy leftist notions. We excuse these to some extent on the grounds that he is concentrating on science and so hasn’t bothered to inform himself adequately about political issues. Whether that’s true or not, of course we don’t know. We also think he is under-informed on the religions he has written about. But that doesn’t much matter. (We review his book The God Delusion here.)
Prager complains that Dawkins will not debate with him. Since what follows is Prager’s argument, we can see why. Prager makes no good case to answer. But we will comment on what he says to show what’s wrong with it.
This past Friday CNN conducted an interview with Richard Dawkins, the British biologist most widely known for his polemics against religion and on behalf of atheism.
Asked “whether an absence of religion would leave us without a moral compass,” Dawkins responded: “The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible.”
This is the crux of the issue for Dawkins and other anti-religion activists – that not only do we not need religion or God for morality, but we would have a considerably more moral world without them.
This argument is so wrong – both rationally and empirically – that its appeal can only be explained by a) a desire to believe it and b) an ignorance of history.
That’s when we started laughing. Prager the believer, accusing atheists of believing what they do or do not only because they want to believe it!
But on we go:
First, the rational argument.
If there is no God, the labels “good” and “evil” are merely opinions. They are substitutes for “I like it” and “I don’t like it.” They are not objective realities.
That’s the rational argument? It implies that at some point in history – or perhaps at many points – a god has issued definitions of good and evil. Or launched them as forces among us, so they are “objective realities” outside of the human mind.
The religious claim that Jehovah dictated laws, in words, to Moses; that God the Father, through Jesus, gave instructions on moral behavior; that Allah told Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel all that has been recorded as his will and law in the Koran. What sane adult can believe that such events actually happened? The plain fact must be that, since we have the written laws of Judaism, the records of Jesus Christ’s sayings, and the Koran, at some points in time human beings formulated those statements of morals and law, and wrote them down. To believe otherwise is laughable.
Laws against murder, theft, the breaking of oaths, adultery, defaulting on contract were common around the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor long before the period of Moses. The Hammurabi Code predated the Hebrews’ putative law-giver by at least five hundred years, and while it chiefly deals with punishments for crimes and how disputes should be settled, it assumes the existence of laws on the same moral principles as underlie the laws of Moses. And they were not issued as the commandments of a god. Not to know that is ignorance of history.
Every atheist philosopher I have debated has acknowledged this. For example, at Oxford University I debated Professor Jonathan Glover, the British philosopher and ethicist, who said: “Dennis started by saying that I hadn’t denied his central contention that if there isn’t a God, there is only subjective morality. And that’s absolutely true.”
The ethicist should get out more. If he hasn’t yet become aware of the power of social conventions, cultural pressures, public opinion – all in addition to enlightened self-interest, which very much needs to take account of how other people react to one’s self-will – he has spent too much time closeted in his ivory tower.
And the eminent Princeton philosopher Richard Rorty admitted that for secular liberals such as himself, “there is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?‘”
Because you may be punched on the nose, Richard. And if someone is cruel to you, you may understand why cruelty is so widely abhorred as to be kept in most societies as punishment for crime or treatment for enemies.
And why do eminent philosophers choose to forget the moral philosophies that owe nothing to religion? The Stoics. The Epicureans. True, some of them were religious, but few were adherents of a moral religion, and their ethics were not ascribed to a revelation from a god. The religion of ancient Greece was not a moral religion. Nor was that of Rome until the 4th century. Marcus Aurelius (121-180 C.E.) was not a Christian. He was a Stoic. Yet Christians admire him as a good man and a good emperor.
Hear Prager again:
Atheists like Dawkins who refuse to acknowledge that without God there are only opinions about good and evil are not being intellectually honest.
None of this means that only believers in God can be good or that atheists cannot be good. There are bad believers and there are good atheists. But this fact is irrelevant to whether good and evil are real.
To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, “Do not murder,” murder is not wrong. Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; the history of slavery throughout the world was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings are right in various Muslims societies.
The Afrikaner nationalists who imposed apartheid on South Africa, justified themselves with reference to their bible. “The sons of Ham must be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water.” They were most of them devout members of one or another of the Calvinist churches.
The Germans who carried out the will of the Hitlerian regime were almost to a man and woman raised in the faith of either Protestant or Catholic Christianity.
The slave traders and slave owners of Europe and America were Christians. The present slave traders and owners in North Africa and Asia are almost all Muslims, as are honor killers everywhere.
So, then, without God, why is murder wrong?
Is it, as Dawkins argues, because reason says so?
My reason says murder is wrong, just as Dawkins’s reason does. But, again, so what? The pre-Christian Germanic tribes of Europe regarded the Church’s teaching that murder was wrong as preposterous. They reasoned that killing innocent people was acceptable and normal because the strong should do whatever they wanted.
Just as Islamic terrorists do now, shouting “Allahu Akbar!”
And those old tribes were not without their gods. Most gods in those bad old days required human sacrifices.
In addition, reason alone without God is pretty weak in leading to moral behavior. When self-interest and reason collide, reason usually loses. That’s why we have the word “rationalize” — to use reason to argue for what is wrong.
What would reason argue to a non-Jew asked by Jews to hide them when the penalty for hiding a Jew was death? It would argue not to hide those Jews.
In that regard, let’s go to the empirical argument.
Years ago, I interviewed Pearl and Sam Oliner, two professors of sociology at California State University at Humboldt and the authors of one of the most highly-regarded works on altruism, The Altruistic Personality. The book was the product of the Oliners’ lifetime of study of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.
The Oliners, it should be noted, are secular, not religious, Jews; they had no religious agenda.
I asked Samuel Oliner, “Knowing all you now know about who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, if you had to return as a Jew to Poland and you could knock on the door of only one person in the hope that they would rescue you, would you knock on the door of a Polish lawyer, a Polish doctor, a Polish artist or a Polish priest?”
Without hesitation, he said, “a Polish priest.” And his wife immediately added, “I would prefer a Polish nun.”
That alone should be enough to negate the pernicious nonsense that God is not only unnecessary for a moral world, but is detrimental to one.
At this point one might smile, for the irony of it – but it is no joke. Yes, among the Poles who sheltered Jews during the Nazi occupation there were priests and nuns. But has Prager forgotten that for 2ooo years Christianity has been persecuting Jews? That Poland was a land of pogroms? Does he imagine that priests and monks took no part in them? Is this just forgetfulness or – yet again – ignorance of history?
And what of the Papal and Spanish Inquisitions? Has he forgotten that in exactly the same way “God” tells men anything, he told the Inquisitors that burning people at the stake was good?
But if that isn’t enough, how about the record of the godless 20th century, the cruelest, bloodiest, most murderous century on record? [?] Every genocide of the last century — except for the Turkish mass murder of the Armenians and the Pakistani mass murder of Hindus in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was committed by a secular anti-Jewish and anti-Christian regime. And as the two exceptions were Muslim, they are not relevant to my argument. I am arguing for the God and Bible of Judeo-Christian religions.
Only now he tells us that he discounts Islam. Though why he believes the words of Allah are necessarily less true than the words of Jehovah or Jesus he does not say. Nor does he seem aware that much of the moral law putatively taught by Jehovah was discounted or even contradicted by the Christians’ triune God.
And we repeat: the Third Reich was not anti-Christian. And Hitler himself was raised a Catholic. As for Stalin, he was thoroughly instructed in the morality of Christianity when he attended a Russian Orthodox seminary.
Perhaps the most powerful proof of the moral decay that follows the death of God is the Western university and its secular intellectuals. Their moral record has been loathsome. Nowhere were Stalin and Mao as venerated as they were at the most anti-religious and secular institutions in Western society, the universities. Nowhere in the West today is anti-Americanism and Israel-hatred as widespread as it is at universities. And Princeton University awarded its first tenured professorship in bioethics to Peter Singer, an atheist who has argued, among other things, that that “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanzee” and that bestiality is not immoral.
At last we can agree with Prager! Western universities have become moral cesspools. Not because they are secular, but because they teach socialism, collectivism, egalitarianism, political correctness, environmentalism; and because they deliberately misapply the principle of diversity to race and gender and not to ideas.
Dawkins and his supporters have a right to their atheism. They do not have a right to intellectual dishonesty about atheism.
No charge of intellectual dishonesty has been proved against Dawkins with these shallow arguments.
I have debated the best known atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss (“A Universe from Nothing”) and Daniel Dennett. Only Richard Dawkins has refused to come on my radio show.
If four smart atheists were unable to reason you out of your irrational beliefs, Dennis, why should another have a go? We don’t expect that you would be persuaded by our arguments even if you read them, which you probably will not. But we want to share our amusement with fellow non-believers.