23 February 2009

Dennis Prager: If There Is No God, Part 7

(Note: This is Part 7 in the series started here.  The previous installment is here. In each post, I comment on one of the fourteen points made by Dennis Prager in his article, “If There Is No God.”)

Dennis Prager’s Point #7:

Without God, people in the West often become less, not more, rational. It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed in the utterly irrational doctrine of Marxism. It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed that men's and women's natures are basically the same, that perceived differences between the sexes are all socially induced. Religious people in Judeo-Christian countries largely confine their irrational beliefs to religious beliefs (theology), while the secular, without religion to enable the non-rational to express itself, end up applying their irrational beliefs to society, where such irrationalities do immense harm. (Note 1.)

I agree with this (except for the last sentence), and above all I appreciate Mr. Prager’s frank admission that religious belief is irrational, which will make this post much briefer than it would otherwise have been.  (It requires no elaboration.)  The subjectivism and moral relativism of the left is also irrational, in some cases just as irrational and destructive as religion.

But as I’ve pointed out many times, most recently in Part 6, the secularity of the left is utterly irrelevant.  It is an incidental, non-essential characteristic.  Socialism in its various forms (communism, fascism, democratic welfare states, etc.) and other left-leaning views like multiculturalism and environmentalism may nominally reject religion, but they certainly do not embrace reason. 

Because I’ve covered all this in such detail before, I’ll not repeat it here, but will spend the rest of this post on Prager’s last sentence.  I must say that the logic of it is a little bizarre.  He seems to be saying that because being irrational is an unavoidable condition of being human, using religion as an outlet for one’s irrationality tends to confine it to one’s personal activities, which is inherently less harmful than aiming one’s irrationality at society.  

For one thing, this is not very reassuring, for what do we do when religious people decide to, say, purposely fly commercial airplanes into buildings for God?  More than this, though, Prager’s statement is stunningly immoral.  Sure, we are all fallible and thus capable of irrationality - but virtue consists of pursuing reason to the best of our abilities, for it is via reason alone that we can grasp reality, sustain our lives, and achieve our values.  It is incumbent upon us to continually check our ideas (“Check your premises,” Ayn Rand would frequently say), and the instant we find that we are wrong, we must change our course and set things right.  It makes no sense to identify some behavior (such as being religious) as irrational - to know that it is irrational - but persist in that activity all the same.

There is another aspect to his last sentence that I find interesting in light of the very next point Mr. Prager makes regarding free will.  To assume as given that everyone must hold irrational beliefs reflects an improper view of human nature.  Prager doesn’t exactly deny free will outright, for he seems to admit choosing between secular and religious forms of irrationality; but to hold that irrationality is a necessity is to deny a vital part of free will.  At every turn a human is capable of choosing to be rational or not.

(Note: The next installment in the series is here.)


1.  Dennis Prager, “If There Is No God,” http://townhall.com/columnists/DennisPrager/2008/08/19/if_there_is_no_god.

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