7 Reasons Why The Right Should Not Seek to Convert The Left
An appreciation of Dennis Prager and multimedia celebration of his magnum opus, Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph.
June 8, 2012 - 7:00 am
2. Left Vs. Right Is not the Fight That Has Gripped Humanity Since Ancient Times.
To see the direction America’s defenders need to go we should look backwards at Prager’s previous books and forward to the one I hope he writes next.
One map is rarely adequate for anything but the simplest tasks. While Still the Best Hope provides an important service in mapping out the intellectual contest between Leftism, Islamism and their war to destroy Americanism, there’s a problem if one relies solely on it. By focusing exclusively on thinking about the fight as Americanism vs. Leftism and Islamism, we don’t realize other threats. We focus only on the enemy as something apart from us. As something “out there.” We rationalize ignoring threats within our own movement and we neglect defeating our own internal demons.
And so for this point and the next I’ll connect Still the Best Hopes with three other streams of Prager’s thought, and argue for understanding them in an integrated fashion. In addition to his analysis of political ideology and values, Prager also offers engaging thinking on three other subjects: Judaism, the differences between male and female sexuality, and the way to lead a happy life.
As much as I appreciate Still The Best Hope, if I had to pick one Prager book to air-drop copies of all around the world then it would be Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism, which he co-wrote with his best friend Joseph Telushkin. (See also their first book, Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism.)
Why the Jews explains the uniqueness of antisemitism and its root. Why do we find the hatred of the Jews as such a universal? What is it about the Jews that unites the radical Left, the paleo-Right, orthodox Islam, cults like the NOI and the KKK, and fringe pseudo-Catholic fundamentalists like Mel Gibson?
They hate what the Jews brought into the world: ethical monotheism. If you read only one Prager article, make it his summary of ethical monotheism, a key portion of which I’m including below:
Monotheism means belief in “one God.” Before discussing the importance of the “mono,” or God’s oneness, we need a basic understanding of the nature of God.
The God of ethical monotheism is the God first revealed to the world in the Hebrew Bible. Through it, we can establish God’s four primary characteristics:
1. God is supranatural.
2. God is personal.
3. God is good.
4. God is holy.
Dropping any one of the first three attributes invalidates ethical monotheism (it is possible, though difficult, to ignore holiness and still lead an ethical life).
God is supranatural, meaning “above nature” (I do not use the more common term “supernatural” because it is less precise and conjures up irrationality). This is why Genesis, the Bible’s first book, opens with, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” in a world in which nearly all people worshipped nature, the Bible’s intention was to emphasize that nature is utterly subservient to God who made it. Obviously, therefore, God is not a part of nature, and nature is not God.
It is not possible for God to be part of nature for two reasons.
First, nature is finite and God is infinite. If God were within nature, He would be limited, and God, who is not physical, has no limits (I use the pronoun “He”" not because I believe God is a male, but because the neuter pronoun “It” depersonalizes God. You cannot talk to, relate to, love, or obey an “It.”).
Second, and more important, nature is amoral. Nature knows nothing of good and evil. In nature there is one rule—survival of the fittest. There is no right, only might. If a creature is weak, kill it. Only human beings could have moral rules such as, “If it is weak, protect it.” Only human beings can feel themselves ethically obligated to strangers.
Thus, nature worship is very dangerous. When people idolize nature, they can easily arrive at the ethics of Nazism. It was the law of nature that Adolf Hitler sought to emulate—the strong shall conquer the weak. Nazism and other ideologies that are hostile to ethical monotheism and venerate nature are very tempting. Nature allows you to act naturally, i.e., do only what you want you to do, without moral restraints; God does not. Nature lets you act naturally – and it is as natural to kill, rape, and enslave as it is to love.
In light of all this, it is alarming that many people today virtually venerate nature. It can only have terrible moral ramifications.
One of the vital elements in the ethical monotheist revolution was its repudiation of nature as god. The evolution of civilization and morality have depended in large part on desanctifying nature.
Civilizations that equated gods with nature—a characteristic of all primitive societies—or that worshipped nature did not evolve.
If nature is divine, and has a will of its own the only way for human beings to conquer disease or obtain sustenance is to placate it – through witchcraft, magic, voodoo, and/or human sacrifice.
One of ethical monotheism’s greatest battles today is against the increasing deification of nature, movements that are generally led (as were most radical ideologies) by well educated, secularized individuals.
When you’re a child first learning Bible stories in Sunday school, they can’t tell you the truth about what was actually going on in human societies in the Middle East 4000+ years ago. When you watch The 10 Commandments, the sequences where the Israelites start worshipping the golden calf just resemble a big, swinging party. They’re always vague about Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s because to depict what was actually happening in the world at the time you’d need a XXX-rating. And it just so happens that such films have been made today. One of the worst movies of all time, Caligula staring Malcolm McDowell as the mad emperor, depicts what happens when people engage in Idolatry. And it’s not sexy or erotic or fun. Instead you get wall-to-wall incest, torture, murder, and rape. Sex and violence are a unified force in the natural world. From the Praying Mantis biting her mate’s head off in the act to male lions cannibalizing the cubs of previous males — the natural world is a terrifying place. In worshipping animals or any aspect of nature, then human beings replicate that destructive impulse in their own lives.
That’s what the Bible is really about, though we don’t like to talk about it because it’s so disgusting and scary: the ancient Israelites’ battle against nature-worshiping sex cults that practiced human sacrifice. I always wondered why idol-worship was so important as to be above things like murder and stealing in the 10 Commandments. Aren’t those much worse than someone just praying to a rock? Nope. The Commandments are just listed in the order that they’re broken. Idolatry — worshipping an image, worshipping a noun — comes before any other evil act. Within the ethical monotheist tradition, God is not a thing we can comprehend. God is transcendent — God is a verb. Thus to worship God is to worship a verb — to transform into understanding ourselves as a state of permanent change and growth, not a static, defined image.
The male tendency to become absorbed by images is something built into us by nature, Prager argues in this video from Prager University on the power of the visual to the male:
Every man has a choice to make not just intellectually but sexually between idolatry and ethical monotheism. What does the man do with the snake between his legs? It’s the same choice the ancient Israelites faced over and over again: The animal thrill of holy prostitution with Ishtar, Astarte, Aphrodite or any sex goddess (nouns) vs. living based around the transcendent experience of a lifelong commitment to love one person in marriage (verb).
Does a man live his life seducing a new woman each week? Or does he commit himself to his wife? Does he fritter away his sexual energy fulfilling his lusts, or does he develop some self-control to transform his passion into creating and supporting a large family? (It is this subject — which Prager addresses regularly on his radio show — I hope he explores more for his next book. See the essays in Think A Second Time for more of the arguments he’s already made.)
Do we let our animal natures control us or do we take responsibility for becoming mature adults? We see this question answered in the lives of those who have sought the presidency and the families they brought along with them: