There's a certain type of conservative whose mendacity and intellectual incompetence drives me up the wall, and amongst this group can be counted individuals like Ann Coulter, David Horowitz and Dennis Prager, whose latest article titled "Secularism and the Meaningless Life: Judeo-Christian Values" is a veritable compendium of stupidity.
As I have noted on occasion, there are three values systems competing for world dominance: Islam, European style secularism/socialism and Judeo-Christian values. As the competition in America is between the second two (in Europe, Judeo-Christian values are dying while Islam is increasing its influence), my columns on Judeo-Christian values have concentrated on differences between Judeo-Christian and secular values.
Perhaps the most significant difference between them, though one rarely acknowledged by secularists, is the presence or absence of ultimate meaning in life. Most irreligious individuals, quite understandably, do not like to acknowledge the inevitable and logical consequence of their irreligiosity -- that life is ultimately purposeless.
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. Prager's knowledge obviously extends no further than what he sees on the network news, but this ridiculous, blinkered division of the world into three camps warring for dominance is hardly the worst thing about his load of tripe, however.
Secondly, and far more egregious, is his utterly daft claim that for the irreligious, "life is ultimately purposeless." Where in hell does such an conclusion spring from? This idiot just takes it for granted that the only way one's life could possibly have purpose is if that it should be granted from high by some old guy with a beard speaking to Charlton Heston. Think I'm being unfair to the man? Read the following and judge for yourself.
Secular and irreligious individuals raise two immediate objections:
1. Irreligious people, including atheists, are just as likely to have meaningful lives as any religious person. They need neither God nor Judaism nor Christianity nor any other religion to have meaning.
2. Secular and irreligious are not the same as atheistic; many secular individuals believe in God and therefore whatever meaning accrues from having a belief in God, they, too, have. They do not need religion or Judeo-Christian values to give their lives meaning.
The first objection denies a fact, not a subjective judgment: If there is no God who designed the universe and who cares about His creations, life is ultimately purposeless. This does not mean that people who do not believe in such a God cannot feel, or make up, a purpose and a meaning for their own lives. They do and they have to -- because the need for meaning is the greatest of all human needs. It is even stronger than the need for sex. There are people who lead chaste lives who achieve happiness, while no one who lacks a sense of purpose or meaning can achieve happiness.
Nevertheless, the fact that people feel that their lives are meaningful -- as a parent, a caregiver, an artist, or any of the myriad ways in which we feel we are doing something meaningful -- has no bearing on the question of whether life itself is ultimately meaningful. [WTF?] The two issues are entirely separate. A physician understandably views his healing of people as meaningful, but if he does not believe in God, he will have to honestly confront the fact that as meaningful as healing the day's patients has been, ultimately everything is meaningless because life itself is. In this sense, it is far better for an individual's peace of mind to be a poor peasant who believes in God than a successful neurosurgeon who does not. [And you'd know this how, Mr. Prager?] (emphasis added)
How f***ing stupid does one have to be to spit out such drivel? If one feels one life to be meaningful without believing in God, who is Dennis Prager to accuse one of being deluded? As hard as it is for this moron to grasp, the world does not revolve around him, and the final judge of whether a person's life has "meaning" isn't himself or his holy charlatan of choice, but the person living the life in question.
Then there's the endorsement of ignorance which is all too typical of religion-addled cretins like Prager: yes, it's clearly obvious to anyone that a peasant struggling to feed and clothe his five children and unsure of where his next rent payment will be coming from is going to enjoy greater peace of mind than a neurosurgeon with no financial cares, a happy home life, career acclaim and the gratitude of his patients, just as long as our son of the soil has his rosary beads to fill that void in our doctor's being. Why, 99 out of 100 religious shills say so, therefore it must be true!
If there is no God as Judeo-Christian religions understand Him, life is a meaningless random event. You and I are no more significant, our existence has no more meaning, than that of a rock on Mars. The only difference between us and Martian rocks is that we need to believe our existence has significance.
Speak for yourself, buddy! Your life may not be of significance without some Bronze Age sky god to confer meaning on it, but my life has tremendous significance to me, and that is all that matters. The yearning for external validation by supernatural beings is a sign of mental midgetry and nothing more.
Prager clearly isn't a guy from whom one can expect much by way of airtight argumentation, but with the old saying about broken clocks in mind, I will grant that he does get at least this much correct:
Now to the second objection, that you don't need religion or Judeo-Christian values, just a belief in God or, as is more popular today, in "spirituality" to imbue existence with meaning. Theoretically, one can posit the existence of the God of Judeo-Christian religions without actually believing in any of those religions or in any of their holy works. There is, however, some absurdity in believing in the God made known through texts whose authenticity one rejects. "I believe in the God made known to the world solely through the Old Testament but not in the Old Testament" is not logically compelling.
Churn out enough material and you're bound to get at least the odd thing right now and then: in Dennis Prager's case, the above passage would represent just such a moment of rare inspiration. As I've said here before, it is absurd to proclaim belief in the claims of a religious system while cheerily flaunting the strictures of said system, as is all too common in the West today, especially in America: if you claim to believe in a Yahweh whose wrath at those who disobey him is terrible, and who will damn you to neverending torment for doing X, Y and Z, and yet you do these things anyway, you are either a masochist actively seeking out eternal suffering, or, more likely, are functionally an atheist who mouths religious formulae out of a desire to conform to societal expectations. 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.