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May 24, 2005

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» Dennis Prager is an Idiot? from Agnosticism/Atheism
I've commented many times on the writings of Dennis Prager. The poor quality of this arguments, the ahistorical nature of his ideas, and the outright bigotry of his positions has often merited critique. I'm not the only to feel this... [Read More]

Comments

Andrew

What's depressing is that this kind of thinking (specifically, that life has no meaning without God) was the dominant worldview in Western civilization for almost 2000 years, espoused by some of its greatest (or "greatest" depending on how you see it) minds.

 razib

1) i would be cautious about positing a sharp distinction between the pagan and christian world in this. to trend toward facile generalization i might offer that while the "judeo-christian" believes that life has no meaning without god the pagan might accept that society has no grounding without gods (ergo, the persecution of anaxagorus for "atheism" during the time of pericles). of course, there was a difference of degree to which the pluralistic pagan worldview accepted heterodoxy (they wouldn't really understand "doxy"), but spinozan rejection of inherited custom and tradition in favor of rational system building would probably strike the pre-christian pagan intellectual as somewhat peculiar as well. consider that men like marcus aurelius, who personally rejected the gods in their anthromorphic form, still remained head of pagan cultic orders that venerated them.

2) prager has a long history of this sort of preaching-to-the-choir drivel.

3) i put "judeo-christian" in quotes because though i think it is obvious that christianity derives from jewish religious tradition the emphasis that some american jews put on connecting the two at the hips would strike their forefathers as rather peculiar, and this would also surprise pre-modern christians. as a person who styles himself something of a phil-hellene (pagan style) i have of late become concerned that conservative jewish intellectuals in alliance with the strong stream of radical protestantism in the the US are attempting to purge all things non-hebraic from a central role in western history (as opposed to an earlier generation of secular liberal jewish intellectuals who idealized pagan greece and neglected their own cultural tradition in any explicit form).

Abiola Lapite

"while the "judeo-christian" believes that life has no meaning without god the pagan might accept that society has no grounding without gods (ergo, the persecution of anaxagorus for "atheism" during the time of pericles)"

Jews and Christians didn't have a lock on stupid ideas, but at least said pagans are no longer around to inflict it on the rest of us.

Mitch

"I'd say that the percentage of Americans who truly believe in a Judeo-Christian "god" is less than half the numbers usually quoted in surveys."

Where are all these self proclaimed church goers in the US on Sunday mornings? Home effing Depot, that's where.

I'd bet the the real numbers of believers are comparable between US and Europe. I feel sorry for all the believers in Europe who feel like they have to tell pollsters they are atheists, because they think the neighbors might hear.

On another topic, I'm surprised I haven't heard much (in the popular press) about how Muslim's consider Jews and Christians "people of the book" (that is, the judeo-christian Bible (for lack of a more nuanced term)). What -is- the value system of Islam? According to Muslims? Acoording to Prager?

Shouldn't it be Judeo-Christian-Muslim values battling the animist/atheist/peasant materialism of the Chinese-Japanese-Indians?

Abiola Lapite

"Shouldn't it be Judeo-Christian-Muslim values battling the animist/atheist/peasant materialism of the Chinese-Japanese-Indians?"

The likes of Prager only tend to remember the common wellsprings of Islam and "Judeo-Christian values" when it's time to enact theocratic legislation banning, say, abortion or gay marriage.

praktike

I love it when you go all "angry atheist," Abiola. Preach on, brother. I'm getting fed up with all the God-bothering myself.

john

by the way, it is ironic that google is placing ads advocating christianity and islam next to this post

my favorite: "Think God is a joke. Think the Bible is made up fairly tales? Ignorance can be deadly."

The invisible hand of the free market is providing support for Dennis Prager.

Abiola Lapite

As long as it's also providing support for me, it can't be all bad.

 razib

well, my conversations with religious jews privately suggests that most will admit that while islam is geunine monotheism, orthodox christianity is not (trinity). that to me is one of the ironies in the "judeo-christian" formulation-islam is in some ways like a proselytizing version of pharisaec judaism (down to the emphasis on praxy over doxy).

Jim

On top of everything else, Prager is parochial. He seems to think the Abrahamic tradition is the only game in town. First off, the term "judeo-christian" is a ahokey neologism that American Protestants invented in an attempt to justify their self-identification with OT Israel. It is basically senseless if it is used in contrast to Islam. Whatever Judaism and Christianity share with each other they share with Islam. Second, he ignores the Indic tradition as well as the Confucian worldview as value systems. Here there is a ral ooposition. The Indic system doesn't hold with the fanatical absolutism that the Abrahamic tradition seems to think is so commendable, and the Confucian traditon basically thinks belief in a higher being is a womanly superstition.

Chuckles

Tell me about it Jim!
This whole "Judeo-Xtian" creature has to be the greatest fraud in recent history!

Of course, like you mentioned, Confucius is completely out in the cold. Yet one of the most interesting predictions I have read in recent times posits the rise of a "Greater Confucian" union in Asia with China squarely at its nucleus. Indeed, it only seems natural! But of course, since Confucius wasnt much of a God person himself, the religionists have felt free to discount him completely! The reason is probably because they see China being split between Xtianity (especially of the evangelical kind - see "Jesus in Beijing" by Aikman) and Islam via Xinjiang etc etc. They probably see the same for Japan also - evangelical efforts are gearing up in that country and I wouldnt be suprised if they are very effective.

What is ironic is that the Judeo-Xtian tag would probably be foreign to Paul or any of the early Xtians who clearly saw nothing about Hebraic values worth retaining - but chucked all of them out in favor of the "Love Commandment".

What is going on here is classic conflation of systems. Islam has more in common with Judaism than Xtianity does. They are discounting the keystone, the radical element of Xtianity; which is the Deity of a Man. How you can construct "Judeo-Xtian" values while ignoring this huge big elephant in the Room is beyond me.

But I suppose as a Political arrangement, it probably works. Islam is a danger to both Xtianity and Judaism; strange times make for strange bedfellows - after all, the War on Terror has given us Noam Chomsky and Pat Buchanan on the same side.

Jim

Chuckles,

I wouldn't put Confucius out in the cold. So far the social system he described/prescribed has the longest track record of any. That may be because it is pretty Darwinian, where the family and preserving it are the highest good.

But thank you,thank you, thank you for pointing out the disconnect between Judaism and Chrsitianity. It doesn't show any respect to Jews to call them just another kind of Christian. Personal experence - Christianity may be culturally similar to Judaism, in superficial aspects, but it clearly is more like Indic religions in its core doctrine such as incarnation (avatara), the need for salvation (avidyaa)and more.

"There is, however, some absurdity in believing in the God made known through texts whose authenticity one rejects."

This is not a canonically Christian position. It is and has been of course very common among Bible Belt "Christians", many of who became missionaries and spread their interpretations as doctirne. Christ may be "Known in the breaking of bread". I don't know of anywhere in Scripture that study of Scripture is the path to God. What Jesus asked Peter was who he thought He was as a result of a face-to-face relationship, not some Pharisee course of study. Christianity is not aphilosophical or intellectual system.

Rich

"On another topic, I'm surprised I haven't heard much (in the popular press) about how Muslim's consider Jews and Christians "people of the book" (that is, the judeo-christian Bible (for lack of a more nuanced term))."

They do consider them people of the book. However, they also consider them misguided and subject to conversion, second-class citizenship (if in an Islamic country), expulsion, or death.

Rich

"First, note the false trichotomy which not only equates secularism with socialism, but denies the possibility of the existence of any other belief systems outside the three he mentions: one might think all those Hindus, Buddhists and the like would have something to say about his oversight."

Nowhere did Dennis say there are only three value systems. He wrote there are three "competing for world dominance". I doubt the Hindus and Buddhists would say they're competing for world dominance.

I was going to comment on the rest but after the third or fourth personal attack on Mr. Prager and fellow "religious shills" I figured it would be pointless. The difference between Mr. Prager and yourself Sir is this. Mr. Prager would never attack you personally no matter how much he disagreed with you, in fact, he would do his best to understand where you are coming from whereas you resort to name calling in the first sentence.

Have a nice life preaching to the choir yourself.

Abiola Lapite

"He wrote there are three "competing for world dominance". I doubt the Hindus and Buddhists would say they're competing for world dominance."

Since when has Judaism been "competing for world dominance" other than in the paranoid rubbish to be found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Besides, what the hell does someone like *you* know about the beliefs which are part of Hinduism or Buddhism?

"Prager would never attack you personally no matter how much he disagreed with you, in fact, he would do his best to understand where you are coming from whereas you resort to name calling in the first sentence."

What a load of stupid, smarmy rubbish. Prager's entire article is nothing but a big ad hominem directed towards myself and everyone else who doesn't subscribe to his braindead superstitions.

"Have a nice life preaching to the choir yourself."

Whatever. Have a nice life being a Prager-reading religious zombie; some of us are lucky enough not to need either the opiate of a Bronze-age sky-daddy to get through our days and nights or the words of a fool like Prager to reinforce us in our ignorance, but you're clearly one of the unfortunate ones who struck out in both of these aspects of life.

Jay Byrd

According to Prager, the life of an atheist has no meaning because life has no meaning if there is no God. But the only way to make sense of that is if a belief is true by virtue of holding it, rather than being a matter of how the world is. Otherwise, if there is a God, as Prager believes, then (by Prager's reasoning) the life of the atheist does have meaning just as Prager's does, and if there is no God then Prager's life must (by his reasoning) lack meaning too. But that's not what he claims, so he seems to think that God exists iff you believe in God. Or, he's simply incoherent.

The thing to recognize about Prager is

a) he's stupid
b) he's belligerent
c) that's the only reason anyone has heard of him -- those qualities sell air time

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