"…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.…"
Dennis Prager writes:
…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.…
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.
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.…
Prager grew up Orthodox but left Orthodoxy in his teens. His is a leading right wing talk radio host and columnist who positions himself as a bridge between Evangelicals and right wing Catholics on one side and haredi, Orthodox and right of center Jews on the other. He tries to unite them around a common hatred of radical Islam and on theological-political issues – hence the column excerpted above.
What Prager does not tell his readers is that the pope ordered priests and nuns to save Jews. More were not saved because, a) the risk of saving Jews was very high to incur and often resulted in being tortured and murdered if caught and, b) many Polish priests and nuns chose not to listen to the pope because they hated Jews.
Further, the overwhelming majority of Poles at that time were religious Catholics, and that majority is the main reason the few Jews who were saved were predominently saved by religious Catholics.
Polish communists, for example, were themselves persecuted by Poles (and later by the Nazis after Russia was attacked by Germany). It was almost impossible for non-Jewish communists in Poland to hide Jews – even so, some found ways to do so.
But in a country rife with anti-Semitism and under Nazi occupation, your best bet at being hidden came first from non-Jewish friends and business associates and after that from priests or nuns, because some of them were following the pope's orders.
This in no way supports Prager's infantile and dishonest argument and can in fact be understood to refute it.
As for 20th Century massacres and genocides, Prager simply writes Muslims out of the monotheistic religions in order to make his argument, even though leading Jewish rabbis and thinkers like Maimonides were full of praise for Islam and distain and hatred for Christianity.
Why does Prager do this? How can he do it?
Besides his normal intellectual dishonesty, Prager's "Judeo-Christian" formulation is largely a 20th century construct that did not exist throughout most of the past 2000 years. It is as if Prager shot an arrow into the side of building, drew a circle around it and crowed that religion was an expert marksman because the arrow was in the middle of the target he drew. It is profoundly dishonest – and completely idiotic.
The truth is that the secular democracies that dominated the 20th century were Western European and North American, and those secular democracies did not commit genocide against Jews or other minorities. Secular democracy, far more than religion, was the humanizing factor.
What about Prager's claim that without religion there are no absolute rights and wrongs?
Before secular democracies existed, all there was were religious-based governments that either upheld a local cult religion or followed a larger religion like Christianity or Islam. During those many centuries there was no shortage of genocides and ethnic cleansing.Therefore religion itself cannot be cited as a guarantee for moral or ethical conduct.
So is murder wrong if the only thing prohibiting it is the will of the people codified into law?
But what about the opposite? If the people somehow endorsed wanton murder and that was codified into law, would murder be correct?
Of course not.
Humankind largely recognizes the concept of natural law – as, by the way, does halakaha, Jewish law, when it rules that a non-Jew cannot be classified as righteous if he follows the seven cardinal laws for non-Jews, including one that prohibits murder, without doing so because they were commanded to him by God. Why does halakha rule that way? Because, it says, all of those laws can be (and usually are) deduced from rational human thought and then followed as a rational, normal and honest way of living.
In other words, halakha says that natural law exists and that murder can be and normally is prohibited because of that.
Its issue is not that non-Jews can't act ethically or that they usually do not act ethically without religion or with polytheistic religion. It is that without specifically acting because the Jewish God commanded them to act that way, their actions are viewed as being non-altruistic, taken for their own ultimate benefit and not as an acknowledgement that the Jewish monotheistic God is both the only the god and the supreme ruler and creator of the universe.
Dennis Prager is viewed in right wing circles as a deep religious thinker.
But he is not anything of the kind. Instead, he is a rank propagandist and a liar.