by John Hawkins | July 4, 2019 6:49 pm
Ben Shapiro’s new book is called, “The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great.” The book goes into detail about the religious, cultural and philosophical forces that made America successful and newer ways of thinking that are leading us towards ruin. The book is full of interesting quotes and statistics and here are the 20 best from the book.
20) Voltaire famously stated, “I want my lawyer, my tailor, my servants, even my wife to believe in God, because it means that I shall be cheated and robbed and cuckolded less often. . . . If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” Without belief in our innate individual value, we collapse into animals incapable of seeking moral purpose, even though we feel the need for it beating in our chests.
19) And the founders, despite common misperception of their religious practice, were well aware of the necessity for a community of virtue-seeking religious believers in their new republic. The vitality of religion was a precondition for a healthy society. No wonder the founders placed such heavy emphasis on freedom of worship.
18) Sounding a lot like Bernie Sanders, Lenin wrote in 1917, “Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich—that is the democracy of capitalist society.” Instead, Lenin sought on the one hand “immense expansion of democracy, which for the first time becomes democracy for the poor, democracy for the people, and not democracy for the money-bags,” and on the other hand, “a series of restrictions on the freedom of the oppressors, the exploiters, the capitalists. We must suppress them in order to free humanity from wage slavery, their resistance must be crushed by force; it is clear that there is no freedom and no democracy where there is suppression and where there is violence.” Freedom required tyranny; tyranny was freedom.
17) We don’t trust each other, either. As of 2015, just 52 percent of Americans said they trusted all or most of their neighbors; just 31 percent of blacks and 27 percent of Hispanics say they can trust their neighbors. Just 46 percent of Americans say they spend an evening with neighbors even once per month, compared to 61 percent of Americans who did in 1974. Another 2016 survey showed that just 31 percent of Americans thought “most people can be trusted.”
16) In truth, we’re more racially equal than ever before in our history—more equal than any other society in human history. In 1958, just 4 percent of Americans approved of black-white intermarriage; as of 2013, that statistic was 87 percent. In that year, 72 percent of white Americans thought race relations were good, and so did 66 percent of black Americans; that statistic had remained relatively stable from 2001 through 2013. And yet our racial battles are now bloody and brutal, with renewed tribalism raging on all sides; by July 2016, just 53 percent of Americans said race relations were good, while 46 percent said they were bad. Something is indeed falling apart, but it’s hard to attribute that collapse to a resurgence of racist sentiment.
15) The economies of the West aren’t going to die overnight; stacking socialist programs atop capitalist infrastructures won’t immediately collapse the West. But we flatter ourselves to believe that we can abandon the values of the past and somehow survive indefinitely.
14) The secularist myth holds that religion held back science for millennia. The reverse is true. Without Judeo-Christian foundations, science simply would not exist as it does in the West. Contrary to popular opinion, new discoveries weren’t invariably seen as heretical or dangerous to the dominion of the Church; in fact, the Church often supported scientific investigation.
13) If one attitude characterizes modern politics, it’s an attitude of complete and utter moral certainty. Those on the political Left are certain that those who oppose them are Nazi-esque monsters hell-bent on domination of individual lives; those on the political Right are certain that the opposite is true.
12) As of 1950, about three-quarters of Americans were members of a church, synagogue, or mosque; in 1954, almost half of all Americans said they had attended church, synagogue, or mosque in the last seven days. Over nine in ten Americans identified as Christian.
11) Religion suggests that your self-realization lies in consonance with God, and that any attempt to placate your ego through pursuit of personally defined happiness is bound to fail.
10) Intersectional thinking promotes a victim mentality entirely at odds with the pursuit of fulfillment and success. If you are told repeatedly that your self-esteem is threatened by the system and the structure, and that even statistics and science must not offend you—if you are taught that your bliss matters more than objective truth—you become weak and fragile, unable to cope in the real world.
9) The world survived World War II, of course. Not only did the West survive—it got freer, richer, more prosperous than ever. Human wealth expanded exponentially. Life spans increased. But there remained a hole at the center of Western civilization: a meaning-shaped hole. That hole has grown larger and larger in the decades since—a cancer, eating away at our heart. We tried to fill it with the will to action; we tried to fill it with science; we tried to fill it with world-changing political activism. None of it provides us the meaning we seek.
8) Tribal identity cannot provide prosperity. But it can provide meaning. The problem, of course, is that tribal identity also tears down the civilization that has granted us our freedoms and our rights, our prosperity and our health.
7) The best countries—and the best societies—are those where citizens are virtuous enough to sacrifice for the common good but unwilling to be forced to sacrifice for the “greater” good.
6) Pleasure can be gained from a variety of activities: golf, fishing, playing with your children, sex. Amoral activities can bring us pleasure—that temporary high, that feeling of forgetting our cares. However, that pleasure is never enough. Lasting happiness can only be achieved through cultivation of soul and mind. And cultivating our souls and minds requires us to live with moral purpose.
5) Neo-Enlightenment philosophers like to connect religion with slavery, overlooking that the abolitionist movement in the West was almost entirely led by religious Christians—and ignoring that the global movement against slavery was led by the West (slavery was only legally abolished in China in 1909, and slavery was only legally ended in Saudi Arabia in 1962). Even Enlightenment philosophers who opposed slavery did so because they were steeped in a Judeo-Christian tradition stemming from the basic notion of imago dei and natural rights.
4) Tyranny rarely begins with jackboots; it usually begins with ardent wishes for a better future, combined with an unfailing faith in the power of mass mobilization.
3) Focusing on right-able wrongs is worthwhile; blaming all disparities on discrimination leads to more political polarization and individual failure. Studies show that perceived discrimination is heavily connected with “lower grades, less academic motivation . . . and less persistence when encountering an academic challenge.”
2) We are in the process of abandoning Judeo-Christian values and Greek natural law, favoring moral subjectivism and the rule of passion. And we are watching our civilization collapse into age-old tribalism, individualistic hedonism, and moral subjectivism.
1) We are so angry at each other right now. That anger is palpable. Where did it come from? It came from the destruction of a common vision. We used to believe in the Founding vision, supported by a framework of personal virtue culled from Judeo-Christian morality. We used to see each other as brothers and sisters, not “the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent” or “the privileged vs. the victims.” We weren’t enemies. We were a community, forged in fire and tethered together by a set of values stretching back to the Garden of Eden—a community of individuals working to understand the value of each other as images of God, a community of individuals who believed in our own capacity to change ourselves and the world around us.
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