7. Without God, people in the West often become less, not more, rational. It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed in the utterly irrational doctrine of Marxism....Religious people in Judeo-Christian countries largely confine their irrational beliefs to religious beliefs (theology), while the secular, without religion to enable the non-rational to express itself, end up applying their irrational beliefs to society, where such irrationalities do immense harm.
Prager’s motto is “clarity over agreement” - but one would not know that based on this column. Just that excerpt has so much so wrong that needs clarification. Undoing Prager’s mischaracterizations requires expending a substantial amount of electronic ink which is why this post is on only the above paragraph. The same can be said for the rest of his column as well (which Armchair Intellectual philosophically rebutted in four parts).
Right off the bat, Prager's first sentence is simply untrue: "Without God, people in the West often become less, not more, rational."
Westerners have not been made more rational by religion. When Christianity ascended in the late Roman Empire it was openly hostile to reason. Many Church Fathers stamped out Greek philosophy and science, i.e. reason, and succeeded so well the “Dark Ages” is the name of the period they had created after Rome fell to the barbarians. Christian Europe was hardly rational. Philosophy, which relies on the use of reason, was the mere handmaid to Christian theology. This was the land of belief in an earth-centered, three-tiered universe, astrology, numerology, magic, witchcraft, alchemy, recurring end-times hysteria, and countless other superstitions. The non-rational definitely expressed itself to the detriment of society. People in the West embraced faith, turned a blind eye toward reason, and for centuries there was scant progress in any area of human endeavor. Discovery of the ancient Greek texts that contained reason, philosophy, and worldly knowledge saved Europe from the darkness of Christian theology, mysticism, superstition, and dogmas. The subsequent Renaissance and Enlightenment broke Christianity’s monopoly on men’s minds, opening the way to the modern secular world. What period in the West’s history Prager is referring to is beyond me.
His second sentence is more truthful by itself: "It was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed in the utterly irrational doctrine of Marxism." It is not fully true because there were Marxist theists (i.e. Liberation Theology). In the context of his column's argument, however, Prager is evading an important fact, one that helps in refuting it.
I will provide it - for the sake of clarity, Mr. Prager.
Prager neglects to tell his readers just who many of those secular irrationalists were and more important, where Marxism came from. He failed to explain how Marxism is modeled to a large extent on Judeo-Christian religion. (Prager is himself a Jew and an intellectual, so one would reasonably expect hm to know of the Judeo-Christian influence on Marxism.)
In his Philosophy of Religion (third ed.), John Hicks writes: "Jews mean by 'the Messiah' a nondivine being who will restore Israel as an earthly community and usher in the consummation of history" (109). If we merely change a few nouns in that sentence we get Marxism: "Marxists mean by 'the proletariat' an economic class that will restore mankind to a "fully human" community and usher in the consummation of history." Karl Marx (who was raised Jewish) secularized this important idea in the Jewish world-view, the messiah myth, which was appealing to secular Jews (among others, of course). It is the common denominator of Judaism and Marxism.
Furthermore, Marxism's history has no shortage of prominent Jews, from leaders of communist parties and organizations to intellectuals. Actually, according to J.L. Talmon in Political Messianism - The Romantic Phase, "Jews have played a prominent and conspicous part in extreme radical and revolutionary movements in modern times" that began with the philosophy of a socialist predecessor of Marx, Saint-Simon (77). Talmon further writes, "In the case of spiritual and idealistic sublimation, the age long Jewish tradition of solidarity and of imaginative compassion with the sufferings of others was able to find a kindred disposition in socialism, and Jews threw themselves into its arms enthusiastically and lovingly" (81). Secularized Jewish irrationalism began with Saint-Simonianism, and Marx's ideas fueled it even more.
In that context does Prager's claim, "it was largely the secular, not the religious, who believed in the utterly irrational doctrine of Marxism," still stand? If Prager clarified that the irrationalism he refers to is that of secularized religion, he would not have a false straw-man of "secular irrationalism" to knock down in his case against secularism.
So for clarity's sake, Mr. Prager, you should distinguish between secularism and secularized religion.
On to Prager's last sentence: "Religious people in Judeo-Christian countries largely confine their irrational beliefs to religious beliefs (theology), while the secular, without religion to enable the non-rational to express itself, end up applying their irrational beliefs to society, where such irrationalities do immense harm."
If irrational beliefs are confined to religion, religion is not confined to itself - it is indeed applied to society with immense harm. Examples are many and for all to see.
The irrationality of subjectivism is assumed by Prager to be innate and not to be examined, questioned, or purged from the mind. It is accepted as a law of nature that man has an irrational side needing expression. Besides the implication it has that a man's thinking cannot by nature be wholly objective, this is also the basis in man's nature of man's belief in God, the Kantian-like premise that we may not be able to prove there is a God, but man's belief in God is inherent in his nature - so he would do well to assume that a God created him with this belief in Him.
Prager gives us a choice: we naturally have an irrational side, so we either channel it to society - which is harmful, or channel it to harmless religious beliefs! That’s it, pick one or the other!
And why - for clarity's sake, Mr. Prager - is it not possible for rational beliefs to be formed regarding society; that it is not possible for man to use his mind's method of knowing reality - his reason - to live with his fellow men?Ultimately, what is intellectually and morally scandalous - and Prager's column is just another instance of it - is that religionists continually use atheism and secularism as such as scapegoats for the harm (pseudo)secular ideas like Marxism do, ideas that would not be, were it not for theology in the first place.