The Case for Judeo-Christian Values, Part XX
by Dennis Prager
In most of these essays making the case for Judeo-Christian values, I have contrasted Judeo-Christian values only with leftist values: secularism, liberalism, socialism, humanism, environmentalism.
I have done so for two reasons.
First, secular and leftist values are the dominant values of most of the world's elites. If the editors of the major newspapers of the world assembled, they would agree on almost every moral and social issue. The same holds true for the world's academics, whether from America, Latin America, Europe or Asia.
Second, secular/leftist values are the only viable alternative to Judeo-Christian values.
At this moment, there are three ideologies competing for humanity's acceptance: secular and leftist, Judeo-Christian and Islam.
But Islam is not currently in the battle for men's minds. Outside (and even inside) the Muslim world, it gains power largely through force. There are non-Muslims who convert to Islam out of sheer conviction, but in general, when Islam gains a foothold or actually attains power in a non-Muslim society, it is either through force or threats of force — e.g., Sudan, Thailand, the Philippines, Nigeria; or through a large immigration of Muslims — e.g., Western Europe. Its contemporary spread is not due to the power of its intellectual appeal, let alone the record of its contemporary social and moral achievements.
There was a time when Islam appealed to non-Muslims' intellects, and it may one day again. But today, it competes with Judeo-Christian values and leftist ones primarily because of the power of its numbers and of its violent elements.
In our time, only secular/leftist values compete with Judeo-Christian ones on the intellectual battlefield. There really are no other viable doctrines to guide mankind at the beginning of the 21st century. And this is unfortunate. For one thing, despite my belief in the superiority of Judeo-Christian values, competition is always healthy. For another, I am worried that a vast segment of mankind does not have any strong moral code.
One theoretical alternative is Eastern religion. Having studied Buddhism under a prominent Buddhist, I came to respect Buddhist and related Eastern thought. Some of its insights (such as having few or no expectations) have benefited me greatly, and I cite them in my book on happiness.
But Buddhism and related Eastern value systems are not contenders for shaping humanity. On the practical level, Buddhism is losing ground to secularism even in Asia. And in the West, a minuscule percentage of the population takes it seriously and in a form often so Westernized as to be unrecognizable to its Asian practitioners. On a philosophical level, Buddhism is more of a philosophy designed to enable the practitioner to achieve enlightenment than a societal way of life to combat evil and promote good.
Then there is — or was — Communism, Marxism, Marxism-Leninism and Stalinism. They seduced much of the West's intelligentsia, just as leftist ideas do today. That seduction is what led George Orwell to write that some ideas were so stupid only intellectuals could believe them. But since the collapse of the Communist regimes of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, they hold much less attraction than they once did. Some in Hollywood still idolize Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara is chic among the morally neutered, but Marxism is not a viable alternative for humanity.
So we are we left with Judeo-Christian values and secular left values. The latter, as noted, hold sway among the world's elites. But they are personally so unfulfilling and morally so confused that they cannot work. Western Europe will hopefully awaken to this fact as its socialist economies fail and as it realizes that you cannot fight faith (radical Islam) with no faith (secularism).
That leaves Judeo-Christian values.
It is urgent that the case be made. Much of humanity has little by way of a religious/moral foundation. Many of the more than a billion Chinese, for example, have some ancestral emotional ties to Confucianism, but with each passing year, those ties weaken. And a combination of strident nationalism and a rapacious money-making ethic are replacing it. That is a frightening amoral combination.
The Judeo-Christian value system is not only the best value system for humanity; it is the only viable one. If we do not promote it, moral chaos will ensue. And we can't promote it if we don't know what it is.
The Case for Judeo-Christian Values
I: Better Answers
II: Right and Wrong
III: Human Reason
IV: The Dog or the Stranger?
V: Values vs. Beliefs
VI: Feelings vs. Values
VII: Hate Evil
VIII: Values Larger than Theology
IX: Choose Life
X: Order v. Chaos
XI: Moral Absolutes
XII: Jewish Mission
XIII: The Meaningless Life
XIV: Arrogance of Values
XV: Unholy vs. Immoral
XVI: Nature Worship
XVII: Man and the Environment
XVIII: Murderers Must Die
XIX: Challenge of the Transgendered
XX: No Viable Alternative
XXI: Rejecting Materialism
XXII: Feminization of Society
XXIII: First Fight Yourself