Think a Second Time

Think a Second Time

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by Dennis Prager
     
 

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What are the two great lies of the 20th century?

Is there a solution to evil?

What matters more, blood or love?

Can a good man go to a striptease show?

Do you think you have the answers? ...Think a second time.

Dennis Prager, theologian and philosopher turned talk-show host, is one of the most brilliant and compelling voices in

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Overview

What are the two great lies of the 20th century?

Is there a solution to evil?

What matters more, blood or love?

Can a good man go to a striptease show?

Do you think you have the answers? ...Think a second time.

Dennis Prager, theologian and philosopher turned talk-show host, is one of the most brilliant and compelling voices in America today. His extraordinarily popular radio show with the signature sign-off, "Think a second time," coupled with his own biweekly newsletter, has firmly established him as a fixture in intellectual communities nationwide. In Think a Second Time, Prager blends a rigorous and scholarly education with utterly original thinking on current events. From the dangers of idealism to the roots of extremism to his thoughts on God and an afterlife, Prager offers challenging answers to up-to-the-minute questions: Should a single woman have a child? Why don't good homes always produce good children? Is America really racist? Why does the Holocaust not negate the existence of God? Now, with an entirely new section on the precedent-setting "Baby Richard" custody case and an exploration of the issue of blood versus love, Prager continues to demonstrate his ability to draw clear moral lines in the sands of our very troubled times.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A self-described ``highly passionate moderate,'' radio and TV commentator Prager offers a series of brief essays on current and eternal topics, grounded in his Jewish sense of ethics that is more accessible than preachy. Prager says a politician's adultery matters little; his or her ``public actions and speech'' count the most. Despite such dissents from the moralistic position, Prager is a strong critic of liberalism, decrying its supporters' attitudes toward church-state separation, abortion, capital punishment and race. He has little sympathy with portraying the Los Angeles rioters of 1992 as victims: ``moral people control their rage, and immoral people don't.'' Yet his call to ban affirmative action while encouraging employers to ``recruit and train blacks'' seems somewhat myopic. Prager recognizes that most people are diverted from moral issues; his solution to evil is ``ethical monotheism'' (a term made popular by the Jewish thinker Leo Baeck), warning against attention to false gods like art or compassion. However, he warns against expecting God to prevent our suffering; leading a religious life, he asserts, is a reward in itself. $100,000 ad/promo. (Nov.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062046161
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/14/2010
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
155,359
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Human Nature

Why the Belief That People Are Basically Good Is Wrong and Dangerous
The belief that people are basically good is one of the most widely held beliefs in contemporary society. Yet it is both untrue and destructive.

Why It Isn't True
The most frequent objection I encounter when I argue that human nature is not basically good is: Aren't babies born good?
The answer is no. Babies are born innocent and they are certainly not born evil, but they aren't born good, either. In fact, babies are the quintessence of selfishness: I want Mommy, I want milk, I want attention, I want to be played with, I want, I want, and if you don't do everything I want, I will ruin your life.
To be sure, this is normal behavior for a baby, but on what grounds can it be characterized as morally good?
As for older children, having been a camp counselor and camp director for ten years, I know that few things come more naturally to many children than meanness, petty cruelty, bullying, and a lack of empathy for less fortunate peers. Visit any bunk of thirteen-year-olds in which one camper is particularly fat, short, clumsy, or emotionally or intellectually disadvantaged, and you are likely to observe cruelty that would shock an adult. The statement, "I have never met a bad kid," like "People are born basically good," is simply wishful thinking.
To believe that human nature is basically good—after Auschwitz, the Gulag, Rwanda, Armenia, and Tibet, just to mention some of the horrors of the twentieth century alone—is a statement of faith, as nonempirical as the most wishful religious belief. Whenever I meet people who persist in believing inthe essential goodness of human nature, I know that I have met people for whom evidence is irrelevant.
How many evils do humans have to commit to shake a person's faith in humanity's essential goodness? How many more innocent people have to be murdered and tortured? How many more women need to be raped?
There is no number. Just as no contrary evidence will shake the faith of many religious believers, so none will shake the faith of many of those, especially the secular, who believe in humanity's goodness. Faith in humanity is the last belief that a secular individual can relinquish before utterly despairing. The less religious a person is, the more he or she needs to believe in humanity. To believe neither in religion nor in humans is to conclude, as does the protagonist in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors, that life is a cesspool.

Why This Belief Is Destructive
If the falseness of the belief that man is basically good does not suffice to move a person to abandon it, perhaps this will: It is a belief that has particularly destructive consequences.
The first of these consequences is the attribution of all evil to causes outside people: Since people are basically good, the bad that they do must be caused by some external force. Depending on who is doing the blaming, that outside force could be the social environment, economic circumstances, parents, schools, television violence, handguns, the devil, or government cutbacks.
As a result, people are often not held responsible for the evil they commit—a notion that has become commonplace in America.
A second consequence is the denial of evil: If good is natural, then bad must be unnatural, or sick. Moral categories have been replaced by psychological ones. There are no longer good and evil, only normal and sick.
Third, parents and teachers who believe that people are basically good will not feel the need to teach children how to be good: Why teach what comes naturally? Only when you truly acknowledge how difficult it is to be a good person do you realize how important it is teach goodness.
Fourth, those who believe that evil comes from outside people work on changing outside forces rather than on changing the evildoers' values. It is the dominant view among academics, policy makers, social workers, and psychotherapists that society must focus on the environment that produces rapists and murderers, not on their values and character development. For example, when irresponsible young men impregnate irresponsible young women, it is not better values that they need, but more sex education and better access to condoms.
Fifth and perhaps most destructive, the belief that people are basically good leads to the conclusion that people need to feel accountable for their behavior only to themselves, not to a God or religious code higher than themselves.
My argument with those who believe that people are innately good can be succinctly summarized. Those who believe in innate human goodness view the battle for a better world as primarily a struggle between the individual and society. I believe that, especially in a free society, the battle is between the individual and his or her nature. There are times, of course, when the battle for a better world must concentrate on evil emanating from outside the individual, as, for example, under a totalitarian regime. But in a free society such as our own, the battle for a moral world is waged primarily through the inner battle that each one of us must wage against our nature, against weakness, addiction, selfishness, ingratitude, laziness, and evil. It is a much more difficult battle to wage than one against social policy.
A society can survive the collapse of its economy, but not of its citizens' morality. An America that emphasized character development in its public and private spheres was able to survive the poverty of the Great Depression. A vastly wealthier America that neglects character development is steadily sinking. And this neglect can be attributed in large part to the widespread belief that people are basically good and the destructive beliefs that accompany it.

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