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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dennis Prager Doesn't Get It

In an recent article, Dennis Prager ponders the question of why so many atheist books are bestsellers, especially given his position that America is based on "Judeo-Christian" values (a term I see often used by conservative Jews). He begins by dismissing the notion that there is any intellectual merit to the arguments of Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, et al., since they are all clearly "far more emotional than intellectual." To be sure, the arguments of these fellows do address some emotionally charged areas, but is that a dismissal of their veracity? I find it strange that such a proponent of religion would view this approach as inappropriate, but such is the case.

Prager then, having poisoned the well against these fellows' claims within the second paragraph, gives his own explanation for their success.

  1. It's the Muslims' fault. Admittedly, the events of 9/11 did prompt Sam Harris to write his first book, but that doesn't explain why it sold so well. However, Prager claims that since then, the actions of Muslim terrorists have "brought religious faith into terrible disrepute." I don't buy this- can you imagine Joe Christian sitting his kids down and saying, "Well, there was another car bombing today by some people who worship a different god than us. We're not going to church anymore." On the contrary, I would predict the opposite- and in fact, we did see a huge resurgence in church attendance just following 9/11, so I think Prager's dead wrong on this count.
  2. It's secularism's fault. Supposedly, the "secular brainwashing" that took place with kids in my generation is now coming to fruition, so to speak, which could have been prevented if all children were forced into a religious indoctrination instead. As evidence, he claims that he's interacted with college students whose "ignorance not only of the Bible but of the most elementary religious arguments and concepts" is frightening to him, particularly their ignorance of the "truism that if there is no God, morality is subjective [emphasis mine]."
  3. It's liberal religion's fault. The religious in this country would mount a good defense against all these atheist writers if only they weren't weakened by all the damn liberal Jews and Christians running around. And it doesn't make it any better that formerly traditional religious people have begun to embrace mystical or irrational religiosity.

Interestingly enough, despite criticizing atheist authors for encompassing more than just intellectual arguments, he concludes by saying that "the problem is far more than merely an intellectual one. Only strong moral religion can defeat strong immoral religion." To that I would agree- to a point. And that point is that arguments which espouse a superior moral clarity will tend to be the most popular, whether in the case of religion or otherwise. That being the case, I think it's clear why Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, et al. are so popular- their arguments carry a persuasive moral resonance for people who are dissatisfied by the trite deontology of the "Judeo-Christian" tradition.

Post a Comment


1 Comments:

At 7/15/2007 9:10 AM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

Projection is a common form of delusional behavior. If faith is belief without proof, then the success of faith-based bullshiting can only be attributed to the desire of the follower population to believe the bullshit. If you believe something because you want to believe it, and for no other substantial reason, then your arguments are ultimately based on emotion, not intellect. Pot, kettle, black.

 

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